It’s official, with the iPhone 7 Apple is killing off the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.
The company gave a number of reasons for the change, but the main point is that Apple has done this to allow the iPhone 7 to become much slimmer than was possible with the headphone jack present.
This leaves you with a couple of options. You’re free to use your existing headphones with a Lightning adaptor that Apple is providing in the box with every phone, but this is a bulky solution that’s likely to get annoying in the long term.
Option number two is to invest in a pair of wireless headphones, and thankfully we have a guide to the best wireless headphones available if you’re looking to do so.
Your final option is to purchase a pair of headphones that connect directly to the lightning port on the iPhone.
This might not be the ideal solution for everyone, given that in some cases this means that you’re purchasing a pair of headphones that can’t be used with non-Apple devices. But the Lightning port offers a number of key advantages over the headphone jack.
We’ve put together a list of the best Lightning connector headphones available today. Each of them show off the various different capabilities of the Lightning jack, and we’re quietly optimistic about the future of audio.
JBL Reflect Aware
The Reflect Aware in-ear headphones from JBL are a really interesting pair of noise-cancelling buds. Noise-cancelling in-ear headphones are nothing new, but the form factor isn’t suited to the battery requirements of noise-cancellation.
This isn’t a problem for over-ear headphones, which are able to fit the batteries for noise-cancellation into their earcups.
But existing in-ear headphones such as the Bose QuietComfort 20 headphones have had to find creative solutions for where to fit their batteries such as in-line battery packs, or even into a bit of plastic that hangs round your neck in the case of the Bose QuietControl 30‘s.
What’s different with the noise-cancelling JBL Reflect Aware is that because they’re able to draw power straight from the Lightning port, they don’t require a bulky battery to function.
Performance-wise these are very much a pair of sports headphones with a sound that is anything but delicate. Bass levels are powerful, and exactly what you need when out on a run.
The noise-cancellation isn’t on a par with a more traditional pair of over-ear noise-cancellers, but worked well enough to block out background noise, especially when paired with the snug fit provided by the ear tips.
They’re not going to replace your everyday headphones, but bringing noise-cancellation to in-ear headphones has never been done with this few compromises before.
They JBL Reflect Aware are available now and cost $199 / £169 / around AU$257.
Brightech in-ear Lightning headphones
If JBL’s in-ears are a little expensive for your tastes, then why not try this pair of headphones from Brightech?
At $49 (around £36 / AU$64) the Brightech in-ear headphones are the most affordable headphones on this list outside of Apple’s own Lightning EarPods.
Yes they’re marginally more expensive than Apple’s own EarPods, but the inclusion of silicon ear tips should provide a much better seal around the ear canal, and hence provide a certain amount of passive noise-isolation.
You won’t find a microphone included on the inline remote here, but the fact that it has a remote at all gives them an edge over Apple’s official offering.
The Audeze Sine headphones provide a model that we hope future manufacturers of Lightning headphones follow.
Packed into the box is not only a Lightning adaptor cable which connects securely to the headphones and offers all the functionality that we’ve come to expect from an in-line remote equipped cable, but also a standard 3.5mm connector so you’re free to use the headphones with any other device if you so choose.
Using the Lightning cable allows you to control the sound of the headphones through Audeze’s app, and also provides a much better sound than the 3.5mm cable.
They might be expensive at $499 (£399 / AU$699), but if you want a premium pair of Lightning cable-equipped headphones, then the Audeze Sine are a solid option.
Read our full Audeze Sine review.
Philips Fidelio M2L
Like the Audeze Sine headphones, the Philips Fidelio M2L is a more traditional pair of over-ear headphones.
However they’re not quite as fully featured as Audeze’s offering. They feature a non-detachable cable, so no using them with your other devices, and they lack the in-line microphone of the Sines.
However the headphones make up for these shortcomings with great sound and build-quality. They’re also a great deal cheaper than the Audeze Sine headphones at $199 (£179 / around AU$258)
Interested? Then check out our full Philips Fidelio M2L review.
Apple Lightning EarPods
Of course, if you’re someone who likes the cheap and cheerful EarPods that are normally bundled in with your new iPhone then you can continue to enjoy them going forward: Apple is bringing these along into its Lightning-equipped future.
We haven’t had a chance to check out the earbuds for ourselves yet, but if they’re anything like the existing EarPods they’re likely to offer a bright and clear sound that can occasionally be a little bit harsh and lacking in bass.
We’ll be sure to put the new Lightning EarPods through their paces once we have the iPhone 7 in for review.
They’ll cost $29 (£29 / AU$49) if you want to buy them separately when they’re released.
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