Entering the movement of audio headsets offering high-resolution sound, it took little for manufacturers to continue their evolution by attacking a new and very present market: that of headsets with a Lightning connectivity specifically dedicated to products Apple. While it is rumored that the Cupertino company could develop helmets 100% Made for iPhone in collaboration with Beats, it is Phillips and sony who are the first to have taken the lead in unveiling the Sony MDR-1ADAC and the Philips Fidelio M2L, headphones equipped with Lightning connectors.
What are the benefits of Lightning?
the Lightning is a connector developed by Apple that has been found since 2012 on most products stamped with the “Started Apple” logo. Always in a logic of controlling its ecosystem and never doing like the others, this connector looks exactly like the standard micro USB developed by all other manufacturers.
Primarily used to recharge the various Apple terminals, the Lightning also allows to convey digital information in both directions, which can potentially make it very useful when used with DAC-equipped headphones. Indeed its ability to transmit digital information allows it to broadcast music files with a sampling rate of up to 48 kHz while avoiding interference and other electrical noise that may occur with the mini-jack. With this level of sampling, your audio files will be rendered in higher quality than an audio CD. A real challenge for carpophagous audiophiles.
Apart from audio quality, Lightning headsets could exceed the usual features like music and call control for give way to smart helmets allowing much more advanced advanced controls. It would thus be possible to integrate controls directly on the shell of the helmet or even to operate it with a companion app for further customization of sound equalization for example. This connection also makes it possible to power a noise reducer by dispossessing the headphones of their usual external battery: capacities that the traditional jack cable cannot manage.
Another point of detail, because nothing is so simple with Apple technologies, to develop helmets with connectors Lightning, manufacturers must benefit from the MFI certification delivered by Apple. In other words sony and Phillips had to pay duty Apple, always so good when it comes to business, to be able to use the proprietary Lightning technology and thus develop the Sony MDR-1ADAC and the Philips M2L stamped with the famous ” Made for iPhone“.
The Sony MDR-1ADAC headphones: universality above all
For his first foray into the world of Lightning, the Sony MDR-1ADAC caused a sensation during his presentation at theIFA 2014. This headset was the first to be equipped not only with an integrated DAC but also with universal connectors carrying audio streams through a cable. mini jack analog and cable Walkman, micro USB and Lightning in digital. A plethoric connection which ensures it to associate with almost all the readers which pass under your hand.
the Sony MDR-1ADAC offers two modes of use. Connected in analog via the mini-jack cable to the player, it will act in passive mode like a conventional audio headset without digital/analog conversion. It is therefore connected in pure digital via micro-USB, Walkman or Apple Lightning that it will offer the maximum of its possibilities. It will thus automatically disconnect the often limited audio conversion from a walkman or a smartphone to allow your digital files to benefit from sound. Built-in DAC. The latter is capable of restoring flows 24-bit/192kHz PCM and the DSD in 2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz. Performance allowing these headphones to reproduce the full extent of high-resolution audio files.
However the Sony MDR-1ADAC does not fulfill all the hopes that have been placed in it and in its new connectivity. Perhaps still too young, he fails to use the full measure of Lightning which does not allow any particular functionality. It is thus not possible to control the music from the various cables or the headphones (apart from the volume with its knob placed on the shell of the headphones) and the DAC runs on built-in battery with an autonomy of 8 hours for 4 hours of charge. At this level, the Lightning could have made it possible to manage the power supply of the DAC for long-term use with reduced battery life of the reader. An under-exploitation of its connections that leaves a taste of unfinished as there was a way to do more.
We will be reassured by telling ourselves that the Sony MDR-1ADAC remains a good helmet benefiting from a design circum-auricular very comfortable with a finish without pitfalls even if sony had to make concessions on the materials used to offer it at an affordable price. Its pavilions are equipped with 40mm drivers powered by the famous S-Master HX digital amplifier which has already proven itself before. It will offer beautiful acoustic thrills, displaying a clear and limpid sound reproduction over a bandwidth reaching 40,000 Hz analog and 100,000 Hz with DAC.
The Philips Fidelio M2L: an elitist headset
Where the Sony MDR-1ADAC stands out for its universal connectivity, the Philips Fidelio M2L goes the opposite way by presenting itself as an ultra elitist helmet specially dedicated to holders of compatible Apple products. Presented shortly after iPhone 6 and 6+, Phillips has decided to offer only one connection Lightning for these headphones that bid farewell to the traditional mini-jack cable.
For the Fidelio M2L, Phillips preferred to focus on using the benefits offered by this new connection without concessions in order to offer headphones resolutely geared towards high-resolution sound reproduction. To perform its function, it therefore also incorporates a 24-bit DACs ensuring the digital/analog conversion of audio files. Here the Dutch manufacturer has chosen to power this DAC directly from the Apple terminal for greater autonomy even if it will make your iPhone lose a few percent. However, as for the Sony MDR-1ADAC, we would have liked to see controls to control the music and make calls in order to give this headset a little more advanced nomadic character.
Nevertheless the Philips Fidelio M2L offers very good acoustic performance thanks to 40mm drivers offering full powers to a faithful reproduction of your high resolution files whatever the musical repertoire. For the rest, Phillips did not skimp on the finish by offering a on-ear design with some memory foam earbuds breathable and an adjustable headband pampered with stitched leather. It will go very well with any caboche without putting excessive pressure on the bells for listening over time. We will only regret the absence of noise reduction which would have been very charitable even if it would have caused a price increase making it less accessible.
Yes sony launched himself on tiptoe on the Lightning by presenting it essentially as an optional connection, Phillips has fully taken the first step by offering a headset exclusively dedicated to iPhone owners. Even if these two headsets have undeniable qualities, however, we feel that the use of this new connection is only in its infancy. We will have to wait to see what the association offers us. Apple and Beats to really get an idea of the potential of this technology.