Buying guide: 6 factors to know before buying wireless headphones

By Gizbot Bureau

    Apple removing the headphone jack prompted bigwigs like Google, Motorola and HTC to follow in their footpaths. Wireless headphones were suddenly the center of attraction. Because of the sudden surge in popularity, there are a lot of things many aren’t aware of when it comes to buying Bluetooth headphones. Choosing the right Bluetooth headphones can be a confusing thing to do.

    Buying guide: 6 factors to know before buying wireless headphones

     

    From understanding the quality of the sound and how each model is set up, there is a lot of things about these that is a little difficult to understand. Let’s take a look at the factors should that affect the choice you make when buying a wireless headphone.

    Types

    Bluetooth is the most popular type of wireless headphone, with a range of about 32 feet, the device is quite energy efficient.

    The other choice is a headphone that can be connected through a USB-C headphone dongle, this gets a little tricky if you're trying to charge your phone at the same time.

    Infrared and Radiofrequency are also technologies that are still in use for wireless headphones. Although Infrared requires line of sight connection between the headphone and the transmitter.

    Radio frequency is also quite powerful with a range of about 150 feet. It has a signal that can pass through walls, the only drawback is that it is prone to interference.

    The codec

    The sound quality you can expect to get out of your Bluetooth headphones depends on what audio codec you use. The codec is a piece of software that encodes the audio at one end and decodes it at the other.

    SBC

    Although the earlier versions produced a harsh, digital sound because it was compressed heavily, the introduction of the advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP) improved the quality a lot.

    aptX

    At a bitrate of 352Kbps with lower latency, most Android devices of the past year make use of this codec. This uses compressed audio.

    aptX HD

    This is a step up from the standard aptX, although compressed, it streams at a much higher bitrate of 576Kbps. It also has much lower latency.

    AAC

    AAC is an enhanced variation of the SBC. Although it has a lower bitrate, the efficiencies in the codec make it comparable to aptX, if not better. Using AAC-compatible headphones with an AAC source like Apple Music also reduces the degradation in sound quality.

    Latency

    Latency is the short delay between the audio signal being sent and when you're able to hear it.

    Battery Life

    Bluetooth headphones have rechargeable batteries. If the headphones you use are over-ear Bluetooth headphones, there is space for a large battery, which can be charged via a USB cable. You can expect 25 to 30 hours of battery life.

    Bluetooth earbuds have a much shorter battery life clocking in at around 8 hours. Wireless earbuds usually have a special charging case.

    Pairing

    The W1 chip in Apple's headphones reduces pairing to a three-second process. Open the case and tap on the onscreen prompt and you're good to go.

    Android 6.0 and above has a similar quick system called Fast Pair.

    Remote Controls

    The basic controls are built into one of the earpieces. This may be in the form of buttons or touch sensors or a button to activate voice controls.

    Air pods work with Siri and the headphones produced by Bose and Sony work in the same way with Google Assistant.

    Form Factor and Size

    The three standard styles are over-ear, on-ear and in-ear. The first two look and function the same as their wired counterparts, but the latter, in-ear is quite different. Most of the earbuds that are released now are connected by a cable that goes around the neck. Most models lack wires altogether.

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