When Apple removed the 3.5mm audio jack from its iPhone 7, it posed a problem: how on earth will you plug a pair of headphones into this smartphone?
While most manufacturers took this opportunity to push wireless models to the world, some companies have opted to build headphones with Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector at the end instead of a 3.5mm plug.
Libratone is one such company, with its Q Adapt In-Ear headphones catering for Apple users who want to listen to music on their (very specific) smart devices.
The Danish audio company has also equipped these in-ears with smooth sound, a clever noise-cancelling feature and uniquely designed earbuds – all for a decent £160 price tag.
Build and comfort
With their mix of light metal and smooth rubber coating materials, the Q Adapts are elegant-looking, tactile in-ears.
They’re nicely built and light (about 20g) – the earbuds don’t weigh down on your ears even after hours of listening. The braided cable keeps things tangle-free, too.
You get six pairs of earbud options in the box in varying sizes, and their unusually sloped shape is designed for a comfortable and better seal for your ears.
And it works wonders. These ear tips rest gently in your ears (once you find the right size), and you don’t have to push them as far into your ear canals as normal buds.
They’re comfortable and stay put, and give a more effective seal that helps with noise-cancelling.
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You can get the Q Adapt In-Ears in four finishes: our review sample’s stormy black, cloudy white, rose pink or elegant nude (which is a sort of prosthetic-limb shade of beige).
The Q Adapts’ adjustable noise-cancelling (which Libratone calls CityMix) is a neat feature. It’s the same noise-cancelling feature found on the On-Ear versions, but we find it more effective and easier to use here. And the shape of the earbuds means you get a better seal to block out the outside world.
There are four levels of noise-cancelling to cycle through. While it doesn’t wrap you in a cocoon of velvety silence like the Award-winning over-ears Sony MDR-1000Xs, the In-Ears manage to damp down ambient noise, surrounding chatter and the general drone of rush hour.
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What’s clever about the Q Adapts is, instead of needing batteries to power the noise-cancelling features as other headphones do, these in-ears simply use the Lightning connector to draw current from your iPhone to power the noise-cancelling.
It doesn’t sap your iPhone’s battery as much as you might think, either – you’ll see perhaps a one or two per cent drop compared with using normal 3.5mm headphones.
The remote unit built into the cable is intuitive to use, with responsive buttons for adjusting volume, noise-cancelling, pausing and skipping tracks, and activating Siri.
You can also use the Libratone App to visually control CityMix, access internet radio, and change the tonal balance.
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The Q Adapt In-Ears already have plenty going for them, but what really completes the set is their pleasant sound quality.
With Death Cab For Cutie’s I Will Follow You Into The Dark playing through an iPhone 6S, the Libratones show off their smooth, full-bodied character.
The guitar strums sound solid, vocals are infused with warmth and come through clearly – it’s a gentle-but-rich sound that’s lovely to listen to.
These in-ears sound rather spacious, too, and the quiet, intimate song gets a chance to flourish thanks to the Q Adapts’ bouncy sense of rhythm.
What really seals the deal is the surprisingly deep low-end performance. It gives a solid base to the sound, giving heft and substance to the in-ears’ detail and rhythm.
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Sad13’s sparkly pop is delivered with all of its upbeat character intact, with Devil in U sounding fluid and melodic. There’s ample texture to the instruments, and Sadie Dupuis’ singing cuts through dreamy pop-grunge tone sweetly.
There are no spiky or bright edges to these in-ears’ sound. The Libratones smooth over any harshness to recordings.
While that prevents the in-ears from delivering really meaningful attack, that punchy low end keeps things moving. The drumbeats in Portishead’s Biscuit go deep and hit with satisfying impact.
We’ve heard in-ear headphones offer better dynamics or crisper edges to notes, but the Q Adapts’ smooth, rich sound is one that we could spend hours listening to. And we do.
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The Libratone Q Adapt In-Ears’ appeal may be limited – you’re looking at specific Apple devices here – but they offer a good combination of features and enjoyable sound for a decent price.
We’ve not come across this particular combination of in-ears, noise-cancelling and Lightning connector for £160.
For alternative options, you’re either looking at far more expensive Lighting connector headphones fromthe likes of Audeze, or wireless in-ears from Bose or Sennheiser at similar prices.
If you’re looking for a wired pair of in-ears to use with your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, these comfortable and enjoyable Libratone Q Adapt In-Ears will suit your needs well.
See all our Libratone reviews