Quick Look: Libratone Q Adapt USB-C Earphones

Posted on April 13, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android, Music + Videos with 32 Comments

Quick Look: Libratone Q Adapt USB-C Earphones

Faced with the unacceptable, I’m trying to solve my Pixel audio issues the way an Apple user would. By throwing even more money at it.

I know. I’m not proud of myself here at all. But I need things to just work. If this does the trick, so be it.

If you’re not familiar with my Pixel Problem ™, it goes like this: After roundly mocking Apple for removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 in 2016, Google in 2017 shamelessly and hypocritically did the same a year later with the Pixel 2.

But if the intervening year has taught me anything, it’s that Apple got one thing right that continues to escape Google: Yes, you need a dongle to use normal headphones—like my beloved Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic noise-canceling headphones—with the iPhone 7 and newer iPhones. But that dongle just works, every single time, and without any issues big or small.

With the Pixel 2 XL I purchased in November 2017, nothing worked.

The USB-C dongle that Google packaged with the phone worked intermittently from the get-go, and I could lose the audio pass-through simply by moving it around. Then, audio over USB eventually stopped working entirely. I tested this with several different dongles and with USB-C headphones. It was dead.

The solution, of course, was to exchange my Pixel 2 XL for another unit. Which I did. And sure enough, this solved the audio-over-USB-C issue. Audio now works.

It just doesn’t work well with normal headphones. In particular, with my Bose noise-canceling headphones. There is a jarring and loud burst of static every time I manually switch to another song, podcast, or other content. And. It. Is. Irritating.

Leo told me on Windows Weekly that this problem was common to USB-C. Meaning that requiring a dongle on an Android phone is a huge customer experience faux pas in a way that it is not on an iPhone. Where this just works correctly.

I need my Bose. I rely on them on flights, busses, and while walking.

Or so I thought. I found out about the Libratone Q Adapt USB-C Earphones, which are a “made for Google” adaptation of a similar pair of headphones that the firm makes in Lightning form for Apple users.

The Libratone headphones cost $150, so they’re not cheap. But that’s still $100 less than the Bose I was using.

They are USB-C-based, so they will never work with any Apple devices. This kind of limitation troubles me, as I prefer universal compatibility as used to be the case with normal headphones. But I listen to music, audiobooks, and podcasts on Android now. And Android is USB-C.

The “made for Google” bit was further troubling, and for the same reason: Would they work on other Android phones, or just on Pixels? A quick test gives mixed results: They appear to work fine with the Samsung Galaxy S9+, but not with the OnePlus 5T. Sigh. That makes it hard to recommend these things generally. There’s no way to know which handsets are compatible.

One other thing I sort of don’t like is the need for an app which can be used to customize “soundspaces” and a handful of compatible music apps. Eh.

But the headphones do have some advantages over the Bose, too. Aside from the price, they are powered by the phone over USB-C, so they never need to be charged.

The Libratone Q Adapt USB-C come with a variety of tips to match your ear, so I’ll need to experiment again with that. They utilize a no-tangle cord material that I like. (It reminds me of some premium Zune headphones I once had.)

And it even offers various noise-canceling routines (or CityMix noise control levels, as it calls it) so you can customize the sound. There are on-cable controls for volume, Play/Pause, and CityMix.

I’ll need to use these headphones on a plane to see how well they really work. And I’ll obviously continue bringing the Bose, at least for now, until I’m sure. But I hope this solves my problem.


Tagged with , ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (32)

32 responses to “Quick Look: Libratone Q Adapt USB-C Earphones”

  1. Elindalyne

    This is the dystopian reality we live in. Why did Apple have to have "courage"?

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Elindalyne: Things change all the time. When was the last time you used a floppie, 5.25 or 3.5? How many laptops still have a CD/DVD drive? Serial/parallel ports? USB has supplanted most of those with thumb drives and portable storage. Still you can get external floppies, DVD drives, serial adapters, just as you can get an adapter for your headphones, or use wireless options. The adoption of new technologies is often hampered by the availability of older options. Someone has to go first to push the envelope.
      The issue here is that Apple did it 'right'. When they eliminated the headphone jack they supplied numerous options that worked. Lightning earbuds in the box, an adapter that works, and more at a decent price. They offered good BT options that took advantaged of advanced features. The Android crowd just jumped on it too fast. They weren't ready. That's not Apple's fault.

      • AnOldAmigaUser

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Apple may have "done it right" in that their dongle just works, but is was still a stupid move. There are a myriad of devices in many categories that use the S/PDIF stereo plug, and almost everyone has one or more sets of headphones that they use on these different devices.

        There was no reason not to continue using it. It was not "courage"; it was hubris.

  2. pbruynzeel

    If these don't work you could give the Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones a try. They are expensive but sound is great and are wireless as well work with USB C or via normal headphone jack.

  3. ZippyNH

    Waiting for the final review...

    Looked at this pair...now getting a million advertisements for them...but nervous they will work on my Pixel 2 xl, but not my Samsung tablet with a usb-c...

    Like the idea of wired...better sound, no batteries, no pairing...

    But if it doesn't work on EVERYTHING..

    becomes an $$$ item to carry....

  4. nbplopes

    "Faced with the unacceptable, I’m trying to solve my Pixel audio issues the way an Apple user would. By throwing even more money at it."

    In 2017:

    May be one day you can write an article around how can a tech company such as Apple have 38%-44% gross profit margin and be considered greedy and a company like MS have 61%-63% plus gross profit margin and be considered a "champion for the people". By the way just for curiosity:

    Alphabet: 55%-65%.

    Facebook: 86%-87%.

    Amazon: 21%-24%

    Lenovo: 13%

    HP: 18%-19%

    Samsung: 44%-46%

    Yes its not longer 2005 when MS had 85% gross profit margin. Now 61%, caos total caos. The wonders of perception. We an clearly see who gets the better slice of the cake, OEM's or Microsoft/Google. Apple is right there in the middle, they build platform and make the devices for that platform. No wonder Nadella is not interested in that.

    No wonder Balmer when showed interest in that was "pushed" aside.

    Funny enough when someone sees $300 Acer machine (Acer runs a business with 6%-10% gross profit margin) in the shop credits MS or Google for such a low price.

    The reason why they have such amount of profit its because they are selling like crazy. Not because they relative profit per sale taking everything into consideration is higher than anyone else in the business, case in case MS or Google.

  5. GT Tecolotecreek

    Reminds me of a saying, stupid is as stupid does.

    Time to dump the sales failure know as Pigel 2 and use your S9 or iPhone X.

    Or maybe start a series of reviews on all the USB headphone that don't work with the Pigel 2.

  6. PaulMD

    Have had Bose QC 35 noise cancelling for over a year now and they've worked flawlessly on many a long flight (Android/IOS/Win all work with no issue). Battery life is fantastic and they hold their charge excellently. Never been caught short. They also have version 2, now made specifically for Google (though just for assistant)

  7. jimchamplin

    Crackly popping audio is a problem “common to USB-C”? Good to know that this high quality and absolutely not confusingly fragmented collection of standards which all use this same connector in pursuit of thinness is the future.

    I for one one look forward to fiddly and mediocre experiences in the coming years!

  8. James Wilson

    My Bose QC15 headphones are still going strong but I suspect when I'm next in the market, it will be wireless. I need noise cancelling though as I travel a lot and it makes a huge difference cutting out engine noise / peoples conversations etc. It may have to be another pair of Bose unless there is something as good as these for less money - however, my motto is- if you use something often (e.g. daily), it's worth spending the money on it.

  9. dcdevito

    If or when the iPhone retakes the mobile camera crown, I'm going back to an iPhone.

    And Apple CarPlay must allow Waze. That too.

  10. PincasX

    Why not wireless headphones? It's kind of perplexing.

    • ZippyNH

      Battery life on a long flight...and one more item to charge, and have the small battery you can't change fail... rendering a $$$ item worthless.
      A good pair of ANR headphones can last years...
      My wife's BOSE first gen headphones still work great...just too bulky...and frankly we're overpriced.
      In reply to PincasX:

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to PincasX:

      In addition to charging there's also the problem of worse sound quality and the problems of more complexity and compatibility issues with putting the D/A converter and a wireless transceiver in each earpiece that has to be compatible with changing standards in the handset.

    • bbennett40

      In reply to PincasX:

      I would assume the need to charge them is the issue.

  11. Simard57

    Wouldn't a bluetooth wireless adapter for the bose be an option. Then you remain untethered to the phone.

  12. Bats

    I don't know why in this day of age people are still walking around with wired headphones. Wireless is better. I have been using Wireless (bluetooth) for several years now, and I prefer it much better than wired. Wired headphones/earbuds are annoying, especially when you are jogging and the wire is in your way or your arms accidentally knock them off your ear. You don't get that problem with wireless headset. The only way to prevent any mishaps from a wired headset is if you wear the wire under your shirt. 

    I have had several wireless headsets. All of them, produce great sound. However, not all of them are comfortable to wear. The two Jaybirds I own are not very comfortable. My oldest one, Motorola S305 is my favorite because it's very easy to control because I am so used to it. My Google Pixel Buds are great and extremely easy to use. It last me 5 hours at one time, despite people who reviewed it said it would only last 3-4. I didn't even put it back in the storage case to recharge. However, the best sounding and most expensive wireless ear buds I own are the B&O Beoplay e8. These buds are amazing. They not only cancel outside sound, but the music quality is audiophile grade.  

    All in all, the Google Pixel buds come with me when I travel. People know about these buds and Google Translate, right? The Beoplay e8 is my general purpose headset that I use (for desktop computing, walking around, etc...) Both the Google and the B&O are great for the gym because they are sweatproof and can provide me 12 hours of battery life. Lastly the Motorola S305, they're my commute to work headset, which is pretty much, everyday.

    Look, the future of headphones or anything is wireless. Why fight it? LOL...I even knew this even before Apple figured it out. They probably got the idea and stole the tech from Jaybirds and ran with it. In this world we live in, do people still have wired phones in their homes? Particularly the ones with the round circular dial? How about Internet? Are people still using ethernet cable throughout the house? (LOL). 

    Wireless = Forward

    Wired = Backward

  13. SvenJ

    "but not with the OnePlus 5T." Does the OnePlus 5T have a headphone jack? My Pixel has a headphone jack and USB-C headphones don't work with it either. Seems like on Android devices, USB-C audio is only provisioned if you don't have a jack. My iPhone 6 actually does work with the lightning headphones, even though it has a headphone jack. Seems lightning audio has been around way longer than the demise of the jack. Apple iPhone charge docks have had headphone out jacks for some time.

    • wunderbar

      In reply to SvenJ:

      This isn't true. In the same article it is clearly stated the work with the S9+, which does have a headphone jack.

      the OEM simply has to properly support USB-C audio. There are a number of phones that do. Looks like OnePlus chooses not to.

  14. rameshthanikodi

    I can't believe headphones are a fucking issue in 2018. This is not progress, this is going backwards.

  15. Travis

    Paul if you use the s9+ as your daily driver you will save $150 and get to use your Bose headphones!

  16. cornholio

    I assume using bluetooth headphones are not an option? I'm a big fan of both:



  17. JerryH

    I hope these work out for you Paul! I know we all have different use cases and different needs. So far my audio needs on the Pixel 2 XL have been met by the BT based Trex Titaniums. But I don't listen to audiobooks. I mostly use these while out for a walk in the neighborhood. And I cannot claim they are perfect either. Android still seems to struggle sometimes to get consistent audio out over BT and ever once in a while they stutter like what you would expect if the phone processor was going full out and didn't have enough resources to devote to audio. But for my minimal needs they work. Hopefully these Libratones will meet your needs.

  18. thesmartestonearth

    Such a deep review

    Thurrott always provide a lot, you should check out more about truly wireless earphones.