October 2, 2017
Open offices, you hate them, your coworkers hate them, but some reason they keep being a thing. As if the cubical farms from the likes of The Office weren’t bad enough, many startups and large companies don’t even give us walls, but hey at least sometimes there are white noise machines. Those totally work, right? Yeah, not so much, which is why so many companies have taken to providing an allowance or outright giving noise canceling headphones to their employees, and in some cases creating quiet pods.
Regardless of your work environment, in many cases everyone needs a way reduce distractions, and Libratone’s Q Adapt technology certainly does the trick.
A while back we gave their on-ear headphones a whirl, and not only were we impressed by the sound quality they also look great. Now we’re going in for round two, but this time seeing how the earbuds (in-ear earphones) work. However, the in-ear Q Adapts are specifically designed for iPhones with a lightning port, sorry rest of the world.
Ever since Apple announced the extinction of the 3.5mm or standard earphone port, queue moment of silence, many brands were quick to jump right over to bluetooth and ignoring the lightning port dongle. While many well established audio brands still use wired headphones and earbuds, those are going to be going the way of the Dodo bird over the next few years. And with Apple’s track record, it will be no surprise that even fewer brands will specifically cater wired headphones that use the lightning port, but here we are and Libratone is ahead of the pack.
In fact, Apple’s own Beats has not even released their own lightning wired earphones, but are said to be releasing this Fall. So how does Libratone’s in-ear earphones with adjustable noise cancellation pan out? Quite well.
Basic Features and Specs
- Adjustable noise cancellation
- Built in mic
- Built in four button controller
- Interchangeable ear tips
- Comes in four different colors
- Supports lightning ports only
- Weight: .7 ounces
After being impressed from Libratone’s on-ear headphones, I was expecting high quality sound and that’s exactly what I got. Typically earbuds are lacking in bass and become distorted at higher volumes, but neither are an issue in this case.
To test out some poppy sounds, which you get quite a bit in Kesha’s Let ‘Em Talk, Libratone’s earphones really shine. The bass is deep, but her vocals come through with a solid balance of mids from the background singers and music.
For some bass (lows) we put the Q Adapts against Kanye’s Power and Flux Pavilion’s Do or Die, and what you get is a well balanced sound. Now you won’t get head rattling booms like an on ear or over ear headphones, but the bass is definitely deep.
For the mids we tossed on Volbeat’s Seal the Deal and Killswitch Engage’s rendition of Holy Diver, which feature either hair metal style yelling or a bit of twangy rock. Like Kesha, the vocals on both of these songs come through great, with well rounded mids and highs.
On each of these I also maxed out the volume to test for noise distortion, but even at max volume, which is quite loud, there was none present. I also tested call quality, and incidentally stumbled upon a now resolved issue. For anyone using iOS 11, which would be most iPhone users, there was a known issue impacting sound quality, but has since been resolved in a firmware update. After the update there did not appear to be any issues with the sound quality.
Overall the sound quality on Libratone’s Q Adapt earbuds provides well balanced highs, mids, and lows. Just remember to update your firmware if using these for phone calls.
Adjustable Noise Cancellation
For Libratone products, noise cancellation is more than just putting a cup around your ear or a seal within it, they use a technology called CityMix ANC (adjustable noise cancellation). Just like the on-ear Q-Adapt’s the in-ear ones use the same technology to let in as much or as little noise from your surroundings in within four different levels, and one of which seems to slightly amplify to let in more so that you can carry on with a conversation.
When the strongest ANC setting is on, it feels a bit like a white noise method of blocking out sound, but supposedly it’s something different. Regardless of the technology and naming convention, the noise cancellation on these work pretty well.
The biggest initial factor for noise cancellation comes down to the ear tips you’re using. For me, I had to try three different options before I was able to block a majority of my surroundings out. But, once I found the proper fit, I was able to block out office sound, and even a whistling tea kettle nearby when I had music playing on top of the maxed out ANC. While there are supposedly four different settings of noise cancellation, there doesn’t appear to be a huge difference between them. It’s basically the difference of letting all sound in or almost none at all, which is how people will use it anyways, but the other two settings don’t have a huge impact.
Overall the noise cancellation that you get out of these are solid, but you’re going to still get some of your surroundings in depending on what you’re listening to and which eartips you have on.
A simple design is in. And if there is one thing Libratone nails, it’s their design. With a combination of a braided nylon, smooth matte metal on the earbuds, and soft silicon for the ear tips, the in-ear Q Adapts look great. While many earbuds go for sport, sweat resistant, or feature bold colors, Libratone goes for smooth and understated. There’s really not much else to say on the subject, but if you like minimal designs these will be right up your alley.
Pros and Cons
- Good highs, mids, and decent lows
- Overall design looks great
- Can’t charge your phone and use them
- Only useful for iPhones and iPads
Should you buy Libratone’s Q Adapt in-ear earphones? If you’ve got an iPhone, have withdrawals from wired earphones, and want great sound and noise cancellation, absolutely. Not only do these produce high quality audio for anything from podcasts, to calls, and of course music, it’s evident that they put extra effort into the exterior design as well.
If you don’t have an iPhone, obviously these were not designed for you; however, we can also recommend the on-ear Q Adapts in place of these. Personally I find it a bit odd that Libratone would go after devices with the lightning port specifically, but with so few competitors on the market and apparently none with noise cancellation, they’ve got the market cornered. The closest competitor is Bose QuietComfort 20, but they also cost an extra $100.
For these reasons we give Libratone’s Q Adapt in-ear earphones a 4.5 out of 5. Perfect for Apple mobile users, not so much for the rest of you.
Read more reviews by Elliot on gear and gadgets for the office at TechCo
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