Apple Adds DRM to Shuffle Headphones?!?

By  |  Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:58 am

iPod Shuffle([UPDATE:] This post was written with the information Technologizer had at the time. Since then, we’ve learned a bit more. Please reference this new post from Harry.)

The “Apple tax” has been somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek joke in the tech world for a long time: where the consumer pays a higher price for a product simply because it bears the Apple logo.

Well, that concept may be coming to Shuffle headphones as well. Amid giving the Shuffle its first-ever “no” recommendation for an iPod/iPhone product, Apple enthusiast site iLounge also dropped a bombshell: Shuffle headphones are essentially DRM protected.

iLounge claims that the headphones add some type of  “authentication chip,” which means that standard headphones will not work with the device. Obviously they wouldn’t, since all the navigation is done via the iPhone-like pushbutton device on the right earbud wire.

But if third-party headphones add playback controls but don’t have this chip, they won’t work either. That means no volume, no voiceover, and no navigation. Nada. You’re S.O.L. To make them work, iLounge says a $20-30 to-be-manufactured adapter is needed, or approved headphones, which so far are no cheaper than $49.

Seeing on my end how easily those headphones short circuit at the pushhbutton unit causing them to malfuction on my iPhone, this should be something Apple users should be concerned with. If they bring this technology to other devices, God knows owning an iPod will become more expensive.

I’ve played with the Shuffle. And frankly, my experience was nothing like Harry’s, and more like iLounge’s. I struggled to get the thing to move from track to track–instead i was nearly blowing out my eardrums cause the volume was getting louder. Count me in as one of those who prefer their controls on the device.

I was watching others in the Apple store with me. Quite a few were having trouble with it. I really do see this Shuffle as the iPod line’s version of the Cube–kinda cool idea, but just not necessary.



5 Comments For This Post

  1. Anonymous Says:

    No, they just contain a control chip that sends encoded signals to the main unit to control tracks. I used to have an old Sony CD player that did the same thing.

    If it’s that big of a deal, you can easily turn the controls into a dongle you can plug any headphone you want into by soldering a female 1/8″ jack to the end of the cables the earbuds connect to.

  2. you are the wrong Says:

    man i’d check your sources because what you’re saying is not true. i’ve been using my shuffle and have not even taken the stock headphones out of the box yet. i play it in my car via 1/8″, at work with my speakered ear muffs via 1/8″ jack and then into my computer via 1/8″

  3. David Cohen Says:

    Can’t argue with your preference of control location, Ed, that is a personal thing. Not had a chance to play with the Shuffle yet, so I’ll see how I get on with it.

    However, you are SERIOUSLY wrong about the chip. It is clearly not DRM – which would require some sort of proprietary encryption algorithm to be classed as such. It has none of that. It is simply the electronics enabler to make the remote work. Headphone cables were never designed to carry the sort of signalling Apple is using here – the chip is just a signal processor (and probably ensures that those signals don’t get heard in the audio). I’d rather have that than a clunky second port like the iPods used to have.

    Jeremy at iLounge has lost his perspective – he’s clearly still stinging from getting a cold shoulder from Apple marketing. His view of machiavellian Apple plots to sting a few extra bucks out of each accessory is ludicrous – does it look like Apple is really struggling to make money from its iPod operation?


  4. slappy Says:

    “Shuffle headphones are essentially DRM protected.”

    Umm no. iLounge didn’t do their job, actually they didn’t even behave like a real journalist. That is, check your facts first before opening your big mouth.

  5. Ed Oswald Says:

    you, you can’t control the device with the headphones. Please read the post, it never says headphones w/o the controls won’t work.

    David – I’m not going to get into what looks like a mudslinging fest between you guys. The facts we had at that time pointed to a DRM chip. Now with an official statement from Apple, we’ve posted a new post, which is referenced below.

    Again, lets cut the name calling and accusations. It’s not going to start in another Apple post 😉

1 Trackbacks For This Post

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