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Picture this: You’re ready to liberate yourself from tangled cables and upgrade to wireless headphones. But here’s the catch – not all wireless headphones are created equal. You quickly realize that there are different wireless headphone technologies besides Bluetooth, like radio-frequency, infrared, and Kleer. So, the burning question is: which one should you choose?
In this in-depth discussion, we’ll dive into the differences between Bluetooth and wireless headphones to help you make an informed decision. So, let’s get started!
Are Bluetooth and Wireless Headphones the Same Thing?
No, Bluetooth headphones and wireless headphones are not the same. While both operate through a wireless connection, the way they connect to a media player is where the difference lies. Bluetooth headphones use short-range radio waves, while other wireless headphones can use radio waves, infrared, internal memory, or KleerNet.
To understand these differences better, let’s explore the world of wireless headphones.
Girl enjoying wireless headphones
What Are Wireless Headphones?
Let’s start with the basics. Headphones amplify the audio signal from a media player and convert it into the beautiful sound you hear. Wireless headphones eliminate the need for cables by transmitting sound through low-powered radio signals. This process involves a transmitter (e.g., your smartphone) and a receiver (e.g., your headphones or speakers).
However, wireless headphones can use different technologies to transmit sound. Let’s explore them:
RF headphones transmit sound through specific radio wave frequencies. They typically require a dedicated dongle/transmitter. While this may be less convenient than Bluetooth, RF headphones can transmit through walls and solid objects, resulting in minimal signal degradation. They offer better sound quality and shorter latency, making them popular for group audio experiences.
If you’re interested in RF wireless headphones, the Sennheiser RS120 II strikes a great balance between value and quality.
Infrared headphones use infrared technology to transmit audio signals. They require a line-of-sight connection between the transmitter and headphones, but they have a lower risk of interference from other wireless devices. However, their range is limited compared to other wireless headphones, making them less popular.
Bluetooth headphones are the most common wireless headphones you’ll encounter. They use low-powered 2.4GHz radio waves to transmit audio signals. Bluetooth 5.0, the latest version, offers a range of up to 30 meters. However, Bluetooth connections can be affected by walls, other devices using the same frequency, and electromagnetic interference. Bluetooth headphones offer convenience and compatibility with various devices.
The Sony WH-1000XM stands out as one of the top consumer-grade Bluetooth headphones available.
Kleer headphones use a proprietary wireless connection technology that operates in different frequency ranges. They deliver lossless, high-quality audio and offer longer battery life and lower latency than Bluetooth headphones. However, Kleer headphones only work with their included transmitter due to limited audio source compatibility.
If you’re curious about Kleer headphones, check out the Sennheiser RS 175 and RS 185 models.
Headphones with internal storage work independently without a transmitter. They have built-in memory slots, allowing you to play music without an active connection to media player devices. These headphones are commonly used for water activities, where wireless connections are impractical. One example is the Sony NW-WS413, which is considered the best overall waterproof headphones.
What Are Bluetooth Headphones?
Bluetooth headphones were initially developed as wireless headsets in 1998. They consist of a transmitter (audio source) and a receiver (headphones or speakers). Bluetooth operates within the 2.400 to 2.485GHz frequency range and requires less power, making it suitable for integration into smaller devices.
Different Bluetooth audio codecs and versions impact the audio quality and transmission speed. The latest Bluetooth 5.2 version offers faster transmission speeds than Bluetooth 4.0.
Bluetooth vs. Wireless Headphones: Which Is Better?
Now, let’s compare Bluetooth and wireless headphones in five different aspects to help you decide which one suits your needs.
While Bluetooth has come a long way, the low-energy radio waves it uses often lead to audio compression. Other wireless technologies offer uncompressed or high-bitrate audio transmission, resulting in better sound quality. RF headphones surpass Bluetooth in sound quality, while Kleer headphones deliver lossless audio comparable to wired headphones.
However, remember that sound quality also depends on factors like headphone design, speakers, drivers, and firmware.
Wireless technologies haven’t perfected connection stability yet. RF signals are less likely to be blocked but can interfere with other devices. Infrared headphones offer excellent stability but have a shorter range. Bluetooth stability depends on the headphone and audio source. While Bluetooth 5.0 minimizes interference, older versions are still susceptible. Bluetooth signal strength also decreases with distance and can be affected by other devices.
Bluetooth’s effective range can exceed 30 meters, contrary to popular belief. Bluetooth 5.0 can cover ~200 meters in ideal conditions. Wireless headphones, except those with internal storage, have a shorter range. However, internal storage headphones offer practically unlimited range.
Non-Bluetooth wireless headphones often require proprietary transmitters, limiting compatibility. Most modern devices have built-in Bluetooth functionality, allowing you to connect Bluetooth headphones to almost any device. Some Bluetooth headphones even support multiple device pairing and seamless switching between audio sources.
Ease of Use
Bluetooth headphones shine in terms of ease of use. With billions of devices equipped with Bluetooth, you don’t need external dongles to connect Bluetooth headphones. Companion apps and advanced features further enhance the user experience. Wireless headphones require proprietary dongles and physical connection changes when switching audio sources.
Bluetooth vs. wireless headphones – there’s no definitive winner. Wireless headphones excel in sound quality and connection stability but compromise on range, compatibility, and ease of use. Bluetooth headphones offer convenience, an excellent range, and broad device compatibility. However, they generally have lower sound quality due to compression.
Consider your preferences for device compatibility, convenience, and sound quality when choosing between Bluetooth and wireless headphones.
Did this article answer your questions about the differences between Bluetooth and wireless headphones? Let us know in the comments.