Best wired headphones for iPhone and iPad

Macworld

Now that the iPhone’s port is USB-C there is a whole new world of wired headphones available for iPhones.

If you have one of the iPhone 15 generation handsets, or a recently purchased iPad Air, iPad Pro, iPad mini or iPad 10th-genertion then at the base of your device is a UBC-C port, rather than Apple’s Lightning port. This is good news if you are on the hunt for a pair of headphones with a wired connection because you now don’t need an adaptor to use USB-C headphones.

There are a number of benefits to using USB-C headphones. Wired connections (generally) deliver better audio quality because the audio doesn’t need to be compressed as much as with wireless, so near-lossless audio can be possible. However, you should still expect expensive, high-quality wireless headphones to sound better than a pair of cheap USB-C headphones. You can only get true lossless playback with a wired connection. The only issue really is that most of the streamers compress the music, so even if your headphones are capable of producing high-quality audio the audio files may not be high quality.

Other benefits of USB-C headphones include faster charging and the ability to play audio and charge at the same time. They get their power from the device so you don’t have to charge them up separately and you don’t need to worry about them running flat (unless your iPhone or iPad does). However, you won’t be able to charge your iPhone at the same time (unless you charge wirelessly).

Some headphones have a DAC onboard that converts the signal to digital and can enable high-res playback. Not all DAC are equal though.

Other benefits include the fact that the headphones are connected by a cable so you are less likely to lose one.

There are disadvantages though. Some people prefer wireless though because you can get cable noise from when the cable rubs on your clothing. Another thing is that wired headphones don’t tend to offer active noise cancellation. If you do want to use wireless headphones with your iPhone we have a separate story, and you may also like our comparison of the AirPods Max vs other over-ear headphones.

Headphones that have USB-C should work with Macs that have USB-C too – although most Macs do still have a standard 3.5mm headphone socket that will work with conventional headphones. One thing to remember is that some headphones use a USB-C connector for charging – but may not allow you to play audio via a USB-C cable, so check on that before buying any new headphones.

Older iPhones and the standard 10.2in iPad feature a Lightning port. There are a small number of manufacturers that still make headphones with a Lightning connector, which are specifically designed for use with the iPhone. However, now that the European Union has forced Apple to move to USB-C for charging iPhones, it’s unlikely that there will be many Lightning-powered headphones available in the future.

There’s one other option as well. You can still use traditional headphones that have a standard 3.5mm audio connector with an iPhone or iPad – although you will need a suitable adaptor or cable that has a 3.5mm connector for the headphones and a Lightning or USB-C connector for your Apple devices. Apple sells 3.5mm headphone jack adaptors with both Lightning connectors for $9/£9 and USB-C for $9/£9.

Other companies sell adaptors too – most notably Belkin, with its Rockstar or Connect Lightning to 3.5mm adaptors ($39.99 at Amazon US or £29 at Amazon UK), which provide multiple ports and connectors so that you can charge your iPhone or iPad and listen to music at the same time. We look at even more adapter options here: Best Lightning headphone adapters for iPhone.

Updated April 2024 to add Sennheiser Accentum Plus and JLab Studio Pro.

Best Lightning and USB-C headphones

1. Sennheiser Accentum

Pros

Good value for money

Impressive battery life

Wired and wireless modes

Cons

No carrying case

No USB-C cable




Best Prices Today:



₹31,327 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless or USB-C

Sennheiser is well-known for high-end headphones such as its Momentum 3 Wireless, but it recently released a much more affordable model called the Accentum. Priced at just £159.99/$179.95, the Accentum’s strong sound quality and impressive battery life make it a great alternative to more expensive rivals such as the Beats Studio Pro (or the wildly overpriced AirPods Max).

Available in black or white, the Accentum is a lightweight and comfortable set of over-ear headphones, weighing 222g and providing thickly padded earpieces and headband for long listening sessions. The lightweight plastic design could, perhaps, be a little sturdier, but the Accentum should still be tough enough to cope with a few bumps in a backpack when you’re out and about (although one sign of cost-cutting is that there’s no carrying case included).

The Accentum provides Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless audio, with support for the AAC codec for Apple devices and aptX HD for the Android side of the fence. There’s also a USB-C connector on the right-hand earpiece, which can be used both for charging and for wired audio connections when required – although, oddly, the cable in the box is USB-C-to-USB-A, so you’ll need to provide your own USB-C cable or adaptor for Macs or iPads that only have USB-C.

Sound quality is very good in both modes. The Accentum digs deep for the slinky bass riff on Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, and really catches the gritty rumble in Cohen’s deeper-than-deep voice. It’s not just about the bass though, and the Accentum is still able to pull out the sharp tap of the snare drum and lends a silky smoothness to the synagogue choir on backing vocals. The noise-cancellation features are something of a mixed bag, though. The Accentum deals very effectively with low-frequency sounds, such as the rumble of an aircraft engine, but it’s less successful at blocking out voices and higher frequencies. And, somewhat strangely, you don’t have the option of turning noise-cancellation completely off – you can only switch between full noise-cancellation or the ‘transparent’ mode that lets in some background noise when you need to hear what’s going on around you. However, the real clincher for many people will be the Accentum’s 50-hour battery life, which is great for a headphone in this price range and leaves most of its rivals trailing in its wake.

2. 1More Penta Driver P50

Pros

Great value for money

Excellent sound quality

Good set of accessories

Cons

No Bluetooth or noise-cancellation

Cables can be a little fiddly

Passive noise-isolation only



Connectivity: USB-C or 3.5mm

1More has been long been a champion of wired earbuds, and was one of the few companies to continue producing models with a Lightning interface long after most of its rivals had switched to Bluetooth instead.

Its latest earbuds, called the Penta Driver P50, are actually a bit of a throwback, as they go back to using a traditional 3.5mm analogue connector, and even have in-line controls for Pause/Play and adjusting volume too. However, 1More also includes a USB-C adaptor as well, so you can use the P50 with Macs, iPads and iPhones that have USB-C (you can use them with Lightning devices too, although you’ll need to buy your own Lightning adaptor).

The wired earpieces are designed to hook back over your ears, which helps to keep them safely in place even when you’re jogging or exercising. There are no less than five sets of silicon eartips in different sizes, and even three sets of foam eartips too (which I much prefer for a firm fit and blocking out background noise), along with handy little carrying pouch too.

Priced at $169.99/£169.99, the P50 is great value for money. Designed very much for demanding audiophiles, the earbuds manage to squeeze five separate driver units into each earpiece – compared to just one for most earbuds in this price range – and have Hi-Res Audio certification so that they can handle the highest quality audio formats available on Apple Music and other streaming services.

And, as you might expect, the penta-driver design sounds great. It launches into the 2018 reissue of Sweet’s glam classic, Ballroom Blitz with a crisp, firm thud on the drums. There’s a warm, smooth tone to Brian Connolly’s lead vocal, but the P50 catches the camp flourish in Steve Priest’s piercing falsetto as he declares – “and she thinks she’s the passionate one!”. The chopping guitar between verses is sharp and gritty, and then the P50 swoops lower for the catchy bass-and-drum break in the middle eight. Some people might prefer wired headphones with a larger over-ear design and extra features such as noise-cancellation, but if you just want a lightweight and affordable set of earbuds that provide high-quality sound when you’re traveling then the P50 is hard to beat.

3. Sennheiser Accentum Plus

Pros

Very good sound quality

50 hour battery

USB-C and 3.5mm audio connectors

Cons

AptX not supported by Apple devices

Can’t turn ANC completely off




Best Prices Today:



₹47,859 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C and 3.5mm (cables included).

Sennheiser continues to shake up its headphone range and, following the launch of its competitively priced Accentum last year, it has now added a slightly more expensive option called the Accentum Plus, priced at $229.95/£199.99. The external design of the Accentum Plus hasn’t changed much, and the original Accentum is still available for $179.95/£159.99, so you should make sure that you choose the right model when buying.

Available in black or white, the Accentum Plus has the same lightweight design, with thickly padded headband and earpieces, and it only weighs 227g, so it’s light enough to wear for long periods at home or when you’re traveling. The extra cost of the Accentum Plus means that you get a sturdy carrying case as well, and the impressive 50-hour battery life makes it a particularly good option for long journeys.

And while the external design of the Accentum Plus hasn’t changed much, it does include a number of new features hidden away on the inside. A new processor chip provides improved noise-cancellation features, which we definitely found more effective than those of the original Accentum, and strong enough to challenge more expensive rivals such as the Beats Studio Pro. Strangely, there’s no simple On/Off control for the noise-cancellation features, but the Sennheiser app provides a slider control so that you can adjust the level of noise-cancellation, or set it to ‘transparent’ mode if you need to hear what’s going on around you.

Bluetooth support has also been updated – it still supports AAC for Apple devices, but now adds aptX Adaptive too (which I like to use with Apple Music on my iPad, along with Sennheiser’s handy little BTD 600 aptX adaptor). There are improvements to the wired features too. Along with the existing USB-C port – which is used for charging and digital audio – there’s a new 3.5mm connector for good old-fashioned analog audio, or for use with a high-quality DAC (digital-to-analog-converter), and USB-C and 3.5mm cables are included in the box too.

The Accentum Plus seems to have a more atmospheric sound as well, creating an eerie rumbling quality for the electronic effects on You Should See Me In A Crown by Billie Eilish, and a powerful pulsing effect for the deep bass that kicks off the chorus. The bass isn’t exaggerated, though, and the Accentum Plus also manages to pick out lighter details very clearly, such as the rapid ticking percussion that gives the track its nervous, manic energy.

4. Apple EarPods

Pros

Feature a Lightning port

Trendy

Decent sound at a low price

Cons

No silicon tips

Not ideal is you need a firm fit



Connectivity: USB-C, Lightning, or 3.5mm models available

Apple stopped including the EarPods with new iPhones years ago – which was annoying for iPhone owners, but great for headphone manufacturers who could step in with their own alternatives. But the Internet says that the cool kids are wearing wired headphones again these days – it’s a retro thing, apparently – and the EarPods are still available for people who prefer a simple and affordable set of wired earbuds.

There are actually three versions available, each costing just $19/£19, with either a USB-C connector, a Lightning connector or a standard 3.5mm audio connector for older iPhones or iPad models that still have ye olde headphone connector. That 3.5mm connector will work with other audio devices too and, of course, a wired connection means that you don’t have to worry about the battery running down in the middle of a long journey.

The design of the EarPods was updated a few years ago, with a more oval-shaped earpiece that is designed to rest more easily inside the ear. However, they still have the same one-size-fits-all design of the original EarPods, with no option to use silicon tips in different sizes, so they’re probably not the best choice for people who need a good, firm fit for working out or jogging around the park.

You’re not going to get Hi-Fi quality headphones at this price, but the wired connection avoids the compromises caused by the limited bandwidth of Bluetooth, so the EarPods still provide respectable sound quality. The bass sounds nice and firm, and our only complaint is that higher frequencies can sound a little thin at times.

5. Belkin SoundForm

Pros

Features a Lightning port

Tangle-free cable

Great sound for low price

Cons

No carry case

Sound quality is dependent on good fit




Best Prices Today:



₹7,482 at Amazon

Connectivity: Lightning or USB-C options

Lightning headphones are normally pretty expensive since manufacturers have to make a special version of their standard headphones that uses the Apple-only connector just for iPhone owners. However, Belkin surprised us by releasing its  SoundForm Headphones With Lightning Connector, priced at $39.99/£29.99. There is also a USB-C version of the SoundForm headphones for $/£14.99.

Despite their low price, the SoundForm headphones – which used to be called Rockstar, but have been rebranded – are sturdily built, with a chunky, flat cable that reduces tangles when you shove them into your pocket.

The inline controls are fairly basic – just a little microphone for voice calls, a couple of buttons for volume adjustment, and a Play/Pause button that controls music and phone calls. And, at this price, there’s not a lot in the way of added extras either – there’s no carrying case, and just three sizes of silicon ear-tips, although that should be enough to provide a good, comfortable fit for most people.

Belkin also says the headphones are water-resistant – although it doesn’t quote an IP rating – so they should be a good, affordable option for jogging around the park or working out at the gym.

Sound quality is a pleasant surprise too, given the low price. The SoundForm delivered the multi-layered bombast of Bohemian Rhapsody with clarity and detail. Smaller, less expensive earbuds such as these often suffer from weak bass, but the SoundForm also managed to dig down to the deep, sinister electronic bass on Prime Evil by The Orb.

Our only concern is that the sound quality is very dependent on getting a good, firm fit inside your ears, but as long as the ear-tips provided by Belkin fit you properly then the SoundForm is the best set of budget-priced Lightning headphones we’ve seen so far. Belkin also makes some handy and affordable Lightning adaptors, which let you use existing 3.5mm headphones with a recent iPhone, or even connect an iPhone to a car music system.

There is also a USB-C version of Belkin’s SoundForm headphones. See: Belkin in-Ear USB-C Headphones w/Mic Control, USB-C Earbuds, $29.99 on Amazon.com.

6. Bowers & Wilkins Px8

Pros

Hi-Fi sound quality

Luxurious design

Bluetooth with AAC, aptX

USB-C and 3.5mm wired connections

Cons

Expensive

A little heavy (320g)




Best Prices Today:



₹1,00,000 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, 3.5mm

Hi-Fi specialists Bowers & Wilkins have been using USB-C to provide lossless and high-res audio with their PX range of headphones since 2017.

It’s a little pricey – at $699/£599 it’s even more expensive than the AirPods Max – but the design and sound quality are impeccable. Available in black or tan, the padded headband and earpieces feel absolutely luxurious (although the leather covering might not suit everyone). The adjustable cast-aluminum armatures look very smart and are sturdy enough to cope with life on the road when you’re traveling, and there’s a hard-shell carrying case included as well.

The 40mm drivers support Bluetooth with support for both Apple’s AAC and aptX Adaptive for Android users. As mentioned, there’s a USB-C interface for wired connections and lossless audio, and a 3.5mm adaptor is included for good old-fashioned analog audio as well. The sound quality is as good as you’d expect from a company with B&W’s hi-fi heritage. There’s an icy clarity to the steel guitar on You Can’t Trust Violence by Low, and the band’s harmonies are smooth as silk, even as they repeat the chilling chorus of “no, you can’t trust violence…”. There’s a nice bass sound too, bouncing along with a firm, infectious rhythm on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish, and contrasting well with the sharp, precise finger snaps that set the pace and drive the track forward.

The noise-cancellation features work very well too, and with 30 hours of battery life when using Bluetooth and noise-cancellation the Px8 is a great option for frequent fliers or commuting on a train. The luxurious design and sound quality of the Px8 are worth every penny, but if you’re on a tight budget then you can still find the previous Px7 S2 model available online with a recent price cut to £299, which makes it a real bargain

7. Moshi Avanti C

Pros

USB-C option

High-quality sound

Variety of colours

Cons

Fairly expensive



Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, Lightning or 3.5mm models available

Moshi’s Avanti on-ear headphones are fairly pricey, at around $259/£220. The Moshi Avanti C come with USB-C, but Moshi also makes a second model, called the Avanti LT, that includes both a detachable Lightning cable for older Apple devices and a conventional 3.5mm cable that provides compatibility with a wider range of smartphones and other audio devices.

The headphones themselves are smartly designed, and available in a variety of different colors. The on-ear design means that they’re quite compact, and the earpieces fold inwards so that you can easily slip them into the carrying case that’s provided for when you’re traveling.

They sound great too, thanks to a frequency range of 15Hz – 22kHz. That allows them to provide a really nice, firm bass on dance tracks such as Prime Evil by The Orb, while also reaching right up to the glass-cutting falsetto of Roger Taylor on Queen’s Lap Of The Gods.

High-quality sound, portable design and useful accessories ensure that the Avanti LT headphones can really earn their keep both at home and when you’re traveling – and, unlike most Lightning headphones, you can use them with non-Apple devices too.

An alternative from Moshi you might be interested in is the Moshi Mythro Lightning In-Ear Headphones, which are $99.99 from Walmart. There’s also the Moshi Avanti C On-Ear USB Type-C Headphones, which are $259.95 from Amazon.

8. Master & Dynamic MW75

Pros

Excellent sound quality

Classy design

Noise cancellation features

Cons

Pricey

Snug over-ear fitting




Best Prices Today:



₹1,27,089 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, 3.5mm and 6.3mm adaptors

Master & Dynamic has a reputation for impressive craftsmanship and sound quality of headphones and the MW75 are no exception. Priced at $599/£539, and available in a variety of colors, the MW75 oozes quality, constructed out of lightweight aluminum and tempered glass, and with a padded headband and earpieces wrapped in soft leather (although, of course, the choice of leather may not be to everyone’s taste). The earpieces are relatively small for an ‘over-ear’ headphone, though, and some people might find the fit a bit snug. The little control buttons on the earpieces are also rather small as well.

It’s got a classy design on the inside too, with 40mm drivers that are constructed out of Beryllium – a very rigid material used in many high-end Hi-Fi systems in order to reduce vibration and distortion that might affect the sound quality. The MW75 supports Bluetooth with both AAC for Apple devices and aptX Adaptive for Android, and there’s a USB-C port for wired connections with support for lossless and high-res audio formats up to 24-bit/96KHz.

There’s also a USB-A adaptor included for older computers, a 3.5mm adaptor for analog input, and a 6.3mm adaptor for use with high-end hi-fi equipment. Travelers will also appreciate the smart, fabric-covered hard-shell carrying case and airline adaptor, as well as healthy battery life that lasts for 28 hours when using Bluetooth and noise-cancellation together (or 32 hours without noise-cancellation).

The noise-cancellation features are very effective and, like most headphones these days, the MW75 includes an ambient mode that lets in some of the background noise when required. However, there’s also an additional ‘voice’ mode that helps to pick out people’s voices if you’re in an office or perhaps waiting for a flight announcement in an airport.

But, as always, the sound quality is key, and the MW75 provides excellent clarity and detail right across the spectrum. It provides a deep, ominous rumble for the electronic bass on Max Richter’s Shadow Journal, but it doesn’t allow the bass to overwhelm the piercing clarity of the violin, or the gentle ambient sound-cloud of electronic loops that swirl lightly through the air.

9. Austrian Audio Hi-X25BT

Pros

Includes USB-C-to-3.5m, USB-C and USB-A cables

Great sound quality

30 hour battery life

Cons

Not great as Bluetooth headphones

Wireless mode doesn’t support AAC



Connectivity: Wireless or USB-C

Austrian Audio is a well-known name in Hi-Fi circles, making high-end headphones and microphones for musicians and audiophiles. However, it also makes some more affordable headphones, such as the Hi-X25BT, which provides impressive sound quality for a very affordable $179/£135.

As the name suggests, the Hi-X25BT does include Bluetooth to provide a wireless option when required, with an impressive 30 hours of battery life in Bluetooth mode. It’s not at its best with Bluetooth, though, as it doesn’t support either Apple’s AAC or AptX for Android, relying on the more basic SBC codec for wireless audio.

The emphasis, therefore, is more on using the Hi-X25BT as a set of wired headphones via its USB-C connector. Austrian includes two cables with the headphones, with a USB-C-to-3.5mm connector that provides standard analogue audio, or a straightforward USB-C cable that provides digital audio from an iPad, Mac or other devices that have USB-C. There’s also a USB-A adaptor included too, and I had no trouble using the Hi-X25BT with both USB-A and 3.5mm connections on my ageing office iMac. I also found a Lightning audio adaptor from Belkin in my desk draw, which allowed me to use the Hi-X25BT with a Lightning connection on my iPhone as well – although, of course, this isn’t included with the headphones, so you’d need to provide your own adaptor for an iPhone.

And, as you’d expect from a company with Austrian’s Hi-Fi background, the sound quality is great, thanks to 40mm drivers with impressive 12Hz – 24KHz frequency response. The cymbal crash that starts Blondie’s Rapture rings out crisp and clear, with a loose relaxed feel on the jangling rhythm guitar. The song’s bouncing bass line works a treat too, and never gets lost in the mix as can sometimes happen with less precise headphones.

10. JLab Studio Pro ANC

Pros

Low price

Lightweight, comfortable fit

3.5mm adaptor included

Cons

No app

Modest noise-cancellation

No support for AAC



Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, USB-C-to-3.5mm adapterincluded

Active noise-cancellation (ANC) is a common feature on many headphones and earbuds these days, but it still tends to push the price up a bit, with most noise-canceling headphones costing at least $150/£150, while some of the better models can cost twice that price. In contrast, JLabs’ Studio Pro ANC provides a basic level of noise cancellation for just $99.99/£99.99.

The Studio Pro is neatly designed, with hinged earpieces that fold flat when you’re traveling, with a padded fabric carrying pouch also included. The earpieces and headband are padded with foam, and the Studio Pro only weighs 222g, so it’s light enough to wear all day when you’re out and about. Battery life is good too, quoted at a maximum of 45 hours, or 43 hours when using noise-cancellation.

The low price does involve some compromises though – most notably on the Bluetooth side of the fence, as the Studio Pro only supports the basic SBC codec, with no support for either AAC or aptX. There isn’t even an app to go with it, so you have to experiment with the button controls on the right-hand earpiece to figure out how to select the different noise-cancellation modes or select one of the EQ presets.

This means that sound quality when using Bluetooth is relatively modest – it’s clear enough but sounds a little distant and lacks immediacy. But, of course, our focus here is on wired headphones, and the USB-C port on the Studio Pro can be used for both charging and to provide a wired connection (with a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor also included). Switching to a wired connection on my MacBook Pro improved the sound quality quite noticeably.

The Studio Pro might not win any awards, but there’s a smooth, warm tone to Madonna’s voice on Frozen, and a delicate touch to the electronic effects that float through the air. There’s also a nice contrast between the slow swaying rhythm of the strings and the sharp, dramatic percussion that ricochets from side to side across the headphones.

I’m pleased to find that the noise-cancellation features work in both Bluetooth and wired modes, but the Studio Pro only provides modest noise-cancellation and, in particular, it tends to let through quite a lot of higher-frequency sounds. If you want really effective noise-cancellation for long journeys by train or plane then there are more expensive headphones available that will be suitable. Even so, the Studio Pro will still be a good, affordable option for general use when you’re wandering around town – especially if you stick with its wired mode to get the best sound quality.

Recommended

These headphones that have previously been in this chart. You may be able to get a good deal on them.

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless





Best Prices Today:


₹26,990 at Amazon

Can I just use an adapter?

If you prefer to stick with an existing set of 3.5mm wired headphones that you really like then it is possible to buy an adapter. And, in fact, Apple did include a Lightning adapter with the iPhone 7, 8 and X when they were first launched. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case with current iPhones.

You can still buy Apple’s Lightning To 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter for £9/$9 from the Apple Store, but it’s also possible to buy non-Apple alternatives from audio specialists, such as Fiio’s i1, which provides superior sound quality, but costs around £69. Some manufacturers, such as Audeze and Bowers & Wilkins also make their own Lightning cables for use with their own headphones.

Serious audiophiles can also opt for a portable DAC – digital/analogue converter – such as the popular iFi range or the Chord Mojo to really give their audio quality a boost.

For buying advice related to other types of headphone, see our Best wireless headphones test.

Headphones

​Macworld Macworld

Now that the iPhone’s port is USB-C there is a whole new world of wired headphones available for iPhones.

If you have one of the iPhone 15 generation handsets, or a recently purchased iPad Air, iPad Pro, iPad mini or iPad 10th-genertion then at the base of your device is a UBC-C port, rather than Apple’s Lightning port. This is good news if you are on the hunt for a pair of headphones with a wired connection because you now don’t need an adaptor to use USB-C headphones.

There are a number of benefits to using USB-C headphones. Wired connections (generally) deliver better audio quality because the audio doesn’t need to be compressed as much as with wireless, so near-lossless audio can be possible. However, you should still expect expensive, high-quality wireless headphones to sound better than a pair of cheap USB-C headphones. You can only get true lossless playback with a wired connection. The only issue really is that most of the streamers compress the music, so even if your headphones are capable of producing high-quality audio the audio files may not be high quality.

Other benefits of USB-C headphones include faster charging and the ability to play audio and charge at the same time. They get their power from the device so you don’t have to charge them up separately and you don’t need to worry about them running flat (unless your iPhone or iPad does). However, you won’t be able to charge your iPhone at the same time (unless you charge wirelessly).

Some headphones have a DAC onboard that converts the signal to digital and can enable high-res playback. Not all DAC are equal though.

Other benefits include the fact that the headphones are connected by a cable so you are less likely to lose one.

There are disadvantages though. Some people prefer wireless though because you can get cable noise from when the cable rubs on your clothing. Another thing is that wired headphones don’t tend to offer active noise cancellation. If you do want to use wireless headphones with your iPhone we have a separate story, and you may also like our comparison of the AirPods Max vs other over-ear headphones.

Headphones that have USB-C should work with Macs that have USB-C too – although most Macs do still have a standard 3.5mm headphone socket that will work with conventional headphones. One thing to remember is that some headphones use a USB-C connector for charging – but may not allow you to play audio via a USB-C cable, so check on that before buying any new headphones.

Older iPhones and the standard 10.2in iPad feature a Lightning port. There are a small number of manufacturers that still make headphones with a Lightning connector, which are specifically designed for use with the iPhone. However, now that the European Union has forced Apple to move to USB-C for charging iPhones, it’s unlikely that there will be many Lightning-powered headphones available in the future.

There’s one other option as well. You can still use traditional headphones that have a standard 3.5mm audio connector with an iPhone or iPad – although you will need a suitable adaptor or cable that has a 3.5mm connector for the headphones and a Lightning or USB-C connector for your Apple devices. Apple sells 3.5mm headphone jack adaptors with both Lightning connectors for $9/£9 and USB-C for $9/£9.

Other companies sell adaptors too – most notably Belkin, with its Rockstar or Connect Lightning to 3.5mm adaptors ($39.99 at Amazon US or £29 at Amazon UK), which provide multiple ports and connectors so that you can charge your iPhone or iPad and listen to music at the same time. We look at even more adapter options here: Best Lightning headphone adapters for iPhone.

Updated April 2024 to add Sennheiser Accentum Plus and JLab Studio Pro.

Best Lightning and USB-C headphones

1. Sennheiser Accentum

Pros

Good value for money

Impressive battery life

Wired and wireless modes

Cons

No carrying case

No USB-C cable

Best Prices Today:

₹31,327 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless or USB-C

Sennheiser is well-known for high-end headphones such as its Momentum 3 Wireless, but it recently released a much more affordable model called the Accentum. Priced at just £159.99/$179.95, the Accentum’s strong sound quality and impressive battery life make it a great alternative to more expensive rivals such as the Beats Studio Pro (or the wildly overpriced AirPods Max).

Available in black or white, the Accentum is a lightweight and comfortable set of over-ear headphones, weighing 222g and providing thickly padded earpieces and headband for long listening sessions. The lightweight plastic design could, perhaps, be a little sturdier, but the Accentum should still be tough enough to cope with a few bumps in a backpack when you’re out and about (although one sign of cost-cutting is that there’s no carrying case included).

The Accentum provides Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless audio, with support for the AAC codec for Apple devices and aptX HD for the Android side of the fence. There’s also a USB-C connector on the right-hand earpiece, which can be used both for charging and for wired audio connections when required – although, oddly, the cable in the box is USB-C-to-USB-A, so you’ll need to provide your own USB-C cable or adaptor for Macs or iPads that only have USB-C.

Sound quality is very good in both modes. The Accentum digs deep for the slinky bass riff on Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, and really catches the gritty rumble in Cohen’s deeper-than-deep voice. It’s not just about the bass though, and the Accentum is still able to pull out the sharp tap of the snare drum and lends a silky smoothness to the synagogue choir on backing vocals. The noise-cancellation features are something of a mixed bag, though. The Accentum deals very effectively with low-frequency sounds, such as the rumble of an aircraft engine, but it’s less successful at blocking out voices and higher frequencies. And, somewhat strangely, you don’t have the option of turning noise-cancellation completely off – you can only switch between full noise-cancellation or the ‘transparent’ mode that lets in some background noise when you need to hear what’s going on around you. However, the real clincher for many people will be the Accentum’s 50-hour battery life, which is great for a headphone in this price range and leaves most of its rivals trailing in its wake.

2. 1More Penta Driver P50

Pros

Great value for money

Excellent sound quality

Good set of accessories

Cons

No Bluetooth or noise-cancellation

Cables can be a little fiddly

Passive noise-isolation only

Connectivity: USB-C or 3.5mm

1More has been long been a champion of wired earbuds, and was one of the few companies to continue producing models with a Lightning interface long after most of its rivals had switched to Bluetooth instead.

Its latest earbuds, called the Penta Driver P50, are actually a bit of a throwback, as they go back to using a traditional 3.5mm analogue connector, and even have in-line controls for Pause/Play and adjusting volume too. However, 1More also includes a USB-C adaptor as well, so you can use the P50 with Macs, iPads and iPhones that have USB-C (you can use them with Lightning devices too, although you’ll need to buy your own Lightning adaptor).

The wired earpieces are designed to hook back over your ears, which helps to keep them safely in place even when you’re jogging or exercising. There are no less than five sets of silicon eartips in different sizes, and even three sets of foam eartips too (which I much prefer for a firm fit and blocking out background noise), along with handy little carrying pouch too.

Priced at $169.99/£169.99, the P50 is great value for money. Designed very much for demanding audiophiles, the earbuds manage to squeeze five separate driver units into each earpiece – compared to just one for most earbuds in this price range – and have Hi-Res Audio certification so that they can handle the highest quality audio formats available on Apple Music and other streaming services.

And, as you might expect, the penta-driver design sounds great. It launches into the 2018 reissue of Sweet’s glam classic, Ballroom Blitz with a crisp, firm thud on the drums. There’s a warm, smooth tone to Brian Connolly’s lead vocal, but the P50 catches the camp flourish in Steve Priest’s piercing falsetto as he declares – “and she thinks she’s the passionate one!”. The chopping guitar between verses is sharp and gritty, and then the P50 swoops lower for the catchy bass-and-drum break in the middle eight. Some people might prefer wired headphones with a larger over-ear design and extra features such as noise-cancellation, but if you just want a lightweight and affordable set of earbuds that provide high-quality sound when you’re traveling then the P50 is hard to beat.

3. Sennheiser Accentum Plus

Pros

Very good sound quality

50 hour battery

USB-C and 3.5mm audio connectors

Cons

AptX not supported by Apple devices

Can’t turn ANC completely off

Best Prices Today:

₹47,859 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C and 3.5mm (cables included).

Sennheiser continues to shake up its headphone range and, following the launch of its competitively priced Accentum last year, it has now added a slightly more expensive option called the Accentum Plus, priced at $229.95/£199.99. The external design of the Accentum Plus hasn’t changed much, and the original Accentum is still available for $179.95/£159.99, so you should make sure that you choose the right model when buying.

Available in black or white, the Accentum Plus has the same lightweight design, with thickly padded headband and earpieces, and it only weighs 227g, so it’s light enough to wear for long periods at home or when you’re traveling. The extra cost of the Accentum Plus means that you get a sturdy carrying case as well, and the impressive 50-hour battery life makes it a particularly good option for long journeys.

And while the external design of the Accentum Plus hasn’t changed much, it does include a number of new features hidden away on the inside. A new processor chip provides improved noise-cancellation features, which we definitely found more effective than those of the original Accentum, and strong enough to challenge more expensive rivals such as the Beats Studio Pro. Strangely, there’s no simple On/Off control for the noise-cancellation features, but the Sennheiser app provides a slider control so that you can adjust the level of noise-cancellation, or set it to ‘transparent’ mode if you need to hear what’s going on around you.

Bluetooth support has also been updated – it still supports AAC for Apple devices, but now adds aptX Adaptive too (which I like to use with Apple Music on my iPad, along with Sennheiser’s handy little BTD 600 aptX adaptor). There are improvements to the wired features too. Along with the existing USB-C port – which is used for charging and digital audio – there’s a new 3.5mm connector for good old-fashioned analog audio, or for use with a high-quality DAC (digital-to-analog-converter), and USB-C and 3.5mm cables are included in the box too.

The Accentum Plus seems to have a more atmospheric sound as well, creating an eerie rumbling quality for the electronic effects on You Should See Me In A Crown by Billie Eilish, and a powerful pulsing effect for the deep bass that kicks off the chorus. The bass isn’t exaggerated, though, and the Accentum Plus also manages to pick out lighter details very clearly, such as the rapid ticking percussion that gives the track its nervous, manic energy.

4. Apple EarPods

Pros

Feature a Lightning port

Trendy

Decent sound at a low price

Cons

No silicon tips

Not ideal is you need a firm fit

Connectivity: USB-C, Lightning, or 3.5mm models available

Apple stopped including the EarPods with new iPhones years ago – which was annoying for iPhone owners, but great for headphone manufacturers who could step in with their own alternatives. But the Internet says that the cool kids are wearing wired headphones again these days – it’s a retro thing, apparently – and the EarPods are still available for people who prefer a simple and affordable set of wired earbuds.

There are actually three versions available, each costing just $19/£19, with either a USB-C connector, a Lightning connector or a standard 3.5mm audio connector for older iPhones or iPad models that still have ye olde headphone connector. That 3.5mm connector will work with other audio devices too and, of course, a wired connection means that you don’t have to worry about the battery running down in the middle of a long journey.

The design of the EarPods was updated a few years ago, with a more oval-shaped earpiece that is designed to rest more easily inside the ear. However, they still have the same one-size-fits-all design of the original EarPods, with no option to use silicon tips in different sizes, so they’re probably not the best choice for people who need a good, firm fit for working out or jogging around the park.

You’re not going to get Hi-Fi quality headphones at this price, but the wired connection avoids the compromises caused by the limited bandwidth of Bluetooth, so the EarPods still provide respectable sound quality. The bass sounds nice and firm, and our only complaint is that higher frequencies can sound a little thin at times.

5. Belkin SoundForm

Pros

Features a Lightning port

Tangle-free cable

Great sound for low price

Cons

No carry case

Sound quality is dependent on good fit

Best Prices Today:

₹7,482 at Amazon

Connectivity: Lightning or USB-C options

Lightning headphones are normally pretty expensive since manufacturers have to make a special version of their standard headphones that uses the Apple-only connector just for iPhone owners. However, Belkin surprised us by releasing its  SoundForm Headphones With Lightning Connector, priced at $39.99/£29.99. There is also a USB-C version of the SoundForm headphones for $/£14.99.

Despite their low price, the SoundForm headphones – which used to be called Rockstar, but have been rebranded – are sturdily built, with a chunky, flat cable that reduces tangles when you shove them into your pocket.

The inline controls are fairly basic – just a little microphone for voice calls, a couple of buttons for volume adjustment, and a Play/Pause button that controls music and phone calls. And, at this price, there’s not a lot in the way of added extras either – there’s no carrying case, and just three sizes of silicon ear-tips, although that should be enough to provide a good, comfortable fit for most people.

Belkin also says the headphones are water-resistant – although it doesn’t quote an IP rating – so they should be a good, affordable option for jogging around the park or working out at the gym.

Sound quality is a pleasant surprise too, given the low price. The SoundForm delivered the multi-layered bombast of Bohemian Rhapsody with clarity and detail. Smaller, less expensive earbuds such as these often suffer from weak bass, but the SoundForm also managed to dig down to the deep, sinister electronic bass on Prime Evil by The Orb.

Our only concern is that the sound quality is very dependent on getting a good, firm fit inside your ears, but as long as the ear-tips provided by Belkin fit you properly then the SoundForm is the best set of budget-priced Lightning headphones we’ve seen so far. Belkin also makes some handy and affordable Lightning adaptors, which let you use existing 3.5mm headphones with a recent iPhone, or even connect an iPhone to a car music system.

There is also a USB-C version of Belkin’s SoundForm headphones. See: Belkin in-Ear USB-C Headphones w/Mic Control, USB-C Earbuds, $29.99 on Amazon.com.

6. Bowers & Wilkins Px8

Pros

Hi-Fi sound quality

Luxurious design

Bluetooth with AAC, aptX

USB-C and 3.5mm wired connections

Cons

Expensive

A little heavy (320g)

Best Prices Today:

₹1,00,000 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, 3.5mm

Hi-Fi specialists Bowers & Wilkins have been using USB-C to provide lossless and high-res audio with their PX range of headphones since 2017.

It’s a little pricey – at $699/£599 it’s even more expensive than the AirPods Max – but the design and sound quality are impeccable. Available in black or tan, the padded headband and earpieces feel absolutely luxurious (although the leather covering might not suit everyone). The adjustable cast-aluminum armatures look very smart and are sturdy enough to cope with life on the road when you’re traveling, and there’s a hard-shell carrying case included as well.

The 40mm drivers support Bluetooth with support for both Apple’s AAC and aptX Adaptive for Android users. As mentioned, there’s a USB-C interface for wired connections and lossless audio, and a 3.5mm adaptor is included for good old-fashioned analog audio as well. The sound quality is as good as you’d expect from a company with B&W’s hi-fi heritage. There’s an icy clarity to the steel guitar on You Can’t Trust Violence by Low, and the band’s harmonies are smooth as silk, even as they repeat the chilling chorus of “no, you can’t trust violence…”. There’s a nice bass sound too, bouncing along with a firm, infectious rhythm on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish, and contrasting well with the sharp, precise finger snaps that set the pace and drive the track forward.

The noise-cancellation features work very well too, and with 30 hours of battery life when using Bluetooth and noise-cancellation the Px8 is a great option for frequent fliers or commuting on a train. The luxurious design and sound quality of the Px8 are worth every penny, but if you’re on a tight budget then you can still find the previous Px7 S2 model available online with a recent price cut to £299, which makes it a real bargain

7. Moshi Avanti C

Pros

USB-C option

High-quality sound

Variety of colours

Cons

Fairly expensive

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, Lightning or 3.5mm models available

Moshi’s Avanti on-ear headphones are fairly pricey, at around $259/£220. The Moshi Avanti C come with USB-C, but Moshi also makes a second model, called the Avanti LT, that includes both a detachable Lightning cable for older Apple devices and a conventional 3.5mm cable that provides compatibility with a wider range of smartphones and other audio devices.

The headphones themselves are smartly designed, and available in a variety of different colors. The on-ear design means that they’re quite compact, and the earpieces fold inwards so that you can easily slip them into the carrying case that’s provided for when you’re traveling.

They sound great too, thanks to a frequency range of 15Hz – 22kHz. That allows them to provide a really nice, firm bass on dance tracks such as Prime Evil by The Orb, while also reaching right up to the glass-cutting falsetto of Roger Taylor on Queen’s Lap Of The Gods.

High-quality sound, portable design and useful accessories ensure that the Avanti LT headphones can really earn their keep both at home and when you’re traveling – and, unlike most Lightning headphones, you can use them with non-Apple devices too.

An alternative from Moshi you might be interested in is the Moshi Mythro Lightning In-Ear Headphones, which are $99.99 from Walmart. There’s also the Moshi Avanti C On-Ear USB Type-C Headphones, which are $259.95 from Amazon.

8. Master & Dynamic MW75

Pros

Excellent sound quality

Classy design

Noise cancellation features

Cons

Pricey

Snug over-ear fitting

Best Prices Today:

₹1,27,089 at Amazon

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, 3.5mm and 6.3mm adaptors

Master & Dynamic has a reputation for impressive craftsmanship and sound quality of headphones and the MW75 are no exception. Priced at $599/£539, and available in a variety of colors, the MW75 oozes quality, constructed out of lightweight aluminum and tempered glass, and with a padded headband and earpieces wrapped in soft leather (although, of course, the choice of leather may not be to everyone’s taste). The earpieces are relatively small for an ‘over-ear’ headphone, though, and some people might find the fit a bit snug. The little control buttons on the earpieces are also rather small as well.

It’s got a classy design on the inside too, with 40mm drivers that are constructed out of Beryllium – a very rigid material used in many high-end Hi-Fi systems in order to reduce vibration and distortion that might affect the sound quality. The MW75 supports Bluetooth with both AAC for Apple devices and aptX Adaptive for Android, and there’s a USB-C port for wired connections with support for lossless and high-res audio formats up to 24-bit/96KHz.

There’s also a USB-A adaptor included for older computers, a 3.5mm adaptor for analog input, and a 6.3mm adaptor for use with high-end hi-fi equipment. Travelers will also appreciate the smart, fabric-covered hard-shell carrying case and airline adaptor, as well as healthy battery life that lasts for 28 hours when using Bluetooth and noise-cancellation together (or 32 hours without noise-cancellation).

The noise-cancellation features are very effective and, like most headphones these days, the MW75 includes an ambient mode that lets in some of the background noise when required. However, there’s also an additional ‘voice’ mode that helps to pick out people’s voices if you’re in an office or perhaps waiting for a flight announcement in an airport.

But, as always, the sound quality is key, and the MW75 provides excellent clarity and detail right across the spectrum. It provides a deep, ominous rumble for the electronic bass on Max Richter’s Shadow Journal, but it doesn’t allow the bass to overwhelm the piercing clarity of the violin, or the gentle ambient sound-cloud of electronic loops that swirl lightly through the air.

9. Austrian Audio Hi-X25BT

Pros

Includes USB-C-to-3.5m, USB-C and USB-A cables

Great sound quality

30 hour battery life

Cons

Not great as Bluetooth headphones

Wireless mode doesn’t support AAC

Connectivity: Wireless or USB-C

Austrian Audio is a well-known name in Hi-Fi circles, making high-end headphones and microphones for musicians and audiophiles. However, it also makes some more affordable headphones, such as the Hi-X25BT, which provides impressive sound quality for a very affordable $179/£135.

As the name suggests, the Hi-X25BT does include Bluetooth to provide a wireless option when required, with an impressive 30 hours of battery life in Bluetooth mode. It’s not at its best with Bluetooth, though, as it doesn’t support either Apple’s AAC or AptX for Android, relying on the more basic SBC codec for wireless audio.

The emphasis, therefore, is more on using the Hi-X25BT as a set of wired headphones via its USB-C connector. Austrian includes two cables with the headphones, with a USB-C-to-3.5mm connector that provides standard analogue audio, or a straightforward USB-C cable that provides digital audio from an iPad, Mac or other devices that have USB-C. There’s also a USB-A adaptor included too, and I had no trouble using the Hi-X25BT with both USB-A and 3.5mm connections on my ageing office iMac. I also found a Lightning audio adaptor from Belkin in my desk draw, which allowed me to use the Hi-X25BT with a Lightning connection on my iPhone as well – although, of course, this isn’t included with the headphones, so you’d need to provide your own adaptor for an iPhone.

And, as you’d expect from a company with Austrian’s Hi-Fi background, the sound quality is great, thanks to 40mm drivers with impressive 12Hz – 24KHz frequency response. The cymbal crash that starts Blondie’s Rapture rings out crisp and clear, with a loose relaxed feel on the jangling rhythm guitar. The song’s bouncing bass line works a treat too, and never gets lost in the mix as can sometimes happen with less precise headphones.

10. JLab Studio Pro ANC

Pros

Low price

Lightweight, comfortable fit

3.5mm adaptor included

Cons

No app

Modest noise-cancellation

No support for AAC

Connectivity: Wireless, USB-C, USB-C-to-3.5mm adapterincluded

Active noise-cancellation (ANC) is a common feature on many headphones and earbuds these days, but it still tends to push the price up a bit, with most noise-canceling headphones costing at least $150/£150, while some of the better models can cost twice that price. In contrast, JLabs’ Studio Pro ANC provides a basic level of noise cancellation for just $99.99/£99.99.

The Studio Pro is neatly designed, with hinged earpieces that fold flat when you’re traveling, with a padded fabric carrying pouch also included. The earpieces and headband are padded with foam, and the Studio Pro only weighs 222g, so it’s light enough to wear all day when you’re out and about. Battery life is good too, quoted at a maximum of 45 hours, or 43 hours when using noise-cancellation.

The low price does involve some compromises though – most notably on the Bluetooth side of the fence, as the Studio Pro only supports the basic SBC codec, with no support for either AAC or aptX. There isn’t even an app to go with it, so you have to experiment with the button controls on the right-hand earpiece to figure out how to select the different noise-cancellation modes or select one of the EQ presets.

This means that sound quality when using Bluetooth is relatively modest – it’s clear enough but sounds a little distant and lacks immediacy. But, of course, our focus here is on wired headphones, and the USB-C port on the Studio Pro can be used for both charging and to provide a wired connection (with a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor also included). Switching to a wired connection on my MacBook Pro improved the sound quality quite noticeably.

The Studio Pro might not win any awards, but there’s a smooth, warm tone to Madonna’s voice on Frozen, and a delicate touch to the electronic effects that float through the air. There’s also a nice contrast between the slow swaying rhythm of the strings and the sharp, dramatic percussion that ricochets from side to side across the headphones.

I’m pleased to find that the noise-cancellation features work in both Bluetooth and wired modes, but the Studio Pro only provides modest noise-cancellation and, in particular, it tends to let through quite a lot of higher-frequency sounds. If you want really effective noise-cancellation for long journeys by train or plane then there are more expensive headphones available that will be suitable. Even so, the Studio Pro will still be a good, affordable option for general use when you’re wandering around town – especially if you stick with its wired mode to get the best sound quality.

Recommended

These headphones that have previously been in this chart. You may be able to get a good deal on them.

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

Best Prices Today:

₹26,990 at Amazon

Can I just use an adapter?

If you prefer to stick with an existing set of 3.5mm wired headphones that you really like then it is possible to buy an adapter. And, in fact, Apple did include a Lightning adapter with the iPhone 7, 8 and X when they were first launched. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case with current iPhones.

You can still buy Apple’s Lightning To 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter for £9/$9 from the Apple Store, but it’s also possible to buy non-Apple alternatives from audio specialists, such as Fiio’s i1, which provides superior sound quality, but costs around £69. Some manufacturers, such as Audeze and Bowers & Wilkins also make their own Lightning cables for use with their own headphones.

Serious audiophiles can also opt for a portable DAC – digital/analogue converter – such as the popular iFi range or the Chord Mojo to really give their audio quality a boost.

For buying advice related to other types of headphone, see our Best wireless headphones test.

Headphones 

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