10 Best Lightning Headphones: Your Buyer’s Guide (2018)

best lightning headphones

Apple’s removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack has left a permanent change on the iOS ecosystem, even though some Apple users have yet to make the transition.

Before you start hyperventilating, Newer iPhones that don’t have a 3.5mm port will 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 Sine

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(Amazon)

The Sine headphones represent the top end of boutique Lightning headphones from hi-fi company Audeze. At almost $400, they are far from the audiophile company’s most expensive pair, and the top quality sound makes it all worth it for those who crave only the best Lightning headphones.

These cans are up there with top of the line 3.5mm headphones, and they have the benefit of not needing an external amplifier.

This is because its “Cipher” Lightning cable houses its own headphone amplifier and 24-bit DAC, which ensures via high resolution playback that no detail is missed. This is something you can expect from any Lightning headphones, but not at the same level of quality that Audeze offers.

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 full over-ear headphones, these are far from the most portable choice. In my opinion, on-ear headphones are best kept 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 may not be able to resist taking these out.

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.

It is at this price point where the nuances of uncompressed audio really shine, and a trained ear will 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: $399.00

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:

  • On-ear design can cause listener fatigue
  • Cipher cable is somewhat flimsy
  • High price tag

Find more Audeze Sine 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: $99.99

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. 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

1more triple driver lightning headphones

(Amazon)

1MORE’s headphone philosophy is oddly summed up by their name: more is better. Ironically, their Triple Driver headphones likely have four more drivers than your current pair of lightning headphones.

Each earbud has three drivers total, each of which puts out a different frequency of sound. Naturally, this creates a far more sophisticated sound than that created by lone full-frequency drivers, but you have to hear the difference to believe it.

Thanks to the 24 Bit / 48 kHz DAC built into all Lightning headphones, the Triple Driver headphones can pump through lossless audio formats for the clearest and most accurate sound.

Each 1MORE earbud has two balanced armatures, which act as mini tweeters, delivering the crisp highs that carry the emotion of the music. Their single dynamic driver gives them mid to low frequencies their stunning presence.

This driver arrangement works well to give the music space and detail, and the clarity of the highs is a highlight from my own listening test.

Playback is easy to control with inline controls. They allow you to accept calls, activate voice control, adjust volume, and change tracks.

These 1MORE headphones come with a solid selection of nine different eartips, ensuring you will find the right one for a solid seal.

All in all, I can’t say enough good things about the Triple Driver headphones from 1MORE. It may seem at a glance like they are relying on a gimmick alone, but once you give them a listen, the audio speaks for itself.

Price: $89.99 (40 percent off MSRP)

Buy the 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones here.


Pros:

  • Triple drivers deliver clear and accurate sound
  • Wide frequency response and sound stage
  • 5-in-1 inline controller

Cons:

  • Lacks durability
  • Cables transfer telescopic sound

Find more 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones information and reviews here.


4. Pioneer Rayz Plus Earbuds

pioneer rayz lightning headphones

(Amazon)

The Rayz Plus headphones from Pioneer are hands down the best Lightning headphones for those who need sound isolation, as they are one of the few that offer it.

The Rayz Plus actually uses its built-in microphone (normally used for phone calls) to adapt its active noise cancelling to the sounds around you, allowing for better sound isolation than you get from eartips alone.

The microphone also works to recognize voice assistant commands, so you can invoke Siri without even having to push a button.

In addition to housing the microphone and DAC, the inline controls also have buttons for volume control and enabling the noise cancelling. There is also a smart button that can be programmed to do any number of things, including opening your favorite app or muting a call.

The cables and earbuds themselves are lightweight and durable. Towards the bottom of the cable, you actually have a charge through Lightning port that allows you to power your phone without removing your headphones.

In terms of sound quality, the Rayz Plus are clear and accurate. They’re basically everything you want out of a pair of headphones.

The low end is present enough to give a nice kick to your tracks, while the high end has plenty of room to breathe.

The sound is further characterized by balance and richness, sporting no unnatural bumps or valleys.

The sound can be further improved via the free Rayz Plus app. It has customizable EQ presets, as well as smart button settings and other controls.

The only downside is that you will occasionally hear distortion when the noice cancelling is active. If you want a detailed listening experience, you may want to turn the ANC off.

This shortcoming aside, these are phenomenal headphones. It surpasses the competition in its price range, and earns a sure spot among the best Lightning headphones.

Price: $120.00 (8 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Pioneer Rayz Plus Earbuds here.


Pros:

  • Active noise cancellation
  • Clear and accurate sound
  • Built-in charge through port

Cons:

  • Noise cancelling causes some distortion

Find more Pioneer Rayz Plus Earbuds 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: $260.57

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 iSINE20 In-Ear Headphones

audeze isine 20 lightning headphones

(Amazon)

The Audeze iSINE20 headphones represent this audiophile company’s top in-ear monitor technology.

Those who want Lightning headphones to enjoy lossless audio will only wish they could afford these $600 IEMs.

Their planar magnetic drivers are designed to deliver crystal clear sound with minimal distortion and maximum bass response.

On most tracks, the bass will be the first sound to capture your attention, but that’s not to say that these headphones are unbalanced.

In fact, they are quite neutral in sound signature. Regardless, the frequency range is so wide, that you will most immediately notice the difference in the low-end details.

There is only so much I can write about this sound, but still, the picture won’t be complete until you hear them for yourself. The only downside to their sound design is that their semi-open design allows sound to leak through enough that others nearby will hear it.

These headphones include plenty of eartips and ear wings to find a comfortable fit though. These headphones will be a lot louder and clearer for you than it will for bystanders.

Its flat and durable Lightning cable can be removed and replaced with a 3.5mm jack, so you can use these headphones with just about any setup.

Both cables have built-in inline controls with volume controls, play/pause, a microphone, and a DAC stored inside.

Any other features of this headset are either overshadowed by its sound or its price tag. But most likely both. If you are looking for the absolute best Lightning IEMs, then you really don’t need to look any further.

Price: $599.00

Buy the Audeze iSINE20 In-Ear Headphones 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:

  • Semi-open design means sound leaks out
  • Cipher cable is somewhat flimsy
  • High price tag

Find more Audeze iSINE20 In-Ear Headphones 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: $79.84

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:

  • Internal amplifier could be better

Find more JBL Reflect Aware information and reviews here.


8. Anker SoundBuds IE10 In-Ear Headphones

anker lightning headphones

(Amazon)

Anker’s IE10 are probably the best Lightning headphones on a budget. For under $25, you get awesome sound and a rich suite of features to make these your go-to pair of headphones.

These headphones are lightweight and durable. They are IPX5-rated for water resistance, and are cased in aluminum everywhere except its cables. The cables are of acceptable thickness and length.

These headphones come with three different sizes of ear tips, three different sizes of ear hooks, an extra pair of memory foam eartips, and a carrying case.

The IE10s have an inline control panel which features volume control buttons and houses the built-in DAC. The inline controls also house a microphone for voice calls, though some bug in the call volume settings means it doesn’t always work as intended.

The coolest feature on the inline controls is an EQ button that cycles through three different listening modes for different styles of music.

The LED is white when you are on the stock Balanced Sound mode. It will turn light blue in Clear Voice mode, and Navy Blue in Super Bass mode. The latter two modes enhance the high end and low end respectively, and really show off the range of its 10mm drivers.

The lows go quite deep and the highs are sharp and clear. The sound is overall fairly accurate at the default setting. Considering these headphone won’t give the reference-grade quality of a pair twenty times its price, the EQ balancing feature is a nice way to make these fun to listen to. Maximum volume is satisfactory.

As long as high quality voice calls aren’t a must-have feature, Anker’s IE10 headphones are a solid pair of Lightning headphones, especially if you are on a budget.

Price: $23.99

Buy the Anker SoundBuds IE10 In-Ear Headphones here.


Pros:

  • Durable and IPX5 water resistant
  • Tri-band EQ control built-in
  • Clear and loud sound

Cons:

  • Voice call volume occasionally bugs out
  • Low quality microphone

Find more Anker SoundBuds IE10 In-Ear Headphones information and reviews here.


9. Beats Urbeats3 Lightning Earphones

urbeats 3

(Amazon)

The Beats Urbeats3 are a durable earbud option for fans of the bass-heavy Beats signature sound. The company has dialed back its totally absurd low end boosting to a tasteful warm sound that provides just enough accent to amplify hiphop and electronic music.

With a proper seal, these cans do a fantastic job of isolating outside noise (though they aren’t properly noise isolating). The sound is rich and clear, and the low end has a nice bump to it.

The max volume was sufficient for me, but many other reviewers criticized it for being a little low. Don’t listen to your music too loud, folks, you only have two ears.

The flat cable is durable and tangle-resistant, but it can pull your earbuds out if you don’t find a perfect fit from its four included eartips. If you do find a good fit, they are an incredibly comfortable pair of headphones.

The cable has inline volume controls and a microphone to take phone calls. The earbuds are magnetic and clip together for storage. They come with a carrying case.

Price: $79.00

Buy the Beats Urbeats3 Lightning Earphones here.


Pros:

  • Clear sound with boosted low end
  • Comfortable eartips
  • Solid build quality

Cons:

  • Low max volume
  • Heavy cable creates telescopic sound

Find more Beats Urbeats3 Lightning Earphones information and reviews here.


10. Libratone Q Adapt In-Ear

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(Amazon)

The Q Adapt headphones from Libratone are another solid option for Lightning headphones with noise cancellation.

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: $149.00

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.


  • 10 Best Wireless Earbuds for iPhone: Your Buyer’s Guide (2018)
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  • 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

    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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