Apple has shared details of the high-impedance headphone jack on the new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros. Older Macs, including older MacBook Pro models, could unofficially drive some higher-impedance headphones at lower volumes. However, the machines couldn’t supply enough power for higher volumes or super high-impedance headphones.
Another issue with the headphone jack on previous Mac models is the sample rate limitation of 96kHz. This has meant that users streaming Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, or Amazon Music weren’t able to take full advantage of services’ ability to play up to 192kHz content. While many users might not notice or care, a small selection of audio content is mastered in sample rates that high and will matter to some.
In a new support document, Apple details what the high-impedance headphone jack on the new MacBook Pros is capable of. Apple says the new machines feature “DC load detection and adaptive voltage output” enabling the new MacBook Pros to drive headphones up to 1,000 ohms. For users, this might remove the need for an external headphone amplifier entirely. Though, it’s worth noting that the jack is still limited to a 96kHz sampling rate, according to Apple.
While the new jack is great news, there are still a few reasons why some may choose to use an external headphone amp. While the jack is still limited to a 96kHz sampling rate, most external headphone amplifiers can do at least 192kHz and up to 384kHz. Some super high-end amps are capable of 768kHz sampling rates. Of course, only a small selection of music mastered today is mastered in 192kHz. Still, another reason why a user may choose to use an external headphone amp is for exclusive mode. In short, exclusive mode lets an application have complete control over a headphone amp, not allowing other apps to access the amp. The built-in headphone jack has never, and still doesn’t, allow for exclusive mode.
Overall, the new headphone jack is an upgrade over previous MacBook Pros, and will be useful for on-the-go times when an external headphone amp may be cumbersome to use. Having the capability of driving such high-impedance headphones is very uncommon in mobile devices. For the most part, LG smartphones are really the only other mobile products that support high-impedance headphones. The upgraded headphone jack, along with Apple moving it to the correct side (the left side), is a welcome change for all MacBook users.