Apple has added a specification to its Made For iPhone/iPad/iPod program allowing manufacturers to create headphones with Lightning connectors, rather than traditional 3.5mm headphone plugs, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. While not currently supported by iOS devices, Lightning headphone support will be enabled in a future software update. According to the report, the Lightning standard will allow for stereo 48 kHz digital audio output from iOS devices, and mono 48 kHz input for integrated microphone support, though the actual sound quality will depend considerably on superior headphone and microphone components. It will also allow power to transfer between the headphones and the iOS device in both directions, which could eliminate batteries in noise-cancelling headphones, and enable other headphones to add backup power to the connected device.
The report also states there will be two configurations: Standard Lightning Headphones, and Advanced Lightning Headphones. The former “are described by Apple as using minimum components when paired with a digital-to-analog converter supported by the Lightning Headphone Module,” while the latter use a digital signal processor and digital/analog converter, and allow for “digital audio processing features like active noise cancellation.” Lightning headphones would likely be physically incompatible with non-Apple devices, as well as Mac computers, unless Apple adds Lightning ports to Macs.