The Dos and Don'ts of Buying Wireless Headphones

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Wireless Headphones

Wireless headphones enable the user to move around freely. Because they do not have to be connected to a device such as a Hi-Fi or gaming console with cables, they can be used while dancing, participating in fitness games, or simply just while moving about the house. They can also be used outside the home, for example, for running, commuting or while generally out and about. Wireless headphones can be connected to the base unit of numerous devices. They receive audio signals in the form of radio, infrared or Bluetooth signals. The sound quality of wireless headphones has improved over recent years and they are becoming more popular.

Choosing Wireless Headphones

There are several features to look out for when purchasing a set of wireless headphones. Some of these are general features that apply to any headphones, while others are features particular to wireless headsets. The following article outlines some of the do's and don'ts when choosing wireless headphones.

Do Check How Audio is Transmitted and Compare Technologies

Wireless headphones use different technologies to transmit audio signals. They may use radio frequency (RF), infrared (IR) signals or Bluetooth signals. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Radio frequency (RF)

Generally aimed at those wanting to use headphones inside the home, for example, for listening to music, watching television or gaming. This usually makes audio quality a more important consideration and compact design less important. RF headphones typically have higher audio quality than Bluetooth. They also have greater connectivity when it comes to hooking up to various devices, for example consoles and Blu-Ray players. Given that they are often used for extended periods, comfort is also an important factor and RF headphones are designed with this in mind. RF headphones are available in a range of designs, but are typically full size or over-ear headphones with padded ear cups. Headphones are bulkier than wired headphones due to the addition of batteries and electrical circuits and connections. Standard RF signals generally give good audio, though cheaper headphones may be of low quality. A disadvantage of RF is that it is prone to interference and static. RF headphones are typically cheaper than Bluetooth for similar quality models.

Infrared (IR)

Also generally designed for home use, IR headphones have many of the features of RF headphones, such as good audio quality and connectivity, and comfortable design. There is less likelihood of interference with IR signals than RF signals. Like RF headphones, IR headphones are reasonably inexpensive, at least for entry level models.

Bluetooth

Generally aimed at those wanting to use headphones for relatively short periods outside the home, for example, runners and commuters. Lack of wires is often a more important consideration than high end audio. Headphones are typically smaller than RF or IR headphones, but they are available in various designs, including in-ear designs for fitness enthusiasts as well as larger over-ear forms for commuters and other users. Due to the batteries and electronics they are generally bulkier than wired equivalents. They can be expensive.

Do Consider What the Headphones Will Be Used For

As the table above indicates, the primary purpose of the headphones will indicate which technology is more suitable, with Bluetooth often used outside the home and radio frequency (RF) and infrared often used inside the home. This isn't always the case, however. Read the product description and check out forums and review websites for recommendations and reviews of particular models. Transmission distance varies between the three technologies. RF headphones have a greater range than either IR or Bluetooth headphones, with a transmission distance of up to 100 m. RF signals can be transmitted through walls and other obstacles, so they can be used in other rooms of the house. IR headphones have a smaller transmission distance than RF headphones, typically about 10 m. IR also cannot be transmitted through walls, so the headphones cannot be used in different rooms of the house, but are restricted to use in the same area. This is fine for many purposes, but does give them less versatility for those who like to move about with headphones on. Bluetooth has an even shorter range.

Do Consider Design

As well as deciding on a particular technology, other considerations include the design of the headphone. The various designs of headphone include in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones and over-ear headphones. Some may have clips over the ear or other handy attachments to help them stay on during running or other exercise. If they are to be used for long periods, look out for features such as adjustable bands and padded ear cups for enhanced comfort. Wireless headphones are typically aimed at those who want to listen to music, but there are also specialist gaming headsets available. Some of these may have special features such as simulated surround sound. Bluetooth headsets can usually be used for hands-free calls. If this is an important feature, keep an eye out for hands-free profile (HFP) and headset profile (HSP).

Don't Compromise on Sound Quality

If sound quality is an important consideration, then there is no reason why high quality audio cannot be obtained from using wireless headphones. Although the various types of processing can add noise to sound signals, particularly in cheaper headphones, there are also high end models delivering superb audio fidelity. For example, check out newer RF technologies such as Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). High end RF headphones arguably give a sound quality just as good as wired headphones. When it comes to Bluetooth, APT-X is a technology which enables high quality audio similar to CD quality. If audio quality is an important consideration for portable headphones, then APT-X is a good choice.

Don't Forget to Recharge Headphones

Many wireless headphones have integral rechargeable batteries. The battery life of RF and IR headphones tends to be good, typically around 20 hours or more. The battery life of Bluetooth headphones varies, but it is usually not more than eight to 10 hours, so for longer trips it is advisable to pack the charger.

Find Wireless Headphones on eBay

There are many wireless headphones of different types listed for sale on eBay. To find them, go to the homepage and open up the Electronics & Technology tab, which directs the user through to the Sound & Vision page. From here, scroll down and select Headphones.  The option to select wireless headphones can be found under the heading Connectivity. Scroll down to this heading and select Bluetooth Wireless, Digital RF Wireless or Infrared Wireless as required. Alternatively all three can be selected, with the option for wired headphones left blank. Other options, such as use, earpiece design, particular features and colour, can then also be selected using the various tabs. The other simple way to search for wireless headphones is by using the search function at the top of the screen. Examples of terms to try include "wireless headphones", "wireless RF headphones" or "wireless Bluetooth headphones".

Conclusion

Wireless headphones offered more flexibility and freer movement than wired headphones. They use three different basic technologies to transmit audio signals - radio frequency, infrared and Bluetooth. Each has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to factors such as audio quality, interference, connectivity, transmission range, comfort, battery life and expense. Wireless headphones may be aimed at particular uses, for example, listening to music, watching television, gaming, commuting or sports, and this is reflected in their design, with in-ear, on-ear or over-ear headphones all available. Cheaper models are often lower quality than wired equivalents, but the sound quality of wireless headphones in general is improving and high end headphones offer excellent audio.

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