The headphone jack quickly disappears from advanced phones and even larger devices like the new iPad Pro. So it's time to go out and get a decent pair of USB-C headphones, right? Not so fast.
Unlike the accommodating analog port that has been around for decades, sound from a USB-C port requires only a little digital fin-gelling. And that is a problem, because digital formats are more complex and too often incompatible.
While there are some sets of headphones on the market with a USB-C port, they are generally pretty good looking at poor quality, unlike some of the options available for Apple's similar Lightning port. Between a poor selection and poor compatibility, they are just not worth the trouble, at least until the market sets itself at a more reliable standard.
Your stylish new phone can come with a pair of USB-C headphones as a kind of excuse to be incompatible with everyone else you already have. If so, put them on. The odds are that you will not find a better couple anytime soon.
Although there are a handful of suppliers of USB-C headphones on Amazon, it is valuable few options from reliable manufacturers … most of them seem more interested in selling Lightning-equipped headphones if they want to go for a non-analogue alternative at all. Google sells a set of wired Pixel knobs for their phones and Chromebook laptops, and they are reasonable at $ 30. Ditto for HTC, OnePlus and Xiaomi. But beyond that, your choices are progressively slimmer, especially if you don't care about in-ear buds.
Razer sells a pair of USB-C "Hammerhead" buds, which are poorly reviewed even if you like lime green color and gamer branding. JBL makes a set of knobs called Reflect Aware C, but they are not even sold anymore – and maybe it's best, because the users say they had an unpleasant habit of simply dying. The best choice for a premium set of USB-C knobs seems to be Libratone Q Adapt, which turns off sports hardware noise at several levels. But $ 120 is a lot to pay for a pair of wired headphones that only work with one of your gadgets.
There are some other products that are technically compatible with USB-C, or at least some phones that use it, like the AiAiAi headphones Google features in their online store. But that set only uses a USB-C head on an analog cable, so it's not really worth looking over the adapter that probably came with your phone.
In short, your choices are basically "cheap" or "nothing". And if you go cheap, why not just suck it up and use an adapter anyway?
The standards are not standardized
In theory, a pair of USB-C headphones can be pretty good. Unlike an analogue set, the digital hardware needs an integrated DAC (digital-to-analog converter), which has the potential to deliver more full and reliable audio quality.
But that potential is so far unfulfilled. Some of the USB-C headphones on the market claim the trick of plugging a miniature DAC into their cables, such as OnePlus Bullets. (And tangentially, "Bullets" is a horrible, horrible mark for any product that you literally hold onto your head.) But the first reviews say they just sound decent, so the little DAC isn't something to be excited about. They are probably the best choice of the current market of $ 20, provided your phone has no major compatibility issues.
And that's just that: a bigger problem with digital analog splitting is its potential for headache compatibility. To put it simply, there is more than one way to get sound over the USB-C port and into the ears, and not all manufacturers or accessory manufacturers agree. For example, users report that HTC's free headphones do not work on competing devices because HTC uses another USB-C audio system. Libratone Q Adapt, which is marketed for Pixel phones and Pixelbook laptops, cannot use its in-line microphone for phone calls on any other device.
It's a mess. Although it is possible that the industry will settle for a more reliable standard in the future, it is better that you avoid all this and only use a USB-C-to-headphone jack adapter cable, so you know that the analog audio will work. If possible, use the one that came with your phone or a replacement made for the same model.
Just use wireless already
Audiophiles will tell you that wireless headphones will never sound as good as a wired set (preferably with a small amp and DAC). And technically they are correct. But since Apple included the most thin and sleek style with white earplugs in the original iPod box, it's been clear that manufacturers and most of the consumers aren't really interested in high-fidelity mobile technology sounds.  So Apple now made it clear that people want to use wireless, and usually have Android manufacturers followed. Samsung seems to be the last big holdout, but the march against ever thinner phones seems to indicate that even Samsung's flagship won't hang on the headphone jack for too long. Sure, you can try to follow the new port standards. It worked well for Apple customers who bought Lightning jack headphones that never worked with MacBooks and now do not work with the latest iPads. In a few years, Apple can decide that because all its devices can charge wirelessly, they do not need any ports at all, and even the USB and flash cables will be outdated. It would be a great Apple move.
Wireless earphone over Bluetooth is enhanced, with newer standards like aptX and W1. And they are getting cheaper too: you can find a set of Bluetooth buttons or cans for under $ 20 now. They will not be very good, but it is not like the 20 cable speakers will blow you away either.
Wireless headphones are simpler and do not need to be charged. But now telephones have decided that the headphone jack belongs to the history vacuum cleaner next to floppy disks and 8 tracks, they have become just as difficult to use as Bluetooth headphones without freedom. If you can't easily disrupt an extra gadget regularly, or you've already invested in extremely advanced headphones, it's time to make the switch.
Telephone manufacturers can make a big consumer-focused shift in their design over the next few years – but it really is not in their best interest. They are more likely to continue to drive high-quality wireless audio, and maybe if we're lucky, turn to a more universal standard for direct audio over USB-C. In the meantime, it is very bad to shop for a pair of USB-C headphones – do it with an adapter for now, or grind your teeth and go to Bluetooth.