From style to size to functionality and features, when you’re shopping for a new set of headphones, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Perhaps the most important question of all, though, is whether to opt for the performance and reliability of wired headphones or the convenience and compatibility that Bluetooth wireless connectivity offers.
Is it as simple as that, though? A simple choice between performance and convenience? Reliability and compatibility? Of course it isn’t. Choosing between wired and wireless offerings largely boils down to a decision about which option is best for your lifestyle, how and where you use your headphones, and how much wiggle room you have in your budget.
Wire ‘em up, fire ‘em up, they’re good to go
There’s probably no form of electrical connection that has existed in the same form for as long as the trusty phone jack connector has. It first reared its head in the late nineteenth century for use in telephone exchanges. The smaller 3.5mm version that we’re used to seeing on portable audio devices was born in the 1950s and hasn’t changed at all since. In other words, the connection used by wired headphones pretty much defines the term “tried and true.” Plug it in and it just works, with no software pairing, no audio compression, no loss of sound quality.
For that reason, wired headphones are still the preferred option for audiophiles, as well as anyone who simply wants to plug in and go. Since the majority of wired headphones and earphones (those without active noise cancellation, at least) also house no batteries, they’re a great choice if you need your headphones to work reliably for hours or even years on end without needing a charge. That could come in handy if you’re one for long treks through the mountains, if you tend to take a lot of long plane flights, or if you just want one less thing in your life that needs regular charging.
Wired is also a great option if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck. Take Phiaton’s MS 300 BA, for example. Since it doesn’t rely on a built-in battery or wireless antenna, it’s more affordable to manufacturer and more affordable to purchase. Don’t let its price fool you, though: this little overachiever features many enhancements aimed at performance, including a hybrid driver design that uses balanced armatures for high and mid frequencies, and dynamic drivers with innovative low frequency pass filter technology to deliver pitch-perfect bass.
If, on the other hand, you generally wear headphones while jogging, hitting the gym, cycling, or even driving (don’t say we didn’t warn you), or if you just don’t want to deal with the potential risks and/or frustrations that come with having a long cord dangling from your head to your hip, wireless headphones or earphones may be a better pick for you.
These days, wireless headphones come in all shapes and sizes, from true wireless earphones like the BOLT BT 700—which feature a handy strap that wraps around your neck to keep it from getting lost—to neckband headphones like the BT 120 NC — which features all manner of bonus goodies housed in a handy collar—to on-ear offerings like the BT 460 or the new BT 390, which represent the utmost in audio performance.
Speaking of audio performance, don’t let the fact that audiophiles prefer wires lead you to believe that wireless headphones necessarily offer subpar sound. In fact, if the music stored on your phone is already compressed (and if you bought it from Amazon or iTunes, it is), or if you rely on streaming audio services like Spotify for your tunes, chances are good that you won’t notice a difference between a modern Bluetooth wireless connection and a good, solid wire.
Quick-connect technologies like Bluetooth NFC and Multipoint Technology also mean that setting up wireless pairing between your wireless headphones and your phone or media player or tablet (or all three) won’t be any more difficult than plugging in a cable.
Best of both worlds
Still can’t decide whether wired or wireless headphones or earphones are right for you? Well, the good news is, you don’t necessarily have to pick between them. Thanks to a feature known as Everplay-X, Phiaton serve double duty as both wired and wireless. That means you can use them with your Bluetooth-capable phone or music player, and then switch over to a wired connection when your battery runs out of juice, or you want to listen to a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth. Just plug in the included 3.5 mm microphone cable and you’re good to go.
By Dennis Burger