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10 reasons I’m still not switching to Bluetooth headphones

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By Napier Lopez, The Next Web

I’m lucky enough to be able to try out all the latest audio gear, so sometimes friends and family are surprised to see I’m not donning Bluetoothheadphones. Why would someone who reviews tech for a living not be living the wireless life? While I certainly have access to more Bluetoothheadphones than I need, more often than not, I’m reaching for my wired cans.

Yup, that’s right – you’ve reached yet another article lamenting the extinction of the headphone jack. I’m not going to try to wax philosophical against our inevitable wireless future, but I do want to point out the issues I have with where Bluetooth headphones are right now.

In other words, I know wirelessheadphones are the way forward, and that I can’t do much to stop manufacturers bent on the extinction of that beloved 3.5mm hole. Bluetoothheadphones get better every year, and some of the quibbles may be a thing of the past in a decade. There even some Bluetooth headphones I really like!

But as things stand, relying only on Bluetoothheadphones requires far too many compromises – and I don’t see those going away anytime soon.


Sound quality

I’m not interested in ‘good enough’ acoustics. I want the most awesome, melt-my-face off sound quality I can achieve at a given price point. For that, I need wired headphones.

© Provided by The Next Web   You can get a much nicer cable for circle 30 bucks. Pictured: Kinboofi 2.5mm balanced cable.

You can almost always get significantly better sound for your money from a wired headset, or equal sound from something much cheaper. While Bluetoothheadphones can pull ahead with well-implemented digital signal processing (DSP) – Audeze’s Mobius does a good job of this – there are very few exceptions to this rule.


Options

There are more Bluetoothheadphones by the day, but there are decades worth of wired headphones on the market. These range from options far cheaper than most Bluetooth cans to four-digit headphones for the most dedicated audiophiles.

Bluetoothheadphones rarely go past the $400 mark. That’s already more than most people are willing to spend, but it’s also far below what the top-of-the-line headphones typically cost. Not only do you not get the same value for your money with Bluetooth cans, you can’t even reach that upper echelon of sound quality.

And lest you think wired headphones are going the way of the dodo, spend some time around audio forums and you’ll find the enthusiast market is showing no signs of slowing down.


Longevity

Bluetooth headphones are far more subject to rapid obsolescence. Bluetooth codecs improve, charging standards change, lithium batteries die. As new Bluetoothheadphones add more features, older models seem, well, old.

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Wired headphones keep improving too, but chances are your investment will last longer. Sennheiser’s HD600 has been out for 20 years, and is still one of the most recommended headphones out there. Grado’s SR80 has been going strong since 1994, and Koss’ PortaPro has been recommended since 1984. There are numerous others.

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to imagine any of today’s Bluetoothheadphones will still be desirable 5 or 10 years from now – if they even survive that long. That brings me to my next point.


Repairability

By and large, traditional headphones are easier to repair. If something goes wrong, you probably just need to re-solder a component or replace a faulty driver. If you can’t do so yourself, chances are you can find someone who will fix them without breaking the bank – especially if it’s a popular model.

If something goes wrong with the battery or digital components of your Bluetoothheadphones, good luck getting them fixed 5 years from now – if they’re even still worth fixing.


Charging

It’s a cliche complaint, but no less true. Until long-distance wireless charging becomes a thing, you still have to charge your wirelessheadphones every few days. This is made worse if those headphones use a port different from your own phone – say headphones which charge via Micro USB even though almost every smartphone that’s not an iPhone has moved onto USB-C.

Yes, you can argue that it’s better than having to be tethered all the time. Still, I suffer from charging anxiety enough to always carry a pair of wired headphones in my bag if I’m traveling.


You can add Bluetooth to wired headphones anyway

Fun fact: you can make pretty much any wired headphone into a Bluetoothheadphone using a Bluetooth receiver like Radsone’s ES100.

© Provided by The Next Web

Yes, you’ll still have to deal with a cable, but not being physically attached to your smartphone comes in handy when working out or cooking. You can get most of the benefits of Bluetooth headphones while keeping your options open.

And on some enthusiast earbuds, you can simply replace the cable with a wireless alternative.


Using multiple devices

Surprisingly few Bluetooth headphones allow you to pair to multiple devices at once. Even then, it’s usually no more than two devices.

But in the real world, I find myself needing to connect to many devices. Maybe I’m visiting friends or family, and need to use their computer. Maybe I’m testing a new laptop or phone. Maybe a friend wants to borrow one of my headphones and needs to pair it to their own device.

With most headphones, you have to go through an annoying pairing process that’s far slower than simply plugging your cans into a different headphone jack.


Using multiple headphones

With very few exceptions, smartphones and PCs only allow you to play back audio on one pair of Bluetoothheadphones at a time. With wired headphones, a cheap $5 splitter lets you share the experience with a friend. It’s something I’d often rely on when watching a movie during a long trip or late at night so as to not disturb neighbors.

You can get Bluetooth splitters, but they tend to be far more expensive, decrease sound quality and/or introduce latency. Speaking of…


Latency

Bluetooth headphones introduce latency. While a small amount latency doesn’t bother me when listening to music or even watching movies, it’s annoying in games and unacceptable in music production.

AptX Low Latency tries to solve this issue, but few headphones and even fewer computers support the feature. And even with devices that do, I find the latency is too high for, say, using with my digital piano setup.

According to RTings, AptX headphones have a latency of around 166 milliseconds, while AptX Low latency hit 34 milliseconds. Wired headphones have just a 7-millisecond delay.


You can’t get by with only  a pair of Bluetooth headphones

I’ll sum it up this way: Nobody I know only owns a pair of Bluetoothheadphones. You might spend the big bucks on a Bluetooth headset, but you always need a wired pair as a backup.

Sometimes your battery dies, others Bluetooth pairing just doesn’t seem to work, yet others its just more convenient to plug in your regular headphones. 95 percent of the time, your Bluetoothheadphones work fine, but it’s that other 5 percent that really gets annoying.

© Provided by The Next Web   RE2000 vs the big boys (Denon D9200 and Hifiman Arya)

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I know wirelessheadphones are the future. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and in some way Bluetoothheadphones do! Sound quality has improved significantly the last couple of years, and I like using my Bluetoothheadphones while working out or if my hands are occupied.

But wired cans still sound better, are more reliable, are more affordable, and are more versatile. Meanwhile, I feel like I come across connectivity issues with Bluetoothheadphones several times a few times a week, or maybe I’ve just forgotten to charge them.

It’s been 14 years since the first stereo Bluetoothheadphones were introduced, but it still feels like we’re in the beta period. Wired headphones just work.

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Technology - U.S. Daily News: 10 reasons I’m still not switching to Bluetooth headphones
10 reasons I’m still not switching to Bluetooth headphones
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