When rumors surfaced that the iPhone 7 would ditch the 3.5mm audio jack in favor of accessories that would use only the Lightning port the first thought to cross many a person’s mind was: “Crap.” If you had a favorite (or expensive) pair of headphones that you loved, this was potentially devastating (or at least annoying) news since it meant one of two things: 1.) a headphones upgrade or 2.) a less-than-sleek adapter setup or some sort of jury rig. And so… Lightning headphones are going to be a (potentially) big thing now.
Of course you could simply go the wireless route and ditch worries about cables and ports altogether. But there are downsides to wireless headphones: namely battery life and potentially spotty connections.
But maybe it’s not all bad news, this business of headphones that need a Lightning connector. For one thing, wouldn’t it be cool if your iPhone could charge your headphones while you listen to your favorite music or podcast? Or what if your headphones could charge your iPhone! Those are both possibilities that wouldn’t have been possible with a 3.5mm jack. Plus, a digital connection is just better and, of course, the space normally occupied by the old headphone jack can be used by Apple in creative new ways.
But then again, there is a major drawback to Lightning headphones: you can only use them with Apple devices. Well, most Apple devices; they certainly won’t plug into your Mac without an adapter.
One thing you should keep in mind is whether or not the pair of headphones you are looking into is MFi certified. MFi stands for Made For iPhone/iPad/iPod and it’s essentially Apple’s seal of approval on third party products and accessories.
Even now, before the launch of the iPhone 7, there are several companies making some great headphones with Lightning adapters and I’ve done some research to narrow down the very best for you (in a few different price ranges) to make your search simpler and easier.
As with any headphones, you’ll want to consider price, style, special features and probably above all else the sound quality and overall comfort. I’ve actually put together a very comprehensive headphone buying guide which might be useful to check out before proceeding if you have some time.
Philips Fidelio M2L/27 – $280
I’m listing these Philips Fidelio M2L/27 headphones first because I like the way they look. They actually remind me of Grado’s a little (classic). I know these are kind of expensive, but don’t worry I’ve got some much cheaper options right below. These on-ear headphones feature 40mm drivers (which is always just about right if you ask me) and fold flat for convenience. If you’re looking for a comfortable fit, you’ll enjoy the “deluxe memory foam cushions.” And if you’re looking for a high-resolution listening experience you won’t be disappointed here: that’s because these cans feature an integrated DAC and Amp. Since these are closed-back headphones the Fidelios will leak less sound but the acoustic seal also creates a pleasant bass effect without causing distortion. Finally, these headphones feature aluminum and black leather: that’s a pretty killer look.
Brightech Pure Lightning Earphones – $44.95
Okay, so you’re looking for something that’s a little more budget friendly. No problem: check out the Brightech Pure Lightning Headphones which can be had for under $50! These earphones feature 9mm drivers, so the sound literally isn’t going to blow you away, but they’re great for stashing away in your tech bag or can work as a decent pair of sports earphones. Just like the more expensive Lightning headphones listed here, these headphones do have a built in DAC and Amp so you can enjoy high-resolution 24-bit audio. Plus, if you need to make calls there’s a built in mic and inline remote. Still, you can’t expect too much from sub-$50 earphones. Some reviewers have complained about a lower max volume (but hey, you don’t want to ruin your hearing anyways, right?).
Phaz Energy P2 & P3 – $249.99
Alright, now these Phaz Energy P3 headphones have me pretty excited: that’s why I sandwiched them right into the middle of this list. The P2 headphones are exactly the same but aren’t also wireless. Not only do they look quite different than any of the headphones here, but they have a super power: they can charge your iPhone while you listen! I’ve seen a lot of people asking the question, “Won’t Lightning headphones drain my iPhone battery faster since they’re using phantom power?” Well, not in this case! These headphones are very light thanks to the carbon fiber build and feature some nice extras like a bass boost, the ability to let friends listen in via 2 regular headphone jacks and interchangeable ear pads. Plus, if you’d rather go wireless you can thanks to the Bluetooth capability. Wow, there’s a lot to like here.
Audeze EL-8 – $799
Now what if you’re an audiophile and are willing to drop some serious cash for the best possible Lightning headphone experience? Then you want to check out the Audeze EL-8 headphones. These headphones sport an absurdly large driver size of 100mm (super overkill, trust me) and were designed by a BMW-owned design group. One other great feature is the Cipher cable which makes these Lightning headphones Siri compatible. Clearly this is a company that believes you will love it’s products as demonstrated by the 30 day trial and money-back guarantee.
JBL Reflect Aware
For you sporty types out there, there are the JBL Reflect Aware earphones which feature angled ear tips for a more secure fit while active and have a highly-reflective cable to make you more visible to cars. They’re sweat-proof and come in four different colors, but unfortunately these guys are backordered (as of the writing of this article — make sure to check in to see if they’ve become available later on).
I’m sure that when Apple releases the iPhone 7, it won’t be long before we’ll see some Lightning Beats. Currently, though, other major manufacturers like Sony, Bose and Audio Technica haven’t revealed their plans when it comes to Lighting headphones. Personally, I think I’d go with the Phaz or Philips cans at this point.