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Back in 2016, Apple took the momentous decision to no longer fit iPhones with the standard headphone jack. The decision forced iPhone users to use wireless headphones instead. Other companies, like Motorola, soon followed. Bluetooth technology has advanced to the point where using wireless headphones is not a problem for most people. A whole new market came into being as a result of this innovation. Every type of headphone soon came in a wireless version. Some, like earbuds and in-ear headphones, subsequently were developed as truly wireless versions that meant any kind of cord did not connect the left and right buds.
The development of Bluetooth technology has made it possible to connect devices wirelessly. Headphones are no exception. There is a small computer chip in the headphones, which allows pairing with whichever device you are using to play music. Not having to worry about cords can be a significant advantage in many situations. If you are in the gym, out and about, with friends or at home, not having the hassle of cords can be a good thing.
All the types of wireless headphones listed in this article come with Bluetooth technology.
TYPES OF WIRELESS HEADPHONES
There are quite a few different types of wireless headphones, most of which are adaptations of standard wired headphones. Which you choose will be dependent on many factors, which will be discussed later in the article. Of course, some headphones will fall into more than one category, for example, an over-ear headphone that also is the closed-back type or a sports headphone that is also in the in-ear category.
Closed-back headphones are ideal for those who want to block outside noise and have an uninterrupted listening experience. If you are listening to music, nothing from outside can interfere with the music, nor can anyone nearby hear what you are listening to. This type of headphone is excellent for classical music enthusiasts who want to savor every nuance of the music. Headphones of this type are in use in recording studios so that a singer can hear the backing track while laying down their vocals, but nothing from the backing track will leak out and be picked up by the microphone. This type of headphone does tend to be chunkier than regular headphones.
- Usually, a closed-back headphone is better at noise isolation.
- The positional accuracy of the sound that is being produced – which is called soundstage – is not as good with a closed-back headphone.
- You will have little awareness of what is going on around you, which will slow your reaction in the event of a threat.
Open-back headphones give a different quality of sound, being more open. This type of headphone tends to be preferred by those working in a studio mixing and mastering.
The leakage from the headphones will mean that anyone close by will hear noise coming from them. For some people, this is not an issue. As these open-back headphones are a less tight fit, they will be a little bit more comfortable to wear.
- Awareness of what is happening in your vicinity is better with open-back headphones.
- Soundstage is much better with this type of headphone.
- Open-back headphones are not so good at isolating noise.
- Everyone around you will hear some of the music you are playing.
These do exactly what the name suggests. They have a band that goes over your head, and the cups then sit on your ears, rather than enclosing them. There was a time, not so long ago, when walking along wearing a large pair of headphones would have been embarrassing. Not any longer, though, as wearing headphones of this type has been popularised by some high-profile music artists. They very much a fashion accessory, and accordingly can be found in a variety of design styles and colors.
There is some leakage of sound from this type of headphone, but generally, the quality of the music is good and closer to a natural sound.
- On-ear headphones are the most portable of the bigger ‘proper’ headphones.
- Choose the right model, and you will get excellent sound quality.
- Better for runners and athletes who don’t want to wear in-ear headphones. There is less risk of irritation, and they are a stable headphone.
- On-ear headphones are not as comfortable to wear as their over-ear cousins. They put pressure on your earlobes, and this can hurt after a while.
- They do leak more sound in and out. You may be able to hear more, but others can also hear your music.
This style of headphone goes over your head. It then encloses your ears to provide minimum noise leakage – both from outside and from within the headphones. Higher-end models are usually comfortable and do not scrunch your ears up in the way that on-ear versions can. As there is more material in the construction of this type, they can be a bit heavier. This extra weight can lead to tiredness setting in when used for an extended period – such as gaming or in the recording studio.
Generally speaking, over-ear headphones are not at all portable. However, some versions can be folded and so made more portable. Some versions are marketed as suitable for sports use, but many other types on the market would be more appropriate.
- Very comfortable to wear as they usually come with large, padded cups.
- They usually sound perfect, although that can depend on the model.
- Over-ear headphones have superior passive noise isolation, which will make for a better listening experience.
- The large size of over-ear headphones makes them the least portable of all the styles available.
- Not at all suitable for wearing while working out as they are heavy and consequently less stable.
In-ear headphones sit in your ear canal, and so are that little bit closer to your eardrums. Technological developments now mean that the sound quality of these small headphones can compete well with the on-ear and over-ear headphones described above. They work a bit like closed-back headphones, as the way they fit into your ear prevents sound from outside entering.
In-ear headphones have grown in popularity over recent years, as they have the advantage of being portable. They don’t take up much space, so it’s possible to have some with you when walking, running, working out at the gym, or just chilling. Keeping the volume to a reasonable level will prevent any damage to your eardrums, although, as with any headphones, stay alert when you are out and about.
- In-ear headphones give excellent passive noise isolation which offers exceptional privacy and often better sound quality.
- The smaller design allows greater portability.
- In-ear headphones can sound just as good as larger, more expensive headphones.
- Being waterproof and sweatproof makes them an excellent choice for athletes.
- Some people don’t like the feeling of having them right in their ears as they can irritate.
- Their construction and size make them quite fragile, and they can be easily damaged if you don’t take proper care of them.
Earbuds rest on the outer ear, not in the ear canal. The business end tends to be larger than in-ear headphones, but there is leakage, both from outside and within. Other people will hear that you are listening to music. For some, earbuds are preferable to in-ear headphones as they don’t feel as invasive. Some people don’t like the feeling of a headphone inside their ear. However, as they are not fixed within the ear, they can fall out. Having this happen can be a problem if you have your hands occupied – for example, lifting weights in the gym.
Classic earbuds are the style of headphone with which most people are familiar. They are cheap, convenient and often are given away by airlines for use with in-flight movies. Wireless earbuds are becoming much more common, and often have a cable just joining the two buds together. They connect through Bluetooth, and some manufacturers have overcome the problem of battery life by linking the two buds with a neckband that contains both the battery and the Bluetooth transmitter. Sometimes the neckband is made of flexible material and sometimes it is a hard plastic case.
- Classic earbuds are portable.
- Manufacturing costs are usually lower, so the buds are cheaper to buy.
- Some people find them more comfortable to wear when compared with in-ear versions.
- They are often sweat-proof and water-resistant, perfect for runners and other outdoor athletes.
- Their passive noise isolation is not that effective compared to in-ear versions, although all-round awareness is better.
- Generally speaking, they don’t come in high-end specifications.
- Music quality can be a bit disappointing, lacking bass and some detail.
Noise-canceling vs Noise-isolating
Noise-cancelling headphones do just what they claim. They cancel external noise so giving you uninterrupted listening experiences. Some models do this by merely enclosing your ears entirely with over-ear cups. Others use sophisticated tech in the headphones, along with a tiny microphone, to monitor the external sound, calculate its frequency, and then create another frequency that cancels it out. All this technology requires power so that the headphones will have to incorporate a battery. By doing this adds to the weight of the unit, as well as upping the price. Some of the models at the lower end of the price range might have slightly impaired sound quality.
The noise-canceling headphone is particularly useful when flying, as not only will it block out the sounds from other passengers, but it will also cancel out the noise of the airplane’s engines. Noise-cancelling technology can be found in all types of headphones, so a suitable model can be found to fit in with your lifestyle.
Passive noise isolation does not require any expensive tech. The aim can easily be achieved through build quality, with better padding and much more practical designs. The noise is kept out by not giving it any way of getting in. As there is no tech involved, the quality of the sound is not affected.
- Frequent flyers will find a noise-canceling set of headphones a must to keep external noise during a flight to a minimum.
- They will also be useful if you work in a noisy environment and want to listen to music rather than just wear standard ear defenders.
- There is quite a bit of additional tech in noise-canceling headphones, and this means that they will weigh more.
- Often, the price of these headphones is higher than for those without this technology.
True Wireless Headphones
As was mentioned in our introduction, true wireless headphones do not need any cable to connect them. They are an independent pair of buds that operate via Bluetooth. Both earbuds and in-ear headphones are suitable for use as true Wireless Headphones.
Using these does offer several advantages. Firstly, having a cord to contend with can be a nuisance, especially when you are trying to do several things at once. Bluetooth ranges are getting better all the time, and this gives you the freedom to move away from your device while still maintaining the connection. Secondly, having a true wireless set means you will be able to get them out and begin using them without having to untangle any cord. Thirdly, as there is no need to plug them in, pairing the headphones is an easy task. Once set up the first time, they will automatically synchronize when you start to use them.
- There are no wires to get in your way.
- You have better freedom of movement, as there is no risk of snagging a cord on an obstruction.
- You can put some distance between you and your device, and still keep listening. Having this distance might be useful in a work environment.
- You do have to be aware of the amount of power left in your battery.
- Sound quality might suffer, especially when you move further away from your source.
- Wireless headphones can cost more than wired ones, although this is increasingly becoming less of an issue.
The popularity of working out in the gym, running and mountain biking has increased the demand for headphones that have been created explicitly for sports use. The choice is usually between in-ear or on-ear designs. Choosing which will depend on your sport or activity and personal preference. In-ear models will stay in your ears while you move around. Those designed for sports use usually have hooks or wings to help them stay securely in place. Most of the best sports headphones are wireless and are also sweat-resistant and water-resistant. These factors are essential as your sweat can damage the tech inside the headphones. Water-resistance is also crucial, as this can also damage delicate electronics. The international standard for water-resistance in electronics is the IPX rating. Check that the headphones you are buying have this rating.
Comfort is a significant consideration when choosing a pair of headphones for sports use. The range of extra tips available for in-ear headphones makes it much easier to get a comfortable fit. Although they are usually generously padded, on-ear headphones press against your earlobes, and this can lead to pain and discomfort as time goes on. Having to cut your gym session short because you can’t bear the discomfort is disappointing.
Another factor is noise isolation. For many, it’s much better to go through a gym session without being put off by the surrounding noises. If you only use your headphones when in the gym, then in-ear headphones will provide the best noise isolation.
Portability is important too, as you will probably have to travel some distance to the gym. Smaller headphones are easier to carry around, and in-ear versions are the smallest suitable ones. A good carrying case is essential if you also wish to protect the headphones from damage.
Many of the models available for outdoor sports use are of an open or semi-open design, and so will allow the filtering in of some background noise. This feature is important from a safety point-of-view, and it enables a bike rider or runner to hear traffic noise. The downside of this is that the user may not get the very best sound quality. Safety, however, must be treated seriously.
- Sports headphones are usually small, lightweight and therefore easy to wear and to carry around.
- You can move from activity to activity in the gym without having to worry about wires getting in the way.
- Most models are both sweatproof and waterproof, to improving their durability.
- Many models have good noise isolation which means you can exercise without hearing everything that is going on around you.
- Some models don’t have very good sound quality.
If you are prone to sleepless nights, or you need help to relax before going off to sleep, then sleep headphones might provide a solution. Sleeplessness is a surprisingly common problem, yet few people have discovered sleep headphones as a way to help them. Sleep headphones can be obtained in most of the common types including in-ear, on-ear and over-ear styles, as well as headband and sleep mask styles. They differ from regular headphones in that they aim to provide maximum comfort for the wearer. Also, some sleep headphones offer a high-quality white noise, which can encourage relaxation, and also ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). ASMR produces sounds that cause a slight tingling sensation in the ears that can help anxiety sufferers as well as encourage relaxation and sleep.
Special sleeping headphones will block noises from your surroundings if they disturb your sleep regularly. Play a suitable piece of music, keep the volume very low, and you should get a decent night’s sleep. Another suggested method of gaining a good night’s sleep is to play either white noise or special relaxation music for about three-quarters of an hour before settling to sleep.
Gentle music, or relaxation music, can also help bring about fewer bad dreams, and so promote better sleep. Some academics also suggest that learning will take place more effectively while the student is sleeping. Studies have indicated that language learning is improved if done while sleeping.
- Using sleep headphones enables the user to choose the sound that suits them when trying to sleep. White noise, ASMR and relaxation music are all possibilities.
- The most recent styles of sleep headphones have been explicitly designed to be comfortable when worn.
- It is possible to find almost all the different types of wireless headphones as sleep-friendly versions.
- Most sleep headphones were designed to exclude as much external noise as possible, and this might mean that the sleeper is unaware of a threat such as fire or intruders.
- The volume of any headphone producing sound has to be kept low – less than 60 decibels is recommended by medical experts – to prevent hearing impairment over a long period. It is easy to forget this and set the volume on sleep headphones too high.
Headband Wireless Headphones
Simply put, these are headbands that incorporate speakers. They can be used as sleep headphones or for sport, especially running. If you like the sensation of wearing a headband while exercising, especially if you want to keep your hair under control, and you like listening to music, then save yourself the hassle and get a headband headphone. Sports versions are manufactured from a breathable material that will be sweatproof and moisture-proof.
Sports headband wireless headphones are becoming increasingly popular, as they allow hands-free use. Just fit them to your head, and, providing they are paired with your phone, you are ready to go. The in-built speakers can be adjusted, so they fit over your ears, and most give good audio quality too. It is important to remember that they are a version of over-ear headphones, so they do block out most external noise. As with regular over-ear headphones, you will need to stay alert to stay safe. Also note that a driver seeing a runner wearing bulky headphones might be aware they cannot hear, whereas a headband won’t give the same link in the driver’s mind.
Headband headphones are versatile, as the same product can be used as a sleep headphone too.
- Headband headphones are versatile, as they have more than one use.
- They are easy to fit and wear.
- They can incorporate a full range of functions despite their small size.
- They offer value for money.
- If using them for sport, it is easy to forget that they pose the same risks as over-ear headphones. In other words, you can’t hear everything going on around you.
- Care needs to be taken when cleaning them. They cannot be washed.
Bone conduction headphones
These are headphones that sit just in front of your ear. The sound-waves made by them get transmitted to your inner ear through the bones of your skull. The great advantage of them is that you can listen to music and continue to be aware of your surroundings, thereby maintaining your awareness as you cross a road. This type of headphone is especially useful for running for that reason. Also, it is possible to carry on a conversation with someone while still listening to music. As the sound vibrations travel directly to your cochlea, some people with impaired hearing can use them and continue to enjoy music.
- Bone conduction headphones allow you to hear all that is going on around you while still listening to your music.
- They are easy to make waterproof, so this technology can be used underwater and is great for scuba diving.
- These headphones can be useful for someone with impaired hearing, allowing them to hear music and voices.
- Bone conduction headphones are an excellent fit, and so suitable for use when participating in a wide range of sports.
- The sound quality is not usually as good as can be obtained from regular headphones.
- There is no noise isolation, which could be a plus for some people.
Wireless Headphones for Kids
You will have seen quite young children out with their parents or riding bikes wearing headphones. Mostly these are in bright colors, with fun extras to appeal to kids. One of the largest groups of these fun kids headphones is Cat Ear Headphones, although they are also available in adult sizes too.
Generally, though, headphones designed for kids need to have certain essential features specifically because kids will be using them. Firstly, they need to be tough. These are headphones that will get quite rough treatment, and so durability should be a significant concern. Also, they must have a volume limiter fitted. It is very dangerous to allow small children to be subjected to loud music over a long period. Children like their music loud but with a volume limiter fitted, they won’t be able to turn it up when no adult is looking. They also need to be comfortable, as no child will wear headphones for long if they hurt their ears. Most are on-ear style so that they may press against their earlobes. Try and go for soft, well-padded ones that are a snug fit.
The fit is another factor to be considered. Too large, and the headphones will be too loose; too small and it will be too tight and cause discomfort. Therefore, buy a pair of headphones that are the right size. Some do come with adjustable headbands so the child won’t grow out of it too quickly
Also make sure that you buy a colorful, fun design. There are many fun headphones on the market, with new ones added all the time. As well as the cat ears headphones mentioned above, you will find headphones in pink that looks like a tiara, with a monkey face or in bright primary colors. They also do come in colors and styles that will suit any gender.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE GOING WIRELESS
Here are some of the factors that you will need to keep in mind when you are buying wireless headphones.
Simply put, this means how you are going to use the headphones. There are so many different types and models to choose from that there are several decisions you will have to make before making your final choice.
Will the headphones be needed for listening to music at home, where the quality of sound is paramount and are to be used in conjunction with a top-of-the-range hi-fi system? Or will you be using them on the move, as you go about your daily routine? Maybe they will be used in the gym when you are exercising, or in the rugged outdoors when mountain biking or rambling?
It might seem unusual to consider weight, as most headphones weigh very little. However, remember that some of the over-ear and on-ear models can be quite weighty, which is especially noticeable if you are going to be wearing them for any length of time. Another factor is that when longer battery life is needed, and therefore a larger battery is fitted, this will add to the weight of the unit.
Sadly, there are several models of headphones on the market which lack durability. It will not surprise you that most of these are budget brands that don’t enjoy the build quality of more expensive headphones. Having this happen brings to mind the old adage ‘buy cheap, buy often’. The most common problem encountered by headphone users is the deterioration of the fabric on the ear cups. Even quite expensive models have this problem.
Given that wireless headphones have only been on the market for a relatively short time, it is a massive generalization to say anything about reliability. However, it is possible to suggest from the limited evidence, that wireless headphones are more reliable than wired ones. The cords on wired headphones are always at risk of damage and need to be sturdy to survive the pressure of everyday use. The lack of cables on wireless headphones avoids this problem.
If you have an iPhone from Apple or an Android phone from, say, Samsung, then you will need to ensure that the headphones you buy, whichever type they are, are compatible with that phone. Most recently introduced wireless headphones will support both AAC and aptX and therefore are compatible with most of the devices with which headphones are likely to be paired. AptX HD is just a better version of aptX. Now to be technical for a moment, AAC and aptX and aptX HD are ways in which a device transmits audio. The transmission of the signal involves compression, and compression creates a fuzziness to the sound. AptX HD came about with the express purpose of reducing that fuzziness and so giving a better quality of sound. But before you panic, you would have to a real music buff with a well-trained ear to tell the difference. Just note that you should check compatibility before buying headphones. The number of devices hosting aptX HD is growing all the time, and it won’t be very long before you have to search very hard for a device that doesn’t.
5. Will you use your headphones when watching TV?
If you want to use headphones while you are watching TV, then there are several ways in which you can do this. If you need headphones just for use when watching TV, then it is best to purchase a dedicated pair. They come complete with a base station that will plug into your TV and works over a radio frequency rather than via Bluetooth. The advantage of a dedicated pair of headphones is the range over which they can transmit a signal. With Bluetooth, you can expect a range of about 30 feet, whereas with an RF pair the range will be nearer 300 feet. You may not often need to go a long distance from your TV, but it does mean you can go elsewhere and still pick up the signal from your TV.
If you have a Bluetooth pair of headphones and would like to carry on using them, then you will need to invest in a Bluetooth transmitter. These are quite cheap to buy and are simple enough to set up. Plug the transmitter into the 3.5mm output or the RCA output on your TV and just pair it up with the headphones, and you can begin. Then, when you no longer wish to listen through headphones, pull the transmitter out of the outlet and the TV’s internal speakers will have volume restored.
Media streaming devices like set-top boxes often allow headphones to be connected, and this is a good, trouble-free way to do so. Apple TV will enable you to connect Bluetooth headphones easily. Not all Android TV boxes are so obliging, so you will need to check yours to see whether you can. Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick both happily allow you to pair up your headphones. The process is quite simple.
COMMON FEATURES OF WIRELESS HEADPHONES
These are some of the features that you would expect to find in wireless headphones.
1. Quality of Sound
The very best headphones will give you a full, rounded sound with the correct balance of treble, mid-range and bass frequencies. In-ear headphones do not provide top quality bass, but a quality over-ear set of headphones will produce a deep, rich sound. You will get a more natural sound from open-back headphones as opposed to closed-back types. The sound produced by a closed-back headphone can be less sharp.
It was not the intention that Bluetooth technology would provide top-quality sound, and so many of the wireless headphones available have been fitted with aptX technology. With this technology, the audio quality is much nearer to that obtainable from a CD. It is essential, however, that both the devices – that is, the headphones and the phone itself, must support aptX technology. Those headphones with aptX technology are going to be more expensive, but the difference in quality may not be worth the extra outlay.
You will need to decide whether an over-ear, on-ear or in-ear headphone is the best for your purposes. Active, sporty types will probably find the in-ear type most appealing, while real music lovers will prefer an over-ear style.
Should you be wearing your headphones for long periods, then they must be comfortable. The over-ear and on-ear styles often have extra padding to make them more comfortable, and some, at the top of the price range, have more padding and more luxurious materials. In-ear types are much harder to make comfortable, although some manufacturers do supply alternative tips to suit different shaped ears.
Big and bold or small and discreet: the choice is yours. The over-ear types are larger, and it isn’t everyone who wants the world to know they are listening to music. For some, the smaller in-ear style is preferable as they do not draw attention to the wearer.
Wired headphones have the controls for volume and play or pause along the wire. Without a cable, a different method of controlling the headphones needed to be developed. Most manufacturers of wireless headphones have all the controls on the earpieces. Some are quite intrusive and can look ugly. Most headphones now have touch controls, which tend to be less noticeable, but can be harder to use in certain circumstances. A growing trend is towards voice control or the use of external apps.
Wireless headphones need to pair with the external device to which they are linked. Most use Bluetooth to achieve pairing, although some have NFC (Near Field Communication) capability. It is possible to find both of these technologies in some brands of headphones.
To maintain good audio quality, you will need to keep your headphones within a reasonable distance of the base. Each set of wireless headphones will come with guidelines as to how far from the base you can move before the sound quality deteriorates, or disappears altogether. You can expect a range of about 30 feet from cheaper brands, but more expensive ones might go up to 200 feet or more.
8. Battery Life
The need to remember to charge the batteries in a device every day is one of the banes of modern life. To use any wireless headphones, they first have to be charged. Therefore battery life is a very important factor to consider when choosing your new headphones. In addition to the length of time, the battery lasts before needing charging, you must consider the charging time, that is how long it takes the battery to achieve a full charge.
As with all things in life, a premium product commands a premium price. If you choose to buy a top-quality pair of headphones with superb audio quality and extra features, then you will have to pay a high price.
On the other hand, an ordinary pair of headphones that does the job but without the fanfare will cost very much less.
WIRELESS HEADPHONE FAQs
There are always some questions that will not have answered in an article like this. So here is a section devoted to answering a few of them.
1. Are earbuds safe?
If you use earbuds to listen to music, then they are safe providing you have the volume at a low to moderate level. Music at a high volume is not safe as it can damage your hearing over time. The best advice is to keep the volume down and to use the earbuds for short periods.
Another problem sometimes encountered by those using earbuds to listen to music is that it is likely that your ears will produce greater amounts of earwax as they try to protect themselves from the noise.
2. Is wearing earbuds for extended periods safe?
No. It is not safe to wear earbuds for long periods, especially if you are listening to music. Prolonged exposure to a loud noise very close to your eardrums will eventually cause your hearing to deteriorate. Tinnitus, which is a low buzzing or humming sound in your ears, can result from extended exposure to noise. This affliction is difficult to cure. There have been sufferers that have developed mental health issues as a consequence.
Prolonged exposure to music at even moderate volume levels can also cause headaches.
3. Can I sleep with my earphones in, while my cellphone is charging?
Sleeping with your earphones in, while charging your cellphone is certainly not to be recommended. Buy a wireless cellphone, and then you won’t need to have it charging near your bed. You should never have a cellphone in bed with you, as there is a risk of it exploding and setting fire to your bedclothes. Also, if you are charging a cellphone, it will be connected to the mains electricity. This connection increases the risk of you suffering electrocution if there is a problem with your electricity supply. People have died in this way, so don’t add your name to that particular roster. Fire department personnel always advise against charging a cellphone through the night. There is still a risk of fire as a result.
4. Are Bone Conduction Headphones safer than regular headphones?
No, they are not safer, but neither are they more dangerous. Do not be fooled into thinking that because bone conduction headphones direct the sound vibrations to the cochlea in your ear through the bones of your skull, that the ear cannot come to harm by the loudness of the music. Bone conduction headphones can play music just as loudly as regular headphones and with the same harmful effect on your hearing.
5. Can noise-canceling headphones cause hearing loss?
No, the noise-canceling technology used in these headphones cannot harm hearing in any way. The purpose of noise-canceling headphones is to reduce noise rather than increase it, and as sustained exposure to loud noise that damages hearing, there is no threat.
These headphones do not produce any kind of radiation or harmful wireless signals, so other threats to health do not exist either.
6. What is the safe level to set the volume on kids’ headphones?
The World Health Organisation recommends that children listen to music with the volume set at 85 decibels. Also, most health professionals suggest a 2 hour limit per day for exposure to noise at this level.
7. Will I get a warranty with my wireless headphone?
Most manufacturers of wireless headphones will provide a warranty when the item is purchased. These are usually for one year, but some manufacturers give more extended warranties – up to 2 or even 3 years.
8. Can I use Bluetooth headphones on an airplane?
Officially you cannot use any Bluetooth or wi-fi devices on an airplane traveling internationally, that are larger than a smartphone. However, in 2013 the US FAA did give its approval for passengers to use Bluetooth devices on internal flights, so most airlines now allow their use.
PICK OF THE BEST WIRELESS HEADPHONES
This section suggests the best product in each of the categories given.
Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is an award-winning pair of noise-canceling headphones that are truly impressive. The sound quality is superb, with every instrument and vocal getting the right amount of space to impress.
The unit incorporates Sony’s Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser, so when you are flying, the noise-canceling is optimized for a better experience. There is a quick-charging battery, which operates via USB-C, with just a ten-minute charge giving an impressive five hours of usage. A complete charge takes about three hours.
There is a built-in microphone.
- The WH-1000XM3 has a natural, immersive sound quality.
- It has brilliant noise-canceling which serves to enhance the sound quality.
- The padded cups make it one of the most comfortable noise-canceling headphones on the market
- The battery life is excellent.
- The touch controls can be fiddly to use, at least until you get used to them.
- The price might be an issue for some.
Best True Wireless Headphones
The WF-1000XM3 is another award-winning Sony product. The WF-1000XM3 comes with a selection of tip sizes, which adds to their versatility. Also, noise-canceling technology is incorporated into the product and is of top quality. There are touch controls, although there is no volume control, and the sound is excellent, being natural with a high level of detail. The battery will give about 6 hours use, with charging done via USB-C. There is a built-in microphone.
- The WF-1000XM3 headphones are fabulous for music, showing all the subtlety you might expect from a quality product.
- The noise-canceling capability is of excellent quality.
- The battery life is good.
- The lack of volume controls is a surprising omission.
- These headphones do not support aptX HD.
- The price may deter some potential purchasers.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
These true wireless headphones from Cambridge Audio will appeal to the budget-conscious customer. The sound quality is outstanding, and the efforts of the manufacturers in this area have paid off. However, there are apparent savings elsewhere. There is no noise-canceling feature, and the fit of the earpiece is a bit awkward.
There are an in-line microphone and straightforward controls. The battery life is excellent, giving 9 hours from the buds and a further four charges from the case. Charging is via a micro USB.
The Melomania 1 is an excellent piece of kit for those who want top-quality sound at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
- The sound quality places these headphones right at the top of the best buy list.
- The long battery life is another attractive feature.
- The earpiece fit might be unsuitable for some people.
Best Sports in-ear headphones
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro
These are Bluetooth in-ear true wireless headphones with special hooks to anchor them in your ear. Like all headphones aimed at those who participate in sports, these are sweatproof and waterproof. Don’t, however, be tempted to go swimming wearing them as they will not tolerate total immersion.
The battery gives 9 hours of life per charge, but also will provide a good few hours with just a charge of a few minutes. Sound quality is good, and they are unlikely to be dislodged while you work out or run over rugged terrain.
- The Powerbeats Pro headphones have excellent sound quality.
- They fit in your ear is so well that they are not going to fall out.
- They have a reasonable length of battery life.
- The case that holds the battery is on the large side, so less portable than other brands’ cases.
- They are expensive, compared to other models.
- Despite the manufacturer making efforts to tone down the bass, the sound is still heavy on the bass.
Jabra Elite Active 65T
Jabra is a well-known and trusted brand in the sports headphone sector. They are a good, comfortable fit, with a special coating on the buds to help prevent them from slipping out. When they launched the sound quality not so good, but now a sequence of software updates have solved the problem. The sound has a bassy quality that goes well with workout music. If you wanted, these headphones could be used just for listening to music away from the gym, and they would do an excellent job.
These headphones are primarily intended for sports use, so Jabra has included an accelerometer so that you will be able to count reps. It works in conjunction with Jabra’s fitness app.
- The Active 65T is excellent for both indoor and outdoor use.
- The battery life is good, if not spectacular.
- The buds probably are the best in the sports wireless headphone sector of the market.
- Having an accelerometer provided might appeal to some users.
- Although not as expensive as the market leader, the Active 65T still has a higher price than partially-wired sports headphones.
Best wireless Sports headphones
Optoma Nuforce Be Sport 4
A wireless headphone set still has a cord that joins the two earpieces together. This cord can hang in front of your neck or behind your neck, depending on personal preference. They are not, therefore, true wireless headphones, where there is no cord of any kind.
The Optoma Nuforce comes out on top of its field for these wireless sports headphones due to its fantastic sound quality, the comfortable fit of the earpieces and their ability to stay in place. The ability to hold their position in your ear is helped by two hooks on the earpieces.
Apart from being ideal for sports use, these headphones are good enough to be used on a day-to-day basis too. The audio clarity is quite outstanding, and there is support for both AAC and aptX, which gives a better audio experience on Apple and Android devices. The noise isolation is genuinely excellent, so if you prefer to be cut off from the world around you when exercising, these headphones will suit you. There is a supply of different tips and different sized buds. Battery life is about 10 hours, which is not too bad.
If you are someone who is a bit worried that you may lose one of the true wireless buds, then these connected wireless headphones might just be the ones for you.
- The Optoma Nuforce has excellent audio for this type of headphone.
- The earpiece fit is both comfortable and secure with a choice of tips and buds.
- Great value for money, but do shop around.
- As with all corded, wireless headphones, there is a risk that the cord might get in the way during exercise.
Best On-Ear headphones
AKG Y50BT headphones
Although not the most recent introduction to the wireless headphones market, the AKG Y50BT headphones still dominate the on-ear sector. They provide top quality sound for wireless headphones, with clarity, detail, and texture. The standard of the sound should satisfy most music buffs.
The controls for volume, play and pause, and power and pairing are all on the right-hand ear cup. Pairing is via Bluetooth and is quick and straightforward. They are a comfortable set of headphones to wear and get warm quite slowly. After use, the ear cups swivel and fold inwards to make the unit small enough to fit in a pocket or small bag.
Battery life is excellent at 20 hours, and charging is via a micro USB.
These are an excellent set of headphones for the price-conscious music buff for whom sound quality is an essential consideration.
- The sound quality of these headphones is excellent, indeed.
- They are easy to use, with simple controls.
- The Y50BT is a supremely comfortable set of headphones.
- They pack away into a small, easy to carry, unit.
- The only downside is that the styling may be looking a bit dated.
Best Bone Conduction Headphone
Aftershokz Trekz Air
Aftershokz is the market leader in bone conduction headphones. They have worked with the US military to develop behind the ear headsets that would enable soldiers to be aware of what is going on all around them while maintaining the ability to communicate wirelessly. The open ear design of the Trekz Air allows you to hear everything in your vicinity but does not impede the sound quality that the headphones produce.
The Trekz Air is lightweight, an essential factor when you are likely to be wearing the headphones for long periods. Also, the wrap-around design gives them the stability that is required while participating in sports.
Aftershokz have also developed a sound technology of their own, termed PremiumPitch Plus. They did this to provide the best possible pitch for music, and also for voices, so giving a concise, clear sound. Multi-point pairing allows you to pair the headphones with several devices at the same time. Switching from one device to another does not require unpairing. It is compatible with iOS and Android, Bluetooth-enabled devices such as smartphones or tablets, as well as Mac, PCs, and laptops.
The battery life is acceptable but not outstanding 6 hours from a single charge, which will last for 20 days on standby. To charge takes 2 hours. On top of all that, the Trekz Air is sweatproof, moisture-proof and dustproof, which makes it great as a workout headphone.
- With so many outstanding features, it is challenging to pick single ones to emphasize.
- The battery life of the Trekz Air is not that impressive, nor is the time it takes to recharge.
Best wireless sleep headphones
Dunslabs Bedphones Wireless Headphones
The Dunsabs Bedphones are the thinnest on-ear headphones available. These sleep headphones are excellent for those who find earbuds painful and over-ear headphones too bulky. They are ¼ inch thick with a foam covering that makes them comfortable for most sleeping positions and ear shapes. Being wireless, there is no danger of strangulation should the sleeper be prone to tossing and turning.
Sound quality is excellent, as is the ability to block out external noise. The battery life is 13 hours. When first purchased they come with a carrying pouch, a USB charging cable and a set of replacement foams. There is also a complimentary eye mask and a 1-year warranty.
- The thinness of the Dunslabs Bedphones makes them a comfortable option for users.
- People with larger than average ears will find them a comfortable alternative to some other sleep headphones.
- The battery life is good for this type of product.
- If the sleeper is prone to moving about a lot when asleep, there is a risk that these headphones will get damaged. Like most sleep headphones, they are not designed to be as robust as regular headphones.
Joseche Bluetooth Sleep Eye Mask Headphones
The Joseche Sleep Eye Mask is a high-quality eye mask with built-in speakers. It supports the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology, allowing it to be paired with a wide range of smartphones, including iPhones and iPads. Having two elements within the one product is great for those who wear both an eye mask and wireless sleep headphones, as it combines the two.
Made from velvet and elasticated cotton, it is soft and comfortable to wear. There is additional padding where the mask crosses the bridge of the wearer’s nose, and its light-blocking capability is excellent. The Bluetooth unit can be removed through a specially created gap between the lining and the eye mask, and this means that it is possible to launder the eye mask. Suitable for those who are frequent travelers, especially by air and for those who find extraneous light prevents them from sleeping.
The size of the Eye Mask can be adjusted using the Velcro fastenings, and the speakers can be tailored to suit the wearer. The battery offers 9 hours of life from a charge of 2 hours. Charging is via mini-USB.
The Joseche Bluetooth Sleep Eye Mask is an innovative product that is new to the market. It does seem to fill a gap in the market, although it is not unique.
- This product combines both an eye mask and sleep headphones, meaning you need just one product instead of two.
- It incorporates the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology.
- The eye mask can be washed easily.
- Some people have had difficulty getting the eye mask to pair with other devices.
- The length of the battery life is not that impressive.
The market for wireless headphones has grown from virtually nothing in 2016 and is growing annually with a forecast of global sales of $34 billion by 2024. Already, there is a huge variety of products competing for your dollar and there will be many more to come. Before you go out and spend your hard-earned cash, just take a moment to reflect on why you are buying wireless headphones, what you want them to do for you and how much you want to spend.