When Apple introduced its wireless headphones known as AirPods in 2016, many people thought the company had revolutionized wireless headphone technology.
Of course, while the company may have streamlined the design and operation of what is also called “true wireless” headphones, the technology had already existed about two years earlier in the form of the Bragi Dash and Earin M-1 headphones.
As with any initial technology offering in a new product category, early models plagued connectivity issues, battery life and sound fidelity.
This is why, until recently, it was recommended to use standard Bluetooth wireless headphones instead of immersing yourself in the world of true wireless technology.
Now that technology has reached the vision of true wireless headphones, what are the differences between these two offerings and what should you consider before deciding on either device style?
True Wireless Earbuds
No matter what you call them, wireless headphones have come a long way in a short number of years. Devices used to represent a big step back in sound quality, and battery life has quickly reached the competition, often offering more comfort in a smaller, compact and easier-to-use package.
The technology that makes wireless headphones possible is much more complex than standard wireless technology. It requires both headphones to divide the stereo channel into two separate sequences and then keep both headphones in perfect sync throughout the listening session.
Benefits of using wireless hearing aids through wireless technology include:
- The best form factor for runners and those going to the gym (without the sweaty cord getting stuck in the neck)
- More elegant design
- Similar sound quality
- Longer total battery life (not counting charging times)
But despite all how the headphones shine wirelessly, there are still some drawbacks worth mentioning: Battery life. While wireless headphones technically allow you to go out longer without having to charge anything (thanks to the addition of charging cases), the amount of juice you can get for individual charging sessions may vary.
For example, I have a pair of Optoma BE Free8, which carry a four-hour charge on their own, while the briefcase can withstand four individual charges. Hence, the total battery life is up to sixteen hours (excluding about twenty minutes per charge). Comparatively, some standard wireless headphones at the top end can last more than twelve hours on their own, which in this analogy makes them better sprinters, but it may not make you want to have them around for the marathon.
Other areas where wireless headphones still can’t compete with wireless headphones include:
- Video doesn’t always match audio due to the headphone synchronization process.
- Microphone quality varies greatly
- More expensive than standard wireless
- It won’t always stay in your ears
- Very easy to lose, expensive to replace
- Point-in-time connectivity on previous models (pre-Bluetooth 5.0 spec)
- Complicated ear controls
Despite not being technically up to their namesake, wireless headphones are not yet entirely dead. Many people still prefer standard wireless headphones for several reasons, including:
- It will remain better in your ears (and if you don’t, you won’t have to see one accidentally fall into a storm drain)
- Longer single-charge battery life
- Easier to control with one hand
- Microphone quality is more consistent
That said, I personally know that I made the transition from this style of headphones because of the cable. I’ve had several Bluetooth headphones over the years. No matter how many different ways manufacturers tried to handle the cable, somehow, I always ended up in strange positions or being more problematic than it’s worth.
This disadvantage would usually cause me to pull into one ear more than the other or make me slide my neck forward to prevent it from getting stuck in my skin and ripping my headphones completely.
When you’re in the gym, the cord can be especially problematic, as when you run, it moves up and down, loosening the fit in your ear and causing you to readjust it constantly.
This is why, despite its lower costs and longer single-charge battery life, there are still some ways standard wireless technology is surpassed by real wireless technology, including wireless technology:
- Bulky form factor
- No options to charge while travelling
While I believe that the era of standard wireless headphones is on the way, many people prefer standard wireless headphones to anything else wireless options can offer.
Ultimately, it will be reduced to your own preferences (and budget). While it may seem quite futuristic to use your first pair of wireless headphones, sometimes all it takes is to lose one in the garbage disposal to make you reconsider the possibility of going back to a couple of buds tied forever.