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Since starting to use USB-C headphones (my new phone has no audio jack), I have noticed this (to my ears) very annoying issue: during playback of any audio, the sound output will be cut during moments of (very) low volume in the audio stream. For example: listening to an audiobook, after every sentence, when the narrator pauses, you will hear a noticeable cut of all sound output, where normally there's always a little white noise in the background.

I guess it's an optimization of not sending any audio signal when there is nothing to be heard, but to me, these constant breaks in the background white noise are very annoying. As a reference: this did not happen when using the audio jack on my old phone. The background white noise was just always present during playback.

I tried to research this issue, but it seems to be almost impossible to set the right search terms or no one else is complaining about this, although I find the latter hard to believe since my partner experiences the same. Also, in the Android settings, I cannot find anything related to this.

Still, I hope there is a way to resolve this. Either by applying a certain (advanced) setting or maybe by using some other workaround trick. Any insight and/or help in this matter is much appreciated, thanks!

P.S. I assume this is standard Android behavior for USB-C headphones and not headphone-specific. Please enlighten me if I'm wrong.

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    Android knows when audio playback is active or not so stopping audio transmission via USB-C on low volume doesn't make sense in my opinion. Therefore my guess is that it is caused by the headphones. May the the headphones use an integrated digital-analog converter which is shut down on low volume.
    – Robert
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 11:26
  • FYI there has been reports of this since early days of Android: 1 2 and there is an issue for AOSP: 3
    – Zhe
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 16:34
  • @Robert It is not caused by the headphone. (1) This issue has already been reported by many people (2) You can try using the same headphone but attached it to a Windows device, or with an iPad (that comes with USB-C) using the same adapter. You won't get any sound cut off.
    – Zhe
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 16:37
  • I have the exact same issue with two pairs of USB-C headphones on my brandnew smartphone, while my old one with analog audio jack does not show that problem. I am not so much annoyed by the cut out silence but by the missing beginning of each sentence after a brief silence in podcasts or songs. There really is missing information, half or full syllables being cut off ten times per minute. I am so annoyed, I could scream instead of fall asleep with my podcasts. How can this be left unaddressed in Android?!?
    – kriegaex
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 15:56

5 Answers 5

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From what I know, this is not easily achievable. There is no built-in setting for this, although you may get around the issue using (1) a ROM with a patched kernel and (2) a third-party app.

This has been reported since the early days of Android (1, 2), and there is an issue on AOSP that is marked as "won't fix", although I don't agree with that assessment. This might get more traction and get addressed if someone can confirm that (1) This is indeed a problem in AOSP and (2) creates an issue that clearly states that this is not a problem in custom ROMs.

This may also be related to the fact that the output volume for USB-C headphones/headphones using USB-C adapters is applied by software rather than using DAC hardware volume. In other words, Android applies the system media volume to the sound signal and then sends it to USB-C, during which the sound may be distorted/filtered (1, 2). There are reports that you can use the Hiby app or USB Audio Player PRO app to control the volume of the DAC, which may help fix this issue. (I did not have luck there.)

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I was happy to come across your post as I have had the same issue on multiple Android devices. Initially, I thought it was the specific device, but after having the issue reproduce itself on a new device later on, I re-initiated a search on this. Unfortunately, I agree with the same conclusion in that either no one experiences the issue or simply finds another alternative (non USB-C headphones if possible, etc.) or simply lives with it (as I have had to do on occasion). It is annoying though as I either have to bump the volume so that even the quiet parts have the background noise fuzz loud enough for the audio to not cut out or simply deal with the cut-outs.

The issue is not related to the headphones as the issue does not exist when used on Windows devices for example.

The only solution I have found is to use a frequency generator, put it on a low Hz so that you only have the white noise remain, and then play whatever audio you wish to play on a low volume (I too fall asleep with audiobooks, etc. and the cutting out is annoying).

Yet to look into whether specific frequencies are a bad idea in terms of sleep etc., but thought I'd give you a potential workaround if you have not yet found one or wish to consider it.

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    Hi Sheldon, thanks for your reply. Indeed such an annoying issue that should not be too hard to solve on the Android side I'd say. I also recently found the workaround you described. You can also set it to a very high (non-audible) frequency. As long as something is playing in the background, the system will keep the audio channel 'open'. Not ideal but at least it works. Thanks for taking the time to write your answer! Commented May 14, 2023 at 22:05
  • Really doesn't feel like this should be the solution but a frequency generator set to max has done the job. Astonishing noone at androids thinks this is worth fixing
    – Luke
    Commented Jan 25 at 23:07
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With everything I have read on forums or discovered on Amazon product reviews (the complaints), I believe that this has little to do with the phone or the wired headphones/earbuds. I believe this has a lot more to do with the DAC chips in the USB-C "adapters".

The USB-C adapters are actually miniature digital-to-analog converters with a small amplifier built into the connector. The DAC chip (Digital to Analog Converter) may be muting itself (gating the sound output) when volume levels are very low or nonexistent in order to reduce hiss or other noise.

This may simply be a matter of trying different USB-C converters until you find one that doesn't gate the sound during silence. I don't know of any in particular, yet. But, I imagine a more expensive and well-known brand would have a higher likelihood of not doing this. I don't know, but I do know that the cheaper ones that I have purchased absolutely do, and it's really annoying.

I think Sheldon's answer may be right. If you run a sound-generating app that can produce a frequency that is imperceptible to you, it may keep the DAC chip from gating/muting the sound, and thus, it may not give you that loss at the beginning of your soundtrack.

I did have Unity Intercom running and noticed that my audiobooks and Duolingo did not fade the audio up at the beginning of the sound, even though there was no audio on the Unity app at the time.

I'm gonna play around with this some more and will update with anything new that I discover.

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  • It is not the adapters. You can tell that when you connect it to an iPad via USB-C and everything suddenly works great with the exact same song/audiobook. You can throw more money at adapters, but if the OS does not output audio, it will not help.
    – Zhe
    Commented Apr 10 at 2:16
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The problem is the USB-C adaptor, for some folks anyway. Get headphones with a USB-C plug. I have a Pixel 6a, and some basic Lenovo USB-C headphones worked perfectly for me.

I'd been enduring this problem for nearly two years with my Pixel 6a and my USB-C adaptor + 3.5mm headphones. In my naivete, I actually thought all the various videos and audio streams I'd been listening to had been "compressed" or something and that the low-volume cut-off was normal. Finally, after growing a bit frustrated during a recent streaming binge, I searched online and landed here. A longer answer here mentioned the adaptor being a potential problem, so I tried some $10 Lenovo USB-C headphones, and the problem is gone.

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This is indeed an issue that needs to be solved. It's part of the ALSA configurations, so that's why custom ROM developers usually patch this.

The best workaround I found, simply because it's what I use, is to use external DACs. I personally love this one: iFi's GoBar Kensei. This doesn't give either the cutoffs or the clipping I usually get with usual headphones. I am using an S10+ and an S20 Ultra, both running OneUI 6.0 and the March security patch, for reference.

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