With recent improvements in wireless technologies, as well as the development of wireless multi-room hifi systems such as Sonos and Olive products – wireless headphones have become more affordable and also much better sounding. Let’s be honest, wires can be very frustrating. Wireless headphones allow you to enjoy your music unencumbered and free from tangled nagging cables everywhere – giving you total listening freedom.
Since wireless headphones do not take their power from their source like wired headphones do, they require charging when low on power – due to their internal rechargeable battery. This means they are typically a little larger due to needing to accommodate a battery. Some are designed specifically for music on the go, when commuting or out and about, which are typically smaller and more portable.
At present there are three main technologies utilised in wireless headphones: RF, infrared and Bluetooth. Each technology has its pros and cons – this guide aims to alleviate some of the confusion surrounding wireless headphones, and to make your decision when researching/purchasing a pair a whole lot easier. We only stock RF and Bluetooth headphones, as we believe Bluetooth to be superior to Infrared for short range wireless headphone usage. Infrared headphones use the same technology featured in television remotes, and as such, a clear line of sight is normally required between the headphones and the transmitter. As such, audio degradation will take place should line of sight be broken – resulting in poorer sound.
As the name states, wireless headphones that use RF communicate with their source via radio frequencies. Using a particular radio frequency band (e.g.2,400 - 2,483.5 MHz), wireless RF headphones are able to connect to their source wirelessly. Just like your tuner connecting to your favourite radio station, RF headphones are not effected by most physical obstructions, and as such do not need to be in clear line of sight of the transmitter. We recommend RF wireless headphones for use over longer distances than 10m, and in situations where more than one connection is required such as music sharing solutions.
Bluetooth operates using short length wireless protocols in the frequency band 2400–2480 MHz, and has become the technology of choice in virtually all mobile phones and portable devices. As such, the wireless transmitter is normally internal and already featured with devices, and so a separate transmitter will not need to be attached to achieve wireless connection as with RF wireless headphones. This contributes to the portability of wireless headphones – which is surely the point!
Due to the frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology used by Bluetooth, interference from other RF devices is minimised if not eliminated, allowing you to enjoy your wireless music without interference. Also, just like RF, Bluetooth wireless headphones operate using radio frequency, and as such do not need a clear line of sight to the transmission device – the headphones only need to be in range.
Bluetooth is relatively secure, and requires a pairing process between Bluetooth enabled devices – in this case, the source (e.g. phone, PDA, Bluetooth-enabled MP3 player) and the headphones. Because of this, a Bluetooth connection can only take place on a one to one basis. Unlike RF, this means that Bluetooth cannot be used to share a source with numerous devices. Bluetooth is the best choice for a (relatively) short-range connection, where portability and privacy are both an issue. The security of Bluetooth means you don’t need to worry about interference or people listening in to your audio.
What Hi-Fi Awards 2015 "Best Noise Cancelling Headphones £250+"
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