Now sliced bread was a great invention, but wireless headphones might just be the best thing since. No more tangled web of wires or accidentally yanking out earphones. The latest wireless headphones provide a better sound than ever before so, while audiophiles might pick up a slight difference, for the majority of people, the sound quality is easily comparable to that of the best wired headphones.
- Wireless Headphones 101
- Bluetooth versus RF Wireless Headphones
- Noise Cancelling, Over-Ear, and On-Ear
- Top 5 Wireless Headphones
Wireless Headphones 101
One of the greatest advantages of wireless headphones is their versatility. As technological improvements continue to abound, so the wireless headphone industry keeps pace, meaning users can enjoy their preferred media at anytime and anywhere. Those with a passion for late-night production, practicing or simply listening will appreciate how quickly the product category has evolved.
Of course, one of the anticipated drawbacks of wireless headphones is that they require batteries and, batteries being what they are, they have a limited life expectancy. So the fear is that your headphones might run out of juice before you’re halfway through your jam session or production. However, most models now last for around seven to eight hours on one charge, with the market leaders in this category providing a phenomenal 12 hours of non-stop sound.
Obviously, the best choice of wireless headphones depends partly on what you plan to use them for, although most of the best-known brands on the market are pretty adaptable.
Bluetooth versus RF Wireless Headphones
Those who are more emphasizing sound quality should look more towards RF wireless headphones. While less versatile than the Bluetooth, a good RF headset will provide a higher quality of sound and a wider listening range than the majority of Bluetooth headphones. The down side is that the RF is more suitable for use on a single device as it requires connection via a base station that is tethered to a lone unit. To connect to something else, the user needs to disconnect the station and reconnect it to another appliance. An inconvenience if you are a utilizing several pieces of equipment.
By comparison, the Bluetooth headset produces slightly inferior sound quality with respect to creating a full surround sound experience; but their flexibility means they are preferable in many instances as they can be moved between devices easily and are compatible with a wider range of gadgets.
Noise Cancelling, Over-Ear, and On-Ear
When selecting wireless headphones, it’s important to consider not only what you want to use them for but also the environment in which they will be operational. If you know you’re going to be using them in other places where there is a lot of external noise, it’s important to consider this factor before purchasing. After all, turning up the volume is rarely the best approach and certainly not good for your long-term hearing.
Travelers and those frequently on the move should consider the noise-cancelling headphones available which enable you to listen to music at a much lower volume even in a place with a lot of loud external noise. Some models, featuring active noise cancellation, actually pick up on an outside noise and then use a purpose-built circuitry to generate a frequency that combines with the frequency of the unwanted noise in order to cancel it out. The other important feature in terms of limited external sounds is having a good fit. Over-ear headphones that fit snugly around your ears can block out most noise.
Over-ear wireless headphones, also known as circumaural by the experts who actually design them, tend to provide more advanced noise cancellation, particularly compared to on-ear headphones. These are popular for that very reason, as well as providing comfort and hi-fidelity sound quality. By comparison, the on-ear (or supra-aural) headphones tend to allow in more of the external sound environment which may be preferable to some who don’t want complete audio oblivion. This variety also tends to be more portable than their over-ear equivalents as they carry considerably less bulk.
Top 5 Wireless Headphones
The wireless headphone industry is making leaps and bounds in terms of meeting the needs of a demanding market. They are currently one of the fastest-growing segments within the headphone market, meaning they are making great advances in terms of technology, while prices are starting to drop, particularly in the low to mid-range section of the market.
Bose QuietComfort 35
In a sense, the Bose QuietComfort 35 does exactly what is says on the label, offering comfort and top-class noise cancellation, as has become synonymous with Bose through its earlier models. In keeping with the Bose reputation, these headphones drastically reduce exterior noise, making them a favorite for urban dwellers. In addition to making irritating noises disappear, the noise cancellation also makes your music sound better than ever.
Bose incorporates some cool EQ technology here. In this instance, EQ has to do with controlling the frequency response of each individual audio signal. In other words, volume optimization creates a balanced sound scape at any level from quiet as a mouse to full blast. Further to these technological improvements, the dual-microphone system includes noise-rejection, meaning you can hear and make calls clearly and easily even on the windiest of days.
One of the complaints in terms of the noise-cancelling feature is that there is no option for disengaging it which may seem pointless but can come in handy if you’re listening out for external noises. The noise cancellation is also less effective in terms of inconsistent noise, so you will usually pick up some chatter in a coffee shop; although the headphones keep it quiet enough to stop it getting on your nerves.
So Bose has tackled the issue of external sound, but how do the headphones shape up in terms of the sounds you want to hear? With the use of digital signal processing, the QC35 sculpts the resonance of your favorite tunes. At mid to high volumes, this creates a dynamically balanced audio experience.
So now we’ve covered the Quiet part, let’s move on the Comfort side of things. In keeping with the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Bose have remained true to their previous designs with an unassuming appearance and simple colors. The ear cups themselves are made up of a metal outer shell with a thick plastic frame and headband. With imitation leather covering, the ear cups remain cool even in hot or humid conditions, helping them live up to their name in the comfort department.
One of Bose’s first wireless designs, the QuietControl 35 benefits enormously from being let off its leash and the resulting versatility will have you listening to music even while you’re brushing your teeth! The QC35 is also popular with frequent fliers. With a protective case that offers a snug fit for the folded headphones, the QC35 can accompany you all over the world, while offering a long enough battery life to provide you with entertainment throughout a serious long-haul flight.
While the Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones come in a little heavier than some of their closest competitors, the level of comfort and sound quality they offer more than compensates for the extra mass. With the controls situated on the right ear cup, you can connect to two devices simultaneously at the touch of a button. Not cheap by any respect, but sleek, effective, comfortable and suitable for most situations.
While Bluetooth seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues these days, some more discerning listeners out there are finding RF wireless headphones provide a deeper sound experience and a wider range of signal. For those of you who love your music and crave exceptional sound quality, Sennheiser is the company to look to. Established in 1945, Sennheiser has been one of the leading lights in the audio industry ever since, aspiring to shape the audio world of tomorrow today. The Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphones maintain the standards that consumers have come to associate with the Sennheiser name – a top-notch product with superior sound quality, providing the ultimate in listening pleasure.
RF wireless headphones use powerful radio frequencies and utilize this technology to operate at a wider range than the equivalent Bluetooth device, while also providing a more balanced sound. Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphones use a frequency that can operate to a range of up to 150 feet. The signal can also pass through walls so it is perfect to use in conjunction with your home audio system. This RF model also provides high-definition sound, meaning you can pick up the most subtle sounds in your tracks.
One of the downsides of wireless technology of this type is that it is predisposed to interference and, even, potential loss of signal. As you increase the distance between yourself and the transmitter, so the potential for sound disruption is intensified. Nevertheless, Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphones still give you over 20% more range than the standard Bluetooth equivalent.
Sennheiser have not skimped on comfort in the effort to perfect your audio experience and the RS120 headphones weigh a mere 8.1 ounces, making them one of the most lightweight competitors within the on-ear market. Their design means they sit effortlessly on your head, enclosing your ears and giving you comfort even during the longest evening of entertainment.
While not as mobile as Bluetooth devices (you won’t see many people sporting the Sennheiser RS120 down at the gym), these headphones provide exceptional sound quality. Bluetooth devices, on the other hand, usually have a perceptible latency, which means there is a small delay between what you see on the screen and what you hear through your headphones.
The Sennheiser RS120 offers the perfect solution to this problem while also giving you freedom of movement. They are also a great solution for people wanting to produce or practice late at night while accommodating fellow residents and neighbors. With these headphones, you can tune out the world and tune into to your favorite music.
Sony is never far behind the market leaders and is once again giving the best a run for their money. For some time, Bose have been considered the ultimate in terms of noise-cancelling headphones but, with the Sony MDR-1000X, world-class engineers have combined their efforts to beat Bose at their own game. One of the biggest advantages of the Sony MDR1000X over the Bose QuietComfort 35 is that it gives the user more control over the level of noise cancellation. Whereas the Bose model offers no option to disengage noise cancellation, Sony’s SenseEngine allows you to tune in and out of your music at the touch of a button. This means you can listen to your favorite tunes in the background while still being aware of important sounds around you, such as traffic. If you want to completely immerse yourself and filter out all unwanted noise, you can do that too.
For the MDR-1000X, Sony has developed new ear pads as well as new noise technology. If you want to take a call or simply soften your music to hear what’s going on around you, you can place a hand over the right ear cup. As soon as you remove your hand, your music resumes at its original volume and the noise cancellation comes back into effect. Sony's latest technology will assess your personal style and requirements and create the best sound effect for your needs.
While your right ear cup is busy with all that technology, the left has an NFC chip, also known as a Near Field Communication chip, which makes Bluetooth pairing easy and efficient. With excellent battery life and the promise of better quality sound, Sony is blazing a trail with the MDR-1000X. While the inside provides cutting-edge technology, the outside is light and comfortable. The ear cups are stuffed with polyurethane foam which neatly conforms to your head shape, while the headband grips with just the right amount of pressure to keep the headphones in place without squeezing your brain.
Not only does the Sony MDR-1000X analyze your listening conditions, it also evaluates the shape of your face, whether or not you wear glasses and even the style of your hair! To prompt this extraordinary technology, you hold down the NC button and wait a few seconds for the magic to happen. For travelers, this means you can have several different profiles – for when you have your glasses on and for when you don’t – without having to change apps or alter settings manually.
Sony hasn’t dawdled in the design department either. The MDR-1000X are compact and can be collapsed and folded flat, making them convenient for travel. The ear cups are covered in soft imitation leather which gives them a certain opulence in terms of feel as well as appearance. Sony is definitely snapping at Bose’s heels with this product, which is the ultimate for music-loving commuters wanting some high-end quality and serious designer appeal.
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H7
Combining style with practicality is the name of the game when it comes to Bang & Olufsen and the B&O Play H7 Wireless Over Ear Headphones are no exception. The luxurious design offers a lambskin covering over memory foam ear cushions which really is one cut above the usual plastic/faux leather combination. These truly seem to be the Rolls Royce of wireless headphones.
Not only does the downy lambskin cushion your ears, it also provides an excellent barrier to unwanted, external noise. On the down side, active noise cancellation has not been included in this model, meaning that a long flight might leave your brain humming from the background droning noise.
One of the advantages of not having active noise cancellation is that it extends an already impressive battery life to up to 20 hours between charges. If this isn’t enough, the battery is also removable and rechargeable so you can always carry along an extra battery as a backup. This makes them ideal for people with long commutes to and from work and for those who do a lot of travel.
While the external noise might creep in from time to time, the sound quality that the H7 produces is one of the best within this market, proving that Bang & Olufsen have managed to cram a lot of experience into these lightweight headphones in order to create an impressive range and an authentic sound. Articulate and well-balanced, the H7 gives clear distinction even within the trickier lower frequencies. While many over-ear headphones tend to produce a rather close sound which makes you feel as though the music is emanating from some place deep inside your brain, the B&O Play H7 manage to deliver the full extravagance of a recording which will delight audiophiles all over the world.
As with previous B&O models, touch-sensitive controls are conveniently situated on the right ear cup, allowing you to skip forwards and backwards between tracks, adjust volume and answer phone calls with a gentle swipe. While the sensitivity of these controls doesn’t suit everyone, the consensus is that they are adequate enough for their purpose, especially as the touch interface is made of aluminum which means it’s usable even if you’re wearing gloves.
Some users have experienced a few firmware issues with the model and there seem to have been a few connectivity issues when used in conjunction with the iMac. However, if you’re planning on pairing your B&O Play H7 Wireless Over Ear Headphones with your iPhone, you shouldn’t experience any major difficulties. Although the H8 version boasts active noise cancellation, the H7 delivers a higher sound quality, easily distinguishing between the deep bass tones and sparkly high-end frequencies.
With their sleek design and state-of-the-art technology, the B&O Play H7 Wireless Over Ear Headphones are hard to beat for the commuting professional and, if style and comfort are as important to you as genuine sound quality, the B&O Play H7 Wireless Over Ear Headphones really do tick all the boxes.
Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones
Having been welcomed into the Apple family in 2014, Beats are really taking technology to the next level with the latest in their line of popular headphones. In keeping with the other products created by cofounders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, Beats Solo3 Wireless offers the listener a decent beat and an intimate music experience, wrapped in smooth curves and streamline surfaces. Available in eight different colors, Beats are clearly reaching out to the fashion conscious as well as the music aficionado.
Beats have long been associated with an energetic, emotional listening experience, recreating the studio experience for music lovers all over the world. This is achieved through the Beats Acoustic Engine which makes use of a signature digital signal processor, meaning better sound and exceptional power efficiency. In fact, the Beats Solo3 batteries are performing at the top of the class, providing a full three hours of usage from a mere five-minute recharge. A full recharge takes a bit longer but can provide up to 50 hours of solid music joy.
Much like its predecessor, the latest Beats product uses a soft rubber padding to improve the headband’s security and comfort. As this reduces friction, it makes these headphones ideal for runners and gym enthusiasts alike. Similarly, the Bluetooth connection means you can move up to 30 feet away (or even 150 feet according to some experts) from your device without losing your beats. The new W1 chip also gives you instant connectivity and marks an end to fiddly settings menus. As soon as you turn on the headphones, a pairing card pops up, allowing you to immediately connect to every device within your iCloud account.
While many of its competitors are focussing on active noise cancellation, the Beats Solo3 has concentrated on the more traditional approach, employing passive block out methods such as extra padding on the ear cups in order to provide a physical barrier to unwanted noise pollution. These also mean those around you don’t have to listen to the tinny beat of your tracks emanating from your earbuds.
In terms of the sound quality you can expect, the Beats Solo3 provides a bit more of a bold and brassy rendition than some of its relatives, just as you would expect. While lacking some delicacy, they combine a fun texture with a big, loud sound. If you’re into music with a big strong bass or boisterous percussion, you may want to look elsewhere as the rather reserved treble tends to leave the bass overly dominant.
Overall, Beats Solo3 wireless headphones are a definite competitor in the somewhat cut-throat world of headphones and offer a great product for the fashionistas out there that still want more advanced connectivity. With on-cup controls, you can also receive calls, change songs and alter the volume right from the headphones themselves. Nevertheless, the price tag may put off the more money-conscious among us and the boom boom sound might be a little much for the discerning listener.