Top 10 Best Lightning Headphones for iPhone X & iPhone 8
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Top 10 Best Lightning Headphones for iPhone X & iPhone 8

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Apple’s removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack from last year’s iPhone 7 is still making ripples. But the iPhone 8 release is around the corner and the reality of the situation has set in.

Before you start hyperventilating, these new phones ship with a pair of Lighting Earpods and a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter in the box. This new bundle of iPhone accessories ensures you will be able to continue using your current pair of headphones.

Still, many will want to adapt to the new standard (and not with the included Earpods, which are considered the bottom-tier of the headphone world). Moving forward seems like the best play here, as Apple has seriously invested in the Lightning port, and most consumers will want to invest as well. There is simply no going back from here.

Note that the adapter and Earpods are by no means the extent of your listening options, as Apple has put invested in Bluetooth headphones as well. There are even Bluetooth adapters for your current headphones, as if you needed more listening options.

But depending on how Bluetooth wireless grows in coming years, these options could be moot for audiophiles, because Lightning currently seems to be the best option for delivering hi-fi audio. Lightning headphones can take on lossless formats with ease. Comparatively, wireless protocols are still far off from accessing FLAC and WAV audio without compression.

Plus, Lightning headphones offer their own DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and amplifier for more accurate sound. These can be built in easily, and will outperform the budget components used in your phone any day.

There are indeed downsides to this massive shift away from the existent audio ecosystem, but given the compelling presentation Apple has made with the iPhone 8 launch, we have a more compelling argument than ever as to why the 3.5mm jack shall be no more.

Whether we’ll come crawling back for analog audio in a year, or all just switch to USB-C, we are willing to follow the company down the rabbit hole with a look at some of the best Lightning headphones available now.


1. Audeze EL-8 Titanium

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(Amazon)

The EL-8 Titanium headphones from Audeze are the cans that set the bar for Lightning audio quality. Though they have an audiophile price tag that few will want to pay, this is actually one of the cheapest pairs of headphones that this boutique audio company makes.

At that, the EL-8 makes a great companion to the iPhone 8, as this is one of few headphones that offer true hi-fi listening on the go without an external amplifier.

This is because the included Cipher Lightning cable houses its own headphone amplifier and 24-bit DAC, which improves playback and sound fidelity. This is something you can expect from any Lightning headphones, but not at the same level of quality that Audeze offers.

The amplifier does a fantastic job driving these headphones, offering a high volume level without any distortion. There are inline controls to adjust the volume output of the headphones, plus play/pause music and answer calls through an inline mic.

The EL-8’s Cipher cable, which houses these features, can be swapped out for an included 3.5mm cable. This allows you to use these headphones with non-iOS devices. However, you will find that they shine best with the superior signal processing of the built-in DAC.

Their closed-ear design gives these cans an amazing sound stage and great bass extension. Unfortunately, the bulky design also makes them a little harder to use as your every day headphones, though they do fold flat to fit into a backpack.

The planar magnetic drivers excel when paired with the integrated amp, and deliver a detailed and powerful sound. They offer a wide frequency response of 10Hz – 50kHz.

The lows are deep and rich, while still flat and balanced. The highs are crisp and clear, letting vocals and lead guitars cut through the mix with laser precision.

The Audeze app further improves your listening experience with extra EQ control that you can actually program into the Cipher cable’s DSP, allowing you to use two different sound profiles on any iOS phone you plug into.

For the audio-obsessed, these cans will be well worth their high price, as they finally make it worthwhile to store uncompressed audio files on your phone.

If you want your phone to sound the absolute best it ever has, these are the Lightning headphones for you.

Price: $799.00

Buy the Audeze EL-8 Titanium here.


Pros:

  • Interchangeable Lightning cable with high-end DAC and headphone amp
  • Wide frequency response and sound stage
  • Physically stored EQ control via Audeze app

Cons:

  • High price tag
  • Closed ear design isn’t best for mobile listening
  • Cipher cable is somewhat flimsy

Find more Audeze EL-8 Titanium information and reviews here.



2. Philips Fidelio M2L/27

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(Amazon)

The Fidelio M2L/27 from Philips has the privilege of being called the first commercially available pair of Lightning headphones, and the amount of time they’ve put into making a successful design is apparent.

The stitched leather headband is very comfortable, and easily adjusts for different head sizes. These on-ear headphones have a sturdy build that can fold flat (though they cannot fold in).

The right earphone houses some built-in controls that allow you to pause/play tracks, skips songs, and answer calls. Strangely, this headset lacks an inline microphone to take calls, but the cans sound good enough that you might not want to interrupt your tunes anyway.

Despite their on-ear design, the M2Ls are acoustically sealed to achieve a passive noise isolation effect, which does a good job of keeping your music inside the cups and distracting ambient noise out.

The 40mm neodymium drivers offer very present mids, which reveal pristine details even in the meatiest parts of songs. There is a slight bump in the low-end, which makes bass deep and rich, but almost too strong at times.

This sort of bass-heavy sound actually works great for electronic music and rap beats, but negatively influences the balance of softer acoustic tracks. Whatever genre you listen to, though, these headphones do offer a solid dynamic range, reaching some of the highest highs and lowest lows in your recordings.

The only place that the M2Ls fall short is their cable, which is strictly hard-wired for Lightning, and lacks the versatility of Audeze’s Cipher cable. Unfortunately, this design choice is standard on any Lightning headphones that are under $500. This is one of the inescapable downsides of a new technology standard.

If compact on-ear performance at a middle-of-the-road price is what you’re looking for to match with your new iPhone 8, then the Fidelio M2L is one of the best options you’ll find.

Price: $149.95

Buy the Philips Fidelio M2L/27 here.


Pros:

  • Clear midrange and boosted low-end
  • Lightweight and comfortable design
  • Acoustically sealed earcups

Cons:

  • Only works with iOS devices
  • Slightly accentuated bass impacts balance
  • No inline mic

Find more Philips Fidelio M2L/27 information and reviews here.



3. Brightech MFi Pure Lightning Earphones

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(Amazon)

Budget Lightning listening options are few at the moment, but of the currently available headphones, Brightech’s Pure Lightning Earphones are among the best.

These stylish alloy-coated earbuds have a non-tangling flat cable with inline controls that house a DAC and amplifier. There are controls to raise or lower volume, plus a center button that can pause music or open apps like iTunes Radio.

These earbuds lack a built-in mic, which is a serious flaw considering that these are meant to be used exclusively with your iOS devices. Still, music aficionados will be able to overlook this flaw for the awesome audio quality these headphones provide.

The sound quality of the Pure Lightning earphones exceeds most 3.5mm headphones in the same price category. The 24-bit DAC accomodates a highly detailed sound, with nuanced highs and rich mids.

The integrated amp means you can get an awesome max volume, but the smaller 9mm drivers are not easily able to make a lot of bass. Nonetheless, the bass balances out well with the smooth high-mids, and makes for an overall pleasing sound.

the silicone eartips are pliable yet solid enough to form a good seal. Unfortunately, the lightning jack is slightly too small, and can be jostled out if you are running or biking.

This is a disappointment, especially since the eartips fit particularly well, but even with some small setbacks, these headphones are well worth their low price.

If quality sound at a good price comes first to you, the Pure Lightning headphones are a fantastic way to upgrade your portable listening situation.

Price: $39.99 (56 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Brightech MFi Pure Lightning Earphones here.


Pros:

  • Great max volume
  • Clear mids and highs
  • Durable flat cable and earbuds

Cons:

  • No inline mic
  • Lightning connector falls out easily

Find more Brightech MFi Pure Lightning Earphones information and reviews here.



4. Brightech MFi Pure Lightning Headphones

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(Amazon)

Yet another great audio offering Brightech is their over-ear Pure Lightning Headphones, which are available at a lower price than their earbuds, despite larger drivers.

These headphones are lighter than they look, and fold up compactly for transport, making them a decent pair to throw into your backpack for on the go listening.

Their build quality is nothing special, but the sound quality is, as these headphones deliver accurate and clear audio at any volume. Highs, mids, and lows are all solid and in balance with one another.

The reproduction capabilities of these 24-bit digital headphones has drawn comparison to both the Philips Fidelio M2L and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. I would personally call it a stretch to compare them to my M50x’s, but the flat sound signature definitely shows some aspiration to match studio headphones.

While the digital signal processing is impeccable for the price, the amp on these headphones does not provide the volume you might expect behind full-size drivers.

The volume controls help, but even on this fairly bulky pair of cans, Brightech still can’t be bothered to add an inline microphone for phone calls.

The combination of a low price and a high quality over-ear sound make Brightech’s larger entry into the Lightning headphone arena a force to be reckoned with, but you will have to be willing to overlook flaws in call accessibility and max volume.

Price: $19.99 (85 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Brightech MFi Pure Lightning Headphones here.


Pros:

  • Flat and balanced sound signature
  • Lightweight and foldable design
  • Detailed digital signal processing

Cons:

  • No inline mic
  • Low maximum volume level
  • Somewhat bulky design

Find more Brightech MFi Pure Lightning Headphones information and reviews here.



5. Sony MDR1ADAC DAC/Amplifier-Integrated Headphones

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(Amazon)

As far as digital output headphones go, Sony’s MDR1ADAC is a jack of all trades. Not only does this pair of headphones offer a detachable Lightning cable, but it also includes a USB-C cable, a 3.5mm cable, and proprietary connectors for the Walkman and Xperia mp3 players.

These folding over-ear headphones aim to provide the best digital signal processing at a reasonable price with their built-in DAC and amplifier.

One strange quirk of the DAC on these headphones is that it cannot be driven by Lightning power alone, and has a rechargeable battery that offers about 7.5 hours of playback.

Analog playback modes do not require this battery to be on, but using the Lightning cable does. But with the inconvenience of a limited battery life comes the convenience of a more powerful DAC and amplifier.

The end result of this design choice is that audio sounds fantastic on the MD1ADAC. Its 40mm drivers can achieve fantastic volume (controllable from the left earcup), and can output audio at 192kHz/24-bit.

Many other headphones will fall short of this level of detail, which gives these cans the edge in terms of an intricate reproduction of sound.

The midrange on these headphones is nice and clear, and is complemented by expansive highs that help round out the frequency spectrum. The low-end however, is a little sloppy, with a natural EQ bump blowing some sounds out of proportion.

Again, many prefer a sound profile with thumping bass, but given that these headphones are geared towards the accurate playback of uncompressed FLAC or WAV files, I consider this a downside to an otherwise balanced sound.

On the plus side, there is no distortion, even at the highest audio levels. Also, the somewhat shallow earcups are incredibly plush, making them one of the most comfortable headphones on the list.

But this is yet another headphone with no inline mic, which makes me wonder: is it seriously that hard to shove a pinhead-sized microphone into your high-end headphones?

My trite observations aside, Sony’s MDR1ADAC packs a lot of promise and features into one pair of headphones. This pair serves a variety of digital uses, and as long as you don’t mind periodically having to plug into a MicroUSB, these will be a top pick for many iPhone 8 converts.

Price: $215.65

Buy the Sony MDR1ADAC DAC/Amplifier-Integrated Headphones here.


Pros:

  • Versatile digital outputs
  • Rich and detailed audio playback
  • Lightweight and comfortable

Cons:

  • DAC needs an internal battery to supplement Lightning power
  • Slightly accentuated bass impacts balance
  • No online mic

Find more Sony MDR1ADAC/B DAC/Amplifier-Integrated Headphones information and reviews here.



6. Audeze Sine

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(Amazon)

The Audeze Sine is an on-ear alternative to the audiophile company’s EL-8, which tops this list in performance and price. The Sine, while still fairly pricey at $500, is notably cheaper than the EL-8, while still carrying some of its best features.

In terms of build quality, the Sine pairs awesome machined metal parts with a premium soft leather finish. The headphones come with a standard 3.5mm cable and a special Cipher Lightning cable.

This flat Cipher cable has built-in volume controls, play/pause, and an inline mic. On top of that, it can also digitally store two EQ profiles that you can set up within the Audeze mobile app. Like with the EL-8, the cable is still a little flimsy for how important to the sound it is.

Although the Sines are much slimmer than the EL-8s, these are far from the most portable headphones. Over-ear and on-ear headphones are usually confined to the home, where they can be enjoyed without fear of extra wear and tear. But given the convenience of the built-in DAC, you won’t be able to resist taking these out on the regular.

The planar magnetic drivers give the earcups a slim profile, as they need far less space to displace air thanks to the digital amp. They also sound fantastic, offering the same frequency response of 10Hz – 50kHz as its bigger brother.

This is fortunate, as you get the same clear and balanced sound from either pair of Audeze headphones. It is at this price point where the nuances of uncompressed audio really shine though, and you will actually notice a different between a 128kbps stream and a lossless recording.

The sound stage is deep, the dynamics are spot-on, and all around, this sound is seriously hard to match over a traditional analog connection unless you add a high-end DAC into the mix.

By combining the two, Audeze has created a very expensive line of digital headphones, and even though these are among the least expensive that the company makes, only the dedicated audiophiles will make the upgrade out of sheer faith for the Lightning standard.

Price: $499.00

Buy the Audeze Sine here.


Pros:

  • Interchangeable Lightning cable with high-end DAC and headphone amp
  • Wide frequency response and sound stage
  • Physically stored EQ control via Audeze app

Cons:

  • Physically stored EQ control via Audeze app
  • On-ear design can cause listener fatigue
  • Cipher cable is somewhat flimsy

Find more Audeze Sine information and reviews here.



7. JBL Reflect Aware

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(Amazon)

The JBL Reflect Aware is the first Lightning headphone option that is specifically designed for sport use, and is has a compelling laundry list of features that prove why it will be one of the best.

These earbuds designed from the top down for versatile sport use, with a sweatproof coating for the heaviest of workouts, plus a reflective cable that improves visibility on runs. The three sets of sport eartips lock into place easily, and provide a great seal for full sound.

The Lightning cable has inline controls for volume and play/pause, plus an inline microphone for taking phone calls. The control box also houses the button to enable the Adaptive Noise Control feature, which provides comprehensive control over how much of your environment bleeds through the headset.

This active noise cancelling pairs with the JBL Headphone app to allow individual control over the noise isolation on the left and right channels. At its highest setting, noise cancelling is excellent, creating a serenely quiet bed on which your music can sit.

Unfortunately, the lowest ANC setting, which should theoretically let you hear the outside world clearly without taking off the headphones, lacks polish, so you will still need to take these earphones out to have a conversation.

In terms of audio performance, the Reflect Aware’s 14.8mm drivers pack a solid punch without compromising fidelity. For their size, the bass is solid, and makes for a nicely balanced overall sound.

The frequency response range is so-so, so you won’t be discovering new highs in your favorite recordings, but the clarity and detail you get from the audio is still fantastic.

The max volume is somewhat disappointing, but if you want your music to come through more, you can always crank up that noise cancelling for a more focused sound.

JBL’s Reflect Aware headphones are a sure pick for gym rats and runners, but the sound quality is also good enough to stand out on its own. For the price, you will want to make good use of the active noise cancelling feature, otherwise, you will find Lightning headphones with far better bang for your buck.

Price: $199.95

Buy the JBL Reflect Aware here.


Pros:

  • Sweatproof, reflective, and durable sports design
  • Adaptive noise control offers variable isolation levels
  • Detailed and balanced audio

Cons:

  • No built-in amplifier
  • Internal amplifier could be better

Find more JBL Reflect Aware information and reviews here.



8. Sharkk Lightning Headphones

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(Amazon)

If these brightly-colored flat cable earbuds look familiar, that is probably because they are basically the same as the above-mentioned Brightech Lightning earbuds, with a different color scheme.

These headphones are OEM products, which means that they are made in the same factory for a number of different companies. OEM products are generally high-quality despite their low price (as is the case for these headphones).

So what’s the difference between the Sharkk headphones and the Brightech headphones? The company that provides them. The headphones from Sharkk are a lower price ($8 cheaper), but their warranty support is not listed. Brightech, meanwhile, advertises a three year warranty, which likely outdoes Sharkk’s nonlisted warranty.

But aside from these minor differences, the Sharkk Lightning headphones are the same awesome budget headphones by any other name. Their mids and highs are clear, with the bass being held back by their physical dimensions.

These cans are similarly lacking a built-in mic, but still carry the same value as a great low-price headphone for someone who cares about sound first.

Price: $29.99 (80 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Sharkk Lightning Headphones here.


Pros:

  • Great max volume
  • Clear mids and highs
  • Durable flat cable and earbuds

Cons:

  • No inline mic
  • Lightning connector falls out easily
  • No listed warranty

Find more Sharkk Lightning Headphones information and reviews here.



9. Hizek Lightning Earphones

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(Amazon)

These stylish earphones from manufacturer Hizek are a relatively new option for Lightning-based listening, but they are already earning high marks from reviewers.

The build quality on these earbuds is excellent for their low price. Their PVC wire is flexible and durable, and the buds themselves have are aluminum alloy for a sturdy feel. One downside is that these headphones only include one pair of silicone eartips, meaning that those with larger ears will not get the best fit.

If you do get a solid seal from these headphones, the eartips do a decent job of passively isolating outside noise, making these a great pair of headphones for commuting.

You will also get a strong sound from Hizek’s headphones, which really excels in the listening test. The audio is clear and detailed in both the midrange and the high-end. Hand claps and cymbals are just bright enough, while vocals and lead instruments hold the mix together.

The low-end is present, but falls a little short, as is expected from smaller earbud speakers. It is not enough to detract from the sound, but does affect the overall balance of the audio.

These headphones have a standard set of inline controls for tracking and volume, plus an incline mic with which to answer phone calls. Some reviewers have complained about issues with the inline mic, so give it a test before you fall in love with a pair of these.

If sound quality and price are your main criteria for a new pair of headphones, the Hoco L1s are a great choice. Their sturdy design is also backed by a 3 month hassle-free replacement guarantee (plus an 18-month warranty), offering even greater bang for your buck.

Price: $19.99 (64 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Hizek Lightning Earphones here.


Pros:

  • Solid build quality
  • Clear midrange and high end
  • Comfortable elastic silica earbuds

Cons:

  • Only one pair of silicone eartips
  • No inline mic
  • Weak low end

Find more Hizek Lightning Earphones information and reviews here.



10. Libratone Q Adapt In-Ear

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(Amazon)

The Q Adapt headphones from Libratone are the first noise-isolating headphones to use the Lightning connector, which is big news for iPhone 8 owners who need some peace and quiet.

The Q Adapt headphones use proprietary CityMix active noise cancellation, which works fantastically at shutting out traffic sounds, office chatter, and gym clattering. It has four different settings to control the level of ambient noise to let in that can be controlled via the Libraton App.

This nuance makes a big difference in how you enjoy your portable audio, and promises to enhance the already fantastic digital signal processing of the Q Adapt. Libratone’s signature sound typically offers a balanced low-end with electrifying highs.

This device also boasts a sturdy design, with beefy earbuds and a quality fabric-wrapped cable below its inline controls. These controls have an inline mic, plus volume control.

The inline controls also house the cans’ DAC and amplifier. The headphones include four different pairs of eartips for a wide selection of fits. All in all, there are no headphones that quite match up what the Q Adapt are capable of yet, so as far as ANC headphones, this one’s a winner.

Price: $179.00

Buy the Libratone Q Adapt In-Ear here.


Pros:

  • CityMix ANC offers variable isolation levels
  • Wide frequency response with a balanced low-end
  • Solid build quality

Cons:

  • High price tag
  • Cord is only partially braided

Find more Libratone Q Adapt In-Ear information and reviews here.



Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
5 Comments

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5 Comments

Khürt Williams

> The only place that the M2Ls fall short is their cable, which is strictly hard-wired for Lightning, and lacks the versatility of Audeze’s Cipher cable. Unfortunately, this design choice is standard on any Lightning headphones that are under $500 and is otherwise one of the inescapable downsides of a new technology standard.

Except Apple’s Lightning isn’t a standard. It’s not even a de facto standard by market share like say, Microsoft Office. Maybe one day it might be. Maybe when the entire world of audio has dumped the 3.5 mm jack universally around the world, one could say that. But in the present and for the long time to come, Lightning is NOT a standard.

Anonymous

I wonder what is “new standard” with lighting now? Digital audio has been there available through lighting interface all the time. Only new is that conveniency, and reliability of 3.5mm jack has been removed.

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