New Life for the 3.5mm Jack?

Just bumped into this patent from Microsoft for an ultra-thin 3.5mm headphone jack. Basically it uses elastic panels to allow the jack to expand around the plug as it's inserted. Actually seems like a good idea to me as it may give a little and prevent strain induced failure of the jack. Maybe there's hope for 3.5mm jacks on future smartphones.

Look, I have no desire to get all schmoopy about the mini-plug...as it often used to be called. When I worked as an audio repair technician at a Santa Cruz stereo store, the most common failure of Walkmans was the jack itself—followed closely by sand in the gears...it's a beach town. Anybody out there who never had a 3.5mm jack go bad on them?

*crickets*

None the less, I have a hard time thinking of a world without a 3.5mm TRS plug. The installed base is huge. My iPhone7 has pissed me off numerous times when I didn't have the jack adapter handy. OTOH, wireless headphones are outselling wired ones. I'm conflicted; I really wonder what's going to happen. What do you think?

New Life for the 3.5mm Jack?
Nobody will pay Microsoft the royalties. Wireless will kill it. Gone in 10 years. Get over it.
34% (12 votes)
It'll exist in cheap stuff, and expensive stuff with improved mechanics. But it'll be wireless as far as the eye can see between
11% (4 votes)
Too much momentum; no analog replacement in sight. It'll fade but won't go away. Wires will be with us for a long time to come.
54% (19 votes)
Total votes: 35

COMMENTS
brause's picture

I never had any problem with a 3.5 mm plug. If I want to decrease stress on my iPhone's plug, I add a 7.5 cm extension cable while connecting difference earphones/headphones for comparative testing.

My concern with the above patent is that the expandable material gets brittle over time and tears.

I will never buy a headphone with an lightning connector because I am limiting myself to a single device (Mr. Apple will like this). I am also avoiding proprietary batteries (ripoff to replace) and devices with non-replaceable batteries (and therefore limited lifespan; e/g/ newer Bose nc headphones or ANYTHING WIRELESS)...all of which are only serving large corporations to get you on their hook.

Generally, we are going backwards:

1. We take inferior photos with our phones (instead of dedicated cameras)
2. We listen to small mono bluetooth speakers (as opposed to plugging our phones into our large stereo systems)

In summary: nothing wrong with the 3.5 mm jack.

vic20gamer's picture

Actually, waaaaayyyy to many people don't even use a "small mono bluetooth speaker", they simply "listen" (re: "enjoy") their already heavily distorted music, played at crackly, distorted 100% volume settings, using the crappy built-in speaker on their handheld device....and they actually think it sounds good.

vic20gamer's picture

In all the multiple devices I've had throughout the years, I too have not had any issues with the 3.5mm jacks.

It seems those crickets are getting a bit louder....

tony's picture

1878 was when these connectors were born.

People love em, the entire World's population knows how to use them.

These things, in all their variations, are here to stay, they're Grandfathered in as much as anything eletrical can be, doncha think ?

Tony in Michigan

zobel's picture
coastman25's picture

Thanks for posting. The article more or less says it all.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I'm surprised that the magentic style power jack used on MacBooks has not been reinvented and used as it seems to make more sense and might be less susceptible to damage. The Mini jack on my first IPad did die.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

This topic is near and dear to me. In the end im 100% for 3.5mm but aware of its challenges n age....

Here's some ramblings..both positive and negative...

#1: The 3.5mm jack is international. I bought my first pair of upgraded earbuds in 1995 in akihabara japan. still have them. they even survived going thru the clothes washer/dryer. Having an internationally agreed upon and unchanging connection means longevity and variety for products.

#2: Investment in hobby. Goes without saying but alot of us have collected alot of headphones that we love. eliminating the jack or adding alot of ad-ons to use it, will make it harder for us to use our products.

#3: If it aint broke, dont fix it. From a technology standpoint the connection is simple but effective. The 3.5m jack provides a great connection between phones and device across price ranges.

#4: If it is broke, its $$ to fix. The jack is absolutely a failure point in portable products. Some of you havent experienced it. I have..alot. The reason is the stress created on the socket mounts/solder connections. If you listen to a phone or ipod or walkman or minidisc or DAP on the go, you are probably putting it in your pocket at some point. 90% of headphones use a straight 3.5mm connector. The part that sticks out is subject to constant and rough force as you move. That force translates directly to the socket mount. The best ways to avoid this are to do our best to be conscious of the stress as well as connectors that minimize..im a huge fan of right angle connectors.

Future:

Bluetooth can be more comfortable and less inhibiting. The pairing system becomes easier and easier. Still need to overcome some limitations of shorter battery life AND higher quality sound but in the long run its where we are heading and i believe can coexist fine with hardwired 3.5.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

3ToF

PS: I was recently traveling thru Germany and got to try the HD660s for a few minutes. Far from ideal environment: loud airport store using headphone-out phone for source. Impressions: build quality feels a little cheaper than HD600/650..its more plastic feeling. Sound Quality: Realllllly nice. Its 150 ohm so capable of being driven by portable but likely much better served by amp. Primary difference/improvement from 600 series looks to be an improved low end...felt more bass. Not sure if worth upgrade but my first impressions are absolutely good.

zobel's picture

Sennheiser has some nice lossless digital wireless cans. I like mine, but not as much as some wired cans I have. I hope the HD660s have a whole lot more low end, and an improved high end over the HD600s. I hope your first impressions hold true.

jupitreas's picture

Wireless is infinitely more convenient than the minijack, even taking charging into consideration (since most of us have already adopted some sort of charging routine). The only reason why I stick to the minijack for the time being is due to the superior sound quality. Nevertheless, the moment wireless can compete in terms of sound, I'll happily cut the cord and never look back. Its just a matter of time. Bluetooth 5 is already capable of twice the bandwidth of 4.2 so I am sure we'll be seeing devices that stream losslessly to the headphone's inbuilt DAC in a few years time. At this point, wired connections will indeed become obsolete.

Apple, Samsung and others dropping the minijack will hopefully create the momentum to make these innovations happen more quickly. Amp/DAC combos with BT receiver functionality will allow for us to continue enjoying our legacy headphones and this also has the advantage of being more energy efficient for our smartphones since BT is less power-hungry than a dedicated headphone amp capable of driving high impedance headphones.

zobel's picture

What does your last sentence mean?

jupitreas's picture

We will use our smartphones as music libraries that stream files losslessly to dedicated headphone amp/DACs. An example of such an amp/DAC is the Creative E3 (not saying its any good, its just an example of a BT receiver that is also a headphone amp/DAC). The amp/DAC will do the heavy lifting of actually driving the headphone, while the phone will only be used as a BT transmitter, which is by design a very energy-efficient technology = good for smartphone battery life

zobel's picture

It seems a shame to put lossless fies through the bluetooh connection, which can only degrade the signal. Why not just use a wire?

wink's picture

I ten years time all the equipment supporting these will bw either in museums, rubbish/recycling facilities or waiting in homes/garages/storage facilioties awaiting consignment to the rubbish bins or showcases as once loved memorabilia.....

zobel's picture

In ten years "time"..The majority of Earth's population will still not have had the chance to experience the "rubbish" we are forced to listen to now here in the land of luxury.

GNagus's picture

I don't see how to vote so I'll just comment: I don't see this going anywhere. Either Wireless headphones or Lightning/USB-C-to-3.5mm adapters will be the way forward.

Czarek's picture

Hi Tyll
I guess that by "ultra-thin 3.5mm headphone jack" you meant ultra-thin socket. And by "elastic panels to allow the jack to expand around the plug as it's inserted" rather something like: elastic panels to allow the socket to expand around the jack as it's inserted. Didn't you? BTW, using the word plug may be misleading, as some people use it informally for socket, whereas it formally means the thing that is inserted into the socket, in this case the jack. Although for me, {elastic panels to allow the socket to expand around the plug as it's inserted} would be perfectly fine.
Regards

tinyman392's picture

3.5 will stick around, just not on our phones. It'll be faded out within the next couple decades though. As for this patent Microsoft has, it won't catch on because I can't see anyone wanting to try it. You'd need to leave a gaping hole in your device to allow the expansion to occur in. Just doesn't look good from a design point of view. You also have to remember in many cases, the headphone jack was removed not due to thinness constraints, but space in general. The teardown of the iPhone showed that the Taptic Engine was the limiting factor when it came to the headphone jack, not the thickness of the phone.

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