Headphones is an essential gadget that we all need in our pockets, usually for listening to music on our smartphones.
Android or iOS, budget or flagship, they’re all our everyday music players.
Music listening is as accessible as it has ever been to us, with virtually unlimited streaming at the lowest costs ever thanks to the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Gaana, JioSaavn, and even YouTube.
Irrespective of the smartphone or preferred streaming service, you still have to pick headphones that are perfect for you,
Your lifestyle and your music preferences.
The first question that most of us start with on the quest for the perfect headphones,
Is to choose between a wired or wireless headset.
It seems like the logical starting point, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Wireless headphones are better and cheaper than ever before,
True wireless earbuds like the AirPods have become top sellers around the world over the past few years.
Can wireless headphones really be compared to traditional wire headphones?
Do they sound as good as their wired counterparts?
2YODO going to try and break down the pros and cons of choosing between a wired or a wireless headset,
Hopefully help you pick one that fits your needs.
Wireless earphones have for many years been using the time-tested Bluetooth wireless standard to pair with smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, laptops, and the countless smart devices out there.
When Apple decided to drop the age-old 3.5mm jack from the iPhone 7, other smartphone manufacturers quickly followed suit, and changed the idea of headphones forever, wireless headphones exploded in popularity.
The AirPods introduce a completely wire-free experience and give birth to a new product category call true wireless earbuds, super-compact earbuds that are so small when wear.
Most Headphone brands tend to use the word ‘Freedom from wire’ in their marketing when talking about Wireless Headphones.
Freedom from being wire down to your smartphone or your laptop.
Freedom to move around and have your music play in your ears.
The ability to go for a run, or work out in the gym or board a train on your daily commute without wires getting in your way
Compact Size | Features
Wireless headphones are even becoming smarter than before.
They may now boast several smart features such as having in-built voice assistants,
Wireless fast-charging to give you hours of battery life on the go,
Accompanying apps that can measure workouts and even heart rates,
Water resistance to keep them safe during sweaty workouts,
And of course active noise cancellation to give you some peace and quiet in noisy environments.
Why then would anyone not pick wireless headphones in today’s day and age?
The promise of hands-free, wire-free, and hassle-free convenience is surely the argument.
While it’s true that in the last few years the cost to manufacture wireless headphones has come down a lot,
In my experience wireless headphones can end up costing around three to four times price of an equivalent wired counterpart.
I like to think of wireless headphones as several devices, and not just headphones.
All wireless headphones need tiny speakers, a Bluetooth receiver, electronic components that connect to your smartphone, batteries to power them up, a built amplifier,
A digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) to make sure that the data you are streaming from your smartphone gets fed as an electrical signal that speakers can understand.
Each of these adds to the cost of the wireless headset.
They can end up costing several times the price of an equivalent sounding Wire headphone that is simply a pair of speakers connect to a 3.5mm jack.
It’s not hard to imagine that for the same budget, you are likely to get pretty ordinary-sounding wireless headphones as compared to a very impressive sounding wired one.
Perhaps another compelling reason to avoid wireless headphones is that they,
Just like most other electronic gadgets have a limited lifetime.
They are battery-power, and like all batteries, they will eventually die rendering them useless.
Most wireless headphones are design to last for up to three years of active use at best,
So you’ll need to replace your wireless headphones much the same way as you do with your smartphone.
Bluetooth is also a source of several pain points.
With every new version of Bluetooth that’s release, older wireless headphones become obsolete.
While Bluetooth works just fine for streaming music or use with standard MP3 files,
The wireless standard simply cannot transmit the large amounts of data that are need to listen to high-resolution or lossless music that comes along with formats such as FLAC or WAV.
No matter how brilliant sounding your wireless headphones are, Bluetooth will limit the sound quality of your output by downsampling music to lower bit rates.
Newer Bluetooth formats such as Qualcomm’s AptxHD and Sony’s LDAC attempt to solve this limitation by adding support for Hi-Res music,
But their widespread adoption is still several years away.
Wired Mean Better Sound?
Wired headphones are often seen as entry-level, inexpensive earphones that can be plug into a 3.5mm jack of a smartphone for a quick and easy listen.
The inconvenience of having wire in the way is not fun, especially during workouts, runs, or commuting on a busy train.
Wired headphones aren’t just limit to basic budget-friendly earphones.
If sound quality is a priority over basic convenience, wire headphones come out ahead both in terms of price and more significantly,
In terms of sonic performance.
Wired headphones have always been the audiophile’s top pick.
Several popular ones from premium manufacturers have been used in music studios for over half a century as a reference standard for musicians and producers,
Even though the basics of the headphone haven’t changed all that much.
Innovations in sound technology mean that they’ve become better sounding than ever before.
The rising popularity of audiophilia as a hobby amongst music enthusiasts mean headphone manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of what headphones can do.
Audiophiles are not just passionate about their music, but also care deeply about the way the music sounds.
They are in pursuit of a life-like music listening experience in a compact and portable headphone setup.
Audiophiles can be hard to please, but that’s exactly what the best headphone manufacturers have excelled at over the years.
Premium headphones and earphones can cost over Rs. 10,000 for several popular models and can even go upwards of Rs. 1,00,000 for the very best ones such as the Audeze LCD-3, and are targeted towards the emerging audiophile community in India.
Wired headphones and in-ear monitors, paired with a Hi-Res audio player or a portable DAC, are the audiophile’s devices of choice to listen to music.
Wireless headphones are simply not good enough for the discerning music listener.
Price of a mid-range wireless headset from a popular brand an audiophile can put together a complete listening setup.
Any comparison on the basis of sound quality would be pretty one-sided, with the wired setup coming out on top.
The pursuit of good sound will lead you down a path where wired headphones will,
Sound significantly better than a wireless headset for an equivalent budget.
Convenience may also be prioritised above sound alone,
When headphones need to be used for working out, long flights, or for a crowded commute.
The convenience of a completely wire-free existence is undeniable.
A modular approach to choosing headphones, such as the Shure SE215,
Allows customers to have the flexibility of using their headphones in wired mode and upgrading it to use in wireless mode by simply swapping cables.
Bluetooth DACs pair with premium wired headphones deliver the very best in sound quality along with the add convenience of being use wirelessly with smartphones.
Perhaps in the coming years the boundary between sound and convenience will be bridge where the elusive perfect headphone can finally be on our bucket lists.
THANK YOU FOR READING.