The Age of Wireless Headphones
Before jumping into the thought of How Wireless Headphones Work, let me tell you wireless headphones are the new norm. We’ve become so used to seeing wireless headphones that we’ve taken for granted all the science and engineering that goes on inside the devices. Have you ever wondered: how do wireless headphones even work? How can we hear the audio transmitted through the air?
In this post, we will break down the technology and terminology in a way that is easy to understand. Let’s begin.
How Wireless Headphones Work
Type of Wireless Headphone
First things first: which kind of wireless headphones are you talking about? Even though both Wireless Headphones Work in the same way, there are two main kinds.
The first kind is radio frequency wireless headphones, sometimes abbreviated as RF wireless headphones. These headphones pass a signal between a frequency of 3kHz to 300 GHz, through the air to a receiver connected to a TV or stereo. These can extend for over 100ft but are restrained by solid materials and other wireless devices interfering with the signal. Just as it sounds, it uses frequencies similar to radio to communicate with the receiver.
Some examples include the Sennheiser RS 185 RF Wireless Headphone System, or the Power Acoustik HP902R Wireless Headphones. Both come with a base stand that can connect two pairs of headphones.
The other type of wireless headphones relies on Bluetooth technology. This is another kind of wireless technology, a standard developed for short-distance devices. All you need is a device capable of using Bluetooth, and these days, that’s not too hard to find. Practically all consoles, streaming platforms, and smartphones use Bluetooth. Bluetooth is designed to be safe, power-efficient, and simple to use.
We’ve reviewed a number of Bluetooth headphones in the past, like the Skullcandy Grind Bluetooth Wireless On-Ear Headphones, or the Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless In-Ear Headphones. The first features a traditional headphone design, while the Powerbeats 3 showcase the new trend in wireless earphones that have them connected by a cinch.
For more information on how Bluetooth works, visit the official website here.
The Main Differences Between Wireless and Wired Headphones
Now you know the technology behind Wireless Headphones Work, you may wonder, what is the difference between wireless and wired headphones? In this section, we’ll discuss some common misconceptions and highlight the biggest changes.
Obviously, the biggest difference is one pair uses cords and the other does not. This makes certain activities, such as running or watching TV, more convenient without any concern for tangles or cord lengths. Wireless headphones connect either with a base receiver, or more popular now, a Bluetooth signal. The latter only requires that the other device support Bluetooth as well.
In the most recent version of Bluetooth, devices can connect immediately if they are within a certain range. A good example is the BeatsX Wireless In-Ear Headphones, or the Apple AirPods, which connect automatically as easily as if you had plugged it in yourself.
Sound Quality and Latency
In earlier versions of Bluetooth, the greatest concern was that of the quality of sound, and whether there was any lag between the transmission and the audio. Since its introduction, however, numerous developments have been made and a majority of headphones on the market offering high-quality audio (328kbit/s), or Bluetooth aptX. This puts it on a level with CD-quality songs. With more advanced wireless headphones you can find even higher quality sounds.
For a full list of aptX-supported headphones from Audio-Technica, AKG, Sony, and Sennheiser, check out this page from the aptX website.
If there’s one potential challenge to owning wireless headphones, it’s that you need to keep them charged. Even the entry-level lines offer up to 8 hours of battery life, with power-saving features when not in use or out of range. At higher price points, you can find even longer-lasting headphones. Most conveniently, however, the latest Bluetooth technology lets you charge your headphones for just 15 minutes to get at least an hour of charge. Not bad for people who tend to forget things last minute.
Looking for wireless headphones with long-lasting battery life? Look into the Plantronics BackBeat PRO Wireless Noise-Canceling Hi-Fi Headphones which last 24 hours, or the BA–HM B66 Bluetooth Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones, which last 18 hours.
Remote Control and Additional Features
Some of the more modern headphones have playback buttons, allowing you to pause, play, skip, and adjust the volume to your songs. If you’re using it with a phone, you can even answer and decline phone calls with a press of a button.
Some headphones released in 2017 offer the ability to measure other data, such as your heart rate, speed, or whether you’re listening to music or around other people.
Both the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Bluetooth Headset and the Bose SoundSport Pulse Wireless Headphones have a built-in heart rate monitor that even connects with a smartphone app to track and coach your training. Combined with waterproof material, these headphones make for excellent running or exercise companions.
Wireless headphones will continue to grow in popularity as technology improves and becomes more efficient. With the announcement of Bluetooth 5, we can expect to see headphones with longer-lasting battery, further range, faster data transfer, and connectivity.
Now that you know how Wireless Headphones Work, Stay tuned for other developments in the wireless headphone market with our blog.
Geralt has held various positions in the professional audio industry since 2016 and has been a specialist author, translator, and editor. In addition to making music, he is also interested in recording studio technology and wireless headphones.
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