Apple on Tuesday announced a pair of new Mac devices, along with a redesigned iPad Pro lineup.
Unlike Apple’s previous tablets, the new iPads ditch the company’s proprietary Lightning port and the 3.5mm headphone jack for the more versatile USB-C port. While that’s great for connecting to other accessories, it’s a real frustration when it comes to using headphones. That’s especially true when considering that Apple’s iPhones still use Lightning, meaning the wired headphones you might use with your handset won’t be directly compatible with your shiny new tablet.
Here’s some advice for new iPad Pro owners looking for an elegant solution to their newfound headphone headache.
Don’t Bother With USB-C Headphones
While you could go on a hunt for some quality USB-C headphones compatible with both your new iPad Pro and MacBook Air, the chances you’ll find a pair that meets your requirements are slim. Even if you do find a pair you like, that doesn’t mean it will work with all your USB-C devices. Not many manufacturers bother making USB-C headphones, and inconsistencies in how devices handle audio playback via USB-C can negatively impact your listening experience, sometimes even neutering basic functions like volume control. And USB-C headphones won’t connect to your iPhone, either.
Simplify with Wireless Headphones
Among the most obvious options is to get some wireless headphones, which have built-in Bluetooth for connecting to various devices like your iPad Pro, iPhone, laptop, or even game console. Whether they’re for working out, tuning out, or zoning out to your favorite podcast, the model you pick should make it easy to pair and switch between multiple devices. Pricing may also vary depending on what features you’re looking for, but they’re guaranteed to work with all of your devices, no matter their connector.
Get a Dongle
Sorry, but the least costly route to listening to music on whatever device you’ve got is the much-hated dongle. Apple no longer includes its Lightning to 3.5mm dongle with its iPhones, opting to include a pair of wired Lightning connector EarPods instead. The iPad Pro doesn’t include a dongle or any USB-C headphones, making it (along with the rest of Apple’s devices) incompatible with your iPhone’s EarPods.
You can still purchase Apple’s $9 adapter if you need one (and indicate a lot of people do). In fact, you probably should get one, as the free pair of included EarPods sound as great as they cost. With the iPad Pro, you’ll need a different 3.5mm adapter — also $9 — for its USB-C port.
Try a Bluetooth Adapter
Got a pair of old-school cans you love, and want to bring them into the 21st century? Instead of getting a dongle for each device you own, you can try a Bluetooth adapter. It’s essentially a Bluetooth radio that connects to your wired headphones, pairing to the device of your choice. The clip-on adapters are perfect on pants or jackets, and can even include playback controls you can operate with your eyes closed.
Sure, you’ll have to occasionally charge the adapter. But with an average price of around $20, it could be the cheapest and least annoying way to upgrade your old-school headphones and listen to music on all of your devices.
Embrace Apple’s Own Headphones
Apple, of course, offers a convenient but pricey solution in the form of its $159 AirPods. The wireless earbuds automatically connect to your preferred iOS device, and make it simple to switch audio sources when using iOS and Mac devices connected to your iCloud account.
AirPods are a great solution if you already own other Apple devices. If the tiny earbuds aren’t your bag, Apple makes other headphones under its Beats brand, some of which (like the fitness-minded BeatsX) incorporate the AirPods’ W1 chip that powers the seamless audio source switching feature.