VIA Labs shows working audio over USB silicon

Computex 2016: No more headphone jacks with this chip

VIA - logoVIA Labs showed SemiAccurate working audio over USB silicon at Computex. While this isn’t an official standard yet, expect the USB-IF to bless it in short order adding to the confusing morass that is USB.

Yes USB is utterly broken as a modern standard but that isn’t stopping anyone from adding more bits to the connector, in this case the headphone jack replacement functionality. Audio over USB has always been a bad idea because of a lack of quality controls, iffy compatibility, and reliance on drivers that usually work only in specific circumstances.

With all the talk of the iPhone Next doing away with a headphone jack and replacing it with audio over Lightning, there is one thing missing, the silicon needed on the other end. Unless Apple does not follow their usual pattern of using standards where available, this new ‘port’ will just be the upcoming audio over USB standard all carried over a physical layer of Lightning. That said there still needs to be silicon on the headphone side that understands this standard, one side of the puzzle doesn’t do much good.

VIA Labs USB audio silicon running

USB Audio silicon up and running

That is where VIA Labs comes in, traditionally one of the first to have working silicon for new USB standards. This time is no exception because at Computex they were showing off working audio over USB silicon for the hub/headphone side. It was connected to an HTC M10 phone and a normal audio-jack headphone on the far side. It passed audio correctly as well as control data back to the phone from the board, not the analog headphones. In any case if VIA Labs has silicon working at this level, launching headphone jack deficient phones can happen at almost any time. It will still be a monumentally bad idea, but technically speaking it won’t be a problem.

More interesting is the working USB3.1 Gen2 hub. For those not up on USB nomenclature, USB3 was 5Gbps and 3.1 was 10Gbps. This was unilaterally changed to USB3 being 5Gbps and USB3.1 became 5Gbps over a type-C connector. Why? Who knows but it is just dumb, a completely self-inflicted wound. To make matters less clear, 10Gbps over type-C is now called USB3.1 Gen2. Clear as mud, eh? If you are wondering what 10Gbps over type-A/B is going to be called, we have no clue, but since the USB-IF is involved, it will make things worse when they realize there needs to be a name for it too.

Via Labs 10Gbps USB 3.1 hub silicon running

If you have been waiting for 10Gbps USB hubs…

Luckily SemiAccurate is here to talk about silicon, USB3.1 Gen2 silicon. In this case VIA Labs was again showing off a working 10Gbps hub controller, in this case four ports. If you have been looking for a 10Gbps hub, showing off silicon like this is a strong indicator of products on the market in a quarter or so. Back to school should be awash in 10Gbps hubs, even if they don’t have a sane name.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group. FullyAccurate