I’m a headphone guy. To be honest, I’m actually a music guy, and the headphones are the way you get to the music, so….I’m a headphone guy. I’ve owned more pairs than I care to count (and certainly more than my wife would want me to have owned) but after picking up a Pixel 2 XL recently, I realized I was going to have to either start living the #donglelife (since the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL have no headphone jack) or find a decent set of wired USB type C headphones.
This wasn’t as easy as it might sound. For while any old Earpods will do in a pinch for podcasts and short listening sessions WITH a headphone jack, without one – there are fewer alternatives. So since I actually care about the quality of music I’m getting into my ears, I turned to Google for an answer. The Google Store now sells the Libratone QAdapt headphones for a retail price of $149. I got them to review, so let’s discuss whether or not they are worth it.
First off, let me start by saying, most people will have 3 choices before deciding to make any purchase at all: 1) are you okay living the #donglelife and just using the (included) USB type C to 3.5mm adapter for your existing wired headphones, 2) go truly wireless and get some Bluetooth wireless headphones, or 3) find some wired USB type C headphones. Clearly if you’re the kind of person who would opt for either of the first two options, you probably don’t need to read the rest of this review. But if you might be in interested in option 3 (such as I was) – then let’s dive in to what makes the QAdapt heapdhones a compelling option.
In the interest of transparancy, I am reviewing the USB Type C version of these, advertised as being “Made for Google” – not the headphones by the same name that are for iPhones that have a lightning connector. So don’t be fooled into buying the wrong ones! But now, on to the build of these things.
The ear buds are a rounded bulb made of plastic that fit naturally into the crook of my ears without any extra effort or adjustment. I found them to be quite comfortable right out of the box with the stock tips on them. The tips are the standard silicon ones, but there are a total of 4 different sizes to choose from, and you also get the silicon “wings” that you can fit onto them as well, to try to get the right fit for you. In fact, over the time I’ve used them, there were moments I forgot they were even there. Part of that was the fit, the other part was the noise cancellation (more on that below) The cable is a nice braided affair, just shy of 4 feet long, that tends to resist tangling more than your average exposed cable, although I found I did still have a little bit of twisting going on from time to time.
The 4 button remote has volume up/down controls (that actually work on an Android phone, huzzah!) as well as a play/pause button that doubles as an answer/end calling button, and the last button is what activates the “adjustable noise cancellation” feature. Its a simple and easy to use layout, although the one puzzling thing I found was that the standard left/right configuration puts the remote face down, and not face up. If I’m walking with these headphones in, when I look down at the remote, I see the Libratone logo shield on the back of the remote, and not the controls themselves. This seemed an odd (if very marketing focused) choice, and was one of the only nitpicks I had with these heapdhones in terms of layout. The USB type C connector is a matte silver finish (on the white variant) and fits well, if the tiniest bit loosely. I will always miss the snugness of the snap of a connector locking into a 3.5mm headphone jack, but this USB type C connection is solid and fits fine for daily use. These headphones aren’t cheap, and the build quality matches the price point well I’d say.
So the two biggest features that would concern most buyers of these headphones are the fact that they run off just the USB type C connection, and the Libratone “adjustable noise cancellation” that I mentioned before. They also should fit a wide variety of ear canal sizes (as I’d noted up above) but lets focus on the first 2 for a moment.
If your phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack any longer, you can get audio out from the USB type C port (as well as use it for charging your phone) and that’s an okay compromise. I don’t know what your options would be if you wanted to charge your phone AND listen to music, but barring that particular scenario, these headphones will do what they should do – which is delivery a quality audio experience to your ears via the USB port.
And the sound quailty is well above average for in-ear buds. They rival the sound quality of the Beats Studio Wireless cans I typically use and that’s no easy feat considering the size and price differences between the two headsets. You get the presence of bass with a clear dose of mids and highs, and while the companion Libratone app for Android will allow you to select a Neutral, Bass Boost, or Treble Boost sound siganture, I found the Neutral setting to be the best at reproducing the original sound of the music, whether listening to Adele’s “When We Were Young” or The Chainsmokers “Don’t Let Me Down” – both were equally as good in their own way.
Now one of the other features Libratone advertises is their Adjustable Noice Cancellation (or ANC) which aims to give you a controllable mix of both music input as well as ambient noise. Depending on your task or job and environment at the time, you may want to dial either up or down and these earbuds allow you to do just that. In my time with them I found the ANC to be impressive, if not as perfect as a set of over ear cans might approach. No in ear headphone is going to seal out all of the ambient noise, but when testing in a lunchroom of people, I found the QAdapt to do a fine job of dropping out the background at each of the different 4 levels, and that alone probably justifies the price point for some folks. Commuters, people who regular take public transit or live in noisy city locations, or those working in louder office environments and don’t need to hear the world around them as part of their duties would likely benefit from these headphones. While none of those necessary fit into my use case, I did notice a big difference with the ANC turned it – it simply allowed me to focus more on my listening experience.
I truly found myself torn on what I consider the value of these earbuds (they come in both black and white colors) from Libratone. On the one hand, I really enjoyed them (both the comfort and audio experience both) to the point where I’d easily say they are some of the best headphones I’ve ever owned. On the other hand, the $149 price point is pretty steep, considering the phone I just purchased already retails for a great deal of money and I don’t necessarily consider having to spend more money just to enjoy something like listening to music on it a good deal. Now again, you can just live your #donglelife and move on, and for some that’s perfectly okay. Or use the same amount of money and get some Bluetooth headphones, of which there are many.
Personally, I enjoy the increased quality of sound from a wired pair of headphones (and will use my dongle gladly on my V-Moda M100s for that reason) but I think ultimately, these QAdapt headphones from Libratone do enough to justify their higher price point. Add up the sound quality and the Adaptive Noise Cancellation and you got yourself a winner. They also look and feel like they will last you for as long as you have your phone. And considering that the headphone jack probably isn’t coming back anytime soon, that might be a good long while. Another link of where to buy them from Google is below. Thanks for reading!