Google Headphone Adapter Review

Posted on November 18, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Hardware, Mobile, Music + Videos, Paul with 84 Comments

Google Headphone Adapter Review

This is the review I was born to write. It is the most important article I’ve ever written.

On October 8th, I made a momentous purchase at Google’s online store.

No, I don’t mean the Pixel 2 XL.

And, no, I’m not referring to the Pixelbook.

Or the Pixel Buds, for that matter. I did actually order all of those things within a few days of each other. When did I turn into such a Goongle?

Stay on target, Paul.

No, I mean the Google Headphone Adapter. Or, as the Google Store website confusingly calls it, the USB-C Digital to 3.5 mm headphone adapter.

What an impersonal name for such a magical product.

Like the underrated Microsoft Surface Pen Loop before it, the Google Headphone Adapter—seriously, do we not have a better name for this thing?—arrives unpretentiously in a tiny package. It’s not as small and inherently stealable as the Surface Pen Loop, but then I bought it online anyway. Knowing Google’s eye for quality products that have never let anyone down, I suspect that this packaging excess is purposeful. That Google is signaling the worth of what it contains to the potential customer.

So I waited. Like the perfect sushi, it was almost too beautiful, too perfect, to disturb.

(OK, I was going to write this last night, but then my sister called and asked if I wanted to go out for dinner. Let’s not get distracted.)

Finally, this morning, I felt brave enough to finally break the seal of the elegant and clear wrapping that protected the adapter’s box. I did so carefully, so I could keep that packaging and display it, like a trophy, in my home.

And it is a wonder to behold.

I am referring, of course, to the box.

Here, Google embarrasses Apple on a scale that is almost breathtaking. This wondrous little box utilizes a slide drawer mechanism with a small plastic tab. You grasp the tab, pull gently, and it just opens up. This requires almost no effort.

I dare you not to gasp while this magic unfolds in front of your eyes. I, alas, was unable to contain myself. Yes, I squealed like a little girl. Like Brad might when he hears a UPS truck in his neighborhood.

Inside the box, there it is: The Google Headphone Adapter. It is whiter than a hundred Cupertinos and fashioned from a matte material that is hard to the touch. Its makeup is a mystery. It is perhaps alien technology.

I almost destroyed the packaging trying to get the dongle out of its perfectly-shaped cut-out. Almost destroyed it again as I frantically tried to find the instructions that would explain how I might use this device.

There are none.

Here, again, Google’s genius becomes suddenly obvious. Unlike Apple’s latest product, which is just its upteenth iteration of the smartphone and yet requires a lengthy how-to video to understand how it even works, the Google Headphone Adapter needs no such instructions.

It is, instead, truly intuitive.

Trembling, I moved the Google Headphone Adapter into place, aligning it with the USB-C port on the bottom of my Pixel 2 XL. It … wouldn’t attach.

Nervous, I bumped it again and again into the bottom of the device. Thoughts of yet another problem with this phone were impossible to ignore. And then, suddenly, and with great relief, I realized the truth. I had been trying to plug in the wrong end of the dongle. So much for the reversible nature of USB-C.

With a fix in place—I flipped it over—the Google Headphone Adapter attached easily and securely to my phone. So the next test was audio quality: Would the adapter deliver the audio quality of Apple’s mythical HomePod? Or would it be yet another Apple AirPod, pretty to look at but with terrible sound?

What I can I say? It’s perfect. Rick Springfield never sounded so good. No, not even in the 1980s.

At $9, the Google Headphone Adapter isn’t necessarily affordable, but I think its ability to magically pass sound from my phone to an external speaker or headphones justifies the price. Heck, the packaging alone justifies the price: You should buy this thing even if you’re using an iPhone: It will give you something to buy while you wait for that stupid HomePod you want so bad. I would spend my own money on this product, and you know how stingy I am.

Regardless, it doesn’t really matter how many of these adapters that Google sells: The Google Headphone Adapter is aspirational, a living how-to guide for its competitors to follow when it comes to creating their own product packaging.

The Google Headphone Adapter is highly recommended. I may even buy another one.

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Comments (89)

89 responses to “Google Headphone Adapter Review”

  1. DaveHelps

    Thanks for the review Paul, but it’s a little light on detail. I’ve been considering getting something like this to connect my garden hose to my satellite dish so that I can cut the cord and switch to fiber.

    Do you know if it has an RS232 serial interface?

    Does it support the IPX/SPX protocol?

    is it extendable up to, say, 3 yards?

    Is it compatible with my Sega Dreamcast?

    Is it waterproof?

  2. wocowboy

    $9 for a DAC that is in the USB-C end of the adaptor isn't too bad a price, considering what something like a Dragonfly DAC costs these days. It probably isn't made up of very esoteric circuitry, but there is a DAC in there nonetheless. Enjoy!

  3. Venkatarangan Thirumalai

    +1. Nice write up. Next product from Google & Apple that will change the world will be a cleaning cloth :-)

  4. SvenJ

    OK, serious question. Can you try this on your Pixel? I believe you have a Pixel XL, right. I know it has a headphone jack, but I wondered if Google supported USB-C audio before they forced it on you. (Apple supported lightning audio before ditching the jack). Just curious if it works. I bought a cheap USB-C dongle and it doesn't work on my Pixel, but it might be because it was cheap. Does the O'fficial Google adapter work?

  5. AnthonyE1778

    Spectacular review Paul. You should do more reviews like this for all dongles from Google and apple.

  6. gregsedwards

    Based on Paul's review, I ordered two of these. And I don't even own a Pixel.

  7. Username

    As a follow-up, exercising your spirit of journalistic pursuit, try sticking it into USB-C port of a Windows 10 computer. You might want to comment on perceived sound quality and loudness.

  8. ncn

    The fact that you said NOTHING about it's performance speaks volumes ... I have the Monster version, and at $125 I can assure you the gold contacts and the oxygenated copper makes your headphones sing. Not to mention the fact it's made from pure, virgin plastic with absolutely NO trace of recycled material. I guess this is the kind of insubstantial review I should expect from you.

  9. Reinier Zevenhuijzen

    I'll wait for the Anandtech review and iFixit teardown before I make my buying decision.

  10. jrswarr

    With your tongue so firmly planted in your cheek - I'll be suprised if you are ever able to talk again.

  11. Rahul Partoti

    Almost cried. Couldn't help but anticipate on what would come out of that box. I hope they also included carry on bag and Adapter makes beeping sound when it gets lost. Google can add Find my Adapter feature in Security section. It will show the Adapter GPS coordinates.

    Seriously, just hope they bring back the headphone jack. Don't think everyone uses Bluetooth earpieces.

  12. TomKer

    Just want to point out that those of us who are slaves to Verizon got this delicious piece of technology included in the box with our Pixel 2 XL. Verizon is sooo generous!

  13. t.linn

    This post doesn't strike me as clever but others may differ. I will point out that this dongles are worthy of review if you care about audio quality. There is a D/A converter built into this product and if it is anything like the one in Apple's adapter it is not a good one.

    • John Scott

      In reply to t.linn: Iam with you on the audio quality. But alas I don't think many care about it anymore. The obsession with wireless technology, and these dongles appear to spell the end to concern about really good sound. But then again with streaming services winning over any other content media format. Is spending much on sound quality going to be worth it?

  14. Mulderjoe

    Is there a way to do a standing ovation in a comments section?

  15. Patrick3D

    iPhone 7 shipped with the adapter in the box, mine is still in the box, I wonder how many people have ever had to use theirs? I've gotten by fine with a lightning to 3.5mm car power/audio adapter (Scosche StrykeDrive) and an Apple Lightning Dock (w/ 3.5mm audio out) at home.

  16. ekimvf

    Canceling my account...

  17. Win74ever

    Lol. At least Google is using USB-C. A new standard and not some proprietary connector made to take more money from it's customers.

  18. red.radar

    Bravo Paul. Bravo

    the intern assigned to design the package did go all out. I bet the packaging costs more than the dongle

    you should start collecting these boxes and then when people come to rural Pennsylvania they can share your kiddy excitement at the worlds largest Google Headphone adapter box collection .... museum

    I am altering the iteniry of my families next road trip, as I am so filled with jubilance and excitement

  19. Eric Rasmussen

    Reading this review, I immediately purchased one for myself and one for each of my kids. Imagine their surprise on Christmas morning when they open this beautiful package, and upon seeing this breathtaking piece of hardware they too will be able to have two headphone ports on their phones! More is always better, as I've learned through careful study of Paul's articles, so this might be the best Christmas of their lives!

  20. train_wreck

    9/10 much humor. Minus 1 for Rick Springfield.

  21. Khayman101

    The amount of genuine angry comments on this article is sheer genius

  22. seapea

    No mention of the 3 languages on the box cover?

  23. Rob_Wade

    I don't get it. I guess I have to assume the article was meant tongue-in-cheek. It's a flipping USB-to-headphone adapter. Because the idiot manufactures think we don't want a headphone jack. Yet adapters are being made. The only listening over Bluetooth I do is in my car. ALL the rest of the time it's with actual headphones or as a line out to other devices (external speakers, a mixing board, etc.) Most places where you USED to bring a CD for music (typically as background for some event) no longer have a CD player. You HAVE to bring a device that is capable of line out. Except now idiot OEMs are killing off that capability.

    • PincasX

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      The fact that people get this worked up over the dropping of the stero jack is mind bending. One would think that you have been personally wrong or had something taken from you. Good news! The majority of phones have your precious stero out so you can continue using it to your little heart’s content. And for those of us that don’t need it, we don’t have to have it. Everybody wins!

  24. Trickyd

    Just waiting for the video of Paul in a blond wig channelling iJustine!!

  25. Wolf

    LOL!!! Paul, what exactly were you on when you wrote this up? ... I want some! ;D

  26. RoHo

    Sorry you Apple/Google boys need to buy an adapter/dongle. My One+ superphone stills has the audio port. Eat your heart out. Don't lose your dongle!

  27. Harrymyhre

    You will lose it soon

  28. Halfwitty

    "So much for the reversible nature of USB-C." I chortled at that!

  29. michael.dice

    I'm surprised this article isn't behind the paywall! I guess such insightful prose needs to be seen by as many people as possible!

  30. shacoa

    A welcome article to a groggy reader on a Saturday morning. Thanks!

  31. kherm

    This is the best article you've ever written. This is the pinnacle of your writing career, Paul! It's all downhill from here.

  32. paulkbiba

    I have not tried this product and I never will try this product. Why? Because it is a TERRIBLE product. Why is it a TERRIBLE product? I will tell you why it is a TERRIBLE product.

    It is a TERRIBLE product because it comes in a slide box. Paul, being the incompetent reviewer that he is, even has the gall to call it, and I quote from his review, a "slide drawer mechanism". This is clearly because this so-called tech reviewer is a shill for the slide drawer crowd.

    Everybody with any amount of common sense knows that top opening boxes are THE ONLY WAY TO GO. This is so obvious that there is no need to explain why. I may have to cancel my subscription to Premium as I am not sure I want to continue to associate with a slide drawer fanboy.

  33. Ken Kelly

    I can't wait to read your review of the power and headphone adapter that came with the Pixil 2XL.

  34. mmcpher

    Where's the unboxing video? I'm going to get one to use with my Note8 because it's so much cooler than the Note8's onboard 3.5 port.

  35. jimchamplin

    But can it run Crysis!?

  36. ken_loewen

    The suspense, the drama, the humanity -- the clarity

  37. arunphilip

    Best. Review. Ever. I just hope all device product managers read this.

    Dripping with sarcasm, yet with a lot of funny quips (Brad squealing, reversible USB-C, ...).

  38. bharris

    If you put an Apple logo on it, it would be perfect and three times as valuable.....

  39. Waethorn

    I'm glad I'm not paying for this article.

  40. Grimwar

    oK, Paul, Not funny in trying the headphone 3.5 out connector to a USB-C. I need glasses, but you need help. LOL

    You can also have a DAC by

  41. Jim Lewis

    Enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor particularly in comparison, to, say, a BGR rant by Jonathan Geller on the iPhone X as the pinnacle creation of mankind that will forever transform your life, etc.

  42. chaad_losan

    This is the most epic review since the Epic Pen Loop review!

  43. nbplopes

    Hehe, Paul and his saga against Apple reviewers.

    But have a look at my comment/review on Brads article about the AirPods. I get the impression Brads ears got somewhat warm after confecing Paul his sin. But the fact sometimes humor it’s effective way to disguise ignorance, or simply the fact that the person totally missed the point. That and arguing any option we don’t fully understand as a question of untruthfull percepiotn.

    No matter how knowledgeable one may be. Prejudice and preconceptions can blind us all. Even though it might have some truth embedded in, usually has. But it’s a long way from the actual truth.

    But but I do agree some tech reviewers have little sense of critique or at least are too colorful in their critiques, just enough to be ignored. And that is not good.

  44. ben55124

    How well does the adapter stay attached when phone is in pant pocket?

  45. jrickel96

    How can I take your review seriously when you failed to mention the beautiful font used on the box? And the fact that it was in three languages? The only drawback is there is no Spanish to be found on the box (I hear that's a big selling point for the alt-right, though), but the umlaut is immaculate.

    Ignoring the beauty of the font is inexcusable. I'm sure if this was an Apple product, you'd highlight that. We know Jonny Ive spends months slaving over font design to make the product packaging awe inspiring and here you are, ignoring Google doing the same. Sad!

  46. LauraCatPJs

    Geez all y'all, can't Paul write a light-hearted AND insightful piece once in a while? It isn't always XOR, one or the other only. Humor can make truth pop in ways that lecturing doesn't. Tons of smiley faces, exclamation points, and commentary to make it mind-numbingly explicit when he's teasing ... those ruin the effect utterly IMHO.

  47. GotCobol

    Such a substandard review I don't know where to begin.... does it get damaged if you drop it from pocket height?, take keys to it? a sledgehammer? drive an M1A2 tank on it? And really the package should have been a plastic box made of a special plastic, and made of more plastic then the actual product.

    do they make an adapter that will let me use this with my mini jack on my gameboy?

    I mean I don't even have a device it will work with and I am thinking of picking up a truck load

  48. Michael Farris

    I am in tears. I never thought I would read such a perfect article about a masterwork of engineering and design. It's just so beautiful.

  49. Darekmeridian

    This was awesome!

    There should be a whole section on of cool things that come in little white boxes.

  50. MikeGalos

    One quick note, Paul. Rather than go with the unwieldy "USB-C Digital to 3.5mm headphone adapter" we could all go with the simple, single-word German name and adopt it as the product name worldwide. Kopfhöreradapter is so much more mellifluous and doesn't clutter the user's mind with all those geeky problems of knowing what USBs and mms are or worrying about whether their USBs are digital or not.

    Just a thought...

  51. spacecamel

    I think the only thing you missed was a link to Rick Springfield's greatest hit.

    This might be the best review ever on this site.

  52. imh64

    Having read this article and thought deeply about it I have ordered said product I think I will throw away the adapter and just keep the box.!

  53. MikeGalos

    It's nice to finally see a Google product get the same level of review quality, insightfulness and journalistic integrity that's typically reserved only for Apple products.

    Thank you, Paul. This truly is the review you were born to write.

  54. GarySinott

    Parallel Space is a third party app to make muti-account for any social media site or an app like Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp, Twitter and Games like Clash of Royals etc.

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