On September 7, 2016, Apple officially nixed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone, in a move that shocked a lot of consumers. The panic was understandable as most users had this one crucial question in mind: “How will I make use of my headphones?”
But now only a couple of years later, true wireless headphones have almost become a staple in this age, where we’ve a bevy of cable-cutting and comfort-loving consumers. Today, tons of wireless headphone options are on the market, which utilize Bluetooth for connecting to your mobile devices. These audio appliances are arguably more convenient than their traditional wired counterparts.
Are you keen about getting your hands on a pair of true wireless headphones? If so, you’re on the right page, where you’ll learn all you need to know about these headphones to make an informed buying decision.
True Wireless Headphones: Understanding the Basics
In this section, we will answer your questions, like “what are true wireless headphones?” and “what makes it different from wireless in-ear headphones or wireless earbuds?”
Of course, the first thing you need to take note of is this: The term, “wireless headphones”, is different from “true wireless headphones”. A key distinction to consider is, “true wireless” headphones feature no cable or connector at all between the earpieces, while the “wireless” type is still connected in some way but they don’t need access any longer to a phone jack. Examples are around-the-necks (like several sports sets) and over-head (like Bose).
True Wireless Headphones are Bluetooth earbuds or in-ear monitors, which don’t come with cords or wires between them and don’t connect to an audio source (such as your smartphone, tab, MP3 players, and the likes). The microphone, controls, as well as battery, are built into the housing of these earbuds as they don’t have wires.
While wireless in-ear headphones are also Bluetooth earbuds or IEMs, there’s a major difference: They feature a cable that connects both driver housing. The majority of users inadvertently regard wireless in-ears like Beats X Wireless Earphones (with Class 1 Bluetooth) as true wireless headphones. However, the cable could be considered a dead giveaway. The microphone, volume control & battery can be found on the cable itself.
But the 2 headphone types have this one feature in common: the use of wireless tech for transmitting data. Before we reel out the factors why you should buy true wireless headphones, it’s important to at least get to know first a little bit of the wireless technologies behind these.
Key Benefits of Going Wireless
There are many advantages to getting a pair of true wireless headphones. Here are some of them:
Easy, Instant Access
Think of the number of times you’ve had to untangle your headphone cord after it’s been lying in your bag or pocket. You could often even find that it’s difficult to unwind fabric-covered corded or tangle-free headphones. Fortunately, you won’t have to contend with this kind of problem at all with wireless headphones.
When you’re using wired headphones and the cord gets in the way, this can be a constant nuisance, especially when you’re on the go (whether at work, during a workout, or other routines that require you to move about). With true wireless headphones, you can conveniently get rid of this hassle.
The audio appliances’ Bluetooth range, which is the distance between wireless headphones and your device, is ever-increasing and can be upwards of 30ft, and still maintaining a robust connection.
Along with this Bluetooth range that keeps on getting wider and the portable music storage option featured in some wireless headphone models, you can freely move around untethered from your smartphone. Also, for mobile devices, certain accompanying charging cases can even double as power banks offering you instant charging in a pinch.
You can pair your Bluetooth earbuds with your device without breaking a sweat since there’ no need to plug in. Just like bike-riding, once you learn the ropes, you’ll find it quite easy to do with any device. For nearly all wireless headphones, as soon as your true wireless earbuds are set up & paired to the device, they’ll sync automatically the next time they’re put on to be used.
What Are the Types of Wireless Technologies?
There are 4 types of wireless technologies:
- Radiofrequency (RF)
- Infrared (IR)
A good number of on-shelf true wireless headphones feature Bluetooth (BT), and because the majority of electronic devices are Bluetooth-enabled, Bluetooth headphones offer you more audio sources that you can connect to. It’s regarded as a safer means as Bluetooth connections can be achieved via direct pairing.
While it doesn’t require a clear line of sight to connect, the range in the older BT versions is moderately limited because it can only be effective up to 10 meters (33ft). Apart from that, sound quality can be an issue in Bluetooth headphones with low quality.
When considering range, headphones that make use of radio waves are more powerful as they let you wander around up to 91 meters (300ft) without any loss in connectivity.
The use of radiofrequency headphones can be likened to having a tiny radio station in the head in which the headphones receive audio. And for this reason, it’s primarily utilized in silent discos.
But on the market, the lack of bass capabilities has been a major problem with radiofrequency headphone models. While these RF audio appliances come with better sonic quality compared with their Bluetooth counterparts, environment setup does affect the sound performance.
IR wireless headphones work by transmitting audio signals via IR waves from a base unit, just like your TV remote. Higher-end IR headphones can compete fairly with the sound quality of wired headphones. As a matter of fact, it can transmit sound separately to the right & left headphones, which create an immersive sound effect.
On the not-so-bright side, the distance that IR can get to is very restricted as the base unit can only reach infrared wireless headphones up to 7 meters (23ft).
Also, it must be in direct line of sight to avoid interference; this results in constipated movements. So long you avoid obstructions, infrared headphones won’t give any radio or static interference.
The proprietary Kleer Wireless Technology is the newest kid on the block in the bunch. It’s best known for its lossless sound transmission, which provides 16-bit CD-quality sound just like SMS Audio, its manufacturer, claims.
The tech is also known for its low battery consumption as it can outlast wireless headphones, with its battery lasting up to 3 – 4 times longer than Bluetooth headphones.
And it reaches as far as 15 meters (50ft). German electronics company Sennheiser, which releases some of the best wireless headphone models on the market, makes use of this tech in a number of its products.
Factors to Consider When Shopping for True Wireless Headphones
Here are some things to consider before purchasing a pair of true wireless headphones:
- Comfort & Design
- Audio Quality
- Wireless Range
- Battery Performance
Comfort & Design
Due to the absence of cables in true wireless headphones, they can offer you an additional layer of convenience. And that’s one of the major reasons true wireless headphone models have gained traction in the past 2 years.
When you’re on the lookout for the best true wireless headphones, please, pay attention to the level of comfort and functionality they offer. If not, you’ll miss the vital purpose of purchasing cable-free headphones, which is freedom of movement & comfort.
Occasionally, in a bid to get more battery life out of a pair of true wireless headphones, the maker fits a bigger battery into the housing, but this can make it bulky and sometimes unsightly.
Comfort is subjective, depending on individuals, their needs, and lifestyles. Examples of true wireless headphones that offer exceptional levels of comfort are the Sony WF-1000X (with active noise-canceling), and models with an emphasis on fitness tracking and sweat proofing like the Bose SoundSport Free, the Jabra Elite Sport, and the Jaybird RUN.
Audio quality is another essential aspect to check in true wireless headphones, and this is mainly as a result of the way audio is wirelessly transmitted from an audio source to headphones.
In true wireless headphones, unlike their wired counterparts, the digital audio signal must be compressed at source, then transmitted to headphones through certain wireless technology (such as Bluetooth). And the headphone will now receive the transmission, after which it’ll unpack the digital signal back to the analog.
The compression and wireless transmission can make the quality of the sound to drop along the way.
The notion that Bluetooth can’t do distant coverage is a myth as BT classes that with a range of 2.4 GHz – 2.485 GHz do vary in range capabilities.
Class 1 Bluetooth covers up to 100 meters (328ft); class 2 Bluetooth up to 10 meters (33ft); and class 3 Bluetooth less than 10m (33ft).
Nearly every audio source, such as mobile devices and laptops, has only Class 2 BT device installed. It is only reasonable for true wireless headphones companies to build headphones with Class 2 BT support.
Battery life is a weak area in true wireless headphones. As a result of their relatively small driver housing, makers find it difficult to fit bigger rechargeable batteries in it. The manufacturer, instead, opts for a smart solution, which involves building the battery into their carry case, dubbed the “charging case”.
Mostly, the battery of true wireless headphones on average lasts around three hours of use before they become drained completely. It’s at this point that charging cases become useful. A decent charging case can provide your headphones with a minimum of additional 5 – 6 hours of listening time.
But a raft of models can offer more than that, such as the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which pledges up to 25 hours of recharge, as well as the Onkyo W800BT which can deliver up to 15 hours of battery life.
True wireless headphones often come with higher prices. For instance, true wireless headphones such as the Beoplay E8 can cost up to nearly €300, unlike its wireless counterparts such as the Beoplay H5 that goes for €50 lesser.
In addition to the cost of setting its luxury branding, it isn’t cheap to design high-quality true wireless headphones. A major challenge involves engineering them to be able to output top-quality music in a small package with limited power. Companies needed to invest in R&D to tackle this problem.
Despite that, if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money to get a high-end pair of true wireless headphones, but you still seek true wireless earbuds with decent performance, cheaper models are available on the market that’ll give a good value for your money. You’ll find some cheaper options below:
Some of the Best True Wireless Earbuds on the Market
Highlighted below are 7 of the top true wireless earbud models:
- Sony WF-1000XM3
- Jabra Elite 75t
- Anker ZOLO Liberty
- Apple AirPods Pro
- Google Pixel Buds 2
- Motorola Stream
- JLab Epic Air Sport
True wireless headphones don’t come with any cable or connector between the earpieces. However, the wireless type is still connected in some way but doesn’t require access any longer to your phone jack.
True wireless headphones are Bluetooth earbuds or in-ear monitors, without wires or cords between them, and they don’t connect to an audio source (devices like a mobile phone, tablet, MP3 player, etc.). The microphone, controls, in addition to the battery, are designed into the housing of these earbuds because they have no wires.
We’ve 4 different types of wireless technologies. They include Bluetooth; Radiofrequency (RF); Infrared (IR); and Kleer. Apart from that, true wireless headphones offer you a variety of benefits and perks, including easy, instant access, convenience, and swift pairing.
When looking to buy true wireless headphones, factors you need to keep in mind include comfort & design, audio quality, wireless range, battery performance, and price.