Active Noise Cancelling [ANC] is almost a necessity for today's busy commuter. Today we expect a lot from our headphones; they need to sound great, take calls and most importantly block out the noise pollution of the hectic outside world. The Q Adapt from Libratone manages to check all the boxes and is definitely a pair of cans that you should consider if you are looking to upgrade your commute.
Let's start with the ANC feature, which gives you the ability to dial in just the right amount of noise canceling via the app. Libratone calls this function the CityMix Noise Control, and it works quite well with four different levels of intensity. The first level allows you to hear some of the ambient noise around you, although it's muted quite a bit. As you scale up to level four, it gets quieter and quieter until almost everything is silent aside from louder noises. If you are commuting on a noisy train or work in a loud open plan office, the ANC on the Q Adapt should solve all of your problems. As I write this review I'm sitting below a very noisy ceiling fan, and the sound of the whirring has been completely removed, it's insane.
The Q Adapt comes in at around $249 MSRP, which seems a bit steep until you try them on. The design is basic but basic like Scandinavian furniture basic, so that's a big compliment in this case. The unit folds flat and comes with a simple rubber carrying case that will fit both cords (charging/wired) and easily fits into your bag, backpack or brief.
On the technical side, the Q Adapt supports Bluetooth 4.1 and the high-quality aptX audio codec. The aptX allows you to stream near-CD quality audio but your phone/player needs to work with it, and unfortunately, iPhones don't. They still sound great even streaming through Spotify, so most listeners don't need to deploy the aptX to have a great experience. The headphones also come with a standard 3.5mm cable so you can use them without a charge as well, but you lose the ANC which is kind of the whole point of the Q Adapt.
Another cool feature is that you can add a plus one, meaning another Q Adapt user can wirelessly connect to your phone, and you can listen together. So romantic.
Going on a long trip? Don't worry because these bad boys will go up to 30 hours before needing a charge and that includes full noise canceling. The team at Libratone worked out some clever features to conserve the battery. When the units are removed, they turn off, and if they sit idle for more than 20 minutes, they power down completely. So yeah, the little power gremlins on board have got your back buddy. When you do eventually run out of juice, you can get your headphones fully charged up in about 3 hours.
So let's talk about the app quickly. The one thing that is massively annoying is that you have to sign in everytime you boot up the app, so you'd best remember your password. I'm not sure why this is necessary, and it's one of my bigger gripes about the tech. Through the app, you can choose different EQ settings, dial in the ANC and even access your music sources like internet radio and Spotify, so you don't have to leave the app to power up your music. The app also handles the firmware updates, which I had to do right out of the box, pretty easy overall.
So let's talk about comfort. The headphones are light, and the vegan leather memory foam cups allow for some long sessions without discomfort. The headband, however, is not padded and required some constant adjusting to keep it comfortable, but overall the lack of padding surprisingly didn't bother me much.
You can also use the right earcup to control basic functions like stop, answer calls, volume, and forward track or previous track, which is a nice touch (pun intended). The SIRI control was just meh, and most will find the delay a bit annoying, it takes some practice to summon your favorite virtual assistant, but it's not a deal breaker by any means.
Need some immediate access to the outside world? No problem, just deploy the Hush feature by covering one of the cups with your palm and boom, back to reality. Hello annoying person who just interrupted me! If you want to ease into this, you can also control the noise canceling from a small button under the right ear cup, just press once for each level.
If you are looking for a great pair of commuter headphones that are ANC equipped for a reasonable price, it's hard to beat the Q Adapt. The headphones sound fantastic with an excellent balanced sound that can handle any genre with ease, although they don't compare with higher end models like the Sennheiser PXC 550, they are also $150 cheaper as well. The battery life is incredible (30 hrs), the design is cool and comfortable and the ANC very useful. I'm a big fan of these units and would recommend them to anyone that has to contend with noisy environments on the regular.