The removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last year caused no small degree of angst among tech enthusiasts; despite the fact that Apple included a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter in the box, many raised the valid concern that this still didn’t provide a way to power, charge, or sync an iPhone while also listening to music. While Belkin was quite to respond to this need last fall with its $40 Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar, this initial solution left us a little perplexed, since instead of actually providing a 3.5mm audio jack, it simply offered two Lightning connectors, allowing you to connect power to one and using the Apple-supplied Lightning to 3.5mm adapter in the other — a functional but awkward solution. We suspect the usual arcane restrictions of Apple’s rather opaque MFi program were to blame for this rather kludgy approach, but whatever the reason, we’re definitely happy to see Belkin’s new 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar delivering what the original adapter should have in the first place.
3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar has the same physical dimensions of its predecessor; the only obvious difference is the presence of the 3.5mm headphone jack instead of a second Lightning connector. Using RockStar is about as straightforward as you’d expect: Plug it into the bottom of your iPhone, plug a headphone or audio cable into the 3.5mm jack, and plug a Lightning cable into the Lightning port to provide power to your iPhone. Note that the Lightning connection is optional, however; RockStar works fine as just a headphone adapter, although it’s obviously a lot more bulky than Apple’s Lightning to 3.5mm adapter.
In addition to providing power, RockStar can also be used to sync data to your iPhone, allowing you to leave your device connected to your Mac or PC and still listen to audio. For those wondering, however, much like last year’s Lightning + Charge RockStar, you can’t use the Apple Lightning to 3.5mm adapter to connect a second pair of headphones to the Lightning port on RockStar — the Lightning port only supports charging and data sync. Belkin also notes that it’s not designed for daisy chaining additional Lightning adapters, so you likely won’t be able to use devices like the USB3 Camera Connector or HDMI adapters with RockStar, although we didn’t specifically test all of these configurations.
3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar supports 48 kHz, 24-bit audio output and is fully compatible with in-line controls and mics — it should basically work with all of the same headphone configurations as Apple’s own adapter. The Lightning port supports pass-through charging of up to 12W (2.4A), which means it will charge an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus at full speed, but unfortunately it doesn’t pass through the higher-voltage Fast Charging current for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus — these devices will charge at the standard 2.4A speed even when a Fast-Charge-capable power source is connected to RockStar.
The new 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar is the adapter that should have been available last year — it’s undoubtedly the proper solution to the problem of listening to music on newer iPhone models via a wired connection while also powering the device at the same time. While it’s still a bit clunky, compactness isn’t necessarily a big concern for most people who will also be connecting their iPhone to a power supply, and it helps that Apple’s audio adapter no longer needs to be added to the mix; in fact, with 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar you’re effectively getting a second headphone adapter for your iPhone, making the $35 asking price — which is also $5 less than last year’s adapter — considerably easier to justify.
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