7 Best lightning headphones: explore earbuds, on-ears, and accessories

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Simplicity works great! The simplicity of wired headphones that just involves plugging in the audio jack to your phone is a seamless experience that just doesn’t exist in the wireless headphone realm. But things are a little different for Apple users. 

If you use newer Apple products, you know that the 3.5 mm connectivity option has become obsolete. The proprietary lightning port on your iPhone or iPad is the only option to connect wired headphones. 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to limit your options for exploring wired headphones. Nor do you have to hate your beloved iPhone (or other Apple products you own) for the fact that it doesn’t have a 3.5 mm audio jack. 

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Does the removal of the 3.5 mm jack come as a loss or benefit to users? 

From a technical point of view, using the lightning connector instead of the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack results in an improved audio quality. This is because the 3.5 mm headphone jack is designed for analog connectivity while the lightning cable uses digital connectivity. 

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Which iPhones have a 3.5 mm audio jack?

iPhones older than the iPhone 7 which was launched in September 2016 have a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Here’s a list of older iPhones that have a headphone jack and support headsets with a 3.5 mm audio connector. Also included are iPad, iPod, and Mac models. 

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The last iPhone to come with a 3.5 mm headphone jack was the iPhone SE (1st generation) which was launched in March 2016. 

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Which iPhones do not have a 3.5 mm audio jack?

iPhone 7 and all the newer models do not have a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Apple has permanently removed the headphone jack across all their iOS devices, including the iPhone and the iPad. Fortunately, the brand continues to use the universal 3.5 mm headphone jack in its newer Mac products, including the MacBook Air/M1 2020, MacBook Pro/M1 2020, and iMac 2021. 

But why ditch the 3.5 mm headphone jack only on iOS devices? During the launch of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in September 2016, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller highlighted progress as the reason for moving on towards a wireless future.  

He said that using the considerably-old 3.5 mm headphone jack comes at the expense of sacrificing space that otherwise can be used for newer features. And sufficing enough, the iPhone 7 was the first iPhone to come with the Taptic Engine. 

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Phil Schiller also highlighted the lightning connector’s ability to efficiently transfer digital audio with minimum losses. 

Watch the keynote here.

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6 best lightning headphones: earphones

If you prefer the good old way of enjoying your favorite music and podcasts with wired earphones, there are plenty of options for lightning earphones to choose from. Explore some of the best options below: 

1. Apple EarPods with Lightning connector – check it out here

There are plenty of cheap rip-offs of Apple EarPods but they do not come close to the original model. Apple EarPods with a lightning connector no longer come included with newer iPhones. So, if you’re looking forward to buying a good pair of lightning earphones for your iOS device, you cannot go wrong with the original EarPods from Apple. 

One of the best features of this model is it is highly compact. The earbuds fit snugly into the ears and ensure enough comfort for long hours of usage. Also, the remote of this model is compact yet packs several functions, including volume control, music track control, and support for Hey Siri prompt. 

Pros:

  • Considerably good audio performance
  • Original apple design and quality
  • Compatible with all Apple devices

Cons:

  • Not the best bass performance
  • Not fully water or sweat resistant

2. JBL Reflect Aware – check it out here

JBL headsets are in a league of their own in terms of build quality and audio performance. JBL Reflect Aware is one of the best lightning earphones from the brand. This model brings several modern features in the classic earbuds form factor, including adaptive noise control and noise cancellation. 

The combination of sweatproof design and in-ear tips with ear hooks makes this model perfect for sports and workouts. Audio-wise, JBL Reflect Aware makes no compromises with its bass-rich audio performance. One extra feature of this model is it includes a reflective flat design cable. 

Pros:

  • Bass-rich audio performance
  • Noise cancellation and adaptive noise control features included 
  • Sweatproof design

Cons:

  • Not the most comfortable earbuds to use while sleeping

3. Pioneer Rayz – check it out here

Pioneer audio devices have been the industry standard over the years. Pioneer Rayz brings the prestigious Pioneer audio performance in a compact lightning earbud form factor. Similar to JBL Reflect Aware, this model includes a smart noise cancellation feature that helps you get immersed in the audio content you are listening to.

Pioneer Rayz gets an edge over several wired lightning EarPods with its customizable audio profiles. Also, this model offers personalized ear calibration and tuning like the way high-end true wireless earbuds do.

Pros:

  • Full-sounding audio performance
  • Smart active noise cancellation feature used
  • Customizable equalizer
  • Dedicated support for Siri voice assistant

Cons:

  • No waterproof or sweatproof design

4. Pioneer Rayz Pro – check it out here

Pioneer Rayz Pro is a step-up from the Pioneer Rayz in terms of audio performance as well as tech features. This model features a highly effective and precise smart noise cancellation that’s backed by a high-end processor. Similar to Pioneer Rayz, this model offers audio customization options to help you tweak the audio performance as per your preference. 

The high-performance neodymium sound drivers of this headset are versatile enough to adapt to different types of audio content you listen to. Automatic audio pause with wear detection, dedicated support for Hey Siri prompt, and awareness mode are the other important highlights of this model. 

Pros:

  • One of the best performing audio drivers for an earbud model
  • Smart noise cancellation with awareness mode included
  • Compatible with Android devices

Cons:

  • A USB C to lightning adapter is required for iOS devices

5. Libratone ANC – check it out here

If you want to stand out from the crowd in terms of aesthetics with your lightning headphones, you cannot go wrong with Libratone ANC. This model is not just about unique aesthetics as it packs plenty of great features too. Unlike other lightning headphones, this model offers not just one but four levels of noise control. It also offers transparency mode to help you be quickly aware of what’s going around. 

Libratone ANC offers premium audio performance with emphasis on bass. If you do not like the default audio performance, you can easily tweak it using the customizable equalizer. This model perfectly suits every day listening as well as sports and workout requirements with its waterproof design. 

Pros:

  • Audio performance with rich bass and mids
  • Four levels of noise cancellation
  • Customizable audio performance

Cons:

  • Not the most secure ear fit

6. 1MORE E1001L – check it out here

To call 1MORE E1001L a modern tech engineering marvel totally justifies it. This is because it uses three dedicated sound drivers to deliver full-range audio performance that’s reserved for high-performing over-ear headphones. The best part is it uses a direct lightning connection.

1MORE E1001L makes the most out of your iOS devices’ lightning connectivity by using a high definition DAC to ensure lossless digital audio performance. This model is also great for making HD voice calls as it uses five directional mic. Despite housing three discrete sound drivers in each ear bud, this model is compact enough to be comfortable for daily use. 

Pros:

  • Three discrete sound drivers used
  • Built in high-quality DAC used
  • Premium look and feel

Cons:

  • Active noise cancellation feature not included
  • No sweatproof or waterproof design

3 best lightning headphones: over-ear and on-ear models

Choosing a lightning headset for your iOS device doesn’t mean that you have to limit your options to just earphone models. You can also go for an over-ear or on-ear model if you prefer a full range audio performance. 

These 3 lightning headphones deliver great sounding audio while packing several high-end features: 

1. Philips Fidelio – check it out here

Philips Fidelio was one of the first on-ear headphones to come with the lightning connector as default. This model is precisely optimized for iOS devices in order to deliver high fidelity audio through the lightning connection. 

The audio performance of this headphone is sufficing enough to make even the most discriminating audiophile delightful, all thanks to its high-performance 40 mm neodymium sound drivers and a high-quality DAC. A dedicated volume rocker on the right ear cup makes it easy for you to take control over your music tracks.

Pros:

  • Full-range and bass-rich audio performance
  • Optimized for iOS devices
  • High-quality built-in DAC used

Cons:

  • Active noise cancellation feature not included
  • No dedicated support for Hey Siri prompt

2. Audeze Sine – check it out here

Audeze Sine comes as one of the best choices for acoustic and natural-sounding audio performance. This lightning headphone uses planar magnetic sound drivers that work in conjunction with a high-quality DAC to deliver natural reproduction of analog audio. The planar magnetic sound drivers also work great in eliminating distortion even at high volume levels. 

Audeze Sine includes the option of audio performance customization via its dedicated iOS app. The 10 band equalizer opens up more options to shape the audio performance as per your preference. Also, this model is equally comfortable as it uses memory foam ear padding. 

Pros:

  • Dynamic and full-range audio performance
  • High-quality DAC used
  • Dedicated support for Siri voice assistant

Cons:

  • Active noise cancellation feature is not used
  • No waterproof or sweatproof design

3. Audeze EL-8 – check it out here

Audeze EL-8 does a great job in seamlessly fusing form with function. It is similar to Audeze Sine in many ways, including the use of high-fidelity planar magnetic sound drivers. The sound drivers in this model have been precisely fine tuned for acoustic and distortion-free audio reproduction. 

Audeze EL-8 uses the full 24 bitrate sampling of the lightning connection to help you get the best audio performance through the proprietary connector. Style and comfort of this model is on point. It uses automobile-grade aluminum exterior build to maintain an unmistakable level of sophistication. For comfort, it uses soft ear pads and a fully adjustable headband. 

Pros:

  • Distortion-free planar magnetic sound drivers used
  • High-quality built-in DAC used
  • Dediated Siri support included
  • Premium look and feel

Cons:

  • No support for active noise cancelation
  • The overall build is not sweat or water-proof

Accessories to make the right adjustments

With the lightning port being the only option in your iOS devices for audio and power, you are left but no option to trade off audio for charging, or vice versa. However, you can break away from this limitation with the right lightning connector accessories. 

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What is best to know is we have done the digging for you and have compiled some of the most useful lightning connector accessories to help you avoid limiting yourself to choosing between audio or charging your iOS device. 

1. Lightning connector splitter – check it out here

If you already have a lightning headset or are planning to get one, the availability of just one lighting port can put you through the hassle of switching between audio and charging instead of doing both simultaneously. To steer clear of this issue, you can use a lightning connector splitter. 

This Belkin lightning connector splitter is an Apple-certified product and it splits the single lightning port of your iOS device into two outlets. You can plug in your lightning headphones and lightning charger at the same time in your iOS device. 

2. Lightning to 3.5 mm adapter – check it out here

If you u love your current headset that includes a 3.5 mm audio connector, you don’t have to toss it away. With the help of this lightning to 3.5 mm adapter, you can use your beloved 3.5 mm headset in your newer iOS devices that do have a 3.5 mm headphone jack.  

3. Lightning and 3.5 mm splitter – check it out here

Using your 3.5 mm headset in your non 3.5 mm jack iOS devices with a single lightning to 3.5 mm adapter limits the option to listen to audio and charge the device at the same time. For this issue, a lightning connector splitter that offers 3.5 mm and lightning connectivity offers the most practical and inexpensive solution. 

4. Lightning to 3.5 mm cable – check it out here

If you have headphones that include detachable 3.5 mm audio cables at the earcups, you can use this lightning to 3.5 mm cable to make your 3.5 mm headphone compatible with your newer iOS devices. 

Conclusion 

The availability of just the lightning port on newer iOS devices, including iPhone, and iPad can slightly come off as a disadvantage to users who prefer wired headphones. However, there are plenty of workarounds that you can choose from in order to make up for the lack of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. 

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If you are someone who prefers to switch between iOS and Android devices and want headphones that are compatible for both, choose models that have a built-in DAC (digital to analog converter). DAC converts the digital audio transmission of the lightning connector to analog audio signal that’s needed for headphone sound drivers to work. 

Also, choosing headphones with DAC that support higher bitrates will help you access better and low signal loss audio performance. This also goes for choosing a headphone amplifier with built-in DAC. 

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You can also explore different options for external DAC units that are compatible with 3.5mm and lightning connection. 

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