What's the deal with USB headphones?

Posted by

Why do these things exist? A while back, I bought a pair of Logitech H390 headphones. This is what they look like:

When I bought them, I didn't really spend a whole lot of time looking at the box, but the fact that the interface is USB is shown in that little info panel on the bottom-left. In retrospect, I probably should have spend more time reading that box because it turns out, USB is a horrible, weird interface for headphones and I can't for the life of me understand why they exist.

Cons of USB headphones

These are just the ones I ran into while using my headphones over the last year or so:

  • They only work in a couple of places. PC, sure. Maybe I could plug them into my Android phone with a USB-A to micro-USB adapter, but I never bothered to buy one in case it didn't work. A Ninentdo DS or practically anything else that's not a PC? Forget it!
  • Even when it works, because the headset shows up as a separate device, you can get yourself into weird situations where audio would continue routing to your main speakers and not the headphones. Both Windows (as of version 7, I haven't tried newer versions) and Linux have fairly clunky interfaces for choosing which output device to use. In most cases, with regular headphones, once you plug in all audio is automatically routed to the headphones.
  • Because the DAC happens inside the headphones, you can be pretty sure the quality of that hardward is nowhere near the quality of the hardware in your desktop computer.

Pros of USB headphones


Oh wait, I can think of one "pro". The Creative Tactic3D Rage headphones has illuminated ear cups. For some reason.

blog comments powered by Disqus