Following Apple’s controversial decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, Libratone has decided to offer a set of earphones that work only with Apple’s proprietary Lightning port. While that may appear restrictive, there are a few benefits that come with such a design. Most significantly, the Libratone Q Adapt charge the onboard noise-cancelling feature while you use them.
However, £135 is a lot to spend on earphones that you’ll be able to use only with certain devices. Is the sound quality good enough to justify the asking price? Is the noise-cancelling and its charge-while-using feature really worth never being able to use your new set with a standard headphone jack?
It’s clear that these are a quality offering from Libratone, but the answer depends mostly on whether or not you’re a hardcore iPhone user.
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Libratone Q Adapt – Design and comfort
The Q Adapt are an in-ear version of the Libratone Q Adapt On-Ear. These new ear buds are available in black, white, pink, and the version I was sent: ‘Elegant Nude’.
I’m not a big fan of the Elegant Nudes. The cream hue evokes the feeling of NHS-prescribed hearing aids rather than a slick piece of tech; I prefer the standard black or white.
The Q Adapts are incredibly light, however. They’re made of a lightweight metal with a rubber coatings on on the ear buds and remote. The whole set weighs just 20g and is perfect for using while out jogging. Adding to the general usability is the braided cable, which stops the wires becoming too tangled when the headphones aren’t in use.
On that cable you’ll find a four-button remote, which is nice and streamlined, adding little bulk to the set. The four rubber buttons adjust volume, skip tracks, activate Siri, allow you to take phone calls, and let you control the ‘CityMix’ active noise cancellation. There’s nothing to throw you off here, such as touch controls or a strange multi-use toggle; this is a standard in-line remote.
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However, a feature that isn’t quite as standard are the earbuds themselves. Libratone has created a genuinely comfortable earbud design here, which sees the actual bud protrude from a smooth pod that sits nicely inside your ear. It makes for a slightly more bulky earbud design than you’ll find on standard earphones, but they really are comfortable. I wore the Q Adapts for hours without feeling any discomfort. What’s more, the buds come in three different sizes – small, medium and large – so you can customise them to fit your ear.
And those of you who are still upset about the Lightning connection, the word is that further connections will be arriving in the future. For now, though, you’ll need an iPhone to make use of the Q Adapt in-ears.
Libratone Q Adapt – Features
Active noise-cancelling tech usually means you’ll need to charge your headphones to keep it working. One of the Q Adapt’s highlights is its CityMix noise cancelling feature – and thanks to the Lightning connection, you won’t need to charge the set when you’re not using them. The Lightning aspect allows them to draw power from your iPhone or iPad, and that extra power draw doesn’t really increase your phone’s battery drain either. I certainly didn’t notice a big difference in my iPhone’s battery life when using Libratone’s earphones.
So, how effective is the CityMix feature? Well, not as effective as it is on the on-ear Q Adapts, but it remains pretty good. CityMix offers four levels of noise cancellation, allowing for 80%, 60%, 30%, or less than 10% of outside noise seeping through the music. You can control the feature with either the remote or the smartphone app. Pressing and holding the button lets you pause the music and hear the environment around you, which adds to the pair’s usefulness as a set of jogging or cycling headphones.
In my experience, the CityMix feature does a decent job of noise cancellation. The snug fit also seems to aid the noise cancellation, and while it doesn’t quite match on-ear alternatives, or the Bose QuietComfort 20i, the feature is impressive. You’ll notice a bit of hiss when songs become quiet, but this appears to be an unfortunate byproduct of the ANC. But on the whole, it isn’t all that noticeable.
The smartphone app also lets you choose different equaliser settings, with options for a more neutral balance, boosted bass, or increased treble. You won’t be able to create custom settings, though, which is disappointing. Luckily, you shouldn’t need to, since the Q Adapts offer great sound quality for the price.
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Libratone Q Adapt – Sound quality
As with all modern earphones in the post-Beats age, the bass has received a boost here, making for a full-bodied sound. And when combined with the active noise cancellation, the audio quality is actually quite impressive.
Unless you’re looking for top-end performance here, you won’t be disappointed. Although the bass has been lifted, I found the overall audio signature fairly balanced. Treble could have been slightly sharper, but compared to some other sets I’ve heard, Libratone’s latest manage to strike a good balance.
That said, much like the on-ear version of the Q Adapt, these in-ear offerings don’t offer the most dynamic or exciting sound signature. Similarly, the noise cancellation seems to detract somewhat from the mid-tones when you take it up to the full level. But when you consider the £100 price difference between the on-ear pair and these in-ear alternatives, the noise-cancelling quirks are slightly more forgivable.
Should I buy the Libratone Q Adapt?
The biggest consideration here is obviously the Q Adapt’s limited compatibility – you’re going to need an Apple device with a Lightning connection to use the earphones – iPhone or an iPad from 2012 or later. That said, if you do exclusively use such devices then you probably won’t be too bothered about this element of the Q Adapts.
The next consideration is price. For £135, the set offers solid sound quality. You’re also buying a lightweight and comfortable pair of earphones, which offer some decent noise-cancelling features to boot.
If you’re looking for a slightly more affordable set of Lightning earphones, the JBL Reflect Aware are down to around £100 now, and offer ANC and moulded silicone hooks for those looking to get into some more rigorous exercise routines.
Alternatively, for those with more cash to spare, the Bose QuietComfort 20i offer ANC that might be the finest we’ve heard, along with impressive sound quality for around £230.Verdict
If you’re a committed iPhone user, the Q Adapts offer solid sound quality, comfort, and noise cancellation for a reasonable price.
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