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Saturday, July 02, 2022

Under a thousand: The super-affordable Apple accessory many phones (and not just iPhones) need

If you intend to break free from the wireless world and get back to your wired headphones, these are perhaps the best option for you under Rs 1000, and perhaps even twice that amount!

Written by Akriti Rana , Nimish Dubey | New Delhi |
Updated: February 7, 2022 10:32:24 am
apple 3.5 mm adapter, under a thousand,Under a thousand: The super-affordable Apple accessory many phones (and not just iPhones) need. (Image credit: Nimish Dubey/Indian Express)

You read that headline right. We are talking of an Apple accessory that costs less than a thousand Rupees (even Apple’s cleaning cloth costs Rs 1900) and is still a staggering value for money. Contrary to what many believe, Apple does have its share of products that are way more affordable than the competition and perform better too. We are going to be looking at perhaps the best of them this time.

Apple “killed” the 3.5 mm audio jack…

The last few years have seen a murder conspiracy unfold in the world of tech. A conspiracy where smartphone manufacturers have declared the 3.5 mm audio jack useless and have tried to push it out of a smartphone’s anatomy. As in many things tech, Apple is blamed for starting it all by removing the audio jack from the iPhone 7. No one asked others to follow the fruity Cupertino brand’s example, but as ever so often, that’s exactly what they did.

While they have not been completely successful as most mid- and budget-range smartphones still don a 3.5 mm audio jack loudly and proudly, brands have managed to make it largely extinct from the premium range of smartphones. Of course, this move has been met by outrage, especially from those who like to listen to their audio using wired headphones.

Apple also has the best 3.5 mm audio jack solution!

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Apple’s official 3.5mm adapters retail at Rs 900. (Image credit: Nimish Dubey/Indian Express)

Fortunately, the absence of a 3.5 mm audio jack from our smartphones cannot keep us from enjoying our good old (and almost always better than wireless) wired headphones. If you are someone looking for a way in which you can plug in your wired headphones to a phone that is specifically built for all things wireless, we have got you covered and that too under a thousand bucks!

The irony is that this solution comes from the very brand that is accused of starting the whole 3.5 mm audio jack purge – Apple. No matter how much hype the wireless culture gets, the brand seems to know that there is still an audience that wants that wired experience. This may be the reason why it perhaps comes with the best Lightning to 3.5 mm and USB-C to 3.5 mm audio headphone jack adapters, which retail at Rs. 900 each.

Rather plain design

There is nothing remotely flashy about the adaptor, which is as basic as it can get. does not come with any branding or Apple logos. The only thing that might suggest that it is an Apple product is its white colour but that is a big ‘might.’

The adapter is about as long as an adult’s finger, making it quite easy to lose. (Image credit: Nimish Dubey/Indian Express)

The adapter is a very small accessory that has a 3.5 mm audio jack at one end, while the other end features a Lightning/ USB C connector, with both ends connected by a tiny wire. It is about as long as an adult’s finger. The size makes it very easy to carry, but also very easy to lose. We would suggest keeping it attached to your headphone’s port, or else it can get misplaced very easily.

The wire also does not look to be the strongest we have seen and given Apple’s history of cables that tend to break, we would advocate handling this one with due care. It would also have been nice to have another colour option – while does get smudged very easily.

Not just an adapter, but a DAC too

It is as easy to use this dongle/adapter. All you have to do is plug the Lightning/ USB Type C side into your phone or music source and plug the headphones of your choice into the 3.5 mm jack side. It literally is plug and play – there are no drivers or apps to worry about.

It is when you start playing the audio on your device through these adapters that you might notice the quality of the sound you are receiving. We know there are much cheaper adapter options available in the market as compared to what Apple is offering but the performance of Apple’s audio adapter justifies its slightly higher (if still low by Apple standards) price tag. That is because this adapter not just lets you use wired headphones with your device, but as per most sources, also contains a digital to analogue converter, or what many audiophiles call a DAC.

The DAC difference

A DAC is actually something very basic – it converts the music stored in digital format on your phone to an analogue format which can be played over headphones or speakers. Without a DAC, your earphones or speakers would not be able to play music. Most phones and gadgets that play audio come with DACs inside them, but these are generally not of the greatest quality, which is why many people who want higher quality audio, buy dedicated DACs and connect them to the devices which store their audio content.

These DACs also allow audiophiles to use high-end headphones with their audio players, as they deliver excellent audio quality. Now, most low-priced lightning/ USB-C to 3.5 mm audio jack converters do not have DACs on them – they simply transmit sound from the phone or other audio source to your headphones. Apple’s adapter, however, actually improve the quality of sound that reaches your headphones!

DACs also allow audiophiles to use high-end headphones with their audio players, as they deliver excellent audio quality. (Image credit: Nimish Dubey/Indian Express)

We have heard our share of music using DACs ranging from the low-end ones to premium DACs, and we can confidently say that the quality of the DAC on Apple’s adapters is very good indeed. We got clear sound and very impressive volume levels too. What’s more, the “sound signature” is relatively flat, making it a great option for audiophiles who do not like their audio to be flavoured by too much bass or treble or other frequencies.

We have listened to music on our iOS and Android devices using this adapter, and the quality was discernibly better than not just plain DAC-less converters, but also much better than some Rs 3,000 DACs that we have used. The battery drain was not very much either.

No audio jack? Get this adapter

In fact, we would say that getting one of these adapters for your 3.5 mm audio jack-less device is a no-brainer. You not only get the chance to use your wired headphones with it but also get some very high-quality audio. Music and soundtracks simply sound better, and while the amplification (power, to put it roughly) is not enough to really drive powerful, high-impedance headphones, you can use them very well with most entry-level earbuds and headphones. You can in fact even use them with higher impedance headphones on iOS devices (Android is a little iffy), as long as you are okay with slightly lower volumes. All this from an accessory that costs less than Rs 1000 and comes with the Apple brand name.

The adapters aren’t perfect – they are quite fragile, and on Android devices can be a bit erratic in sound delivery. (Image credit: Nimish Dubey/Indian Express)

Mind you, these adapters are not perfect. We have already mentioned how fragile they seem and how tiny they are. While they work perfectly with iOS devices, they can be a little erratic with some Android phones, delivering higher volume on some, lower on others, and sometimes refusing to work altogether. So we would recommend checking if there are compatibility issues before picking one for your Android device. If there are no problems in that regard and you want to break free from the wireless world and get back to your wired headphones, these are perhaps the best option for you under Rs 1000, and perhaps even twice that amount!

Apple might stand accused of trying to kill wired headphones, but it also has the best budget solution for ensuring that they keep Stayin’ Alive, to quote the Bee Gees. Uh-huh, uh-huh…

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