Can I connect a USB C headset to the Mac?

USB C headphones and the Mac

Apple computers incorporate the USB C port as one more connection system. On some computers, such as the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air sold between 2016 and 2020, these ports were the only way to connect accessories and peripherals. However, despite the versatility offered by the USB Type-C port, several things must be taken into account:

  • The Thunderbolt protocol is not the same as the USB Type-C connection.
  • Not all USB ports and cables are designed for the same usess, even though they have the same physical shape.

The Thunderbolt protocol, on the one hand, is a communication standard that allows different devices and peripherals to be connected in a more versatile and profound way. This provides much more transfer speed, connections between two computers of the same type, being able to use the physical port for more than one function, etc.

Apple named the first USB ports on Macs Thunderbolt 3. Today the Thunderbolt 4 standard is present, which offers more speed and stability. Macs with Thunderbolt 3 are MacBook Pro and Air (2016-2020), Mac mini 2018, Mac Pro (2019), iMac Pro, iMac (21.5″ 2017), and iMac Retina (21″ and 27 ″ from 2017 to 2020). On the other hand, the Macs that incorporate Thunderbolt 4 are: Mac mini (2020, 2023), MacBook Air and Pro (M1, 2020 onwards), iMac 24″ and the Mac Studio.

And why is it important to make this distinction? What does it have to do with headphones? USB C ports with Thunderbolt standard allow the connection of video, charging, data and also audio. Some Mac models have USB Type-C ports for device charging and data transfer. Nevertheless, Those ports that will be compatible with USB Type-C headphones are those that have the Thunderbolt standard 3 or Thunderbolt 4.

How to connect headphones via USB Type-C on Mac

With the gradual disappearance of the jack ports on Apple devices, only newer Macs have this port. That is why, if we have headphones with a USB C cable, or a USB C to jack adapter, we can connect them to the Thunderbolt ports of the Mac, and be able to listen to the sound that comes out through the physical port, without having to resort to the jack port.

usb c mac audio compatibility

Apple has its own USB Type C to mini jack adapter, and in its data sheet they explain that, indeed, this adapter can be used with a long list of Mac models that, in addition to USB Type C, incorporate Thunderbolt technology. And it is that, if we want to connect an audio device in a port that is only for charging and data, the sound signal will not be transmitted. And, therefore, we will not be able to use the headphones. We have to use them in a versatile connection port.