Sep 1st, 2019

Headphone jacks are quickly disappearing. Companies that once supported them are dropping them too, and some may not know what to do. Well we have you covered with some of the cheapest, and some of the best, options to take back a feature that should have never been removed.

Included dongle

Most smartphones that lost their headphone jacks come with an included dongle. They range from okay to pretty dang good, with examples of the latter being the Essential Phone and Razer Phone 2. It’s free, you can use your existing headphones, and it’s not the worst inconvenience. But make no mistake, an inconvenience it is. It’s something you have to remember to bring, try not to lose, and something not always easy to replace.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth audio gear is the most obvious choice. If you’ve lost your headphone jack, make the jump and cut the cord. Enjoy the freedom of wireless earphones, and embrace the downsides of occasional connection issues and constant charging.

There are a bunch of amazing Bluetooth audio accessories now available so you have tons of options to choose from. You can go for some cheaper Sony Extra Bass on-ears, $100 Creative Gotlier Golds, or $130 Galaxy Buds. Or you can jump into the high end with the $350 Sony WH-1000XM3, $350 Bose QuietComfort 35 II, or $300 Master & Dynamic MW07.

Unfortunately, going too low end here does result in some serious connection issues and crappy sound. Some of the cheap stuff also sounds like crap, but this is not exclusive to Bluetooth.

HiFi dongle

Now that the headphone jack is gone, a bunch of HiFI dongles have appeared. While most dongles barely work and sound pretty bad, there are a few that are a serious upgrade over the stock one. HIDIZS is a popular choice, with its dongle costing only $43 and adding no bulk over the stock one.

The upgrade comes from a better digital-to-analog converter chip inside, one that can drive more powerful headphones and improve the sound on almost any earphones you throw at it. Well, maybe not your EarPods. If you care about audio at all, you’ll hear the difference.

Inline DAC

The next step over a HiFi dongle is a full blown DAC/amp. You lose in portability, but you gain some serious power. The Creative SXFI AMP weighs only 15 grams and is smaller than many USB drives but can power up to 600 ohm headphones and push a lot of juice through audiophile headphones. It’s an awesome experience on the go and can be used on your Android phone with the short C to C cable, as well as with your laptop (what, you think your laptop has a great headphone jack? Think again).

There’s also NextDrive, which offers some high priced DACs that look like dongles but with some added bulk.

Just get a phone with a headphone jack

Honestly, for a lot of people this is the way to go. There aren’t many phones that retain a headphone jack, but there are a few good ones. One of my favorites is the Google Pixel 3a, which starts at $399 and features much of what you’d expect from high end phones. Sure the speakers were downgraded and the processor is a bit slower, but it’s still quick, smooth, and takes a mean photo. And unlike the higher priced phones, you get a headphone jack! Pay less, get more.

Now, the Pixel 3a’s headphone jack is pretty mediocre, even by standard headphone jack standards. It’ll be fine for many, but some will balk at the audio quality. So get an LG G8 ThinQ, which can be had for $500. It includes a Quad DAC, which invalidates the need for the above external DACs because it pumps out HiFi audio by itself. Now that’s a great phone for the average audiophile.

There are still options for headphone jacks. Even though one of the biggest supporters of headphone jacks dropped the feature with the Galaxy Note 10, we still have some hope that the option will remain. Wired headphones aren’t dead.

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