The Pros and Cons of Wireless Headphones: Convenient, With Intuitive Technologies, Yet Also Limitations

Wireless headphones are becoming more and more popular these days with all the new devices coming out. But is there more to them than meets the eye? With so many advantages, disadvantages and unexpected issues to keep in mind, how do you know if you should buy a pair of wireless headphones or not? And which wireless headphone should you purchase? Read below for an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of Wireless headphones and their advantages over wired headphones.

Pros of Wireless Headphones

Since wireless headphones connect directly to your audio player or smartphone without a wire, they’re almost always more convenient than wired options. They’re also more portable and allow more freedom of movement.

Convenience - Wireless Headphones' Major Advantage Over Their Wired Counterparts

Convenience is a vague, all-encompassing word that covers a wide range of benefits. In the case of wireless headphones, this term implies the following things: no cables, great portability, and functionality. These are the main elements that make a Bluetooth headset practical and convenient.

No cable - No More Troubles With The Cord Getting Tangled or In Your Way

Wireless headphones are cordless, meaning they don’t use a cable because they connect directly to a source through a wireless 2.4 GHz radio signal or USB Bluetooth dongle so you can enjoy music or take a phone call while walking anywhere. There’s no cable behind your neck or tangling on your chest. At least with true wireless headphones. Neckband headphones still have some cm of wires.

Of course, there are multiple ways to connect wireless headphones, and not just via Bluetooth. There’s also NFC, RF, IR, DECT, proprietary wireless technologies and more, but we used Bluetooth as an example.

Wireless headphones pair via Bluetooth, but that doesn’t mean they cannot connect via a conventional 3.5mm stereo cable like Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bowers & Wilkins PX7. Most wireless headphones, usually over-ear and on-ear wireless headphones, allow you to plug a 3.5 mm headphone jack or sometimes even a USB cable into your audio source. Therefore, you can get the best of both worlds. Want to use your wireless headphones at home when the battery is empty or simply enjoy better sound? Connect them with a cable. Want to listen to music on the go? Unplug it.

The fact that wireless headphones don’t require wires is a huge advantage to one’s listening experience. Whether you’re walking, running, dancing, or doing any activity with the wireless headphones on, the cable will not be a restriction, and that’s a big plus because you can enjoy them in different environments. This leads us to the next point – Portability.

Portability - Wireless Headphones Allow You To Take Your Music Where You Go

The portability of wireless headsets is another benefit that wireless headsets enjoy. Wireless headsets are easier to carry around because you don’t have to worry about messy wires. Wireless headsets are also usually collapsible, which further enhances their portability. You can literally place them anywhere you want since they don’t take up much space. Put them in your pocket, backpack, or hold them in your hand.

A wireless headsets’ portability also proves a high degree of versatility. You can use your wireless headphones in environments you wouldn’t use wired headphones. Do you live in New York City and want to go to Vital Brooklyn for rock climbing but still have to put up with the noisy streets of traffic? You can listen to Bose ANC QuietComfort Earbuds’ music all the way. You can even climb with these headphones if you ever wanted to do it but couldn’t find a pair of wireless earbuds with a secure fit.

Even for those who live in Texas or Florida, beachgoers can still take their wireless headsets to the beach without worrying about sun, sand, or seawater getting in the way. A perfect wireless headphone for swimming would be the Aftershock Xtrainerz bone-conduction headphones with IP68 protection. They’re very light, refreshing, dust-proof to protect them from sand, and can be submerged in water under 1.5 meters for a lot of time. The convenience of wireless headphones works just as well for Californians who love running on the boardwalk of the Santa Monica beach in the summer. For such occasions, Beats Powerbeats Pro or Treblab X3 Pro is just as perfect as our other recommendations.

Flexibility and freedom of movement are some of the wireless headphones’ gifts. Wireless headphones’ portability is what amplifies this factor. You can go wherever you want with them and enjoying your music, podcasts, etc. For sports users, wireless headphones are a must-have.

There are still many more uses of wireless headphones’ portability. You can use them at work, when traveling, at the gym, in your bedroom, in the car, in the shower – anywhere! The options are unlimited, as long as you know what you want out of them.

All these factors make it clear that wireless headphones are more convenient than wired ones.

Functionality - Technologically, Wireless Headphones Offer Some Unique Features

It’s not just about the convenience of being able to take your music with you on the go – many wireless headphones also have multipoint technology, which allows you to connect multiple headphones to one device. A Bluetooth headset with a multipoint connection is primarily used with smartphones and other media streaming devices like your TV or game console.

You won’t be able to use all the devices at once, but you can listen to music on your Sony Walkman MP3 Player and accept or decline the call when you’re contacted on your smartphone. No need to pair your Bluetooth headphones to your smartphone or plug a cable into it.

Another desirable feature that can only be present in some wireless headphones is the integration of newer and more advanced Bluetooth codecs like aptX and aptX LL providing a low-latency wireless connection that allows you to watch movies on your computer while lying in bed without a 3m cable. This only applies to some wireless headphones. The others usually suffer from high latency, which is a very critical issue.

The Following Wireless Headphones Benefit From a Low-Latency Wireless Transmission
Headphones with aptX Adaptive
  • Bowers & Wilkins PX7 – Best high-end
  • Avantree Aria Pro – Best budget
  • Edifier TWS1 Pro – Best cheap true wireless earbuds
Headphones with aptX-LL (Low Latency)
  • Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 – Versatile High-end Wireless Headphones
  • Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 (3rd Gen) – Runner-up
  • Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC – Best Sounding Noise-Cancelling Headphones with aptX LL
  • Sennheiser HD 4.50 BT – Runner-up
  • Anker Soundcore Life Q20 – Best Affordable Headsets with ANC
  • Tribit Active Noise Cancelling – Runner-up
  • Sennheiser CX 350BT – Entry-level Wireless Neckband Headphones
What is the difference between aptX LL (Low Latency) and aptX Adaptive?

The aptX LL technology provides you with a low latency of approximately 30 ms. While aptXAdaptive technology has a variable transmission rate between 279 kbps and 420 kbps and low latency between 50 ms and 80 ms. The aptX Adaptive technology is perfect for high-res audio streaming and Netflix, as well as situations that require a Bluetooth low-latency and low bitrate. As with Bluetooth profiles, you’ll have to make sure the device you connect to supports these codecs.

Another convenient feature of Wireless headphones is the Near Field Communications technology (NFC)

NFC or Near Field Communication is a wireless technology for transferring data over short distances without connecting wires. NFC was initially designed to replace existing methods like Bluetooth, proximity cards, and Wi-Fi. It takes the benefits of all three technologies and creates a new one. In other words, it connects your headphones or smartphone with other devices without using cables.

In fact, NFC technology is great because pairing is smooth and doesn’t require special applications or complex setups, unlike Bluetooth devices that require a certain number of steps before they’re ready for use. For those who want a seamless experience, headphones with NFC technology are the best choice.

Multipoint Connectivity - Stay Tuned to Multiple Devices Simultaneously

Multipoint connection is a popular feature in wireless headsets. Wired headsets are limited to a single connection, but wireless headsets can connect to two or more devices simultaneously. For people with multiple devices, the multipoint connection can be a great relief. But not all Bluetooth devices support multipoint connection. So check the specifications of your headphones before you buy if this is important to you.

Most Bluetooth headsets remember multiple devices they were connected to (depending on the device itself). If you need to use a smartphone that you previously connected with your Bluetooth headset, the connection happens automatically once you’re in range, so you just need to choose the device again.

With multipoint Bluetooth headsets, you can connect your smartphone and laptop to the headset and use both devices at the same time. For example, you can stream music from your laptop and take calls from your smartphone, or use either to make or receive phone calls.

Headphones Features
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Cons of Wireless Headphones

Wireless Audio Transmission - Not Nearly As Reliable As Wired Headphones

Wireless headphones’ audio is transmitted through 2.4 GHz radio frequencies and converted to analog when the sound reaches your headphones. With wired headphones, the audio signal is transmitted via a cable which can add some unwanted noise or hissing only if the cable suffers from physical damage. Otherwise, wired headphones are by far the superior of the two.

Some cord-free headphones suffer from latency or low sound quality from low bit-rate. The average Bluetooth latency in headphones is somewhere between 200 and 300 ms. Anything lower than 200 ms can be considered above-average. A 200 ms latency might not seem much when watching movies, but it’s still not low enough for a smooth experience. Meanwhile, for music lovers, a low bit-rate is the result of the audio codec and defines how much information (in bits) is transferred from the source to the headphones. For example, a high bit-rate of 96kbps means that 96kbps of information is transferred between the source and headphones.

A bit-rate of 96kbps can’t be considered ‘high fidelity for its clarity and detail. It isn’t great for listening to classical music or other forms of popular genres like pop, jazz, etc. The good news is that most Bluetooth codecs have bit rates of at least 320kbps. The most common bit rates are 48kbps, 320kbps, and CD-quality (44.1kHz). Considering this, you now have to make sure the audio files you play are recorded at these bit rates or better.

Fortunately, these problems are being solved constantly through better audio chipsets being used in wireless headphones. Qualcomm has adopted their aptX low-latency codec technology to improve the latency for gamers and movie watchers. At the same time, aptX HD and LDAC provide a much higher bitrate than the average 300 kbps.

Bluetooth headphones with aptX HD, an audio codec standard for wireless headphones, offer a high bitrate of 576 kbps, while some Sony headphones come with LDAC codec offering up to 990 kbps. Higher numbers denote better sound quality, while lower numbers mean lower quality sound output for Bluetooth wireless headphones.

Weight - Bluetooth Headphones Have More Components Than Usual Headphones

Wireless headphones are generally heavier in weight than their wired counterparts. Most of them are more comfortable simply because they don’t have to be tethered with cables when you’re wearing them. But it’s still up to you whether they feel right on your head or not!

There are plenty of wired heavy headphones such as Audeze LCD-3 with 635 grams. If there were a wireless version of it, it would have weighed several grams more. Wireless headphones do require a few more components to make the wireless transmission work. Besides the headset’s frame, headband, ear cups, ear pads, drivers, magnets, and coils, wireless headphones also have batteries, a Bluetooth module, a charge port module, and perhaps even a few microphones.

Wireless headphones are generally heavier in weight than their wired counterparts. Most of them are more comfortable simply because they don’t have to be tethered with cables when you’re wearing them. But it’s still up to you whether they feel right on your head or not!

There are plenty of wired heavy headphones such as Audeze LCD-3 with 635 grams. If there were a wireless version of it, it would have weighed several grams more. Wireless headphones do require a few more components to make the wireless transmission work. Besides the headset’s frame, headband, ear cups, ear pads, drivers, magnets, and coils, wireless headphones also have batteries, a Bluetooth module, a charge port module, and perhaps even a few microphones.

Battery Life - Headphones Need To be Recharged And Are Not Always Available

The fact that wireless headphones can be extremely versatile and be used for multiple purposes doesn’t mean it has no limitations. Wireless headphones need batteries to power the drivers and all the other functions – microphone, noise-canceling, FM radio, etc.

In the case of truly wireless earbuds, Most wireless headphones have a battery life of about 5-8 hours per charge which extends to 24-40 hours with additional charges from the charging case. Wireless on-ear and over-ear headphones can last between 20 and 60 hours. Of course, there are exceptions like the Edifier W830BT Wireless Headphones, which can last up to 95 hours.

Even though some wireless headphones are available with a fast-charging feature, most will still need hours to be fully charged. Also, the more frequently you use the fast-charging feature, the more your battery life degrades over time. To preserve the battery life of your headphones, we recommend that you don’t abuse the quick charge feature but fully charge the battery and store the headphones in case when you are not using them. This will keep your headphones’ batteries healthy and last longer.

Some wireless headphones require AAA batteries, while others require AA batteries. Some headphones use Li-ion batteries. As the name implies, li-ion batteries are made from lithium. If you want a wireless headphone that uses AAA batteries, we recommend you to check out these wireless headphones: QuietComfort 25 for traveling, Sennheiser RS 175 for watching movies and SteelSeries Arctis 9X Wireless for gaming.

AAA batteries are for wireless headphones like QuietComfort 25 that require a battery with a greater energy density. AAA batteries will typically last a long time, but they also can drain quickly when in use. AA batteries are designed for smaller devices, such as MP3 headphones, because they have a smaller power output and thus don’t need the higher energy density found in AAA cells.

While other wireless headphones use Li-Ion batteries. Li-Ion batteries are lighter than Alkaline batteries, safer, and provide a faster recharge. They’re also better in cold weather but are more expensive and require additional steps to care for them.

  • You should avoid extreme temperatures and be sure to unplug the charging port as soon as the headphones are fully charged
  • Don’t let the batteries discharge completely; instead, charge your headphones between uses.

If you’re not sure what type of battery your wireless headphones use, please ask the seller for details before purchasing them. The battery will not be the deciding factor when buying headphones. Still, it will help you get the most out of your new wireless headphones, especially when it’s the only aspect that differentiates two of your best options.

Ultimately, battery life places certain limits on your wireless headphones. And the worst of them is that if batteries are irreplaceable, once they’re dead in 4-5 years or barely usable, your wireless headphones will only work with a cable.

Compatibility - Devices Must be Bluetooth-enabled and Share The Same Codecs and Bluetooth Profiles

Tour wireless headphones must have at least one audio-related Bluetooth profile as the device they connect to. It’s also important to remember that not all wireless headphones will work with all audio-related Bluetooth profiles. You may need to know when you buy wireless headphones if compatibility is an issue for them.

For example, if you want to use your wireless headphones with a smartphone (iOS or Android), check if the headphone has an A2DP Bluetooth profile or an NFC short-range pairing if your smartphone provides NFC technology for an easier pairing.

Mild Bluetooth Compatibility Issues

Mild Bluetooth incompatibilities: It is known that Bluetooth 5.0 is much more advanced and powerful than its predecessors. But not all devices support it yet. Also, although Bluetooth 5.0 is backwards compatible, Bluetooth 5.0 devices do not get the full benefit of the high performance features when connected to older Bluetooth devices such as 4.0 Bluetooth. This is an issue of audio processing algorithms that differ from one technology to another.

Bluetooth and USB Wireless Connections

Another compatibility issue is with gaming consoles that only use proprietary Bluetooth technologies, such as the Xbox Wireless. In addition, Bluetooth headsets that connect via USB sticks cannot be paired with devices that support Bluetooth, because the USB sticks must be connected to a USB port.

Pairing Issues - Occasionally, Wireless Headphones Fail to Connect

Sometimes Bluetooth pairing can be as simple as pressing a button. Other times, you have to press the Bluetooth activation button a billion times while wondering what’s wrong with your headphones or the Bluetooth module on the device you want to connect to. 30 minutes later, you’re still troubleshooting the pairing issue.

There are plenty of such cases where a user’s wireless headphones cannot connect via Bluetooth. People complain that Bluetooth doesn’t connect or that the headphones don’t play music even though they’re correctly paired. Such pairing situations turn the convenience of a wireless headset into a nightmare. Pairing issues can be caused by anything and can result in all sorts of errors. Pairing failed? Your PC’s drivers are out of date? Firmware updated, but the headphones still won’t pair? Music on Bluetooth headphones plays only in one earbud or distorts the sound?

Sometimes turning Bluetooth on and off on your device and/or headphones, placing them close together, and turning them on for a few seconds – wait a minute or two and try connecting again can help, but other times, the Bluetooth module or the batteries may be faulty and need to be repaired.

Conclusion

As you can see, Wireless headphones are incredibly helpful and enjoyable devices. They can also be a complete nuisance if not properly maintained. Wireless headphones are simple devices without a cable, but they still need good care. Their sole purpose is to play music, but they don’t always work efficiently or well. Wired headphones also have problems, although not as many, but also less convenient in 99% of the cases.

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