Q Adapt On-Ear Headphones Offer Sleek Design and Great Sound [Review]

June 8, 2017

12:20 pm

In a world of Beats, Bose, and a million kinds of earbuds, Libratone is kicking it old school with a new pair of wireless on-ear headphones. The Q Adapt On-Ear Headphones offer a sleek new approach to the style, while leaving room for selective noise cancellation and an optional 3.5mm jack. At a mid-tier price point, competing head-to-head with well established brands, Libratone may have an uphill battle ahead of them, but these particular headphones easily stand apart.

We took the Q Adapts through several weeks of an open office environment, public transportation, and of course while writing this review.

Features and Specs

libratone q adapt

Bells and whistles are the name of the game this year for personal audio, but when it comes down to it, we know what really matters: how well does this produce sound? The short answer is that the highs and mids are great, but the lows (bass) is not quite where we’d want them to be (fades out after about 30Hz). In comparison to any earbuds we’ve reviewed in the past few years though – an apples to oranges argument – the Q Adapts sound great across the board.

Beyond sound, noise cancellation takes a close second. With four adjustable ANC settings that introduce different levels of white noise, the on-ear headphones gradually block more of your sounding out. At its highest setting this works wonderfully, and at its lowest it’s specifically designed to bring in sound around you. In Hush mode it also pauses any audio playing and brings in outside audio through the built in microphone. Generally speaking the variable settings work great, and we did use these in a variety of open office settings, but there is one slight and in most cases not noticeable issue. Maybe it’s my age and what sound frequencies we can each hear, but at the highest noise cancellation setting there is a slight hum that can be noticed while listening to audio such as a podcast. For music or video you likely won’t ever notice it. Either way I got used and ignore it quickly so I have not marked it as a negative.

Next up, connectivity and battery life. As a wireless headset, the Q Adapt knocks this out of the park. You have the choice between using a detachable 3.5mm wire or go fully wireless using Bluetooth 4.1. Typically Bluetooth allows for about 30 feet of distance between the audio system and output device, and we found that to be accurate, plus a bit more. It also oddly enough worked between floors in a townhouse. If you want to watch videos or game with them though, you’ll need to wire in. Like most Bluetooth audio devices, there is a lag between audio and video. On battery life, Libratone is doing it right. You get a full 20 hours of playtime and it charges back up in about 3 hours.

The Q Adapt has some additional bells and whistles as well, but those are mostly design focused. The only real issue we ran into with these headphones is tied to Mac being a pain in the ass. Occasionally when you take the headsets off and put them back on you will activate the touch controls, which in turn will automatically open iTunes and starts playing whatever you were listening to last. This wouldn’t be an issue if you only listen to iTunes, but since that’s rarely the case expect to be closing it at random intervals.

Overall we found Libratone’s Q Adapt on-ear headphones to be comfortable, solid for music, and great and helping you focus on your tasks at hand. The price point is a bit high compared to some of the flagship brands, but in the same it also looks quite a bit better.

Specs
  • Noise cancellation: Adjustable ANC
  • Battery life: 20 hours
  • Charge time: About 3 hours
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1 or 3.5mm cord
  • Can connect two headsets together
  • Weight: 7oz
  • Gesture control
  • Touch interface on earcup
What’s in the box
  • Headphones
  • Soft case
  • USB charging cable
  • 3.5mm detachable headphone wire

Design

libratone q adapt

Quite simply, the Libratone Q Adapts on-ear headphones are sleek, beautiful, and well designed.

At $200 the Q Adapts are in the mid-tier range for noise cancelling headphones; however, the material and general design make it look and feel like a high-end set. Sure, the price tag is nothing to scoff at, but look at some of the comparable offerings from Bose and Beats. While these are also on-ear rather than over the ear, nothing about it looks or feels bulky in the least, which both competing flagship models typically fall under that scope.

In a world divided between those who still want wires and those who don’t (that’s me), Libratone’s addition of a 3.5mm jack with a detachable wire is the best of both worlds. It’s abundantly clear that their team put a lot of love and thought into how everything is laid out.

Not only do the headphones look great, they pack hidden touch controls on the right earcup to minimize the amount of buttons needed. Within the touch controls you can adjust the volume, play and pause audio, skip to the next song, activate siri, or answer a call. By covering the control pad with your entire hand it will activate Hush mode, which will in turn allow you to hear your surroundings while pausing the music. Within the touchpad you’ll also find indicator lights, which is also where you can see a rough idea of the remaining battery life.

libratone q adapt

There are also two physical buttons, one on each earcup: power and noise cancellation mode. By pressing the square button it will swap between each of the four different ANC settings.

The Libratone Q Adapt On-Ear headphones come in white or black, and overall has a wonderful, functional design. The only minor grip we have is really more of a personal one, which is that on-ear headphones and glasses eventually will start to pinch and get uncomfortable after extended periods of use.

Pros and Cons

Highs
  • Sleek, beautiful design
  • 20 hours of battery life
  • Detachable 3.5mm jack
  • Adjustable noise-cancellation
  • Sounds great
Lows
  • Really likes to open iTunes
  • Extensive use with glasses gets uncomfortable (duh)

Overall Thoughts

Should you buy the Libratone Q Adapt On-Ear Headphones? If you’re looking for a great looking pair of headphones that produce high-quality sound while blocking out distractions, these work great. At it’s current price point we feel they may have a bit of a challenge getting mass market adoption due to the likes of Beats and Bose being a bit cheaper; however, the battery life, design, and quality have us suggesting that you sway from the mainstream. We give the Q Adapts a solid 4.5 out of 5 based on its price point and offering. They really are really ridiculously good looking.

Price: $200

Where to buy: Amazon, Libratone

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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