When it launched the Le 2 and the Le Max 2, LeEco did something that's adding to a burgeoning trend — it ditched the 3.5mm jack and instead turned the USB-C port into an audio out. While this means that charging your device and listening to music can no longer happen simultaneously, but the trade-off is definitely worth it. We tested LeEco's USB-C CDLA earbuds and we were blown away by what the technology is bringing to the table.
Look and feel
Finished in glossy white plastic, the part of the earbuds that go into the ear on the LeEco USB-C CDLA earphones are slightly reminiscent of the Apple EarPods' design, but the resemblance ends there, rather abruptly. Not only is the 3.5mm jack at the end gone, it's been replaced by a USB-C connector. The cables are the flat ones that refuse to tangle and the earbuds have orange LEDs built into them that light up when connected to a smartphone. The quality of the material used doesn't seem at par with that Apple uses.
We tested the LeEco USB-C CDLA earphones on a Nexus 6P that allows both audio via the USB-C port as well as a 3.5mm jack and boy, what a difference in the sound! The headphones we compared to LeEco's USB-C CDLA earphones were Rockjaw's Alfa Genus V2s and we instantly found the sound on the LeEco USB-C CDLA headphones to be much cleaner. There is definitely a sense of fuzziness to the audio when played back through the 3.5mm jack.
LeEco's USB-C CDLA headphones use proprietary technology called Continual Digital Lossless Audio, a reportedly a new standard when it comes to digital audio. While all smartphones with 3.5mm jacks have a built-in digital-analogue converter (DAC), there isn't much power sent to the drivers in the earphones isn't all that much. With the LeEco USB-C CDLA eaphones, the connector features a built-in digital audio processor that gives music an extra kick before pumping it out of the earphones.
We put the LeEco USB-C CDLA earphones through its paces with "Buffalo Gals," by Bruce Springsteen. Part of the "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" album, the song features a mix of instruments pitched at very distinct registers, ranging from violin and banjo highs to double bass- and tuba-induced lows.
There was a distinct sense of clarity when the song was played back on the LeEco USB-C CDLA headphones. The highs were sharp, the mids were clean and the lows, albeit a little quiet, were distinct and punchy. While LeEco may boast that the earbuds have better bass response than Apple's EarPods, the headphones definitely have a treble bias to them.
Compared to the Rockjaw Alfa Genus V2, there's a noticeable difference in clarity. The quality of the DACs built into smartphones definitely hinder the capabilities of even the best earphones in the market. Even with the treble filter on the Alfa Genus V2, the highs didn't seem as crisp as they did on the LeEcos.
With the LeEco USB-C CDLA earphones plugged in, the tuba lines in the song sound distinct. Sure, they are not exactly audible and in comparison, the Alfa Genus showed better separation with the treble filters on, but there was still a lack of clarity on the 3.5mm-jack earphones.
The 3.5mm jack has been around for donkey's years, with variants dating back to the 1800s and seems like it's time for technology to slowly start phasing out the 3.5mm jack. While the Rockjaw Alfa Genus V2s are definitely one of the nicest earphones we have used, one really can't help but wonder how much better they might sound had they featured a USB-C plug and CDLA technology. Priced at Rs. 1,990, the LeEco USB-C CDLA earphones come with a huge recommendation from our end and we eager to see what the future holds for USB-C audio.