Wireless Headphones

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Sennheiser RS175 Wireless Closed Back HeadphonesSennheiser RS175 Wireless Closed Back Headphones
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Sennheiser HDR175
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Focal Spark Wireless In Ear Headphones BlackFocal Spark Wireless In Ear Headphones Black
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Sony MDR-RF995RK Wireless HeadphonesSony MDR-RF995RK Wireless Headphones
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Grado GW100 Wireless Series HeadphonesGrado GW100 Wireless Series Headphones
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Shure Aonic 50 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones BlackShure Aonic 50 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones Black
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Sennheiser Flex 5000 Wireless Headphone SystemSennheiser Flex 5000 Wireless Headphone System
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FiiO EH3NC Noise Cancelling HeadphonesFiiO EH3NC Noise Cancelling Headphones
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Sennheiser RS120-W Open Back Wireless HeadphonesSennheiser RS120-W Open Back Wireless Headphones
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Fostex TM2 True Wireless EarphonesFostex TM2 True Wireless Earphones
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HIFIMAN TWS800 True Wireless EarphonesHIFIMAN TWS800 True Wireless Earphones

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Wireless Headphones – what you need to know

As you can see above, there are lots of wireless headphone options. But it isn’t as hard as it looks to choose from amongst them. Because the fact is, all modern Bluetooth headphones – that’s what we use for wireless these days – work with virtually all modern phones and computers.

But that doesn’t mean you should pick one at random. And if you’re well-armed with knowledge, you’re likely to make a better choice. Here we’re going to just touch on a few matters, but if you want to know all the details to make a really informed decision, we’ve prepared a detailed guide on How to Choose the Best Wireless Headphones.

How do you connect wireless headphones?

Wireless headphones connect to a source device, usually your phone, via Bluetooth. That’s a short-range digital radio system. To connect for the first time, both your headphones and phone will need to be “paired”. Your headphone instructions will tell you how to put them in pairing mode. Usually it will involve holding down a button for a few seconds until a small light starts flashing in a special way. Once you’ve done that, you can go into the Bluetooth menu on your phone and, after a few seconds, the name of your headphones will appear. Tap on them and follow the instructions on the screen. Within a few more seconds you’ll be connected.

In most cases, that’s all you’ll ever need do. To use the headphones with that phone next time, just switch them on and after a moment they’ll automatically connect.

Is wearing wireless headphones bad for you?


Well, no more bad for you than any other headphones, that is. You can damage your hearing by playing headphones too loud, both wireless and wired. And some models may become uncomfortable to wear after a number of hours if they grip your head to tightly, or don’t comfortably encompass your ears. But if you check them out for fit and use them sensibly, the answer is: no.

Can wireless headphones be used on airplanes?

Yes indeed. But there are two ways of using them. The first is as regular Bluetooth headphones connected to your phone for listening to your own music, podcasts or whatever. When it’s time to take off, you will have to switch your phone to “flight mode”. This disables its ability to make phone calls, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. But you can switch Bluetooth back on immediately. Bluetooth is designed to be a very short-range wireless connection, so its ability to interfere with the airplane’s operations are insignificant.

The other way that wireless headphones can be used on airplanes is … well, wired. Virtually all wireless headphones come with an analogue cable. You can plug that into a two-prong adaptor to use on aircraft with in-flight entertainment systems, common on international flights. Your headphones are almost certainly going to sound better than the cheap ones handed out to passengers. And if you have ones fitted with active noise control, you’re in for a much better, and more relaxing, journey.

On a noisy airplane, you’re generally going to get better results with closed back headphones than open back ones, since the latter let the external noise right through to your ears.

How Do Wireless Headphones Work?

These days, nearly all headphones use Bluetooth as their connection standard. Bluetooth is a very short-range digital audio communications system. All phones, and virtually all wireless headphones, support the standard SBC codec for the transmission of decent quality stereo audio. Many phones and wireless headphones support and higher quality format than SBC. We do a deep dive on Bluetooth codecs in “Bluetooth codecs – getting music from your phone to your audio gear.”

What are the different features on different wireless headphones?

As with all other audio gear, a range of features is available on different headphones. That can be things like active noise cancellation, higher quality audio codecs and longer range (see the next point!) Check out our How to Choose the Best Wireless Headphones for some of the options here.

How close to I have to be to my phone with my wireless headphones?

Most headphones specify a range of up to ten metres. Some headphones support the use of more power and consequently provide more range – sometimes up to as much as fifty or sixty metres in our real world tests.

But this depends on several things. Is something between your phone and headphones? (Such as your own body!) Where’s the Bluetooth antenna on your headphones. Is your head around the right way to give it optimum connectivity?

And what about bandwidth congestion? If you’re in a place where a lot of people are using the Bluetooth radio spectrum (around 2.4GHz, which is also where a lot of Wi-Fi is), your range might be more limited. In my local shopping mall, I often find that for a solid connection I have to pull my phone out of my pocket and hold it within a metre of my Bluetooth earbuds. Once I was wandering around the quiet city streets of Taipei late at night, and it seemed that just the lights in the shops interfered with Bluetooth connectivity. (Bluetooth headphones, with their larger antennae, tend to be more reliable.)

Can I take my wireless headphones swimming?

Um, no. Sure, some Bluetooth earbuds have high IPXX ratings for water resistance. The problem isn’t necessarily with that. It’s that the Bluetooth wireless signal will not penetrate vary far through water. Some earbud models are available which include a significant amount of internal storage so that you can load music onto them for use while you’re swimming.