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Earlier this year Apple added a spec to its MFi program for third-party accessory makers that described using the proprietary Lightning cable to connect a pair of headphones. On Wednesday, the first pair of Lightning-equipped headphones was announced, and they’re not from Apple subsidiary Beats, they’re made by Woox Innovations under the Philips brand.
The headphones are called the [company]Philips[/company] Fidelio M2L and they will cost €250 ($323) when they go on sale in Europe this December. The headphones emphasize audio fidelity, using the Lightning cable to bypass the iPhone’s built-in digital-to-analog converter in favor of a 24-bit DAC included in the headphones themselves.
This theoretically promises higher quality sound, but I suspect it will appeal to only a small percentage of audiophiles, especially considering the [company]Apple[/company] iOS Music app does not support high-definition music. In order to get the most out of these headphones, users will have to install a music app that supports 24-bit lossless files, like VLC.
It also doesn’t seem as if the Fidelio M2L has taken advantage of some of the potential that the Lightning connection unlocks, such as the ability to power the headphones — for features like active noise cancellation — from the device itself.
There are a lot of interesting new headsets that are integrating wearable technology, such as Samsung’s vibrating Gear Circle, but that device is wireless using Bluetooth. SMS Audio’s new heart-rate sensing earbuds can draw power from a conventional 3.5mm audio jack, but I suspect they could do a lot more if they used a Lightning cable.
The plugged-in, powered connection afforded by the Lightning cord could be a big deal for wearable technology on your head, which is why it’s disappointing that the first iOS-only headphones are geared toward audio quality.