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Libratone Q Adapt On Ear review: Scandi-chic headphones that are almost great

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £219
inc VAT

Incredibly effective active noise cancellation, but the fit and erratic auto-pause facility undermine these headphones’ appeal


  • Effective noise cancellation
  • Packed with features
  • Chic looks


  • Fit isn't great
  • Auto-pause and -resume not entirely reliable

Danish audio couture firm Libratone has produced some cracking audio products in recent years, but until now it’s focused mainly on speakers. Now it’s branching out into personal audio, and its new Q Adapt On Ear is the first pair of headphones it’s produced that I’ve had the chance to test out extensively.

Just like its speaker range, the Q Adapt On Ear is achingly stylish. It comes in either white or “stormy black”, and both models look as handsome as you could wish. The headband is clad in soft-to-the-touch textile, the exposed cylindrical hinges are finished in cold-hard anodised aluminium and the earpieces themselves have memory-foam cups that are soft and pillowy on your ears.

In short, if the way your headphones look is important to you and you’re into your Scandi-chic, they’re definitely worth a look.

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Libratone Q Adapt review: Features

Even if you couldn’t give two hoots about the aesthetics, though, the Q Adapt’s list of features might catch your eye. They’re Bluetooth-enabled and compatible with the higher-quality aptX audio codec. They come with a 3.5mm jack on the right-hand earpiece, so you can continue to listen if the battery runs dry (although with 20 hours+ per charge you shouldn’t need to tether them too often).

They have active noise cancellation, which works incredibly well to cut out the hum of office air conditioning and the general clatter and bang of everyday life. The noise cancellation is so good, in fact, it comes close to rivalling Bose’s supreme QuietComfort 35, our current favourite. And the amount of noise cancellation can be adjusted, so when you need to be aware of what’s going on in the surrounding area.

Then there’s multitouch control (on the outside of the right earcup); automatic pausing and resuming when you remove the headphones and put them back on again; and Bluetooth audio stream sharing between other Libratone Bluetooth headphones. The Libratone Q Adapt On Ear leaves no stone unturned in the search for the most extensive features possible; in fact, they’re the completist music fan’s perfect product: a pair of wireless headphones that not only looks great, but that offers absolutely no compromise.

Libratone Q Adapt review: Fit and sound quality

It’s a very great shame, then, to report that the Libratone Q Adapt are afflicted by some pretty fundamental problems. The first of these is poor fit. Now, your mileage may vary on this. After all, your head is probably a different shape to mine, but I found that the Q Adapt would fall off far too easily. Nodding off on the train home, sneezing, bending down to tie my shoelaces – you name it: any head movements forward would cause them to slide off into my lap or onto the floor.

That’s hardly ideal, and it’s not the only issue. Although I found them comfy on my ears, others I gave them to to try on found them uncomfortably tight.

What’s more worrying, however, is the manner in which the auto-pause occasionally kicks in as you walk along. Sometimes a readjustment of the earpieces on my ears would fix the problem; sometimes it wouldn’t. Either way, it’s frustrating, and not a problem that should afflict a pair of £219 headphones. Again, those with larger heads might not have such a problem, as when I pushed the cups tighter against my ear, the problem went away.

Sound quality is good, though. It’s not quite up there with the likes of AKG’s N60 NC noise-cancelling cans or the Bose QuietComfort 35, but they’re not far behind. There’s plenty of detail on offer and the Q Adapt’s 40mm drivers deliver a good solid, controlled bass punch.

And if you don’t like the standard sound profile, it’s also possible to boost the bass or accentuate the treble through the Settings section of the Libratone app. This can also be used to adjust the amount of noise cancelling and update the firmware.

Libratone Q Adapt On Ear review: Verdict

There’s much to like about Libratone’s first pair of headphones. They’re wireless, they’re noise cancelling (and good with it, too), they sound fine, and they pack in all the features you could possibly think of. In fact, the only thing missing is a luxurious hard case in which to stow them, but I’m willing to forgive them that small indiscretion. (There is a pouch included, but I’d prefer something more substantial.)

What’s less forgivable is that the fit and auto-pause functions are so problematic. A pair of headphones, particularly a pair designed for travel like these, should stay put, and if you’re going to add ear-sensing auto-pause, it really should work more reliably.

I really wanted to like these headphones; in fact, I do like them a lot – but only when they stay on my head.

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