LeEco launched its second generation lineup of smartphones last week. Along with the usual specifications upgrade and design changes, one thing that caught my attention was the term CDLA. CDLA stands for Continual Digital Lossless Audio and is a proprietary technology developed by LeEco in India. It is a technology which enables a music player device (mobile or dedicated player) to get rid of the 3.5 mm audio jack. This technology leverages USB-C port to connect to the headphone or earphone. There are rumors that Apple is thinking about getting rid of the 3.5 mm audio jack in their next version of iPhone. 3.5 mm audio jack has been there since the age of the analog music players. Nothing much has changed in the 3.5 mm port technology. The CDLA is still a wired solution like the 3.5 mm audio jack. Bluetooth head phones is an option to replace 3.5 mm audio jack, but the quality of audio over wireless medium suffers a bit and it is not loss-less. So how does the CDLA help delivering better audio than 3.5 mm audio jack or a Bluetooth solution?
Active Noise Cancellation
Noise Cancelling headphones have been around for a while now. Passive noise cancelling refers to the headphones which have physical materials or design measures to reduce the ambient noise. It could be an airtight cavity with cushion buds around the ear. It could be the placement of the drivers in the ear canals and tightly sealing off the ambient noise. Passive noise cancelling headphones are bigger and heavier in dimensions. Also they are not very effective in a noisy place. Active noise cancelling reads the ambient noise and generates a counter audio signal to cancel it out. It filters out the noise and directs only the intended audio to the ears.
But Active Noise cancellation required power. If you have seen the Bose QuietComfort series, they have a battery powered noise cancelling circuit that is connected between the headphones and the music player. Though it is a very effective solution, it depends on power and it is very expensive.
So the CDLA Headphone from LeEco has the noise cancelling circuit built within the headphones and it draws power from the USB-C port of the mobile, along with the digital audio. In papers, the CDLA headphone must be cheaper and smaller than the other noise cancelling headphone solutions available.
While the USB-C port offers to act as a power source for the headphones, here are a few drawbacks. USB-C port headphones are not widely available. 3.5 mm audio jack on the other hand is the most widely available music solution on earth. So inter-operability is an issue.
While the USB-C port is engaged to connect the headphone, you cannot charge the mobile. In other words, your mobile cannot be charged, while you are listening to music. Most mobiles with FM radio, utilize the 3.5 mm audio jack as the antenna. That cannot be done with the USB-C port and effectively, the mobile needs to have a dedicated antenna inbuilt for FM radio.
While USB-C port can be inserted up or down, the 3.5 mm audio jack has no directional limitation. This is a not a major deterant, but still that is not a USP to buy the CDLA technology. Only advantage of this dual functional port is that, it reduced design clutter and would enable better aesthetic appeal.
Currently LeEco has announced an earphone and an active noise cancelling headphone with CDLA technology. They intent to introduce more models, but the technology will take off only when third party manufacturers jump in to make these headphones.
— LeEco India (@LeEcoIndia) April 20, 2016
LeEco has announced 3 mobiles with CDLA. The Le Max 2 has 6GB of RAM, 5.7″ QHD display and powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. Le Pro 2 is powered by MediaTek Helio X25 and has 5.5″ FullHD display. Le 2, is powered by MediaTek Helio X20 chipset. You can read more about these mobiles here.