How do you charge iPhone 7 and listen to music at the same time? If you’re using Lightning headphones, like the new EarPods that Apple bundles in the box with iPhone 7, Belkin’s new Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar adapter is currently the only option. The company sent one over this week for us to test…

With iPhone 7, Apple is transitioning users to Lightning and wireless headphones options. If you haven’t made the switch to wireless (we recommended our top picks), or you’re perhaps holding out for Apple’s new truly wireless AirPods coming out later this month, you’ll either have to use the Lightning EarPods that come with iPhone 7 (or third-party Lightning headphones), or use your old 3.5mm headphones with the included Lightning adapter.

If that is the case, Belkin’s new adapter will split your iPhone’s Lightning port into two, allowing you to continue listening with your Lightning headphones while charging your iPhone simultaneously. 

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The adapter will look very similar to anyone that has owned Apple’s various Mini DisplayPort/HDMI/VGA and USB-C adapters, with a short 2.5-inch cable connecting the Lightning connector to the two Lightning inputs on the other end. It’s also of similar quality, with a fairly sturdy but stiff cable that, like lots of cables, might get damaged over time and repeated bending.

The Lightning inputs, either when connecting Apple’s Lightning EarPods or its Lightning to 3.5mm adapter for use with old headphones, hold the Lightning connector snuggly without risk of it inadvertently becoming disconnected. And the physical media controls for volume and controlling calls on your Lightning headphones continue to work. 

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Audio quality |

In my tests, the Belkin adapter didn’t noticeably change the audio quality of Apple’s Lightning EarPods versus going directly into the iPhone. There was the odd occasion when going from one Lightning port on the adapter to the other caused audio to stop working until I unplugged and reconnected the headphones a second time, but that shouldn’t be something you run into in real world much. 

You can alternatively use the adapter with a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter, like the one that Apple includes in the box with iPhone 7 (pictured above). That will allow you to charge your iPhone 7 using one of the Lightning inputs, and use your old 3.5mm headphones with the other adapter into the other input. Like in our first test, using the secondary adapter with a pair of Apple’s 3.5mm EarPods doesn’t seem to noticeably change audio quality much compared to going direct into the iPhone 7 with the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter by itself.

The company says the adapter will also work if you’re plugging it into the Lightning port on Apple’s iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case.

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What it doesn’t do?

Split audio. You can’t use both of the Lightning inputs for audio at the same time. If you plug two sets of Lightning headphones in, or 3.5mm headphones using a secondary adapter, audio will only play out of one side. But you can use either side for charging or listening. It would have been nice if this product could have doubled as an audio splitter for Lightning headphones, as that’s something that’s not currently available like it is for our old 3.5mm headphones.

Should you buy it?

Currently the only alternative to this product is a charging dock with audio out. Apple’s new Lightning dock, for example, will let you charge your iPhone  7 and give you 3.5mm headphone jack for audio out, but that doesn’t help much if you want to use the Lightning headphones, like those that come with your iPhone 7, while also charging your device. There isn’t yet an adapter that lets you go from Lightning back to 3.5mm, something lots of MacBook and dock users have noticed after being unable to use their new Lightning EarPods with those devices.

You can buy the Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar adapter now for $39.

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