Best Lightning headphones for iPhone & iPad 2018

A collective groan echoed across the internet a couple of years ago when Apple announced that it was dropping ye olde 3.5mm headphone socket from the iPhone 7 – and, of course, from all subsequent iPhone models, including the new iPhone XS, XS Max and XR released in 2018. The reason for this was simple – getting rid of the 3.5mm connector allowed Apple to reduce the weight and the thickness of the new iPhones even further – but that still left millions of iPhone users with a serious headphone headache.

All new iPhones do still include a set of Apple’s little white EarPods, just as they have always done – but those EarPods now have a Lightning connector for plugging into the iPhone, rather than the old 3.5mm audio connector. But, of course, the cheap little EarPods don’t provide very good sound quality, which is why so many people still prefer to buy better headphones from other manufacturers for listening to their music.

Apple would really like everyone to opt for Bluetooth wireless headphones, such as its own AirPods, but the compression techniques used by Bluetooth mean that wireless headphones still can’t match the audio quality provided by conventional wired headphones (especially as Apple doesn’t support the high-quality AptX version of Bluetooth on iOS devices).

Lightning adapters

If you prefer to stick with an existing set of 3.5mm wired headphones that you really like then it is possible to buy an adapter. And, in fact, Apple did include a Lightning adapter with the iPhone 7, 8 and X when they were first launched. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case with the iPhone XS and other models introduced in 2018.

You can still buy Apple’s Lightning To 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter for £9/$9 from the Apple Store, but it’s also possible to buy non-Apple alternatives from audio specialists, such as Fiio’s i1, which provides superior sound quality, but costs around £35. Some manufacturers, such as Audeze and Bowers & Wilkins also make their own Lightning cables for use with their own headphones.

Serious audiophiles can also opt for a portable DAC – digital/analogue converter – such as the popular iFi range or the Chord Mojo to really give their audio quality a boost.

The advantages of Lightning

But mucking around with extra adapters and cables is always a nuisance – especially when you’re travelling and just want to plug in your headphones with minimum fuss.

The simplest option is to buy a new set of wired headphones with their own Lightning connector. These range from affordable in-ear headphones costing less than £50 to high-end hi-fi models for £500 or more.

Lightning headphones have other advantages that help to justify their extra cost, as the digital audio signal allows you to step up from traditional 16-bit (CD-quality) audio to high-res 24-bit audio that is comparable to the master recordings produced in the studio (we live in hope for the day that Apple discovers hi-res audio and makes its vast library of music available in hi-res format on Apple Music and the iTunes Store).

With all this in mind, here’s our guide to the best Lightning headphones currently available for the iPhone and iPad. If you’re looking for discounts and sale prices, see Best headphone deals. And for buying advice related to other types of headphone, see our best wired headphones and best Bluetooth wireless headphones.

Best Lightning headphones

1. Audeze SINE

2. Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature

Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature

3. Beats UrBeats 3 with Lightning connector

Beats UrBeats 3 with Lightning connector

4. Audeze iSine 10

Audeze iSine 10

5. Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset

Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset

6. Philips Fidelio M2L

Philips Fidelio M2L

7. Libratone Q Adapt Lightning In Ear Headphone

Libratone Q Adapt Lightning In Ear Headphone

8. Pioneer RayZ Plus

Pioneer RayZ Plus

9. EarPods with Lightning Connector

EarPods with Lightning Connector

10. Nuraphone

Nuraphone



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