Wireless Headphones: Living in a wireless world
Wireless living has become the ‘in’ thing today, as more and more tech companies spend millions of research dollars on ways to make life completely wireless. This means that there are more types of wireless headphones out in the market today than ever before. It also means that wireless technology is now being amalgamated with other technology to make wireless headphones give off sound without loss in quality and be more aesthetically pleasing.
Wireless Headphones: A Short History
When we see all the fun and funky futuristic-style wireless headphones in audio shops and online bazaars, it’s hard to compare them to the bulky cans they started off as. Headphones initially originated from Nathaniel Baldwin who created them in 1910, but couldn’t get anyone to buy them until the FirstWorld War, when they were given to pilots in the army. From here, headphones became popular and yet, they were all wired up all the way up until the age of the baseball umpire. In 1951, Herbert McClelland made the first wireless microphone for umpires to wear to major league baseball games for ideal off-the-field communication.
In 1960, there was a search by United Airlines for a light-weight headset which encompassed both technologies: the headphone speaker set and the wireless microphone technology. Two pilots came up with the prototype for it: Courtney Graham and Keith Larkin. They made the cut with two transducers attached to a band.
NASA then got into the picture and built the first wireless headset in eleven days. One if these initial wireless headsets would then be used by Neil Armstrong to relay the most famous phrase in history: A small step for man, a giant step for mankind. It would also be true for the advent of wireless technology in the world.
Types of Wireless Headphones
There are typically four types of wireless headphones. These are Infrared (IR) headphones, Radio Frequency headphones, Ultra High Frequency (UHF) headphones and Bluetooth headphones. While IR, UHF and Radio Frequency headphones are still quite popular, Bluetooth Wireless headphones are all the rage now because of their budget, sound clarity and easy-to-use interface.
Infrared Headphones are typically used indoors and in cars, and are ideal for car DVDs and older televisions, but are not really a good idea for listening to music. While sound clarity is good, these headphones have a very limited range and need to be technically within line-of-sight. Walls and other obstructions create interference.
Radio Frequency Headphones and UHF headphones, on the other hand, are ideal for listening to music with older mp3 players or TV. These have tighter sound and better resonance.
Bluetooth Headphones are technically the best wireless headphones on the market today. When Bluetooth technology first came into the picture, there was a severe loss of quality due to digitization and attenuation, which made the music sound very sharp with ringing overtones. However, with research, improved versions such as Bluetooth 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, Bluetooth 4.3 and most recently, Bluetooth 5.0 came out and companies manufacturing wireless headphones integrated this new tech into the sets. Today, Bluetooth wireless headphones are the best in terms of both cost and quality.
Like normal headphones, there are different styles of wireless headphones available on the market. Some of the different styles include over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones and in-ear headphones. Over-the-ear headphones tend to be bigger and more comfortable than the other two styles and since the insulation is better, there is more noise isolation. However, they are not very portable owing to the size. On-ear headphones are great for short periods but they can cause headaches over prolonged periods owing to the clamping of the band to the ears.
If you’re looking for ultra-portable wireless headphones, then in-ear is the way to go, although you might be compromising on sound quality due to the extremely small speaker size! Also, in-ear may have shorter battery times compared to on-ear and over-the-ear wireless headphones.
Ideal Usage of Wireless Headphones
With tangled wires being a problem in many situations, most people have turned to wireless headphones to solve their dilemma. There are many instances where wireless headphones are a better fit, as compared to stereo headphones. So if you’re constantly on the move, these are meant for you. Case in fact: Athletes, gym-goers and commuters tend to be the biggest buyers of wireless headphones.
Pros and Cons of Wireless Headphones
Looking at the pros first, wireless headphones offer a lot more leeway when it comes to distance between the gadget and the headphones. With wired headphones, you have to carry the gadget around since they’re connected. Also, wireless headphones are ultra-portable and have no issues of wires getting in the way of daily activities. However, wireless headphones have their share of cons. The audio may not be as good as wired headphones, they may experience a lag between signal reception and sound and most of all: they are only as good as the amount of charge they can hold. When the battery dies, the music dies.
How to Choose Wireless Headphones
When looking into buying wireless headphones, there’s a lot you need to ask yourself. What do you need them for? Will you be spending a lot of time on the road with them? Are they for in-house use? What style are you looking for? These are the questions that will help you narrow down your options from the hundreds of wireless headphones on the market. One option is to check out what your friends have and see if it’s the right fit for you. Also, you can choose to visit some hi-fi shops to check out the latest in wireless headphones. Online reviews help to an extent, but then again, it’s important to suss out sound and comfort physically.
Recommended Wireless Headphones
With most tech firms releasing one or two pairs of wireless headphones into the market each year, it’s difficult to decide which ones make the grade and which ones slip into oblivion. However, taking into account user reviews, the best wireless headphones to hit the market this past year include the Sony MDR-1000X, the Bose QuietComfort 35, the Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, the Sennheiser PXC 550 and the Master & Dynamic MW50 to mention a few. It’s also worth a mention that most of these are over-the-ear and on-ear headphones.