Well, CES is underway and as we predicted, some big name, high end headphone manufacturers are coming out swinging with new cable types designed to accommodate the masses of Apple users out there. The reasons big name brands are going out of their way to make Lightning-connected cables and devices are simple.
A Cable Revolution is Underfoot
First, the all-digital Lightning connection type is just hands down a superior way to transmit audio than traditional analog cables. Digital connections, like Apple’s Lightning and USB-C can transmit 100% digital signals with lossless 48kHz output. This means there isn’t any sound degradation in the process of sending the music from your device to your eardrums.
Second, because these connection types transmit BOTH digital signal AND power, they are perfect for building in amplifiers and digital-to-analog converters to produce audiophile listening experiences with a fraction of the cost and bulk normally associated with such sound quality. As you can see in the picture below, traditional “audiophile” MP3 setups were far from being either economical in design or practical in mobile applications.
New cables, like the Shure Remote + Mic Lightning Accessory Cable, or the Scosche Strikeline made specifically for Bose headsets integrate the above messy package into a convenient, slim, and functional form that was previously not possible with old 3.5mm analog headphone jacks.
Finally, outside of the two above reasons, manufacturers are making Lightning cables and headphones simply because consumers are demanding them. They’re probably not happy having to bend to the power that is Apple.. like so many industries before them though, Apple’s sheer size and user base continuously disrupts industries, forcing them to adopt designs that compliment “the will of Apple”. This is market capitalism at work.
*It’s worth noting, Shure has a much smaller, but equally if not more passionate user base than Apple, and they’ve been asking about Lightning tipped replacement cables for their earbuds for a while via forums like Reddit here and here for example.
Time and time again, with blind testing with average listeners, Lightning headphones win out over traditional headphones, because of their superior digital transmission and their ability to incorporate amplifiers and DACs as mentioned above.
Shure Surprises with In-house Lightning Accessory Cable
Shurely (pun intended) the fine folks in upper management saw the writing on the wall with the consumer interest in being able to connect their earbuds to their new Apple devices. Shure sells “legit” high end audio gear, like, it’s a company for enthusiasts and professionals, people who absolutely refuse to use Apple’s stock crap earbuds, or their dumpster fire of a product the “Airpods”. Audio quality comes at a high price that Shure users are happy to spend in order to fully appreciate sound.
When you spend $200, $499, $999 on a pair of earbuds, you don’t want to have to use a cheap and ugly Apple-made “dongle” to enjoy your music on the go. Shure makes beautiful products, the engineering of their earphones equally gorgeous as the audio they produce.Likewise, Shure is one of the few companies that has been making earphones with disconnectable cables for a long time.
While many companies hardwire their cables directly into the driver units of their headphones or earbuds, Shure has for a very long time acknowledged the need for different cable/connector types and thus built their cables to be able to easily disconnect from the driver housing.
This means they can easily make a Lightning cable to swap into the existing units that their customer base already use and love on a daily basis. Compared to other companies that have to develop entirely new headsets with hard-wired Lightning cables attached.
We contacted Shure in October along with other makers like Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, AKG, asking about the possibility of Lightning cables, to which Shure declined to comment. We’re glad they’ve gone ahead though and made what promises to be an amazing upgrade for all Shure users.
The Nitty Gritty of Shure’s New Cable
While the new cable isn’t being released until later this spring, you can still soak up the gorgeous simplicity of the thing as it’s already live on their product website.
Available in “Spring 2017”, the new cable has a remote control and microphone build directly into the cable. The cable has a Lightning pin on one end for things like iPhones and iPads, and Shure’s MMCX connectors on the other end to connect to all Shure SE Earphones. They specifically state the new cable will work with “SE215, SE315, SE425, SE535, and SE846 Sound Isolating Earphones”. This covers the biggest portion of their earphone range, to the satisfaction of their fanbase.
Additionally, the cable has high build quality as is to be expected, featuring a Kevlar reinforced cable, MMCX connectors and measures at 50″. The price is set at $100, which isn’t that bad, although if you own a set of SE215s for example, having cost you only $99 to begin with, might seem like quite an expensive upgrade.
Bowers & Wilkins has said it will ship a Lightning cable upgrade to people who purchase its P9 Signature headset free of charge. Still, the B&W P9’s are $899 cans, so a free cable must be expected. Would be nice if Shure sent cables free to at least SE846 owners. One can dream at least..
*It must be noted though, that this isn’t just a passive cable, but also features a built-in DAC and amplifier that has been custom designed by Shure’s own sound engineers, so it should provide an improved listening experience.
What do you think? Are you planning to upgrade your Shures? Would you rather buy a dedicated Lightning headset from the get go in the form of the B&W P9 Signatures of the Audeze Sines at that? Let us know in the comments below!