Shielded USB connections for enhanced sound quality

29th June 2020
Lanna Deamer

For many premium consumer electronic devices, adoption of the latest connectors is essential. These devices must perform at their very best and have very little in the way of compromise, providing the users with a product that justifies the associated price tag. Specifically, in the high end headphone market, GCT has seen the migration from Micro USB to Type-C move very quickly.

Despite the growth of wireless product variants, headphones still need connectors to charge and transmit audio data. Some purists will always value the ‘near-lossless’ sound quality of a hardwired connection above wireless too, which makes selecting the right USB connection more important than ever.

Headphones adopting Type-C connections will naturally gain all the benefits there are to offer. A reversible interface for easier mating and a higher power and data throughput versus micro USB all come part of the package. But it was one of the more specific features on GCT’s USB4055 Type-C connector, which helped overcome a product issue for a premium audio and headphone manufacturer.

GCT was approached for a USB solution to replace a Type-C connector pre-selected at the design stage for one of their new flagship products. The headphone manufacturer encountered problems in the existing design due to the configuration of the PCB and the Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) caused by the Type-C connector. The PCB itself was tightly packed with audio componentry and was an engineering marvel in itself; therefore, the inclusion of the latest USB connector was a perfect choice.

Unfortunately, the Type-C connector initially chosen could not provide the performance it required and needed replacing. A comparable connector was needed to ensure design changes were kept to a minimum. A long body, single shell horizontal mount Type-C connector was used in the original design, which helped the connector protrude off the end of the PCB and lay flush with the headphone housing.

GCT’s USB-C range were a suitable fit for this situation as it not only combines top- and mid-mount products, but also has short and long body options for both mount types. Given the extensive range available, the USB4055 was selected as the replacement. The key difference on the USB4055 versus the original part being replaced was its dual layer shell.

GCT’s Type-C connector is engineered with an inner shell layer formed from a single drawn piece of stainless steel, which provides it with EMI shielding properties along with additional connector strength and integrity. GCT's USB4050, USB4060 and USB4065 Type C connectors also benefit from a dual layer shell, but the USB4055 was the best fit for the manufacturer’s design requirements.

The USB4055 was also put through temperature rise testing to ensure it can safely offer power delivery standard at 5W. This test confirms rapid charge capability without a significant rise in the connector shell temperature. It is important to remember that whilst there are many Type-C connections in the market today, there are some with certain features and specifications that will suit designs better than others.

Some presume these type of connections are largely standard, but GCT offers a range of variants, such as small footprint and 16 pin charging focused Type-C products, providing customers the very best connector solution for its application.

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