Table of Contents
- Advantages of USB-C connector and USB-C headphones
- Advantages of USB Type-C connector
- Potential Advantages Of USB-C Headphones
- Best USB-C Headphones – Comparison Table
- Smartphones and headphones with USB-C port
- 1. LIBRATONE Q ADAPT USB-C In-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones made for Google USB-C Enabled Devices
- 2. HTC USonic USB Type C Headphones
- 3. Xiaomi Mi ANC Earphones Hybrid USB Type-C
- 4. Essential HD USB-C Noise Isolating Earphones
- 5. Razer Hammerhead USB-C – Digital Gaming & Music In-Ear Headset
- 6. JBL Reflect Aware C in-ear Sport Headphones with ANC
- USB-C to 3.5mm Dongles
- 1. Google USB-C to 3.5mm Adapter
- 2. Razer Phone USB-C to 3.5MM Adapter Cable
- 3. AirsFish Type-C to 3.5mm (F) Stereo Adapter
- 4. CHOOER USB-C to 3.5mm (F) Audio Headphone Adapter
- 5. Sinool USB-C to 3.5mm Headphone Adapter
- 6. Faracent 3.5mm to USB-C adapter
- USB-C Headphones VS Traditional 3.5mm Headphones
- USB-C VS Lightning Headphones
- Greatest Disadvantages of USB-C Headphones
- What to Do If You Don’t Want to Use USB-C Headphones but You Have a Phone With USB-C Connector?
In case you have one of those devices (phones, tablets, notebooks) with USB Type C port (or ports) and without universal 3.5mm audio jack, you are going to need either USB Type-C to 3.5mm (F) adapter to make your old headphones compatible with your new device or a completely new pair of USB-C headphones. If you want a pair of new USB-C headphones, you’ve come to the right place. Our article will provide you with all the necessary info on USB Type-C connectors and USB-C headphones. We are going to talk about all the advantages and disadvantages of USB-C headphones (and USB Type-C ports in general), compare them to old-school 3.5mm headphones and Lightning headphones and give you our opinion on currently available USB-C headphones. We have also made a list of 6 best USB-C headphones in 2020 and you can find it just after this short introduction. Read our reviews and find out everything you need to know about all those popular USB-C headphones on the market.
USB Type-C port was released in 2014 and it is designed to be a universal multipurpose port that would replace all other ports on your devices. The idea is to remove all the other USB Type-A, USB Type-B (mini, micro, etc.), charging ports, even display ports (VGA, HDMI) and replace them all with much smaller USB Type-C connectors. Each of these USB Type-C ports can be used for charging, data transfer, or for video output.
USB Type-C ports are still not as popular as Type-A or Type-B or micro USB ports but it is made to be future-proof and there will be more and more devices with this kind of port in the future. The people in charge of development of USB standard will use USB Type-C design and shape for all the future upgrades and that will force all the smartphone, notebook, and PC manufacturers to make a transition to USB-C ports and ditch all the others (USB-A, USB Type B, 3.5mm audio ports, HDMI, VGA, proprietary charging ports, maybe even Lightning ports).
It’s been only four years, and it will take a few more but there is no doubt that we are going through a transition to USB-C. The final goal is having one connector type and one type of cable that would be compatible with all of your devices. This transition is going to be slow and that’s why all the devices with USB-C connectors are compatible with older devices with Type-A and Type-B connectors. You can’t connect them directly to the USB-C port (they are shaped differently) but if you buy an adapter (USB-C to USB-A or some other), you will be able to use your old devices with your new equipment. Ideally, in 10 years or so, all the devices will have USB-C port and it will become the only and universal port for all the purposes.
Advantages of USB-C connector and USB-C headphones
The USB-C connection is designed to be better and more functional than any other connection on your host or peripheral devices. USB-C port is much smaller than Type-A or Type-B ports, it’s symmetrical (reversible), it allows faster and bi-directional charging, and it supports faster data transfer. USB-C connectors use USB 3.1 interface which is backward compatible with previous USB versions. In theory, USB-C headphones could also offer better sound quality, they could offer more control over playback (regulating bass and treble levels) and they could even be multipurpose devices (they could, for example, measure your pulse and send that info to your phone while playing the music).
Advantages of USB Type-C connector
Smaller and Symmetrical (Reversible)
USB-C connector is much smaller (8.3×2.5mm) than Type-A connector and some type-B connectors. It is similar, in terms of size, to micro USB port that you can find on many Android phones. Micro USB port can be used for charging and data transfer. USB-C port can be used for charging and data transfer, too but it can also be used as an audio port. This gives the opportunity to all the smartphone manufacturers to ditch micro USB port along with 3.5mm headphone jack, replace them with only one port and save some space in the process. They can use that space to put larger batteries or to make phones thinner.
Unlike micro USB (or any Type-A and Type-B) port, USB-C is symmetrical (reversible). This is small but important convenience. With USB-C connector, there is no wrong way of plugging in USB-C cable. You will plug it in the right way the first time, every time.
Fast Charging and Bidirectional Charging
Other USB ports allow charging, too but the process is much faster with USB-C. Compared to micro USB, charging via USB-C is up to 3 times faster.
USB-C also enables bidirectional charging which means that two devices connected via USB-C cable can send and/or receive power. For example, you can connect your phone to your notebook via USB-C cable and send power from notebook to your phone but you can also send power from your phone and charge your notebook.
It Enables Faster Data Transfer
USB Type-C connectors feature USB 3.1 interface which enables much greater speeds than micro USB connectors or even Lightning connectors. Still, USB-C and USB 3.1 are not synonyms and you will find some USB-C connectors with USB 2.0 interface and some devices on the market do have USB-C with USB 2.0. The reason is simple – it’s much cheaper option.
It Could Replace HDMI, mini HDMI, micro HDMI, and VGA ports in the future
USB-C has the potential to output video in 8K resolution. You can use your phone or tablet with USB-C port to output video to a monitor or TV with HDMI input via USB-C to HDMI cable. We might see manufacturers ditching mini HDMI port on tablets or micro HDMI port on smartphones and replacing it with USB-C in the near future. The thing is a bit more complicated with standard (Type-A) HDMI port since HDMI mode for USB-C connection supports HDMI 1.4 (not HDMI 2.0b).
It is Backward Compatible
USB-C connectors are shaped differently than Type-A or Type-B USB connectors, but any device with Type-A or Type-B USB port can be connected to USB-C device via dongle (adapter) because their interfaces (USB3.1, USB3.0, USB2.0) are compatible. So, you will be able to connect your Android phone with a micro USB port to your notebook (Chromebook Pixel) with USB-C port through micro USB to USB-C dongle.
Potential Advantages Of USB-C Headphones
Even though it’s been 4 years since the introduction of UBS-C, you won’t find many USB-C headphones on the market. The industry is kind of slow when it comes to implementation of USB-C connectors in headphones. Today’s USB-C headphones are definitely not perfect and they haven’t reached the full potential yet. We can even say that they are nowhere near traditional headphones in terms of sound quality. But they could be much better and we are going to list some potential advantages of USB-C headphones.
Better Sound Quality
Unlike traditional headphones, USB-C connection enables transfer of a digital signal to the headphones. 3.5mm connectors transfer only analog signal. But, there’s a catch. You see, people perceive sound as a wave and sound signal has to be analog in order for us to hear it. When using old-school headphones digital sound signal is transformed in your phone (thanks to a small chip called DAC – Digital to Analog Converter) and then travels through 3.5mm jack, through the cable, to the headphones, and then into your ear. When using USB-C headphones, there is no need to transform the signal in your phone and digital signal can go through the USB-C connector, through the cable, and to the headphones but it has to be converted at some point (there is usually a small built-in DAC inside each headphone/earbud). The sound quality will depend on DAC quality – if poor quality DAC is built into the headphones, you can’t expect great sound. So, it’s not all that simple, it’s not only digital VS analog. The fact that USB-C connectors can pass digital audio signal doesn’t mean anything if you have poor built-in DAC. But, in case you have high-quality DACs built into the headphones, you will get hi-fi audio.
USB-C headphones could be so much more than a simple device for listening to music. With a small piece of additional software, these headphones could track your pulse, your blood pressure, and many other things and send all that info to your phone. Theoretically, USB-C headphones could improve your listening experience by allowing you to control EQ modes, adjust bass and treble levels, etc. None of the currently available headphones can do that at the moment and these are all potential advantages but it is possible and it’s something you can expect in the future. We just need faster development and implementation of USB-C standard and more audio industry leaders involved in this process. There are only three big companies that tried to make USB-C headphones – JBL, Libratone, and Razer, and each of these companies made only one model of USB-C headphones (JBL Reflect Aware, Libratone Q ADAPT, and Razer Hammerhead).
USB-C headphones don’t need battery
Unlike traditional headphones, USB-C headphones with ANC technology don’t really need an external battery in order to work. They can draw all the power they need from your phone and that makes them lighter and less bulky than traditional headphone models.
Best USB-C Headphones – Comparison Table
|Best USB-C Headphones||Rating||Price||Review|
|Libratone Q||3.4||Check Price||Read Review|
|HTC Usonic||4.4||Check Price||Read Review|
|Xiaomi Mi||3.6||Check Price||Read Review|
|Essential HD||3.5||Check Price||Read Review|
|Razer Hammerhead||3.0||Check Price||Read Review|
|JBL Reflect Aware||3.0||Check Price||Read Review|
When you click on “Check Price” you will be redirected to Amazon.
Smartphones and headphones with USB-C port
Smartphones with USB-C port appeared later that year. The first one was Le1 made by Chinese phone manufacturer LeTV. Le1 had USB-C charging port but they didn’t ditch 3.5mm audio jack since USB-C headphones didn’t exist at the moment. After LeTV, many other smartphone manufacturers started implementing USB-C. During the last three years, we’ve seen almost one hundred different USB-C smartphones and tablets made by various manufacturers – Google released Google Pixel and Pixel 2XL (also Nexus 5X and 6P), Samsung released Galaxy S8 and Note8 (also S9 and S9+ and A3, A5, A7), LG released a few V models like V20, V30, V30S (also G5 and G6), Nokia released Nokia 8 Sirocco and Lumia 950, HTC released HTC Ultra, HTC 10, and U11, Motorola released bunch of models like Moto Z, Moto X4, and Z2 Play, HUAWEI released P9, Mate 9, and Honor 8, Sony released Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, ASUS released ZenFone 5, OnePlus released One Plus 5, Xiaomi came up with Mi5, Mi6, and Mi Mix. We can see the number of devices with USB-C ports increasing every day.
On the other hand, the situation with USB-C headphones is not the same. The first USB-C headphones were JBL’s Reflect Aware (made in cooperation with HTC). They were released in August 2016 and since then, we’ve seen not more than a few dozens of different USB-C headphone models. Libratone made their Q-ADAPT USB-C Noise Cancelling headphones in cooperation with Google (these are made for Google’s devices exclusively – Google Pixel 2 and 2XL), and Razer made Razer Hammerhead earbuds for Razer Phone. Some smartphone manufacturers (like HTC and Xiaomi) made their own USB-C headphones (HTC U Sonic and Xiaomi Mi ANC headphones). There are some more generic USB-C headphone models but most of them are really bad. You should know that even those more expensive models (Q ADAPT, JBL Reflect Aware, Razer Hammerhead) don’t really offer perfect listening experience and their performance doesn’t really match the price. That’s why many customers buy USB-C to 3.5mm dongles and use traditional instead of USB-C headphones or buy Bluetooth headphones.
In case you really want to have your own pair of USB-C headphones for your USB-C smartphone, we’ve made a list of 6 best USB-C headphones in 2020 for you. Some of them are expensive and some are really cheap so there will be something for everyone. If you are on a budget, you can buy one of those generic brands (we don’t recommend this), and if you can spend more money (up to $100), there are Razer hammerhead, Essential HD, JBL Reflect Aware, and Libratone Q ADAPT. One thing you have to pay attention to is compatibility. Some of these headphones are compatible with a limited number of devices (not with all of them) and you have to check if your phone, tablet, or notebook is compatible with a specific pair of headphones you want to buy.
This is our selection of 6 best USB-C headphones in 2020
1. LIBRATONE Q ADAPT USB-C In-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones made for Google USB-C Enabled Devices
There are only a few decent USB-C headphone models on the market and Libratone Q ADAPT headphones are among them. They are made in cooperation with Google for Google’s Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel XL, and Pixel 2XL and you will experience their full potential only if you use them with Google products. They will work with other popular brands using USB-C connection but there are some limitations and functionality issues. In terms of sound quality and performance, at least when Google devices are concerned, these are the best USB-C headphones on the market in 2020. On the negative side, they seem a bit too expensive (they cost almost $120).
What’s in the box?
Q ADAPT USB-C in-ear headphones come in a nice premium packaging (considering the price, that’s exactly what we expected). Inside a small round box, you will find your Q ADAPT headphones, 4 pairs of different-sized silicone ear tips (S, M, L, Standard), 1 pair of in-ear hooks for sports (or sports flanges as LIBRATONE calls them), small carrying pouch, and user manual.
The headphones are available in two colors – black and white. They weigh 0.7 ounces and cable is 46.5 inches long. Earpieces look kind of bulky but they are surprisingly comfortable and light. The cable is braided and tangle-free. There is a built-in mic with noise suppression technology near the left earpiece. There are built-in controls with four buttons on the cable. You can use these controls to activate ANC and choose between different ANC levels, play/pause the music or answer/end calls (only on Google devices), adjust the volume, or activate Google Assistant.
Inside each earbud, there are 11.8mm drivers. Their frequency response spans from 20Hz to 20KHz, and their sensitivity is 104dB.
Things we like
Q ADAPT headphones look quite stylish and elegant. The earpieces are maybe just a little bit bulky but they don’t spoil the impression. Both versions are equally sleek – we like more the white model but it’s all up to your preferences.
The headphones are quite sturdy. The earpieces are made of hard plastic and look like they can survive some heavy use. The cable is braided and you don’t have to detangle it every time you want to use your headphones.
The earpieces look bulky but after you find the right ear tip size, you will see that they are in fact incredibly comfortable. You will even get one pair of sports flanges (in-ear hooks). They should improve stability but since there is only one size available it’s not going to fit every ear size. It would be nice to have these flanges in 3 different sizes but that’s not the case.
Q ADAPT headphones feature nice and easy-to-use four-button in-line controls. You can use the first button to shift between ANC levels (LIBRATONE calls them CityMix levels), + and – buttons are volume controls and O button is multifunction button that you can use to play/pause music (works on most USB-C enabled devices) and answer/end calls (works only on Google devices). You can also use this O button to activate Google Assistant (by long pressing O button). By pressing the O button twice, you will play the next song and by pressing it three times, you will play the previous song.
There are four ANC (CityMix) levels and you can adjust the amount of noise canceling at any moment. The first level will cancel only 20% of outside noise (use it if you want to be aware of your surroundings), the second will cancel up to 40%, the third will cancel up to 70%, and the fourth will cancel more than 90% (use it if you want to completely isolate yourself from your surroundings). Unlike regular (3.5mm) headphones, USB-C ANC headphones are powered by the phone and they don’t have those bulky ANC adapters with a battery which makes them lighter, more practical, and more comfortable. Noise canceling is not perfect but it is good enough and it will isolate decent amount of outside noise.
These headphones are made for active people and that’s why they also feature IPX4 splash-proof rating. They can survive rain or some heavy sweating.
Q ADAPT headphones offer a nice balance between lows, mids, and highs. They are not perfect, but they are much better than the other USB-C competitors. Bass is surprisingly punchy for such a small device, mids are articulate, and highs are quite clear.
They also feature built-in mic with noise suppression technology. It works well on Google devices (Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel XL, Pixel 2XL) especially if you are not in some really noisy environment. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the mic with other USB-C devices (phones, tablets, and notebooks made by companies other than Google). If you have some other USB-C phone, you can use Q ADAPT headphones only for music and not for calls.
You can also install LIBRATONE app (available for Android and iOS) and control some playback aspects through the app – you can choose ANC level, hush the music, install firmware updates, or listen to internet radio.
Things We Don’t Like
USB-C port is quite loose and USB-C plug occasionally slips out of USB-C port of the phone. This can be quite annoying especially when trying to run or do any other physical activity that includes a lot of movement. This is definitely the most annoying issue with these headphones. They are IPX4 rated and look durable and sturdy but you can’t really use them when doing sports because of this issue.
As we have already said, if you have some Google’s USB-C enabled device, you will be able to get the maximum out of Q ADAPT USB-C headphones. If you have some HTC, LG, Sony, Xiaomi, or any other device with USB-C port, you can use Q ADAPT for listening to music but you won’t be able to make or take calls.
In the end, we should say that these headphones are probably too expensive considering their performance. They are definitely not bad, but for that kind of money, you can definitely find a bunch of regular (traditional) headphones offering even better performance. In case you have some USB-C device and you really want to have USB-C headphones, you can’t go wrong with these but they are definitely not cheap and you should be aware of that.
2. HTC USonic USB Type C Headphones
There is one extremely annoying thing about USB-C headphones – a lot of them are proprietary headphones and they will only work with one smartphone model or with all the USB-C smartphones made by the same manufacturer. We will try to emphasize this issue as much as we can and we will always analyze the compatibility of the model we are reviewing. This is the most frustrating thing about USB-C – it is meant to be a universal connection but they (headphone and smartphone manufacturers) made it proprietary in order to keep you in their ‘’ecosystem” and make you buy accessories from them.
We have decided to present to you another great pair of USB-C headphones. They are called HTC USonic and these are the headphones that you get with HTC U11 smartphone but you can also buy them separately. Unfortunately, they can only work with HTC phones from U series (U11, U Play, U Ultra) and with HTC Evo and HTC Bolt. They are NOT COMPATIBLE with other popular USB-C smartphones like Google Pixel models, OnePlus phones, Samsung S8 and other Samsung USB-C phones. So, only HTC phones and only a few HTC USB-C models are supported. They might work with some phones with USB-C port but you will never get the best possible experience. So, it’s probably safe to say that you should buy these only if you have some HTC U phone and you don’t want to use HTC dongle (USB-C to 3.5mm (F)) that comes with these phones. This is a shame considering the quality and advanced features of HTC USonic headphones.
What’s in the box?
HTC USonic earphones come in a simple box along with 3 pairs of silicone ear tips in different sizes (S, M, L), user manual, and warranty card. There is also 30-days return policy.
Headphones are available only in black color. Cable is 45 inches long and it is covered with thick layer of rubber. It’s not braided and it’s not tangle-free but it seems quite durable. There are built-in controls with one button and mic on the cable. You can use this control button to play/pause the music and make/take calls. There are no volume or track management buttons. Earpieces are made of aluminum alloy and look really sturdy. The headphones weigh only 0.64 ounces.
Things we like
Everything on HTC USonic headphones is sleek and elegant. They are extremely well-built, especially the housings and cable. The weakest link is probably the USB-C connector – it looks a bit flimsy and fragile.
Despite the odd shape, the headphones are quite comfortable but there is something about the edges of the earpieces (they are not smooth) that makes them uncomfortable after a few hours of wearing.
There is only one control button which makes them quite simple to use but we would like to see at least two more volume control buttons.
The coolest thing about these headphones is that they have some really nice technology inside them – the first time you put them on, you will have to go through the setup process and make your own personalized audio profile. You just have to go to settings on your HTC U11 (or any other HTC U phone) and activate the USonic feature. These headphones will send a little sound impulse into your ear and determine the sound profile (adjust the EQ) based on the shape of your ear and on the position of the earpiece. This is important since we all have different ear shape and we don’t perceive different frequencies in the same way. This is all enabled by the USB-C connection but you won’t be able to make a custom audio profile on any USB-C enabled device (it has to be HTC U phone). The execution of this advanced audio concept is fantastically well done and it is incredibly simple (you just have to follow the instruction and most of the job is done by your phone and your headphones).
These headphones also feature Active Noise Canceling technology. The most of the process is actually done by your phone. There is an array of microphones on HTC U11 recording and analyzing the environmental noise. A small piece of software makes an opposite sound and sends it to your ears. ANC is not perfect and you will still be able to hear most of the noise, but it does improve your listening experience. The best thing is that you don’t have to charge these headphones – they are powered by your phone.
The headphones sound quite impressive. They can be really loud and there is a nice balance between low, mid, and high frequencies. The emphasis is on the bass, but they are not too ‘’bassy’’. There is some sound leakage at high volumes but it’s not like all the people around you can hear your music.
Built-in mic works well, everything sounds nice and clear even in noisy environment.
All in all, these headphones offer great value for money and all the owner of HTC U phones will be happy with them.
Things We Don’t Like
HTC USonic will not work with other popular USB-C phones and other USB-C devices, only HTC U phones, HTC Bolt and HTC EVO. Google Pixels, Samsung, OnePlus, LG, and other USB-C phones are not compatible with these headphones.
3. Xiaomi Mi ANC Earphones Hybrid USB Type-C
Xiaomi Mi ANC earphones come with Xiaomi smartphones but unlike previously mentioned HTC USonic these are not proprietary and they will work with some other phones and not only Xiaomi Mi phones. Still, they will not work with all the USB-C enabled devices and you will have to check if they are compatible with your phone/tablet/notebook.
What’s in the box?
Xiaomi Mi ANC headphones have an impressive presentation. They come in really nice little packaging. You will find your earphones inside a small plastic box along with 4 pairs of ergonomic ear tips made of silicone (XS, S, M, L), two pairs of in-ear hooks for a better fit, and small carrying pouch made of cloth, user manual, and warranty card. They are available only in black color.
The headphones are incredibly well-built. Earpieces have titanium coating and look sturdy. The upper end of the cable is rubberized and the bottom end is braided and tangle-free. The cable is 48 inches long. There is built-in mic near the right earpiece leveled with your mouth. In the middle of the cable, there are in-line controls with ANC LED indicator and 4 buttons (three buttons on top and one on the side). Buttons are not labeled and that’s a small downside. The upper button is Volume +, the middle button is play/pause button that you can use to make/take calls or activate Google Assistant, and button at the bottom is Volume -. There is also ANC switch on the side with ANC LED indicator right next to it. If you want to activate the noise canceling feature, you can use this switch and ANC will kick in almost immediately.
The headphones weigh 0.7 ounces. Frequency response spans from 20Hz to 40KHz and their sensitivity is 113dB.
Things we like
The headphones look stylish and simple but some of you might not like those angled tips. Build quality is simply excellent – these headphones really look like they can take some beating. There are a lot of reinforcements – housings are made of titanium and lower part of the cable is braided. These headphones are really durable.
They feel quite comfortable. You will get not three but four different-sized ear tips (even XS) and 2 different-sized ear hooks in case you can’t find the right fit with ear tips only.
Xiaomi Mi earphones feature active noise canceling technology. Xiaomi claims they can eliminate any noise within 50Hz-20KHz range. In reality, they work pretty good but not perfect. They are much better with low-frequency noise and they can’t eliminate high-pitched tones.
Xiaomi Mi headphones offer pretty good sound quality. Vocals are very nice and crisp as well as highs. The sound is more on a warm side without too much bass. Bass is probably the worst thing about these headphones. It doesn’t seem punchy and deep enough. The headphones can get pretty loud and there is noticeable sound leakage at high volumes. On the positive side, there is a really small amount of distortion at maximum volume. If you want headphones with good bass check this article.
Built-in mic works well when there is no too much noise but you will experience some difficulties in a noisy environment. Considering the price, the mic is pretty good.
Another good thing is that you can activate and use Google Assistant with Xiaomi Mi ANC earphones.
To conclude, Xiaomi Mi earphones are probably the best USB-C headphones under $70. They are compatible with multiple phones (not only Xiaomi Mi) and they offer decent performance for the price. Some might even say they are better than LIBRATONE Q ADAPT especially when you take price, compatibility, and performance in consideration.
Things We Don’t Like
Customers have confirmed that Xiaomi Mi ANC earphones work with Pixel 2XL but they are officially tested only on Xiaomi Mi phones and you can’t be absolutely sure that they are going to work with your USB-C smartphone. In general, it will work with most of the USB-C phones but you might not be able to use all the features. The headphones are not compatible with Dell laptops with USB-C port and MacBook Pro.
These are not made for bass-heavy music. Bass is simply too weak.
Control buttons are not labeled and you will need some time to get used to them.
4. Essential HD USB-C Noise Isolating Earphones
Essential HD earphones are one of those expensive (read overpriced) USB-C headphones. They are made for the Essential smartphone but they are still compatible with wide variety of different USB-C devices (phones/tablets/notebooks). They look nice and minimalistic, they are well-built, but their performance doesn’t really match the price.
What’s in the box?
Essential HD earphones come in a simple packaging. Along with headphones, you will get 3 pairs of silicone ear tips in different sizes (S, M, L), nice and sturdy zippered carrying case (you don’t get carrying case with other USB-C headphones and that’s a plus), and user manual. Essential HD earphones come in grey color only.
The headphones look quite stylish and elegant. There is nothing really impressive regarding the design but they are simple and that’s what many people like. The earpieces are quite small, they are not bulky like many others and you don’t have to worry if they are going to fit your ears. Even if you have the smallest ears, they will fit. Housings are made of some kind of aluminum alloy. They are light but sturdy. The cable is 1.2m long, it’s not braided (only rubberized) but it is tangle-free. There are in-line controls with built-in mic in the middle of the cable and they are also inside an aluminum housing. There is only one multifunction button – you can use it to play/pause the music, answer/end calls or activate Google Assistant. You can’t use these controls to adjust the volume or skip the track.
There are 9.2mm drivers inside the earbuds. Their frequency response spans from 10Hz to 50KHz, their sensitivity is 113dB, Signal to Noise Ratio is 97dB, and Total Harmonic Distortion is below 0.005%. Based on this, you can get the idea that these headphones are really loud (which is true) and that they sound pretty good (which is not completely true).
Things we like
There is nothing bad we could say about the design or build quality and if those two things are the only things that matter, these would be one of the best USB-C headphones on the market in 2020. They are also quite comfortable once you find the right pair of ear tips. We have said that they are smaller than the majority of earbuds and they can fit even the smallest ears. On the negative side, people with bigger ears might find them too small and loose. They don’t come with ear hooks and they are not stable enough for running, jogging, or cycling.
Controls are simple, maybe even too simple for some people. You won’t be able to control the volume or manage tracks (only play or pause). You will have to use your phone for all those things. You can activate Google Assistant by long-pressing the control button and that’s a nice additional feature (but you can find this feature on all the other headphones, too).
Essential HD earphones offer decent sound quality but not good enough for the price. Bass is strong and sometimes overwhelming, mids are articulate, and highs are not detailed enough. They can be pretty loud, but they also leak sound at high volumes. If you are listening to music at low volumes, you might hear quiet static noise in the background.
Built-in mic works well. From time to time you might hear some echo, but the person on the other end will hear you loud and clear most of the time.
Things We Don’t Like
Essential HD earphones are one of the best when it comes to compatibility (along with Xiaomi Mi ANC earphones). They will work with wide variety of different USB-C devices, even MacBook Pro and Pixelbook but we can’t confirm that it is compatible with all the USB-C phones/tablets/notebooks. You should try to find these in your local audio store, test them, and see if they work with your USB-C device.
Some people might even like that extra bass, but there are definitely some downsides. The bass is not that clean and it gets distorted at high volumes. It is also a bit overwhelming and it occasionally overpowers mids and highs.
Essential HD earphones don’t feature active noise canceling technology. For some people, that’s not such a big issue and some even hate ANC. Still, we just want you to be aware that these earphones don’t feature ANC.
Considering all that we have said, Essential HD earphones are way too expensive. There are many regular headphones that you can pair with a USB-C to 3.5 (F) dongle and pay less. Many regular headphones at this price point sound much better than Essential HD earphones.
5. Razer Hammerhead USB-C – Digital Gaming & Music In-Ear Headset
Every gamer in the world knows about Razer. This is one of the most famous manufacturers of gaming equipment. In November 2017, Razer released the first Razer smartphone. This phone didn’t feature traditional 3.5mm jack but USB-C port. That’s why Razer made Razer Hammerhead USB-C earphones to complement their latest phone. They are proprietary earphones but they will work with other popular USB-C phones like Google Pixel, Pixel 2 and 2XL, and Samsung’s S8 but we don’t know if they are compatible with all the USB-C phones on the market.
What’s in the box?
Razer Hammerhead earphones come in a nice premium-looking green and black Razer box. You will get one pair of headphones with bi-flange rubbery ear tips, three regular pairs of ear tips in different sizes (S, M, L), black sturdy carrying case, user manual, and warranty card.
Earphones look quite interesting. They come in one color combination just like all the Razer equipment – black and green. Earbuds are black with green details and cable is green. Earpieces are made of aluminum alloy and seem just a little bit heavier than average earphones. They have magnetic ends and small lights on the outer end (they will light up when you plug them into your phone). They don’t look bulky but their default bi-flanged ear tips do look odd and too large for normal ears. Cable is 1.2m long, it’s flat and tangle-free. There are in-line controls with a built-in mic on the cable. You have three buttons that you can use to control the volume, play/pause songs, answer/end calls, or skip songs.
Inside aluminum housings, you have 10mm drivers. Their frequency response spans from 20Hz to 20KHz, sensitivity is 102dB, and impedance is 32Ohms.
Things we like
The earphones have that recognizable Razer design. It’s everything that you can expect from Razer – there is a combination of black and green, nice dragon details on the earphones, and interesting flat cable. All the Razer fans will love them. Others might like them, too. Earphones are incredibly well-built, they are definitely made to last. Cable is strong, but it doesn’t really look equally impressive as the earpieces.
Comfort is probably the greatest issue of these earphones. They are a little bit heavier than the average earphones but that’s not a deal breaker. Bi-flanged ear tips might be. In order to get the best isolation and perfect fit, you have to insert them crazy deep into your ear and that really feels uncomfortable. Luckily, you have three regular pairs of ear tips in different sizes. They don’t really offer such a good fit and noise isolation as bi-flanged ones but they are much more comfortable.
Razer Hammerhead earphones don’t feature ANC technology but if you use them with bi-flanged ear tips (if you can stand having something so deep in your ears), you will get pretty good (almost perfect) noise isolation.
When it comes to sound signature, it’s no secret that Razer insisted on the bass – Razer claims that these earphones are ‘’hammering in the bass’’. The bass is definitely the greatest feature of these earphones and it’s really heavy. At high volumes, it even overpowers mids and highs. These earphones are not a great choice for audiophiles but they will be a real treat for all the bass heads.
The mic is usable but it’s far from perfect. Your voice will sound muffled from time to time but most of the time, you will be able to talk without any interference.
Things We Don’t Like
Compatibility issues are something you can expect with any pair of USB-C headphones. These are tested on Razer phone and Razer guarantees that they work with Razer phone. Fortunately, they work with many other popular phones like Google Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel 2XL, Samsung S8, OnePlus 5T, and many others but there is no guarantee that they work with every USB-C phone.
The mic is not perfect but it is good enough and it’s usable.
Some people might find that bass-heavy sound a bit too much – these are not made for people who like balanced sound.
6. JBL Reflect Aware C in-ear Sport Headphones with ANC
JBL was the first big audio equipment manufacturer that tried to make USB-C headphones. JBL Reflect Aware C earphones were released in August 2015 and that’s where JBL pretty much stopped. This was the only JBL’s USB-C headphone model. They didn’t try to make another one.
JBL, just like other manufacturers don’t see these headphones being a thing in the near future and they decided to concentrate on wireless headphones.
JBL Reflect Aware earphones are originally made for HTC10 but they are compatible with other HTC USB-C phones and other popular brands (Samsung S8, Huawei P9 and P10, Pixel 2 and 2XL). They are one of the best choices for sports. They also feature ANC technology and offer decent audio performance. On the negative side, they are definitely overpriced.
What’s in the box?
Like all the other JBL’s products, JBL Reflect Aware C earphones come in a premium packaging. Along with headphones, you will get 3 pairs of silicone ear tips in different sizes (S, M, L) and 3 pairs of in-ear hooks in different sizes, carrying pouch, user manual, and safety sheet. Earphones come in 2 colors – black and white.
The earphones look sporty and elegant at the same time. Earpieces are made of hard plastic and look quite sturdy and durable. They are a bit bulky and people with smaller ears might find them uncomfortable. Cable is 1.2m long, it’s not braided nor flat but it’s not too prone to tangling. Earphones also feature in-line controls with built-in mic. There are four buttons on the control pad – two volume buttons (+ and -), one multifunction button (play/pause music, answer/end calls, skip/play the previous song), and one ANC button that you can use to shift between different levels of noise cancellation depending on how much you want to be aware of your surroundings (there are 3 levels).
Inside each earbud, there is one 14.8mm driver. Frequency response spans from 10Hz to 22KHz.
Things we like
JBL Reflect Aware C are a nice-looking pair of earphones. If there is one thing that we cannot complain about it’s the design. JBL really knows how to design a product and how to make it visually appealing. The earpieces are not made of aluminum but they look durable enough. Cable has reflective stripes along them which makes them perfect for night running and workout. The first thing that some people might not like is the size of the earbuds. They are quite bulky and if you have small ears, you won’t be able to find a good fit even with the smallest ear tips and ear hooks (wingtips).
Active noise canceling technology works quite well on these earphones. It’s not perfect – it will isolate most of the low-frequency noise but it won’t be able to isolate high-pitched tones even at highest ANC level.
The earphones are sweatproof but there is no info on IPX rating to confirm that. Still, they can definitely survive some sweating.
JBL Reflect Aware C offer decent sound quality but they are not better than some cheaper models on this list (Xiaomi Mi). In order to customize the sound, you will have to install the app from Google Store. This app will allow you to adjust different frequencies, put an emphasis on bass, vocals, or treble, or chose one of the presets. The sound changes with ANC. When ANC is on, you will get much duller and more hollow sound. Everything sounds much better without ANC. On the other side, ANC feature does neutralize some environmental noise.
Mic works well indoors but it’s not that great for outdoor use.
Things We Don’t Like
First of all, there is the comfort issue. The earpieces are too bulky and they won’t fit small ears.
There is also that ANC issue. ANC reduces the noise but it changes the sound at the same time and makes it worse.
There is also that common issue regarding compatibility. JBL Reflect Aware are made for HTC phones but they will work with many popular USB-C smartphones like Google Pixel (Pixel 2, pixel 2XL), Samsung S8, Huawei P9, and P10, etc. Unfortunately, we cannot confirm that they are compatible with all the USB-C enabled devices.
In the end, we would like to repeat the fact that JBL Reflect Aware earphones are overpriced. They should cost $80 max. Anything above that is simply too much (and even $80 is not cheap).
We have decided not to mention any of those no-name (generic) brands that you have never heard of. There is at least a dozen of those on the market but they are all pretty bad. At this moment, you should probably stick to branded models approved by the manufacturer of your phone/tablet/notebook or those that have been tested with different USB-C devices.
In case you are not a fan of USB-C headphones (and that’s absolutely normal considering the number of available models and their performance) and you have one of those phones with USB-C port and without a good-old headphone jack, you can always buy an adapter and use your old regular headphones. It is annoying that you always have to think about one additional piece of equipment and it is impractical but you will have to deal with it. There is much more USB-C to 3.5mm adapters on the market than USB-C headphones, and we are going to present you some of the best.
USB-C to 3.5mm Dongles
1. Google USB-C to 3.5mm Adapter
Our first choice is, of course, Google dongle. It’s really cheap (less than $10) and it has built-in DAC. The adapter is 3.8 inches long and it can fit your pocket easily. If you have one of Google’s USB-C devices (Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel 2XL, etc.), this is the safest option since you don’t have to worry about compatibility. This dongle will work with a bunch of other USB-C phones, too.
2. Razer Phone USB-C to 3.5MM Adapter Cable
This adapter is made for Razer Phone but it will work with many others (compatible with Pixel 2XL, Essential phone, HTC U11, Samsung S8 and Note8, LG G6, LG V30, HUAWEI Mate 10, etc.). It has built-in THX certified DAC and it’s 4 inches long. It also enables you to use in-line controls (up to 3 buttons) on your traditional headphones with 3.5mm jack. It’s more expensive than Google dongle and it performs better.
3. AirsFish Type-C to 3.5mm (F) Stereo Adapter
AirFishs adapter is compatible with wide variety of popular USB-C devices (Pixel 2 and 2XL, MacBook Pro, HTC U11, Samsung S8 and Note8) but not with all of them. It has built-in DAC and it’s 4.7 inches long. It’s more expensive than Google dongle and the sound is pretty much the same.
4. CHOOER USB-C to 3.5mm (F) Audio Headphone Adapter
CHOOER adapter is one of the cheapest. You will get two USB-C adapters for less than $8 which is a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, the adapter will not work with Google USB-C devices and HTC USB-C phones. It is compatible with Moto Z, LeEco, Samsung S8 and Note8. It enables you to use volume and call controls on your 3.5mm headphones.
5. Sinool USB-C to 3.5mm Headphone Adapter
Sinnool adapter is another really cheap one. This one is not compatible with any of Pixel and HTC USB-C phones. It works well with HUAWEI USB-C phones (Mate 10 Pro and P20 Pro), Moto Z, Xiaomi phones, OnePlus 5T, etc. The adapter doesn’t support in-line volume controls on your regular headphones with 3.5mm jack and you will have to use your phone to adjust the volume.
6. Faracent 3.5mm to USB-C adapter
Faracent adapter is a little bit cheaper than Razer adapter and it offers similar performance but it’s less durable than Razer. It has built-in DAC and allows 24bit/48KHz Hi-Res audio output. It’s compatible with wide variety of USB-C devices including Pixel 2 and 2XL, HTC U11, and many others. The cable is 4.8 inches long.
This was our list of 6 best USB-C headphones in 2020. Hopefully, you have found something interesting that suits your budget and your needs.
We are going to make just a few final observations and comparisons before the end.
USB-C Headphones VS Traditional 3.5mm Headphones
USB-C headphones are still not as good as traditional 3.5mm headphones. USB-C connector definitely offers more functionality and much better performance than micro USB port and we will be happy to see USB-C ports instead of micro USB on Android phones but when it comes to sound it was probably too soon to completely ditch good old 3.5mm jack and replace 2 ports (3.5mm and micro USB) with only one USB-C. USB-C headphones cannot compete with 3.5mm headphones since they cost more and don’t offer better performance. It would be nice to leave that 3.5mm audio jack until some significant improvements are made. In case you have one of those phones with USB-C port and without a headphone jack, you have three options – buy USB-C headphones, buy USB-C to 3.5mm (F) dongle, or go wireless. It all depends on your preferences and your budget.
USB-C VS Lightning Headphones
USB-C (with USB 3.1 interface) port is better than the Lightning port in terms of charging and data transfer, and it can even pass through 8K/60Hz video. It is compatible with HDMI, USB 2.0, DVI, and VGA. Having all this in mind it would be nice to see USB-C port on the next iPhone just like you can find it on Apple’s MacBook Pro. One point where USB-C and Lightning ports are equally mediocre is audio quality. Lightning headphones, just like USB-C headphones don’t offer great sound quality. Lightning headphones are maybe just a little bit better but we still think that ditching 3.5mm port on both iPhone and Android phones was a rash decision.
Greatest Disadvantages of USB-C Headphones
There are some common downsides of USB-C headphones we would like to mention.
You can’t listen to music while charging
If you have one of those phones without 3.5mm port and with only one USB-C port, you won’t be able to listen to music while charging your phone. Some kind of adapter with USB-C connector on one end and one USB-C and one 3.5mm port (or two USB-C ports) on other ends would make it possible to listen to music while charging but every additional piece of equipment is a burden and we don’t like that.
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First, the obvious – you can’t use any 3.5mm headphones if you have a phone with USB-C port unless you buy one of those USB-C to 3.5mm (F) dongles (adapters) and you have some pretty good options in the list above.
The second and even more irritating thing is the fact that not all the USB-C headphones are compatible with all the USB-C smartphones. Some USB-C headphones are compatible with only one device or with devices made by one manufacturer, some are compatible with many smartphone models (but not with all), and some are maybe universal (but we didn’t find any). So, it would be smart to check if the headphones you want to buy are compatible with your phone (or tablet, or notebook). If you don’t do this, you might end up with a useless pair of USB-C headphones.
USB-C headphones/earphones are slightly overpriced. They are usually more expensive than regular headphones and you could find at least a few pairs of regular headphones offering the same or similar performance for less money. If you decide to buy regular 3.5mm headphones, you will also have to buy a dongle and that’s one more thing to think about and take into consideration when buying regular headphones for your USB-C device.
What to Do If You Don’t Want to Use USB-C Headphones but You Have a Phone With USB-C Connector?
In case you are not happy with the offer, and that’s absolutely possible considering the number and quality of available USB-C headphones, you have two options.
Option 1 – Use regular(3.5mm) headphones with USB-C to 3.5mm (F) adapter
If you already have some regular 3.5mm headphones, this might be the cheapest possible option. All you need to do is buy an adapter (dongle). The only thing you should pay attention to is compatibility – just like USB-C headphones, USB-C to 3.5mm (F) adapters might not be compatible with your device and you should check if they are compatible with your device before making the purchase.
Option 2 – Use Bluetooth headphones
If you already have a pair of Bluetooth headphones, this will be an even cheaper option since you don’t need any adapter – Bluetooth is universal technology. If you don’t have Bluetooth headphones, you would have to buy a pair and it will cost you more than a pair of regular headphones combined with USB-C to 3.5 (F) adapter but it will be much more convenient solution (no wires). If you are thinking about buying Bluetooth headphones/earphones, you should check out our article on best Bluetooth earbuds.
We’ve come to the end of our article on 6 best USB-C headphones in 2020. If you liked it, please share it and subscribe to our mailing list.
Your AudioReputation Team
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.