Does Going Wireless Mean Compromising on Quality? A Wireless Headphone Review



A greater number of headphone manufacturers are now pushing wireless designs as the future of the product but the idea is one not everyone seems keen on. While they allow for much greater freedom of movement, there has been a long lasting debate over the extent to which wireless headphones suffer from a loss of quality and whether this affects the listening experience. Those involved in this debate can usually be split into two camps, the critics who argue wireless headphones compromise sound quality in order to introduce a gimmicky and unnecessary technology and proponents who argue they allow users more freedom and aren’t inevitably lower quality. So, which is the most accurate description? Here we look at wireless headphones and offer an honest review on whether improving movement means sacrificing quality.

A greater number of headphone manufacturers are now pushing wireless designs as the future of the product but the idea is one not everyone seems keen on.

 

While they allow for much greater freedom of movement, there has been a long lasting debate over the extent to which wireless headphones suffer from a loss of quality and whether this affects the listening experience. Those involved in this debate can usually be split into two camps, the critics who argue wireless headphones compromise sound quality in order to introduce a gimmicky and unnecessary technology and proponents who argue they allow users more freedom and aren't inevitably lower quality.

 

So, which is the most accurate description? Here we look at wireless headphones and offer an honest review on whether improving movement means sacrificing quality.

 

                                                                    

 

New and untested

 

Part of the problem with this debate is that the wireless technology is still relatively new and the facts about how such technology affects sound quality are often lost or confused in tech-jargon or by misleading product press releases.

 

This makes it incredibly difficult for the average consumer to make an informed decision as to whether wireless headphones are for them. That's why we've turned our hand at it.

 

Loss of quality?

 

The first thing to note with wireless headphones is that if they were to be compared to corded headphones then there would be an inevitable loss of quality between the best models. This is due to the nature of transferring audio data wirelessly and the way in which the media has to be converted into different formats to do so.

 

However, it is debateable to whether this will actually be an issue to most listeners who may not be tuned to detecting the subtle differences between high-end models. Truthfully, the answer as to whether going wireless will compromise your listening experience depends on your listening habits and behaviours.

 

Upgrading to wireless

 

To a large extent, what headphones you use now will determine how you feel about the sound quality of wireless headphones. If you're used to listening through a cheap pair that values style over substance then it will probably be the case that you're blown away by the excellent sound quality some wireless headsets are able to offer.

 

On the other hand, if you're an audiophile that has a pair of high quality and top of the range headphones tucked away and dedicated to home use, you'll probably be able to hear the difference.

 

Manufacturer influence

 

In a similar vein, your opinion of wireless sound quality will be tainted by the quality of the wireless product you decide to try. If you go for a cheap and poorly reviewed wireless headset, there should be no surprise if you find the sound quality to be relatively poor.

 

On the other hand, many people won't be able to tell the difference between the best wireless headphones and other reasonably expensive wired headphones when shopping from big brands like BEATS by Dr Dre.

 

Similarly, Sennheiser wireless headphones such as the MM450 X Travel Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones offer the same exceptional sound quality you'd expect from any headphones from this brand. A cable is supplied for use when travelling while the Bluetooth 2.1 technology makes wireless connections a doddle for fantastic functionality.

 

If you want to get a better glimpse of just how well these headphones can measure up, take a look at this fantastic video:

 

 

Type of wireless transmission

 

The sound quality of such headphones will also depend on the method of wireless transmission they employ and the amount of technology they integrate into the headset.

 

Wireless headphones generally employ one of two forms of transmission technology, either radio-frequency (RF) or infrared (IR). While IR headphones have their benefits, such as having a lower chance of signal interference, RF headsets tend to be of higher quality and often boast specific technologies that boost the quality of sound.

 

This is typified by the new "lossless" Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) technology from SENNHEISER which improves the audio quality of previous wireless headphones to deliver exceptional results. However, none of these technologies are truly lossless so far and any claim to be so is slightly misleading.

 

Audio file format

 

Finally, the quality of the listening experience will also depend on the format of the audio you're listening to. While you won't hear much, if any, difference between wireless and wired headphones if you're listening to MP3s or CDs, the same cannot be said for vinyl or stereo set ups. Here you will probably be able to pick out degradation in the sound quality when listening through wireless headsets.

 

The verdict

 

All in all, whether you view wireless headsets as units which compromise the audio experience with poor sound quality or as a freedom-enhancing device that offers a dynamic and detailed listening experience will all depend on what you're currently used to.

 

While it's true that sound quality for the majority of users will not be compromised, or that they at least won't notice a drop in quality, this doesn't mean the technology is able to match the best wired headphones just yet. There will also be people on both sides of the fence but as technology continues to advance we can only assume that these units will continue to improve until the gaps between wired and wireless are even less noticeable than they are now.