Here’s what you need to know before buying a USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter for your phone

Nowadays, most consumers have made peace with the fact that the audio jack is permanently away from phones. Even mid-range and affordable phones these days lack the jack and output audio via the USB Type-C port. Not everyone can manage it with wireless options like TWS headphones and some still appreciate the reliability and quality of wired audio for their phones as in their car and would of course consider buying a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter or dongle. However, not all available options will work for your phone.

Some USB Type-C up to 3.5mm audio jack connections may not work with your Samsung Galaxy phone or iPad. Here’s what you need to know.

Why the confusion?

There are two ways to implement USB audio on phones. Manufacturers like Samsung and Google prefer to output digital audio from the USB port and trust your earphones to have a DAC or Digital-to-Analogue Converter to convert the digital signals into analog audio that your ears can hear.

This implementation allows audio to stay digital longer to prevent interference with other analog signals within the phone and gives more control to audio equipment manufacturers. The implication is that if you buy a good quality USB-C headphone, you will get good audio quality without your phone posing like a bottleneck.

If you buy a dongle for your Samsung and Google phone that outputs digital audio via a USB port, you will need an active dongle with a DAC.

The second implementation allows your USB port to mimic your headphone jack.

Such phones have a built-in DAC and amplifier and with the help of “Audio Accessory mode”, the USB port can directly output analog audio like a 3.5mm audio jack and your headphones can then select the signal via a passive dongle (without DAC ). The advantage of this implementation is wider connectivity, but the disadvantage is that the analog signal can easily pick up sound and interference if you go for a cheap USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack connection.

This second implementation is the way most BBK brands including Oppo, Realme, OnePlus and Vivo implement USB audio. This is also the reason why the passive USB Type-C up to 3.5mm audio jack connection you got with a OnePlus phone will not work with your Samsung phone or your iPad.

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Why does my USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack connector not work with my phone?

If you have a phone that outputs digital audio via a USB port – this includes Samsung phones, Google phones and Apple devices – you will need active connections that come with a built-in DAC.

If you have a phone that performs analog audio through the USB Type-C port, it will work with both active and passive connections. The audio quality in this case will largely depend on your headphones, but it is recommended that you go with passive options.

When you buy online, the product description will mention most compatible phones. Most of the good quality USB hubs for PC also have an integrated DAC and if you have one lying around, you can use it to connect your wired headphones to your phone.

All of this is understandably confusing and we do not even mention the slow adoption of USB Audio Class 3.0 and the general lack of interest in USB-C audio among manufacturers, because that seems to be a turning point today. If you are not very fast about your audio and want to play it safe, it is better to go side with the wireless options.


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