Lighten Up: 10 Best Lightning Cable Headphones

A lot has been written about the 3.5mm headphone jack since the release of the new Apple iPhone 7 and 7 plus. Some are excited about the new lightning cable headphones, but primarily folks are sad to see the headphone jack go and a little confused as to why. We can understand the hesitancy. The socket has been around for a long, long time. We’re talking over 100 years. The first iteration of the the jack, a 6.35mm version, first came into use in 1878, the same year that the phonograph was patented by Thomas Edison.

We’d be foolish to say that just because the design is old means that we should toss it out. If something has been working for over 100 years, you better believe it is well designed. Apple’s reasoning behind getting rid of the jack, however, makes sense. Just consider for a moment the degree to which the brand needs to worry about the real-estate of the phone. More space means more room for chips, batteries, and camera parts. But there is more to recommend these new headphones than just their compatibility with the new iPhone model. These personal audio systems actually do have more ‘oomph’ to them now thanks to the lightning cable connection swapping out the jack. Instead of relying on your phone’s less powerful digital to analog converter or an external headphone amp, the lightning cable allows for brands to embed their own DAC into their cables for a better, more full sound. There aren’t too many next generation headphones available right now, but we’ve rounded up what we think are the best lightning cable headphones so you can ditch the detachable dongle and go for a pair of cans that’ll do your new phone justice.

apple ear pods

Apple EarPods

What a better way to start out list than with Apple’s own EarPods. They’re ubiquitous. Open any random drawer in someone’s apartment or house and you’ll likely find a few earlier generations of the earbuds tangled up among loose coins and scraps of paper. Each one is slightly different than the last, with their only real unifying trait being that each one is better than the last. These lightning cable headphones, released with the Apple iPhone 7 and 7 plus, are no different.

They offer a deeper, more rich sound than those that came before it so whether you are listening to the newest country ballad or an avant-garde experimental track from an unknown artist, you’re getting the full experience. Thanks to a slight improvement on the design, these are also a good deal more water and sweat resistant so you can go for runs in the rain and not worry about shorting out your buds. Need to take a call or ask Siri for instructions, just hold down on the remote and speak right into the hidden mic. It’s hard not to love the classics.

Purchase: $29

Hoco L1

HOCO L1 iPhone 7 Earbuds

Quality of sound. Fit. Functionality. Those are three pretty straightforward and reasonable standards on which to judge a pair of earbuds. We think that the HOCO L1 lightning earbuds pretty much checks all of the boxes off such a desirable list.

First, we can start out with the quality of sound. What separates this pair from others without lightning cables is the chip included in the in-line remote. This thing performs the function of both a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). Usually, with most other headphones, the phone performs the function of converting the electrical signal to an analog one, but power constraints limit the headphone’s full potential. A lot of different chips are trying to do a lot at the same time. As result, the DAC and DSP chips perform better when they have enough power to process the continuous run of algorithms, which is exactly what happens when they’re in the in-line remote. On top of having a more streamlined architecture for the processing of your music, these fit snugly into your ears thanks to silicone earbuds and come with tough TPE high elasticity wires that are guaranteed to last a long time and stand up to being stuffed into your pockets and taken out again and again.

Purchase: $29

Brightech Headphones

Brightech On-Ear Headphones

Earbuds are like vegemite. You either really love them, or would rather toss yourself off of a bridge than have to deal with them constantly popping out of your ears. For those who belong to the latter group and are hoping to save a little cash on the next headphone purchase – there are the Brightech On-Ear Lightning Wire Headphones.

While you may not be totally familiar with this brand, you can take solace in knowing that these headphones are both MFi certified (meaning that they were approved by Apple to make these headphones specifically for the iPhone, and iPad) and that they carry a 3-year warranty. However, our guess is you won’t end up trying to send these back after you get them in the mail. These 24-bit digital audio headphones boast an oxygen free copper cord that connects to the 8 pin lightning cable connector, delivering a low loss signal to the 40 mm neodymium magnets that move the coil unit for a wide frequency response. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Purchase: $30

Hoco L2

Hoco L2 Headphones

If you are the goldilocks of the headphone world – not interested in over or on-ear headphones, but not content with earbuds that fall out of your head while on long runs or riding on the bike, then you should consider the HOCO L2 Lightning cable headphones.

Like its slimmer sibling, the 8-pin cord connects to a DSP and DAC chip in the remote that focus all their energy on providing lossless conversion into analog sounds so you get all of your audio in the highest fidelity possible. The composite and alloy diaphragm paired with the strong magnets in the headphones provide a deep and resonant base so while you have these hooked around your ears on a long run or serious workout in the gym you can get the motivation you need to push yourself to the next level. When it comes to durability – these buds have it down. Thanks to the TPE elastic wire and flexible hook around the ear you’ll be good to go for any activity.

Purchase: $35


Sharkk Lightning Headphones

If you are the kind of person who just needs to disconnect from the world and plug into some music or a good podcast in order to unwind – you know how important the actual comfort of a pair of headphones should be. Sure, something may sound great, but who cares if you can’t actually listen to it for more than 30 minutes because they hurt to wear. Sharkk’s lighting cable headphones, thankfully, offer both Hi-Fi sound and serious comfort.

These MFi certified buds are able to provide high-quality sound due to the oxygen free line from the 8-pin lightning cable connector straight up to the aluminum housing and beefy drivers, ensuring that the quality of the music you’re listening to isn’t compromised at any point. That same attention to detail is paid to both the feel of the earbuds and the cable. The cable itself is built to be fray resistant and flexible ensuring you’ll be able to keep it around for years of use, while the buds themselves connect to plush silicone covers that fit perfectly into your ear.

Purchase: $42

Brightech earbuds

Brightech Earbuds

HD streaming and audio files have been a big talking point (and point of contention) among audiophiles as of recent. Tidal, the streaming service owned by Jay-Z has staked a huge amount on being able to stream ‘high quality’, as has Sony with their NW-WM1z Walkman and Neil Young with his Pono Music player. You won’t be able to listen to really capture any of the quality those services provide, however, without 24-bit headphones like the Brightech lightning cable earbuds.

While some headphones only capture the 16 bit audio that CDs or compressed audio files put out, these headphones can capture the exceptional quality 24 bit sound – the same quality used in recording studios. Along with being able to give you the highest quality music possible, the silicone covers on the buds are efficient at reducing ambient outside sound, and the Oxygen-free copper cord ensures a lossless audio. To top it all off, for easy control while your phone is in your pocket or bag the earbuds come with an inline remote.

Purchase: $50

Philips Fidelio

Philips Fidelio Headphones

Philips’ Fidelio line of high-quality personal speakers has gained a whole lot of fans over the past few years. They’ve consistently turned out a series of top notch headphones that have either met or exceeded the expectations of both hardcore audiophiles and high-end audio neophytes alike. The newest addition to the line, the M2L lightning cable headphones are no exception to that trend.

Like most others on this list, these headphones boast an internal DAC and amp, making it so audio-nerds can get the quality of music they want without having to lug around an external amp. Yet, this is far from the only thing to recommend these headphones. Philips also paid a lot of attention to reducing resonance in the headphones. They manage to decrease this unnecessary vibration or noise by crafting a special aluminum ear shell that reduces resonance and an acoustically sealed, ribbon locked chamber that prevents any sound leakage. As a result, the 40mm neodymium drivers deliver high-fidelity sound right to the listener’s ear. A couple of other fun features that these have baked into the design is a pause/play button on the right side of the speakers, and a volume rocker that makes it easy for listeners to adjust loudness on the fly. Your commute just got a whole lot more enjoyable.

Purchase: $160

JBL Reflect Aware

JBL Reflect Aware Sport Headphones

These earbuds offer so much it is a little hard to know where to begin. Should we start out by detailing the amazing sound that comes out of the headphones’ 14.8 mm dynamic drivers that have a frequency response of 10 Hz-22kHz? Or is it more important to highlight the incredibly adjustable smart technology built into the headphones? Or maybe the ergonomic fit? You get the idea. JBL’s Reflect Aware lightning cable earbuds are impressive.

Primary among the Reflect Aware’s offerings has to be the adjustable and adaptive technology built into it. Using JBL’s app, you can modify your listening much in the same way you adjust the exposure, saturation, and contrast on your images before you upload them to Instagram. Want to listen to some music while at work but still need to hear your boss call your name? The adaptive noise control lets you control the level of external noise you let in through the earbuds. Of course, you’ll be getting high fidelity audio thanks to the direct connection to the phone via the 8-pin lightning connector – something you can enjoy while you’re working, or while you are out running or working out thanks to the water-resistant design and snuggly fitting earbuds. To top it all off? Thanks to the flat cables’ highly reflective coating, these will also help you be seen while out at night.

Purchase: $200


Sony MDR1 Headphones

If you’ve ever put on glasses with a new prescription in them, you know the feeling. All of the sudden, you can see. Really see. It isn’t that you weren’t able to understand that you were looking at trees, cars, or grass before you got contact lenses or glasses, it is just that now you can see all of the fine details. Sony’s MDR1ADAC/S headphones offer a similar experience, but for audio.

Sony manages this by doing a few different things. First, there is the built-in DAC. Since these headphones have their own power source (you can get roughly 7-8 hours of playback time from them per charge), they can dedicate energy to converting digital signals coming from either high quality audio files (FLAC, WMAV,) or lower quality files and then reproduce them as the artist wanted them to be heard. When it comes to sound, the headphones are nearly peerless. They can put out up to 100 kHz through a 1.57 inch HD driver set in an aluminum coated liquid crystal polymer diaphragm, giving the listener an incredibly dynamic and deep listening experience. To top it off, these headphones can use either the 8-pin lightning cable from Apple, USB, Xperia, or standard audio cables for connection.

Purchase: $398

Audeze Sine

Audeze SINE

We know, we know. Headphones should be more about the quality of audio than how they look, but damn do these look good. They’re just about as sleek and attractive a pair of on-ear headphones we’ve come across. It is no wonder then that the Audeze Sine lightning cable headphones are made by Design Works, a BMW company.

Just like BMW builds the ultimate driving machine, Audeze’s Sine may be the ultimate listening machine when it comes to Apple lightning connector headphones. These cans feature a flat wire that leads into an in-line remote containing a 24 bit DAC and AMP with DSP, along with a microphone for taking calls. This chip combined with the planar magnetic technology drivers and diaphragms are thinner than a human hair which makes for an incredibly versatile pair of headphones. They boast a full, deep bass free of distortion thanks to the patented Uniform voice-coil technology, along with fully pronounced mids and an articulate high end. Want to customize your listening experience? Audeze’s downloadable app lets you do just that, so you can save different profiles for different listening experiences.

Purchase: $500