Headphones are seamless for many reasons. First, you're able to feel every beat and note of what you're listening to. And you don't have to worry about interfering sound from the environment. Although that also depends on the type and quality of headphones you use. When asked to describe or define headphones, the image that comes to your mind is a device that helps in projecting sound through audio signals.
Choosing a pair of headphones can look quite simple, but it has a lot of underlying formalities. For example, which type of headphones would suit the equipment or mobile device? How long would the product last? Would it last because of its warranty or because of careful use? Can these headphones produce low bass notes? Or would the headphone produce notes that sound like static? The more you think about the reason you want to buy the headphones as well as the need, you realize that careful consideration has to be put in place before going ahead with that purchase.
Not quite long ago, there was only one major type of headphone; the wired headphones that came in different designs. However, there has been an increase in the production of wireless headphones. This article will point out the two types in detail, their features and characteristics make them unique.
1. Wired Headphones
The first sample of headphones was developed in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin for the US Navy. The Ministry of Defence funded the development of further sound transmission technologies, and that is how headphones were created. Wired Headphones are headphones that have a cable (called an auxiliary or ‘Aux In’) or cord for connecting between devices, which is mostly a 3.5mm plug.
Some wired headphones have plugs that are larger than 3.5mm (6.5mm and more recently, the optical plug), but the 3.5mm is the most common size because it allows for connectivity to a wide range of devices. Most wired headphones have a cord connection on the left headphones. Wired Headphones are great when sending electrical signals due to the direct connection that the cable allows. Many wired headphones come in major designs, which are:
1.1 Wired Over-the-ear Headphones
These are the biggest size of headphones in the market, and they are called over-the-ear because they are designed to cover the ear with ear pads, making them very comfortable. They are best suited for general use. An example is Edifier H840 Audiophile Over-The-Ear Headphones – Hi-Fi Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Audiophile Closed Monitor Stereo Headphone – Black
1.2 Wired On-Ear Headphones
These are the next in size to the Over-the-Ear design. They are not as big as the Over-the-Ear headphones, but they are just as comfortable. They are also not as heavy and are very portable. They are the frequent go-to option compared to Over-the-Ear headphones. An example is Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black.
1.3 Wired In-Ear Headphones
A good example of this type is the IEMs Mee Audio Pinnacle P1 with MMCX Detachable Cables. The In-Ear headphones are more commonly known as Earbuds, although their technical name is In-Ear Monitors (IEMs). IEMs typically go into the ears, to get the sound produced from the headphones into the auditory canal as easily as possible. There are wireless versions of the earbuds too. IEMs are useful for tuning out the noise and for bringing a great audio quality. They are even more portable than On-the-Ear Headphones.
1.4 Wired Earphones
This design is called Earphones because it goes into the ear too, but not as small as IEMs. They ‘hang’ in the external ear and help to tune out the noise, though at a minimum. They are the cheapest earphones in the market currently.
2. Wireless Headphones
Wireless headphones are a more recent advancement in the manufacture of headphones, and they are basically headphones that can be connected to a device without a cable or cord. Some of the basic designs of wireless headphones include:
2.1 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones
The rise of Bluetooth headphones has been one of the fastest advancements in headphone technology as newer versions of Bluetooth technology with faster codecs are being developed daily. Bluetooth headphones have excellent sound quality, and they come in IEMs and Earphones forms as well. There are also over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones, e.g., Sony WH-1000XM3.
2.2 Wi-Fi Headphones
This is considered the second most common type of wireless headphones after the Bluetooth type. Wi-Fi Headphones have to be connected to a particular network to work and can allow for connection to a further distance than Bluetooth connection. It is also faster than Bluetooth connection and can be used with music streaming services that have become popular in recent years. An example is the COWIN E7Headphones.
2.3 Radio Frequency Headphones
This is another type of wireless headphones that uses radio technology. Many headsets created using radiofrequency is basically used for Gaming. Most of the gaming headsets are created using radio frequencies of 2.4GHz. The idea behind this is that radiofrequency penetrates through walls and floors and would, therefore, provide the user with an excellent experience than other headphone types. Many Radio frequency headphones come in Over-The-Ear and On-The-Ear design, e.g., iLive Radio Frequency Wireless Headphones with Transmitter/Charging Dock, Black (IAHRF79B).
2.4 Infrared Headphones
The third type of headphones are Infrared Headphones. Infrared Headphones use a transmitter and receiver method to produce sound, similar to the TV and TV Remote technology. The transmitter and receiver have to be no more than 10 meters apart and must be in a clear line of sight between each other. Infrared Headphones give a great sound quality as well, e.g., TOPXCEGUU A10 IR Wireless Headphones.
3. Pros and Cons of Wired and Wireless Headphones
Both wired and wireless headphones have their advantages and disadvantages as do all products. However, to make an informed choice between Wired and Wireless Headphones, they have to be checked against certain parameters such as Sound/Audio Quality, Price, Compatibility with Equipment, Battery Life, etc.
- Price: The price of headphones varies, and this depends on the quality of each brand, manufacturer’s prices, designs, etc. Usually, wireless headphones are considered to be more expensive than wired headphones, although some wired headphones are considered high-end and are quite costly. The cost of high-end wired headphones ranges between $15-$2,500, while wireless headphones range from $10-$10,000. But this depends on the type and manufacturer’s model. Some companies have standard prices for their products, while some other companies have different models of a particular design for ease and affordability.
- Audio Quality: This is the most important technical feature to note about headphones because if the headphones have poor sound quality, then what is it good for? Wired headphones generally have a more excellent sound quality due to the Aux In cord that ensures electrical signals producing sound flow, unhindered. Wireless headphones usually experience interference because they transmit signals in a close range with the device in use. Once there is an increase in distance, the audio signal might be lost, which will lead to poor audio quality. This is why it is most advisable that the device in use must be in range for you to have an optimal user experience when using a wireless headphone.
- Convenience: It is important to choose a product that will ensure maximum convenience for you. For example, if you want to go jogging or exercising, it might be a bad idea to carry wired headphones. But if you need headphones for disc jockeying, using wireless headphones might give you poor sound quality, and they would be largely inconvenient. Also, with weight, wireless headphones are more comfortable and lighter in weight, whereas wired headphones restrict movement due to the cord. Distance between devices and headphones is also important. Wired headphones prevent people from moving away, which is why it is preferable to use wired headphones within a short distance range, whereas wireless headphones allow freedom of movement between user and device.
- Battery Life: This is one of the disadvantages of headphones, especially wireless headphones. Wired Headphones do not need to be charged as all you need to do, is plug the aux in your device. Some wired headphones have rechargeable batteries and generally have a longer battery life, which lasts for a maximum of 30 hours. On the other hand, wireless headphones tend to get drained because they are installed with basic AA or AAA batteries and can last for up to 12 hours in some cases.
- Compatibility with Devices: The headphones you buy must be compatible with the device you want to use it with. Many wired headphones have a 3.5mm audio jack that can be used with various devices. Some devices need an adapter to connect to the headphones, but this does not affect the headphones. Wireless headphones, on the other hand, can work with a wide range of devices. All you need is Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, and you are good to go. Another thing to consider with compatibility is the use of your headphones with Personal Computers (PCs), Tablets, and Desktops. It is better to buy headphones that have future-proofing, a feature that allows you to use wired headphones with PCs, desktops, and tablets.
- Comfort and Lifestyle: Personal comfort is important when buying headphones, which is directly related to the user’s lifestyle. For music lovers, Disc Jockeys, On-Air Personalities (OAPs), and people that are hard of hearing, wired headphones are the best fit due to its ability to deliver excellent sound quality. On the other hand, Athletes, Travelers, Gamers, and users with highly mobile lifestyles will benefit from wireless headphones.
To top it up, the choice of headphones you want to buy depends on your personal preference because both wired and wireless headphones have their benefits as well as their disadvantages. So it is not possible to say there is a better choice between Wired and Wireless Headphones. Truth is, this debate has been going on for a while, and one cannot say when this would be over, or which headphone will be the most preferred choice.
Innovation is also helping this debate as many manufacturers are improving the models of their headphones and creating a wider range of options that are easy on the pocket. However, the choice of headphones you decide to purchase is entirely up to you depending on your budget, lifestyle preference, sound quality, and convenience.