“Apple Turned My Little Table Into A Nightmare of Cables” — The Sheer Madness of Apple Dongles

This morning, I set out earlier than normal to do some writing at the coffee shop.

I decided that it would be fun to check out how my Pioneer DJ HRM-5 headphones sounded with my old Creative Labs portable headphone amp.

And then I remembered “Oh right, I have a Macbook.”

That should have been the end of it right there.

But no, I kept at it. I wandered around the room and shoved the following items into my backpack.

  • USB- C to USB dongle. Apple is so concerned with design and ease of use they thought we might like some dongles to look at and touch.
  • My SoundBlaster E1 headphone DAC/Amp combo. I tried to do this yesterday, but I forgot the amp so I didn’t get very far.
  • HRM-5 headphones and cable.
  • Random Micro USB cable from my pile o’ USB cables. I’ve received so many free cables in boxes of various products that I don’t even know where I got half of them.

Again, you’d think that this huge pile of things I had to bring would have been off-putting. To anyone sane, it should have been.

I sat down at the coffee shop and spent roughly 47 minutes plugging in all the things at the small table I like to sit at. I arrived finally, at this:

Image for post
Image for post

Apple had turned my little table into a nightmare of cables.

That USB-C dongle is hilariously stiff. It doesn’t like to flex. It doesn’t like to turn. It likes to stick straight out from the computer and exclaim “HEY LOOK AT ME!”

I probably should have bought a third party adapter, but Apple’s design is just so magical and revolutionary.

I can’t even imagine how much worse this could potentially be for those with the new MacBook Pro instead of my humble regular MacBook.

I turned on my computer. I switched on my amp.

And then nothing happened.

It was here that I finally remembered that the E1 amp is fickle and untrustworthy when it comes to USB cables. It only likes to send data over certain random cables from my giant pile.

Wait! Maybe it’s the drivers! I noticed there was a new Mac driver package the other day. I download them. I install them.

The amp still does nothing.

I resign myself to unplugging the many cables and the dongle, and using the headphone jack.

Image for post
Image for post

Apple always includes solid audio hardware in their products. The DAC/Amp in the Macbook is quite capable, even at driving moderate headphone loads a bit above the power requirements of most consumer gear.

And it’s so easy to access that hardware with just one cable thanks to the headphone jack.

That all died a bloody death with the iPhone 7. For some reason. No one is sure why.

(Okay, it’s because Apple wants you to buy their expensive new Solo 3 Bluetooth headphones, or get in the backorder line for some AirPods).

They ripped the audio hardware right out of the phone like they were picking a carrot. They took out the headphone jack. And thanks to all of this removal… you get an infinitesimal increase in battery life and the “ability” to purchase new headphones.

But don’t fret, iPhone 7 buyer! Apple put some of their audio hardware into the included Lightning Ear Pods! I bought some of those to try with my lowly audio-hardware-containg iPhone 6 Plus. They crash sometimes and I have to reconnect them. It’s great?

Ear Pods not for you? Fear not! Try our new…audio dongle. Complete with the same annoying stiff wire and tiny size that the USB dongle uses. Free of any convenience or thought for the user!

This whole thing feels like a sick joke. A sad experiment in modern capitalism. The worst part is that Apple has such ardent fans (and with good reason, usually!) and those folks will defend every decision to the death. So Apple could do just about whatever they want, and it will make money.

Removing features in the name of progress is not progress.

Sometimes this leads to new well-designed innovations. And other times I have a pile of dongles on my table, and I wonder when exactly my life went wrong.

Please click the little heart if you liked this. It won’t save me from the dongles but it will make me feel better.

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store