Wired vs Wireless vs True Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Comparison

Picking the right headphone is a task that we all have done many times. Headphones have become an essential part of our lifestyle. It is something which we all keep in our pockets on the go. Whether you are using Android or IoS, whether you are using a budget or flagship phone, you always need an excellent headphone to enjoy the music. Today, phones are not just a thing that we use to make or receive calls. It is more than that. Our smartphones also work as music players for us, thanks to low-cost music streaming apps.

It is good if you have a high-end smartphone and a fantastic music streaming service. But, without a perfect headphone, you’ll have incomplete music experience. So, when it comes to starting the quest for an ideal headphone, several questions cross our mind. But, the first obvious question that comes up is whether to go for a wired headphone or a wireless one. Which is better when it comes to wired vs wireless headphones? It has always been a debatable question with the evolution of technology. But, there is an addition to this question now; wired vs wireless vs true wireless, which one is better?

A Brief Look At The Problem In Hand

At the initial stage, when the wireless technology was new, we might have suggested you to go for the wired ones. The reason was the dodgy Bluetooth connection, as well as the inferior sound quality of the wireless headphones. But now, there have been advancements in Bluetooth technology. The wireless headphones have never sounded better than this before. This advancement has even paved the way for the introduction of true wireless headphones to rule the audio industry. So, what should we do? Should we ditch the wired headphones and go for the wireless and true wireless ones? Well, each of these types of headphones has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Considering the pros and cons will help you to pick a pair which fits your preference, need, and lifestyle.

So, today we will discuss the wired vs wireless vs true wireless headphones and create a better understanding of all these options. We will explore and compare the various features of these headphones. It will help you to narrow down the options and pick an ideal headphone for yourself.

Learning About Pros And Cons

Wired Headphones

Its been a long time since the introduction of wired headphones in the audio world. It has always been a dependable choice for all users. We can connect these headphones to the devices using the Aux-In connector. The most common type of headphone socket used by the wired headphones is the 3.5 mm socket. There are other unpopular ones too, i.e., 6.3 mm and 2.5 mm.

If we look at the advantages of using wired headphones over wireless ones, then the first one is the sound quality. With the lag issues in wireless headphones, wired headphones win the sound quality department. The lagging problems with wireless headphones were initially faced. With the evolution of Bluetooth technology, they now deliver rugged as good as the wired ones.

Convenience is another positive point about wired headphones. All you have to do is plug and play, and that’s it. There is no worry about pairing the device or charging it before use. You know what, even today, you can pair these to your old walkman, which will not be possible when you use wireless headphones.

There are a lot of positives, but there are some negatives too. One of the significant issues with wired headphones is the cable. If you are listening to music or making calls sitting in one place only, then the cable will not be an issue. But, when you are commuting or constantly moving or multitasking, the cable may prove to be disadvantageous. Another problem is the distance. You always have to keep your phone or DAP (Digital Audio Player) close to yourself when using wired headphones. Cable tangling can also be frustratingly griping in some of the wired headphones.

Pros:

  • Plug and play mechanism.
  • No battery charging issues.
  • Use up less battery of the connecting device.
  • Pairing to vintage devices, that do not come with Bluetooth or any other wireless technology, is possible.

Cons:

  • The new generation of smartphones does not come with a 3.5 mm audio jack these days.
  • Cable tangling issue.

Wireless Headphones

As the name suggests, wireless headphones are those devices that are capable to connect to other devices without the use of wires. When we think about wireless headphones, we usually consider wireless and Bluetooth headphones as one and the same thing. It is because Bluetooth wireless headphones are the most widely used device and are affordable too. But, in reality, the wireless headphones are not just related to Bluetooth connectivity. There are various other options too, which includes:

  • Wi-Fi,
  • IR (Infrared),
  • RF (Radio Frequency),
  • And Kleer or KleerNet.

Let’s understand each of these connectivity options of wireless headphones:

  • Bluetooth: We can understand this as a near-field communication technology. It allows the user to connect or pair two Bluetooth enabled devices over a short distance. The connectivity range is usually around 10 meters. It is one of the widely used connectivity options for wireless headphones because it is easy to setup. Other than this, most of the phones, headphones, and other audio devices support Bluetooth connectivity. The adoption of Bluetooth technology by most of the devices makes it a good connectivity option for wireless headphones. Additionally, Bluetooth consumes less power and has got the capability to transfer voice as well as data easily. You can even buy Bluetooth devices at a budget-friendly price.

There are some downsides to using Bluetooth too. It includes its short-range connectivity, some lagging issues, and chances of getting hacked.

  • Wi-Fi: When you connect your device to the internet wirelessly via the internet router or the home hub, then you are making use of the Wi-Fi connection. The distance of the Wi-Fi connection depends on the protocol version as well as the antennas you are using in the communication system. It is better than Bluetooth as its connectivity range is higher and it is faster too. The data transfer speed of a Wi-Fi connection is around 250 Mbps as against Bluetooth, which operates at 25 Mbps only. A lot of energy consumption, along with complications in setup, makes Wi-Fi headphones challenging to use.
  • Infrared (IR): It is the same technology that we usually use while operating TV remotes. The working of IR headphones depends on the transmitter, which connects to the audio source using the audio cables. The work of the transmitter is to transmit sound to the receiver, which is present inside the IR headphones. The issue with these headphones is their short-range, which is less than 10 meters. These headphones require a clear line of sight between the transmitter (base unit) and the receiver (headphones). After that only, you can experience interruption-free working of these headphones. It means any obstacle between the two will disrupt the infrared signal. If you are thinking to wander around using these headphones, then that might not be possible. When we compare these headphones with other models, then it is better than radio-frequency headphones. These headphones deliver better sound quality than RF models and do not even get affected by any radio waves.
  •  Radio Frequency (RF): We generally use Radio-frequency technology in FM radio. Just like IR headphones use transmitters, RF models also use a docking station. The RF headphones work by using the Frequency Modulation (FM) for transmission of sound from the base audio unit. The good thing about using these headphones is that they have a great connectivity range of around 100 meters. Additionally, unlike IR headphones, the signal is not interrupted due to any obstacles like a wall. It means you can easily move around and do your other work along with enjoying the music. The best thing about these headphones is that you can connect multiple headphones to the single transmitter. It allows you to have an amazing group audio experience. One of the significant drawbacks of using the RF models is that they are prone to interference. You can face interference issues if a device that generates electromagnetic signals is near you.
  • Kleer: When it comes to sound quality, Kleer technology delivers the best sound than any other wireless technology. Kleer is capable enough to offer uncompressed, interruption-free, equivalent to CD quality, digital stereo audio.

Another good thing about this technology is that it consumes less battery. It last 3 to 4 times more than Bluetooth technology. So, if this technology is so good, then what is the reason that it is not that popular? One of the reasons is the requirement of dedicated hardware on both sides of the transmission. Another one is the lack of adoption in the market.

Pros:

  • No cable tangling issues.
  • It can connect to the new generation of smartphones that do not come with headphone jacks.

Cons:

  • The user needs to chare it from time to time to use it.
  • A bit costly than wired headphones.
  • Signal interference issues may occur in some areas.

True Wireless Headphones

When we talk about true wireless headphones, then the most common association that comes in mind is the earbuds and IEMs. The true wireless headphones are the super-compact size earbuds that they are even hard to spot even when you are standing a few feet away. Most of the manufacturing companies use the word “Freedom” during the marketing of these earbuds. The term is actually correct as you’ll not see any wire when you use this device. The unique thing about these earbuds is the lack of wire that connects the two earbud cans. True wireless headphones make use of Bluetooth technology for the transmission of audio.

Let’s understand how the true wireless headphones work:

  • Out of the pair of earbuds, one of them is the ‘master earbud’.
  • This master earbud connects to the base audio unit via Bluetooth.
  • Then, the master earbud establishes a connection with the other earbud and transmits the audio signals to it.
  • As there is no use of any wires, all the controls, mic, and the battery are present inside the earbuds.

At the initial stage, the major problem that came across the manufacturers was the battery size. The models that first hit the market had insufficient battery capacity. But, with time, the technology became more advance, and the battery capacity of earbuds became better. The models, which we are using today, come with an additional portable charging case. The work of this charging case is to store extra power to charge the earbuds on the go.

The main issue that we came across is losing any one of the earbuds. Other than this, as it uses Bluetooth technology, it also inherits most of the cons of Bluetooth headphones.

Pros:

  • No use of wires at all.

Cons:

  • Signal interference issues in some areas, just like wireless headphones.

What Makes Wireless Headphones Different From True Wireless Headphones?

We can categorize the wireless headphones in three types of models:

  • Wireless headphones that connect the cans using neckbands (usually in-ear models).
  • On-ear wireless headphones.
  • Over-ear wireless headphones.

All of these headphones get their power using a rechargeable battery and make use of Bluetooth technology.

You can imagine on-ear and over-ear wireless models like the ones which do not have any cable to connect with the audio source. The rest of the designing of these headphones is similar to the wired headphones. The wireless headphone gives you the benefit of noise-isolation. You can easily prevent outside noise without any use of cumbersome wires to connect to the audio source.

When it comes to in-ear wireless models, these come with a neckband which connects both the earbuds and earphones. These headphones prove ideal for workout and running purposes. They provide the freedom of wireless connection without the fear of losing them as they firmly wrap around the neck.

The true wireless headphones have got not wires at all. There is nothing that can be stuck in your bag’s zipper or nothing that connects both the earbuds. True wireless headphones offer the true meaning of freedom. This true freedom can sometimes prove to be dangerous. You can lose either of the earbuds by dropping them down the drain, or somewhere else, as they are not connected to any cable at all.

Which One Sounds Better, Wireless vs True Wireless Headphones?

The sound quality of the headphones does not depend on whether they are wireless or true wireless. The main thing which makes the sound quality better is the use of better drivers.

There has been a significant advancement in Bluetooth technology since its initial introduction. When the Bluetooth wireless headphones were new in the market, the music transmission process used to be in a compressed format. The compressed transmission used to affect the sound quality and the music used to sound artificial. But now, the Bluetooth technology has evolved and become better, like the aptX HD. Now, the latest Bluetooth versions can transmit Hi-Res audio wirelessly. It delivers life-like sound quality. All you need is the headphones that are compatible with the high-quality Bluetooth codecs.

In some cases, you can experience interference while using wireless headphones. If the headphone’s frequency matches with any other wireless signal, then there can be interference. There are chances that interference can degrade the sound quality. If such interference is a big issue, then in the case of true wireless headphones, it will magnify. The reason is that the true wireless model makes use of more Bluetooth transmission in comparison with wireless models.

The audio interference does not conclude that the wireless headphones produce better sound. If you use both of these headphones in optimum conditions, then they will deliver almost the same type of music playback.

The main factor that affects the sound quality of both wireless and true wireless headphones is the use of audio drivers. Headphones with powerful drivers and premium material covering produce thumpy and mesmerizing sound.

Comparison, Wired vs Wireless Headphones

We have understood about the wireless and true wireless headphones in detail. It’s now time for us to compare wired and wireless headphones based on their features. In the following comparison, out of all wireless technology, I will be talking about Bluetooth technology. It is because of its popularity and wide adoption.

Quality Of Sound

It has always been a topic of debate for audiophiles that wired headphones sound better than wireless headphones. It is because, in wireless headphones, the music transmits in a compressed form. Other than this, the encoding and decoding of audio data also hamper the sound resolution. This results in artificial sound delivery. On the other hand, in the case of wired headphones, there is no conversion of signals. It means you’ll enjoy pure music without investing much.

In the case of wireless and true wireless headphones, there can be audio signal interference. It causes sound quality to degrade.

With time, the advancement in Bluetooth technology took care of all these issues. But still, the wired headphones, with their simple design and precise audio delivery, triumph the audio world.

Battery Life

There is no such requirement of battery supply in case of wired headphones. You just have to plug them into the audio source, and you are good to go. In the case of wireless headphones, you will need to recharge the in-built battery before use. The battery life of the wireless headphones these days are pretty good. They can provide a battery backup of around 8-20 hours. Some wireless headphones can even run for 40 hours without the need to recharge the battery.

Portability

Both, wired and wireless headphones are portable. But, wireless headphones are a better choice when it comes to portability. Wired headphone usually gets tangled and can get damaged while commuting. The wireless and true wireless headphones don’t have a cable that can get damaged while moving around or during storage. It also depends on the purpose for which you are using the headphones. For example, for the workout, wireless headphones will be a better choice in comparison to wired headphones.

Compatability

There is usually a requirement of a 3.5 mm audio port to connect wired headphones to any of the devices. Most of the audio devices like laptops, mobiles, PCs, walkmans, etc. generally come equipped with a 3.5 mm port. But, now Apple Company discontinued equipping its smartphones with 3.5 mm jack. Other mobile manufacturers have also started following the same trend. It is proving to be a significant blow to wired headphones. If the upcoming smartphones will not have 3.5 mm jack, then in the coming future, we might not see much use of wired headphones. However, there are some alternative options too. You can use an adaptor to plug in the wired headphones. But, as a wise future-proof investment, you can invest in wireless headphones.

Additional Features

There are beneficial features that give wireless headphones an edge over wired headphones. The features like:

  • Active noise cancellation (ANC),
  • Resistance from sweat as well as water,
  • Ability to integrate with various apps,
  • Virtual assistant compatibility and several other features make wireless headphones a must-buy product.

Final Words

In the pursuit of wired vs wireless vs true wireless headphones, what does it all come down to? I will say, in the end, it’s all about priorities and preferences. When your main focus is on sound quality, then nothing can beat wired headphones. But, when it comes to convenience and additional features, wireless headphones are ahead of wired headphones.

So, is there any middle ground where we can find all the qualities in one headphone? Currently, headphone manufacturers are focusing on that only. Today, the manufacturers are developing wireless headphones that can deliver high definition sound. They are making advancements in Bluetooth codecs like AptxHD and LDAC. Several manufacturers out there are even providing headphones with replaceable cables to meet the user’s needs.

That time is near when the gap between the sound quality, convenience, and several other essential features will bridge. We are going to have a perfect headphone in our hands soon.

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