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Best USB-C headphones for iPhone 15

Now that iPhones have a USB-C port, a whole new horizon of headphones await Apple users.
By

Published onDecember 4, 2023

Bang for your buck
Apple EarPods (USB-C)
MSRP: $19.00
Check price
Positives
Superior comfort
High-quality audio
Built-in remote
Wide compatibility
Integrated microphone
No audio interruptions
Negatives
Wired connection
Potential tangling
Limited distance range
Pricey
Best features
Beats Studio Pro
MSRP: $349.00
7.4
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Positives
Sound quality
ANC
Battery life
USB DAC
Weight
Negatives
Fit
Comfort
Construction
Confusing indicators
Best style
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2E
MSRP: $399.00
8.2
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Positives
Excellent sound tuning
Good ANC
Good transparency mode
Low profile, stylish design
Negatives
No water resistance
Best sound
Focal Bathys
MSRP: $699.00
8.3
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Positives
Sound quality
Connectivity
Comfort
Durability
Negatives
Price
Okay ANC
Weight
Best battery
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless
MSRP: $350.00
8
Check price
Positives
Excellent battery life
Excellent sound quality
Connectivity options
Price
Negatives
Middling ANC
Mic noise rejection

Apple’s recent shift from the Lightning port to a USB-C connection in the iPhone 15 series is significant for the company. Not only does it change the way you charge your phone, but it also introduces a new range of compatible headphones and listening features. It’s ironic that we’ve come full circle since Apple started the slow extinction of the headphone jack in 2018, with USB-C headphones making a comeback as a wired listening option or a wireless option that can do it all. Here are the best USB-C headphones for the iPhone 15 currently on offer.

Editor’s note: this list was published on December 4, 2023, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

For those who prioritize sound quality, wired USB-C headphones can be more reliable. They often come equipped with superior DACs (digital-to-analog converters) than what’s embedded in the iPhone itself, potentially offering a richer and more detailed audio experience. This is particularly advantageous for those who seek the nuances and depth of high-fidelity sound. Additionally, the reliability of wired connections ensures uninterrupted listening, a key factor for users who value consistent audio performance.

Conversely, wireless headphones with USB-C charging capabilities appeal to users seeking flexibility and mobility. These headphones offer the convenience of wireless listening, with the added benefit of USB-C compatibility for charging and, in some cases, wired playback. This dual functionality makes them ideal for users who appreciate versatility in their audio devices, whether they’re commuting, traveling, or simply enjoying music at home. In essence, USB-C headphones are for anyone looking to enhance their audio experience with the new iPhone 15.

Best USB-C headphones for most people: Apple Earpods (USB-C)

As part of the USB-C refresh to the iPhone 15 series, Apple also released an updated version of its EarPods, and they are the easiest way of picking up wired USB-C headphones on a budget. For less than $20, they’re not the most feature-packed headphones on this list, but they get the job done and have a surprisingly reliable microphone.

Just like their Lightning-connected predecessors, these EarPods offer reliable sound quality with good bass and mids. And the built-in remote lets you control your music, take calls, and adjust the volume without reaching for your phone.

Apple EarPods (USB-C)Apple EarPods (USB-C)
Apple EarPods (USB-C)
Superior comfort • High-quality audio • Built-in remote
MSRP: $19.00

The Beats Studio Pro brings Apple-centric features

The contents of the Beats Studio Pro packaging.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
As Spartan as this looks, uncomplicated packaging contents are a nice plus for any set of headphones.

The Beats Studio Pro is a notable choice for iPhone 15 users, particularly those valuing the new USB-C connectivity. This model has a unique USB DAC feature, allowing for high-quality wired listening over USB-C. This is a significant advantage for those who prefer a wired connection’s reliability and enhanced audio fidelity, especially in a market where USB-C audio capability is still relatively rare.

Sound quality is a strong suit of the Beats Studio Pro, offering a clear and treble-enhanced audio profile that ensures vocal clarity. Complementing this is effective active noise canceling (ANC), making these headphones ideal for immersive listening in noisy environments.

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Another key aspect is the long battery life, extending over 31 hours, which is more than sufficient for long commutes or travel. For Apple enthusiasts, the inclusion of features like head-tracked Spatial Audio, Transparency Mode, and fast-pairing options align well with the iPhone 15, enhancing the overall user experience.

However, potential buyers should be aware of the fit and comfort issues associated with the smaller ear cups, which may not suit everyone, especially those with larger ears or glasses. This can impact the effectiveness of ANC as well. For users who find the headphones comfortable and don’t mind the overly plastic construction, the Beats Studio Pro offers a robust audio experience in the new USB-C era of the iPhone.

Beats Studio ProBeats Studio Pro
Beats Studio Pro
Enhanced smartphone integration • Lossless and Spatial Audio • Big battery life
MSRP: $349.00
Spatial audio, lossless playback, and big battery life
The Beats Studio Pro are a relatively light-weight set of Bluetooth headphones. With up to 40 hours of battery life, USB Type-C charging and wired playback, as well as a 3.5mm port, ANC, and Spatial Audio, these are contenders for the hottest headphones of 2023.

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e nail the basics in style

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e laying flat on desktop.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
Cap

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e hits the mark for iPhone 15 users looking for a blend of style, sound quality, and functionality. These headphones stand out with their excellent sound tuning, good active noise canceling (ANC), and a well-implemented transparency mode.

Although the iPhone 15 has no headphone jack, these headphones are compatible with analog 3.5mm jack sources and digital sources over USB-C. They also excel in wireless performance, supporting Bluetooth 5.2 and multiple codecs, including AAC, aptX, and aptX HD, ensuring versatile connectivity options.

Regarding sound quality, the Px7 S2e presents a slightly bass-heavy profile with a bit of a recess in the midrange, lending a weighty character to the music. This sound signature suits various genres and content, making these headphones versatile for different listening preferences.

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The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e is designed with user comfort in mind, featuring memory foam ear pads and a fabric-covered headband, contributing to their wearability over long periods. The control layout is intuitive and accessible, with all controls conveniently located on the ear cups.

Battery life is impressive, with the headphones delivering over 40 hours of playback with ANC. Fast charging capability is also a bonus, offering seven hours of playback with just 15 minutes of charging. Overall, its focus on the fundamentals of what makes a good pair of headphones makes it a strong contender in the market.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2EBowers & Wilkins PX7 S2E
SG recommended
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2E
Updated DSP • Premium finishes • Fine-tuning
MSRP: $399.00
A premium headphone experience
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2E is a compelling update to B&W's previous wireless headphones. Packing ANC, premium finishes, and all new software features to let you fine tune your listening experience.

The Focal Bathys have the best sound quality

A photo of the Focal Bathys sitting in its case, with ear cup backs facing the reader.
That funky grille doesn’t serve a functional purpose, but it does look pretty rad.

The Focal Bathys is a premium choice in the ANC headphone market, especially for iPhone 15 users with a penchant for high-quality audio and a budget to match. These headphones cater to audiophiles looking for top-notch sound quality and advanced connectivity options, including wired USB-C connectivity. Additionally, the headphones support Bluetooth 5.1 and various codecs like SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Adaptive.

Focal’s tuning expertise is evident, with a sound profile closely aligning with our preferred headphone response curves. The headphones offer a bass presence that’s noticeable yet controlled, along with an emphasis on the highs. The direct DAC mode via USB ensures that the headphones make the most of the audio source.

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Comfort and build quality are other strong points. The headphones are well-built with high-quality materials like black resin, magnesium yokes, and an aluminum band, ensuring durability. The weight, although on the heavier side at 350 grams, is well-distributed, thanks to the ample padding and leather on the ear pads and headband, making them comfortable for extended listening sessions.

The ANC performance of the Focal Bathys is decent but not on par with some of the leading models in the market. While effective in reducing low-frequency noise, they might not completely isolate users from their environment compared to competitors like Sony or Apple. Nonetheless, the headphones offer good passive isolation and an effective transparency mode when environmental awareness is needed.

For iPhone 15 users who prioritize sound quality above all and are willing to invest in a premium audio experience, the Focal Bathys is an excellent choice. The superb audio performance, high-quality build, and advanced connectivity options make it a standout option. They are also $100 less than when they first launched, making the price tag a little easier to swallow.

Focal BathysFocal Bathys
SG recommended
Focal Bathys
Amazing sound quality • Tough and comfortable • Great battery life
MSRP: $699.00
The best-sounding ANC headphones come at a price
Impressive audio output, good battery life, solid connectivity, and a comfortable design make the Focal Bathys one of the best sets of headphones out there. A premium experience with a really high user rating.

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless has the best battery life

A man wears the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless outdoors.
Deep pads and earcups provide a natural advantage for all users of headphones.

One of the most striking features of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is its battery life, outlasting many rivals with over 56 hours of playback with ANC on. This longevity is a significant plus for frequent travelers or those who dislike frequent charging. Additionally, the sound quality of these headphones is a highlight, staying close to preferred response curves and offering a pleasing bass boost without overwhelming the audio profile.

The headphones also offer flexible connectivity options, supporting Bluetooth with various codecs like AAC, aptX, and aptX HD, wired connections over USB-C, and a 3.5mm TRS jack. This versatility benefits iPhone 15 users who might switch between wireless and wired listening.

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Comfort is another strong suit, with the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless featuring thick padding and a lightweight design, accommodating extended wear and glasses compatibility. The accompanying Sennheiser Smart Control app enhances the user experience by allowing firmware updates and customization of features like ANC levels and geotag-based settings.

In terms of ANC, while the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless doesn’t quite reach the effectiveness of some top-tier competitors, it still provides substantial noise reduction suitable for most everyday environments. The headphones also have a reliable microphone array for calls, though some issues with noise rejection were noted.

Priced competitively at around $350, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is an appealing alternative to more expensive options from brands like Bose and Sony. Its excellent sound quality, long battery life, and lower price point make it an attractive option for those weighing quality against cost.

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 WirelessSennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless
App for EQ changes • Simple, elegant design • USB-C charging
MSRP: $350.00
High-end ANC over-ear headphones focus on style and comfort
If you need total immersion in your music, you need some ANC over-ears. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 focus on style and comfort while delivering the core features high-end shoppers need with their headphones.
See price at Amazon
Save $60.72
Sennheiser Momentum 4
See price at Best Buy
Save $49.99
Sennheiser Momentum 4

Who should buy the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2?

The Shure PLAY app is a semi-essential companion to the Shure AONIC 50 (2nd gen) headphones.
The Shure PLAY app has several useful controls, including a parametric EQ.

The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is an ideal choice for iPhone 15 users who are serious about sound quality and seeking a highly customizable audio experience. It’s especially suited for those not completely satisfied with the mainstream ANC options from brands like Sony, Bose, and Apple and looking for a durable, high-end alternative.

This headphone is perfect for audiophiles who value the ability to fine-tune their listening experience. With the Shure PLAY app’s parametric EQ settings, users can precisely adjust the sound profile to their liking, addressing any personal preferences or specific audio needs.

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Additionally, the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is a great match for users who need versatile connectivity options. With its support for a wide array of Bluetooth codecs and the inclusion of both 3.5mm and USB-C ports, these headphones can work with the iPhone 15’s USB-C connectivity, offering wireless and wired listening experiences.

For users who prioritize build quality and comfort for long listening sessions, the AONIC 50 Gen 2’s robust build, comfortable ear cups, and well-distributed weight make it a strong contender. It’s also a suitable option for those who need reliable headphones for extended use, given its substantial battery life.

Overall, the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is best for iPhone 15 users looking for durable, high-quality headphones with exceptional sound customization capabilities and versatile connectivity options. It’s a compelling choice for those willing to engage with its adjustable features to create a personalized audio experience.

Shure AONIC 50 (2nd gen)Shure AONIC 50 (2nd gen)
SG recommended
Shure AONIC 50 (2nd gen)
Battery life • Excellent App • Price
MSRP: $349.00
The Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) can connect to anything are decent do-anything headphones. The sound needs a little tweaking, but since the app allows you to add parametric EQ filters, it's a gem.

Does the Apple AirPods Max support USB-C?

Close-up of the Lightning connector for the Apple AirPods Max as they lay next to a newspaper.
The Apple AirPods Max charge via Lightning, which is very annoying.

The current version of the Apple AirPods Max does not have a USB-C port and thus does not support USB-C wired listening with the iPhone 15 or devices like Apple’s iPad Pro series.

There also isn’t a headphone jack on the Apple AirPods Max. Instead, you must purchase a Lightning-to-3.5mm (male) cable for $35. On top of that, you’ll need a (female) 3.5mm-to-Lightning dongle to plug into your iPhone 14 or older. This chain converts the digital audio output signal from your iPhone to an analog one, back to a digital one, and then back to analog again inside the headphones. These conversions add latency and can introduce distortion, noise, and loss of detail.

Given that Apple is shifting its products from Lightning to USB-C, we expect the AirPods Max 2 to adopt a USB-C port. At the very least, we would like the anticipated USB-C port to allow USB digital audio passthrough. This would mean you would only need a USB-C to USB-C cable to enjoy wired, lossless digital audio with the AirPods Max 2.

Apple’s USB-C to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter turns any headset into a USB-C headset

There’s not much to say about Apple’s USB-C to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter ($10 on Amazon) other than it connects to any 3.5mm port on a pair of headphones and terminates in a USB-C connector. This allows you to take your favorite pair of headphones and plug it directly into your iPhone 15’s USB-C input.

It’s only a couple of inches long and works on all USB-C ports, including the one found on Apple’s iPad. It’s less than $10, but it does everything you need. You don’t need to overthink anything here; the dongles are near-perfect for low-power devices such as headphones, and there isn’t a huge reason to shell out for anything more expensive.

Apple USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack AdapterApple USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter
Apple USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter
Seamless compatibility • Compact and portable • High-quality sound
MSRP: $9.00

How we test USB-C headphones

Our testing process involves a practical approach, ensuring compatibility with modern, popular smartphones. Surprisingly, many products failed this basic test. Despite the temptation to overlook cheaper models, we evaluated a wide range, often finding that low-end products were unsatisfactory or uncomfortable.

We assess sound quality, features, and comfort, though not through a scientific method. Our team, having tested hundreds of products over the years, brings a wealth of experience to these evaluations. It wasn’t until recently that ANC headphones became more prevalent in this category, indicating slow progress in USB-C headphone development.

How we choose the best USB-C headphones

Our selection process for the best USB-C headphones is straightforward yet stringent:

  1. Availability: The products must be easily accessible to the average consumer.
  2. Compatibility: They should work with the most popular devices.
  3. Viability: The headphones cannot be discontinued or potentially harmful.

Identifying suitable candidates was challenging, given the limited number of USB-C headphones on the market. Many results initially included unreleased products. Though we discovered some offerings from reputable companies, the overall selection remains somewhat limited.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

Skullcandy Dime 3 earbuds on a model.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The earbuds are small and lightweight.

At SoundGuys, we commit to objective testing for battery life, isolation, and frequency response. We aim for each reader to find enjoyment and satisfaction in their chosen earbuds. Our writers maintain impartiality and do not benefit from promoting specific products, ensuring our recommendations are trustworthy and unbiased.

For more about our approach and ethics, check out SoundGuys Ethics.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, most USB-C headphones work wirelessly with iPhones. With the new iPhone 15 series, there is support for wired USB-C audio passthrough.

Yes, the iPhone 15 can use USB-C headphones, as it features a USB-C port for audio connectivity.

Lightning headphones do not directly work on USB-C ports, as they require a Lightning connector. An adapter would be needed for compatibility with USB-C devices.

Headphones with USB-C connectivity work with the iPhone 15. This includes both wired USB-C headphones and wireless headphones that offer USB-C charging.

Not all headphones are compatible with iPhones. Compatibility depends on the connector type (USB-C for iPhone 15) and Bluetooth capability for wireless models.

Earbuds that have USB-C connectivity or Bluetooth capability are suitable for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. This includes models from various brands that support these connection types.

The iPhone 15 does not have a traditional headphone jack. It uses a USB-C port for wired headphone connectivity.