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8 alternatives to Apple's Lightning headphones

In 2016, Apple removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from its smartphones with the release of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

This practice has continued with the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X, leaving prospective customers to wonder how they'll listen to music on their shiny new iPhone. Do you stick with your current 3.5mm headphones (and try not to lose the 3.5mm-to-Lightning-connector headphones jack adapter which you'll need to take with you wherever you go), or use a pair of Lightning-connected headphones?

You can always go for wireless headphones, of course (Apple itself gives the option of fully wireless Apple AirPods). But generally speaking, a wired connection tends to give better (and certainly more stable) sound quality than a wireless connection.

This doesn't mean you need confine yourself to the £30 EarPods with Lightning connector Apple has bundled with its new iPhones until now, though. The company has just announced a brand-new pair of Lighning in-ears - but many other manufacturers have been quick to produce dedicated Lightning connector headphones, and these are some most worth thinking about once you get your new iPhone.

MORE: Apple adds FLAC support for iPhone 7, 8 and X

Philips Fidelio M2L

Tested at £200

Philips' Fidelio M2L headphones are some of the best Lightning-connected cans that we've heard so far.

With their own built-in 24-bit DAC and amp powering their 40mm neodymium drivers, these Philips headphones deliver a performance that can happily handle a beefy bassline as comfortably as it does more delicate, vocal-focused tracks.

Audeze EL-8 Titanium

Tested at £700

Audeze's EL-8 Titanium headphones don't come cheap. The planar magnetic drivers (which usually do a better job at reducing distortion than normal headphones) and the exclusive ‘cypher cable’ with an integrated amp, digital signal processor and digital-to-analogue converter could set you back a pretty penny.

Unfortunately, a high price doesn't quite translate to high sound quality. While these headphones have a warm, rich sound and decent sense of space, after longer listens you'll notice that they don't quite meet the level of detail and dynamics they should.

Audeze Sine

Tested at £450

A second, cheaper entry from Audeze - the on-ear Sine - is a more pertinent choice. They're the company's lightest on-ear headphones to date, can be folded flat for greater carrying convenience, and also include a 3.5mm cable so you don't need to swap headphones if you're going from iPhone to MacBook or other audio device.

They're loud, making a good first impression with layers of clear detail in a spacious presentation. And while they lack a little subtlety in dynamics and rhythm, these are still a solid pair of cans.

Audeze iSine 10 and iSine 20

£300 and £450 / available now

Also from Audeze are the iSine 10 and iSine 20 in-ear headphones, which come with the impressive claim of being the world's first in-ear planar magnetic headphones. They're light - keeping the earbud weight down to just 20g - but don't think that means they're inconspicuous.

Their web-design housing and over-ear hook mean that, while comfortable, they might be one of the most obtrusive-looking pairs of earphones you're likely to see. We'd recommend trying them out and seeing if they suit you before making any judgements.

JBL Reflect Aware

Tested at £170

JBL's Reflect Aware headphones are predominantly aimed at gym-goers, with their sweat-proof design and tight-fitting eartips. They have noise cancellation and Adaptive Noise Control built in, so if you're using them on a train or plane (or automobile) it should cut out some of the background hum - at the expense of your battery life.

Still, their sound quality is certainly bigger and more detailed than you might expect, with a solid midrange and a surprising amount of space for a pair of in-ears.

Libratone Q Adapt In Ear

Tested at £160

Libratone's Q Adapt In Ear headphones are equipped with a smooth sound quality, noise-cancelling features, and a neat design that means you get a better seal to block out the outside world.

And while other noise-cancelling headphones need a separate battery to counter atmospheric chatter, these simply use the Lightning connector to draw current from your iPhone itself. Happily, this doesn't sap all that much of your phone's battery either.

B&W P9 Signature

Tested at £700

"Wait a minute," we hear you cry, "the B&W P9 Signature have a standard headphone jack!" Ah, very true; but you can also request a Lightning cable for free if you got a pair before 2017, and new pairs come with a Lightning cable in the box.

That's wired functionality, exquisite materials and build quality, and talented handling of sound all wrapped up in a nice package. If you don't balk at the relatively high price, these are definitely worth an audition.

Pioneer Rayz Plus

£150 / available now

The Pioneer Rayz Plus has one standout feature that addresses the main complaints of the lack of headphone jack: how do I charge my phone and listen to music at the same time?

The answer from Pioneer is a second port on the cable of the Rayz Plus. If you need even more great functionality, the headphones also have adjustable noise cancellation and know when they've been unplugged, pausing your music in the process.

If you're not concerned about charging and listening, there are also the Pioneer Rayz (the Plus' little sibling) which is approximately £50 cheaper.