Buying Bluetooth or Wireless Headphones: Guide to all you must know


Whether it is for work or play, millions of people work with headphones every day. Headphones are generally convenient; some more than others. Bluetooth and wireless headphones, in particular, are gaining popularity over the wired kind. The technology has been advancing steadily and these headphones have become more versatile, convenient, and comfortable.

In this article, I seek to give an insight into everything you would need to know about wireless and Bluetooth headphones. I will explain how they work, what advantages they offer, and the best way to go about buying a quality pair of Bluetooth headphones.

So, What are Bluetooth Headphones?

Bluetooth headphones are headphones that transmit sound via a short-range radio frequency dubbed Bluetooth.

Bluetooth technology has been around for more than two decades now according to the 2018 Bluetooth Market Update. It is a lesser alternative to more powerful wireless frequencies such as Wi-Fi. The technology started off weak and limited, but it has advanced over the recent past. Today it is more than capable of transferring sizable data files let alone sound.

What are the main types of Bluetooth headphones?

Bluetooth headphones come in all shapes and sizes. However, they are limited to two types: over-the-year headphones which rest on the ear-robes, and ear-buds that fit into the ears. They also come fitted with different versions of Bluetooth technology with the latest versions being Bluetooth 4.2 and 5.0.

The type of headphone determines its power and performance. Usually ear-buds perform slightly worse than over-the-ear headphones which have more space to accommodate better features such as larger speakers and batteries.

Why Bluetooth headphones are replacing wired ones

There are many reasons why Bluetooth headphones are replacing wired ones. Besides the improvements in Bluetooth technology, which have boosted performance and clarity, other reasons why a Bluetooth headphone beats a wired one are:

1. Convenience and Versatility

It is true that many wired headphones perform better than the average Bluetooth headphone, but the fact that they are tethered makes them inconvenient to use. Oftentimes, the wire gets entangled so that it distracts you from your work and listening experience. This is never the case with Bluetooth headphones.

2. Portability

Bluetooth headphones can be used anywhere and coupled with other activities. Whether you are taking a call, working, or exercising, you can be sure that your headphones will not get in the way of your other activities.

3. Compatibility

The average wired headphone is compatible with a wide range of devices. However, the sizes of the pins do vary, and this limits their compatibility with all devices. To the contrary, most devices ranging from phones to TVs feature Bluetooth technology and are compatible as long as they are within range of each other.

4. Durability

Bluetooth headphones are even proving more durable than wired headphones thanks to their ease of use and maintenance. They are just advancing in all aspects. Additionally, their batteries have become more powerful and can last for hundreds of charging cycles – they are also easy and cheap to replace.

Factors to Consider when buying Bluetooth or wireless headphones and earphones

Buying Bluetooth or Wireless Headphones: all you need to know first

There are a number of factors to consider before buying either Bluetooth or wireless headphones and earphones. Top among these factors is sound quality and the type of the gadget. We will first discuss these two factors in-depth and give the right tips to illustrate the considerations and put you into perspective.

1. Sound Quality of Bluetooth Headphones

Bluetooth headphones have been accused of exhibiting a variety of complications. At times they may sound muffled or relay static that is not part of the audio file. The truth is that this is unfortunately common, but things have been getting better with advances in Bluetooth technology.

There are several reasons why audio quality may be below par when using Bluetooth headphones. In most cases it is because of distance range – it is recommendable to have the streaming device as close to you as possible, preferably within 30 feet.

In other cases it is because the microphone is on, which limits connectivity. Connecting to a device that is over-utilized, such as a phone running other apps and wireless connections, can also interfere with the connection.

Fortunately, unless your headphones are running on outdated Bluetooth technology, there are quick and easy ways of fixing some problems. Here are some tips:

Quick ways of fixing the audio transmission quality of Bluetooth Headphones or earphones
  • The simplest thing you can try is to switch the headphones off and then on again. If this doesn’t work you should go to your Bluetooth settings and choose to ‘forget’ that particular connection to the headphones and then create a new connection.
  • If the problem is distance range it is recommendable to bring your streaming device closer to your headphones. The maximum distance range for Bluetooth connections is about 30 feet. If you need to work with more distance then consider buying a Bluetooth router.  
  • Some headphones are not capable of accommodating EQ and sound-processing settings. In this case, you should choose the ‘flat’ option for bass and treble or turn the settings off altogether.
  • High volume levels may drown out the finer details in audio quality and cause undesired bass and treble frequencies. The solution here is to reduce the volume to lower levels – 70% to 80% should do just fine. Besides, high volume levels are bad for your ears and can cause hearing impairment.
  • You should also try to reduce the number of apps running on your device. In some cases certain apps are not compatible with some Bluetooth headphones, so you may consider replacing them.  
  • Try to install the latest versions of Bluetooth technology updates for better connectivity.
  • If nothing works then you should try replacing the headphones or device.

2. Decide on whether you want the wireless or the Bluetooth headphones

Most people associate Bluetooth headphones with wireless ones. They are right to do so as both types are wireless, so to speak. However, there are certainly distinct differences between Bluetooth and wireless headphones.

So, what is the difference between Wireless and Bluetooth Headphones
  • Radio Frequencies

Wireless headphones rely on radio frequencies that are closely similar to Bluetooth technology – they mostly work with infrared waves. However, there is one fundamental difference between them: Bluetooth technology covers short ranges while infrared waves and other radio frequencies cover longer distances. To this end, wireless headphones cover a range of about 100 feet while Bluetooth headphones cover about 30 feet.

  • Connectivity and Wiring

Modern wireless headphones are coming configured with Bluetooth technology so that they are compatible with a wider range of devices. This, however, is not the case with Bluetooth headphones whose connectivity is mostly limited to Bluetooth technology.

Interestingly, however, some Bluetooth and wireless headphones can be tethered to a two-pronged wire. Bluetooth headphones are generally compatible with more devices compared to wireless headphones.

  • Popular Uses

Wireless headphones are mostly popular with professionals such as transcribers and consultants working at call centers. They are also popularity with gamers who need to move around further and more often.

Bluetooth headphones, on the other hand, are most popular for casual use such as making calls, listening to music, and watching.  This difference is key to consider when buying Bluetooth or wireless headphones or earphones in today’s world.

  • Types and Makes

Wireless headphones also come in varying types and versatility – they are mostly limited to over-the-ear headphones and ear-buds, but different makes offer varying choices in complementary technology. They are also slightly more expensive than the latter.

Other factors to Consider when Buying Wireless and Bluetooth Headphones

As mentioned, there are varying types of Bluetooth and wireless headphones with varying capabilities. Picking the ideal pair for your needs will take some searching. Here are several other factors that will help you make the perfect pick for your needs. Consider more factors such as power, clarity, performance, and compatibility when choosing what type of headphones to use.

3. Intended Use

Wireless and Bluetooth headphones are suited for different uses. Wireless headphones are mostly suited for professionals who work extensively with headphones. These may include people who work at call centers and professional gamers. This is because wireless headphones perform better than their Bluetooth counterparts.

Bluetooth headphones, on the other hand, work best for casual use such as listening to music. However, modern over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones can perform just as well as wireless headphones. If you want headphones for exercising, this Guide to Headphones for Working Out would be very helpful.

Wireless and Bluetooth headphones have often been criticized for poor performance when it comes to audio quality. The best way to be sure of your headphones’ performance is by choosing the best-quality pair. The headphones you pick should be fitted with the latest wireless and complementary technologies.

4. The Type you want

As mentioned, both wireless and Bluetooth headphones come in two categories: over-the-ear headphones and ear-buds. Each type comes with certain advantages and shortcomings.

Ear-buds are popular because of their small size. They are easily portable as they can fit in the pocket. They are also easy to conceal in public since they fit into the ears. They are ideal for casual use especially when you are going about other activities such as exercising.

Ear-buds, however, they are not as powerful as the larger over-the-ear headphones. The latter features powerful speakers that have advanced capabilities such as canceling out external noises. They are also more comfortable than ear-buds as they come fitted with soft cushions and spongy headbands.  

5. Comfort and Safety

Whether working or listening to music, sometimes you may need to have your headphones on for hours. However, some headphones make this impossible as they cause discomfort, fatigue, and even pain when worn for prolonged periods. To avoid all these problems, read a comprehensive guide on How to use headphones safely and prevent hearing loss. This will be very helpful in keeping you safe as you rock your music.

When buying Bluetooth or wireless headphones or earphones, you need to select one that is safe to listen to. The safety of your ears is key. The Time Magazine reports that 48 million Americans have hearing problems, and you don’t want to be part of the statistic. To avoid such problems, you need to learn how to use headphones safely so as to prevent damaging your ears.

Over time, I have realized that most ear-buds do not fit right, and if they are too big for your ears they will cause fatigue and pain. This is why you should go for a pair with an ergonomic design. You should also check the ear-buds’ dimensions and compare them against the size of your ears.

Over-the-ear headphones, on the other hand, press too hard against the earlobes or too tight on your temple. In this case, choose a pair padded with soft cushions on the ear-cups and along with the headband.

6. Complementary Technology

Some Bluetooth and wireless headphones can do more than just transmit audio. Additional features can go a long way.

Some come fitted with additional tech such as microphones to pick and make calls, which should be a basic requirement by now. Due to this, it is good for you if you consider the additional features before buying Bluetooth or wireless headphones or earphones for your enjoyment.

It should also be noted that some wireless headphones come with Bluetooth capability which makes them compatible with more devices. Many Bluetooth as well as wireless headphones also come with EQ and audio balancing or stabilization features that allow you to fine-tune the audio quality.

Some headphones also come with ports where you can connect to wires in case the battery runs out of juice or the audio quality gets corrupted.  

7. Charging

Battery capacity should also be a cause for concern. You will need a pair of headphones that can run for hours on a single charge. Fortunately, over-the-ear headphones are coming fitted with more powerful lithium-ion batteries that can last for up to 30 hours on a single charge.

Ear-buds, on the other hand, come fitted with smaller batteries that last for an average of 6 hours. Talking of battery and charging, let us learn more about how to charge wireless headphones and earphones.

The way you charge your Bluetooth headphones determines their performance and durability. While each make comes with specific charging instructions, there are certain basic details that every user should know.

Maintenance and Charging your Bluetooth Headphones

For starters, it is advisable to charge your headphones using their original charger. So, if you are buying Bluetooth or wireless headphones or earphones, consider getting the ones being sold alongside their original chargers. This is because secondary chargers may deliver higher or lower voltage levels which may damage your battery.

However, you can charge your headphones using ordinary USB cords as long as you pair using a USB-connected device such as a phone or PC as they all have a standardized voltage capacity. Some ear-buds come with special charging cases that function like power-banks for charging while on the move.  

How long do Bluetooth headphones take to charge?

Charging times depend on your headphones’ battery capacity. The average charging times for most headphones is 3 hours – ear-buds take shorter periods to charge depending on the battery’s capacity.

How long do Bluetooth headphones take to charge?
How long do Bluetooth headphones take to charge?

It is always advisable to charge your headphones to full capacity for the first time before using them as this helps to uphold their battery life. After that you can charge them often for shorter periods of about 30 minutes.

Can you overcharge a Bluetooth headset?

No. You cannot overcharge a Bluetooth headset. This is because charging for more than the necessary time may not really damage the battery or the headphone.

Most quality Bluetooth headphones can remain plugged in for hours after charging to full capacity without damaging the battery – some chargers even switch off automatically once the battery is charged to full capacity.

However, it is prudent to unplug your headphones once they are fully charged to conserve power and prevent damage to the battery.      

Can I use Bluetooth Headphones While Charging?

Most people don’t mind using their Bluetooth headphones while plugged in. However, there have been cases of electrocution.

There are also other compelling reasons why you shouldn’t use your headphones while charging. For instance, it can compromise your phone’s battery or even cause an explosion. There are also growing concerns that using your phone with your headphones while charging can cause cancer.

How to Improve Bluetooth Signal?

As mentioned, Bluetooth is a short-range frequency that mostly spans about 30 feet. This is not enough for most people, and sometimes the range is shorter than just 30 feet. Fortunately, there are several ways to boost your Bluetooth signal and get better reception to your headphones:

  • Have Your Device Close

The easiest way to boost your headphones’ reception is by bridging the distance with the streaming device. If possible you should have the device not further than 10 feet away. It is also important to avoid obstructions such as walls, metal, or water as Bluetooth waves do not conduct well through such mediums.

  • Reset the Connection

Bluetooth-enabled devices can make up to 7 connections at a time. This may weaken the connection to your headphones. As such, you should try resetting the connection and establish a new connection. You will notice that the audio will be clearer and more detailed.

  • Update Regularly

Bluetooth technology has been advancing over the years. The latest Bluetooth version is Bluetooth 5.0, and it is pushing the limits of connectivity. It even supports use with devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Most modern devices manufactured before 2018 feature Bluetooth 4.2. If this is the case with your device, then you should consider updating to version 5.0. Also, be sure to check for new updates regularly.

  • Get a Bluetooth Router

The best way to get the most off of your Bluetooth connectivity is by getting a Bluetooth router. It will extend the Bluetooth range to more than just 30 feet and even overcome obstructions such as walls. It will also enable you to connect to more than just 7 devices and even manage them via the internet.

Can Wireless Headphones be Wired?

Manufacturers of wireless headphones are realizing that a tether is convenient and even necessary at times. This is why many modern wireless headphones can be wired, and if you are buying bluetooth or wireless headphones, you need to figure out this. Their feature slots and come with double-pronged cords that you can use to directly connect to your device.

Wireless headphones with the option of wiring come in handy when Bluetooth and other wireless connectivity fail – you will also notice that the audio quality is much better when wired. Additionally, wiring helps when the battery drains as wired headphones are powered directly by the device.

Considering that you can enjoy the best of both, it is recommendable to buy wireless headphones that can be wired – they will cost you more, but you will have fewer inconveniences to deal with.

How to Pair Wireless Headphones?

Bluetooth headphones are easy to connect to Bluetooth-enabled devices: simply switch the headphones on and turn on the Bluetooth connectivity on your device. Modern devices and headphones running on the latest Bluetooth technology connect automatically when you tap them against each other. Always make sure that there is a free slot on the device or else the headphones will not connect.

The task of pairing wireless headphones is not easy for some people as it is to others. There are several factors to consider including the streaming device and the connection channels. You can learn more about pairing wireless headphones with a range of common devices in another post. 

Michael Smart
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Michael Smart

I am an all-round technology writer with a keen focus on new ideas, gadgets, and creative solutions. I love reading, writing and sharing about tech and gadgets.

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