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4th, March 2020

Cut the cable with wireless headphones

Just a couple of years ago, wireless headphones were little more than a novelty. You mostly only saw them resting on the necks of pro athletes as they disembarked their team bus, and because of a host of connectivity issues they weren't really seen as a viable option in terms of everyday use.

These days, though, tech experts are singing an entirely different tune, partly because, in removing the headphone jack, smartphone users have pretty much been forced to consider wireless options - but also because the technology has, to be fair, come on a long way in the meantime.

Here's our guide on finding the right pair in 2020

Wireless or bluetooth?

It's easy to overlook the subtle difference between straightforward 'wireless' headphones and bluetooth ones, partly because the former is a catch-all term which broadly encapsulates the later (so, put simply, make sure you know which one you're paying for).

The difference is essentially in how the headphones connect to your device. A 'wireless' set will pair up using infrared or radio frequency waves and a bluetooth one will use, you guessed it, bluetooth technology.

In most aspects, there's not really a great deal of difference between the two, but here's a couple of points to bear in mind when making your decision.

  • Bluetooth headphones are more compatibile with phones

Perhaps the biggest point of difference in 'wireless' versus bluetooth headphones is in the compatibility with phones - since, for the majority of us anyway, that's the device with which we'll be pairing them most of the time.

For that reason, bluetooth options often make the most sense. They connect with all current generation smartphones, and you won't need to bother buying a pesky adaptor add-on for them to work.

  • 'Wireless' headphones have longer range.

Headphones are commonly associated with train commutes and morning jogs, so most of the time range isn't really a consideration, as your device is always tucked away in your pocket a mere metre or so away from your ears.

There are however some scenarios in which the comparatively short range of the bluetooth headphones (we're talking about 15 metres compared to 150 here) could be problematic. Let's say you've hooked your set up to your laptop and are heading into the garden to mow the lawn, for example.

  • Bluetooth headphones have greater phone integration

This ties in with point number one. Essentially, bluetooth headphones are generally better equipped to integrate with the everyday featues of your smartphone. The big example here is hands-free calls. It's a minor consideration, admittedly, but it can make the difference if you favour keeping your device in your pocket when in public.

How do I connect them to my device?

A whole host of devices, both portable and stationary, can be hooked up to a pair of wireless headphones - from mobile phones and smart televisions to computers and even games consoles.

For most devices, the process of getting things set up is generally as easy as turning on your device's bluetooth function (for a phone, this is generally found in the 'settings' menu, the same place you'd find your WiFi toggle) and then searching for the headphones.

This process might have a few extra steps if, for instance, you're pairing them up to a PS4 or Xbox One. Those devices may ask you to 'register' the headphones first by entering in a code, effectively to ensure that it's really you trying to hook them up.

For some televisions, even so-called smart ones, you may require an adaptor to connect any non-bluetooth headphones - and these can be as expensive as £40 or £50. So, again, make sure you know what you're buying.

Which model should I choose?

Unlike with earphones - where Apple are miles in front of the competition - the wireless headphone market is a much more open affair, and that means there's plenty of options to choose from if you're looking to take the plunge.

Here are four we recommend looking at.

Model

Range

Battery life

Noise-cancelling?

Price

Sony WH-1000XM3

30 feet

30 hours

Yes

£250

Bose headphones 700

300 feet

20 hours

Yes

£300

Beats Solo Pro

50 feet

22 hours

Yes

£250

Bowers & Wilkins  PX7          

30 feet

22 hours

Yes

£300