Series: What Headphones Should You Buy Today?
When I was in college (this was like 2005 or something), my Mom (hi, Mom) got me a pair of wireless headphones. They operated over Bluetooth, and since this was long before the days of listening to music on your smartphone, and therefore long before Bluetooth was very ubiquitous at all, that meant they came with a little box you plug into the headphone jack of your media player. I remember being skeptical that they would work very well at all. There’s plenty to be skeptical about, really. Isn’t that little dongle going to get annoying? Is the battery life terrible? How good is Bluetooth at transmitting audio, even? Are they comfortable? Is a wire running from your ears to your pocket even that big of a deal? After just a few months wearing these headphones on my way to class, I was decided - wired headphones are for chumps.
The advantages of bluetooth headphones are pretty clear. I can’t over-stress how important it is to not have that cord hanging around all the time. It gets in the way, it gets tangled, and the nagging fear that it’s going to break is always hanging over you. Since bluetooth can transmit more information than just audio, most (if not all) bluetooth headphones also include controls to pause, skip, and change the volume of what you’re listening to (yeah, wired headphones can have that, too, but at least in my experience bluetooth controls are more universally compatible and cooperative). On a phone, bluetooth headphones can also serve as a bluetooth headset, so I can transition from listening to music to answering a call without having to fumble with my headphones. Although battery life is a concern you don’t have with wired headphones, I’ve found that bluetooth headphones will last plenty of time between charges, as much as a couple days of heavy, all day use.
There are people who spend a lot of money on crazy high end media players that will play uncompressed FLAC files and feature all sorts of other audiophile nonsense. They will use massive headphones that cost more than a used car. They will insist that such things are important and make a difference. Bluetooth headphones are not for them. Bluetooth headphones are for people who want to listen to music or podcasts while they’re on the bus, or to drown out the monotonous, crushing silence of the modern workplace. They are for someone who listens to streaming music over various Spotiplay or Googlify services, which don’t stream ultra-high-quality music anyway, or for listening to podcasts, which really don’t require much. They are for someone who might want to listen to something while doing something else, perhaps something that would be much better if there wasn’t this obnoxious piece of crap cord getting caught on every stupid son of a bitch thing that I walk past. They are for someone who doesn’t expect high-fidelity, noise cancelled, perfectly balanced, crystal clear quality at all times. I don’t want to imply that there isn’t a difference between $100 bluetooth headphones and $2000 studio circumaural monitors. I’m just saying that both are perfectly legitimate options to listen to things, and I’m more interested in the former than the latter at this point in my life.
I ended up selling that pair my Mom got me on Ebay along with my iPod (because unlike wireless headphones, I was not hooked on the iPod), and replacing them with a pair from Creative (to go with my far superior Creative media player). When those up and died a year later, I switched to a pair from Motorola. When I ended up making the switch from separate music device to my phone (it seems silly now how much I thought about that decision at the time), those bluetooth headphones were able to make the switch with me, and I could ditch the obnoxious little dongle. Over the years my choice of headphones got smaller and lighter, until eventually I ended up with the LG HBS-700’s, branded the LG Tone Wireless Stereo Headset.
The main component goes around your neck, and then the two earbud-style doohickeys go in your ears (obviously). They attach back to the main device magnetically, so when you aren’t using them they stay pretty compact and easy to store. Arrayed around the outside are the various controls for volume, track skipping, answering / hanging up on calls, and play / pause. The sound quality isn’t breathtaking, but they are perfectly fine for listening to podcasts on the bus and listening to music at work. They are pretty negligible weight, and the design means you don’t look like some sort of weird cyborg with giant headphones on. The headphone bits just look like normal old earbuds, and the neck piece can actually be hidden under clothing. They really are the best of both worlds, and they were one of those almost perfect devices that I carried with me and just trusted for years. I went through at least three phones in their lifespan, and lived in two cities and four different homes.
Unfortunately, though, all things end, and this winter finally saw the end of these venerable headphones. The plastic shell around one of the earbuds fell apart, and as a result the connection to the speaker inside was loosened. I tried to fix it, but it’s just too worn out and I couldn’t get it working again.
So that leads me to the whole reason I brought all this up: I need new headphones. It’s a difficult prospect, to replace something that I was so entirely satisfied with. However, technology (and trends) have caught up with me, so there are more options now than I’ve ever had for a good pair of wireless headphones. Let’s head over to Amazon.com and take a look at what my options are.
I suppose there’s something to be said for a product that is upfront about it being an extravagance. Well, I guess these headphones simply feature an additional “light extravagance.” Nothing major, just a light extravagance. These are the highest-rated Bluetooth headphones on Amazon as of the time I am writing this, and they are more than twice what I would really expect to pay for some bluetooth headphones (all the ones I’ve owned have been in the $100 range). They are also much larger than what I think I would like. I personally prefer the comfort and portability of earbud-style headphones to these big dudes.
For that price it better have all the features you would want. I don’t see any mention of built-in audio controls, although there are a few buttons on them, so there’s at least something there. They seem to be able to function wirelessly or with a wire, which is always a great feature for when the battery dies and you want to still use them. The package apparently includes the headphones, an audio cable (for wired use), a charging cable (probably a standard micro-usb, which is universal these days), some sort of “y cable,” a cable with remote and mic, a carrying case with a buckle (what a light extravagance), a pouch for the cables, and a user manual. For wireless headphones, these sure have plenty of wires.
Also, what in the world is a “Bluedio?” I think I’ll pass on these, despite the good reviews.
ULDUM Bluetooth V4.1 Stereo Noise Cancelling Sweatproof Super Bass HiFi IN-Ear Bluetooth Headsets with Built-in Microphone for All Bluetooth Music Player Devices (Black-Red)
Yikes, ULDUM, you really got all those keywords in that product name, didn’t you? These are pretty noteworthy for just how space-age tiny they are. My mind is boggling just comparing these to that first pair I owned ten years ago. Seriously, though, this whole product page reads like some sort of satire.
I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that they have to promise that these “Blustooth Stereo Earpbuds” were authorized by the governing bodies making sure consumer products aren’t going to murder you. When you buy something from LG or Sony, they definitely have CE, FCC, and UL approval, but they don’t have to lead with that on their promotional materials. It’s like Taco Bell having to advertise that they use “Real meat!” That really shouldn’t be a selling point.
Still, how cool would it be to go around saying you’re wearing your Wyatt Earpbuds? Also, that “8 hours of enjoying music time” is pretty enticing. The page also has an image promising “bilateral magnet adsorption How to exercise will not fall.” I don’t even know what that means, but I’m pretty sure I need it.
I think I’ll pass on these. I’ll leave them with their own words: “and hand shake to say bye bye.”
Maybe having more options is not such a great thing. I started this post with the intention of having a serious discussion of a few perfectly viable and enticing consumer products, but it’s turning into just another dumb comedy thing. How am I going to generate that sweet, sweet Amazon affiliate cash like this?
Here we go, finally a company I have heard of. I have really been on the fence about Creative, because on the one hand they . . .
Wait, these aren’t even bluetooth. Amazon, what are you doing to me right now? Do you even know what Bluetooth means?
These are at least bluetooth, and the product description contains actual english (if you overlook the word “Brainwavz” which is really meeting them more than half way). Again, my mind is boggling at how tiny these things are. I just don’t know if I can trust a company called “Brainwavz.” What exactly are they trying to imply with that name?
I’m starting to think I’m using the wrong tactic here. I figured that if you just go to Amazon and find the “Bluetooth Headphones” category, you’ll get a nice list of bluetooth headphones. Apparently that was foolish of me since half of these bluetooth headphones seem to be some sort of off-brand garbage and the rest aren’t even bluetooth headphones. Let’s keep digging, I guess. There’s bound to be something in there.
Nope, more garbage. Next.
Soundpeats Qy7 V4.1 Bluetooth Mini Lightweight Wireless Stereo Sports/running & Gym/exercise Bluetooth Earbuds Headpohones
I’m only including these because come on - “Soundpeats?” Really? Check it out guys, I got some of these Peats by Toctor Tray headphones!
I didn’t intend for this to turn into a big joke. I’m legitimately looking for actual headphones here. Come on Amazon, get your stuff together. While I’m waiting for that to happen, I’ll just hit up the old Blogosphere to find the best bluetooth headphones out there. According to Random Google Result (.com), apparently the best choice is the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless Headphones. Since Random Google Result is a very reputable source, I’m definitely ready to heed their advice. Let’s see how much these headphones cost.
Oh come on. If you're looking to spend that much on headphones, there's no way Bluetooth is going to sound good enough for you.
Clearly I need to do a bit more research and come back at this problem head-on. I also have to be sure to do it with plenty of time left before my birthday - not that my impending birthday has anything to do with me posting an article about picking out a fancy new gadget that I want. Let me get back to you with some actual options.