On Wireless Headphones

 Photo by Aaron Yoo, CC BY-ND 2.0

Photo by Aaron Yoo, CC BY-ND 2.0

Earlier this week the batteries on my bluetooth headphones died and a funny thing happened: it reminded me why I prefer bluetooth headphones over wired headphones. Many people may think the batteries running out on headphones would be a large red mark in the "con" column when comparing them to their wired brethren, but I count batteries as a large "pro." Why? Because it had been five days since I charged my headphones - they lasted so long that I forgot.

The Freedom of Wireless

I cannot see myself going back to wired headphones for my smartphone ever again. The convenience and freedom given from bluetooth just cannot be matched with wired headphones. Bluetooth allows for maximum connection distance of approximately 30 feet without wires. That's a 30-foot radius of freedom where I can leave my phone in one place and walk around the apartment, my work desk, or anywhere else for that matter without worrying about whether my phone will get pulled off whatever surface I set it on. I don't need to worry about headphone wires getting tangled in my pocket when they're not in use because I can wear my bluetooth headset around the base of my neck all day. With automatic pairing, all I need to do is turn my bluetooth headphones on and they immediately connect to my phone. I don't need to dig my phone out of my pocket to plug in my headphones when I want to listen to something.

Just minutes after pulling out my backup pair of headphones which I keep for listening in on virtual meetings on my work laptop, I began to resent the restrictions the two or three feet of cordage I needed to manage and be conscious of at all time. Attempting to put my phone anywhere with the cable attached was an awkward ordeal, and the cables hanging down from my ears to my phone like some audio umbilical cord just made me more distracted. My forearm and hands constantly bumped the cabling and, when I needed to move around, I need to be wary of the armrests for my chair or the corners of my desk for fear of getting my headphone cable hooked and the earbuds torn off of my head or phone pulled out of my pocket.

The main criticism I hear from people is that getting a set of bluetooth headphones just means remembering to charge yet another device. Sure, much like how knives don't need reloading, wired headphones don't need recharging. However, the sacrifice in mobility and agility isn't enough for me to justify using wired headphones again. Plus, unless I'm listening to something nonstop for at least 6 hours, recharging my headphones is not enough of an inconvenience, if it can even be considered one. I typically go for days without charging my headphones after normal use, and, when I do need to give them some extra juice, a short 10 to 15 minutes on a USB cable will give them enough power to get me through the remainder of any day. With the increasing prevalence of USB-C and wireless Qi charging for smartphones and other devices, it is only a matter of time before charging a wireless headset becomes less of an issue.

My Headphones

I have a pair of LG HBS-750 bluetooth headphones. The kind that look like a tech necklace of sorts. Previously, I owned bluetooth headsets like those from Jabra or Jawbone - the kind that hang off one ear, made you look like cyborg when viewed from one angle, and made you look like some crazy person having a conversation with yourself when viewed from another. I used them so I could listen to podcasts, but after their inevitable malfunctioning from use and wear, I needed to move on to another, more robust model.

I've owned this particular pair from LG for going on two years, and I don't know why I would ever go back to wired headphones when I'm on the go again. This pair is comfortable, light, hardly noticeable after I tuck them underneath the collar of my button-up over-shirt, and always quickly accessible when I want to listen to something. The battery life is fantastic. I use them several hours a day, and even after keeping them on standby because I forgot to turn them off when I'm not using them, I usually go three days or more without needing to put them on a charger. Even when they do need a charge, a quick 10 to 20 minutes on a micro USB cable will give them enough charge for me to finish my day.

The weakest part of them from my experience is their poor call quality. I can listen to phone calls with reasonable clarity, but when attempting to have a conversation through them I get comments 98% from the person on the other end that it's hard to understand me or that I sound far away.

Overall I'm impressed with these headphones. Considering I bought them at around $70 a couple of years ago and they're still operating to this day after daily use, this pair of headphones definitely earned every penny of their worth.

Edge Case

I understand I'm probably an edge case when it comes to headphones and audio. A majority of the audio content I listen to are podcasts or audiobooks, with actual music making up a small portion of my overall listening time. Due to most of my audio experience being spoken word, overall quality is not as much of an important factor to me as an audiophile.

My want for gadgets and other tech keeps me interested in chasing the dragon of the next cool device, and I'm currently on the lookout for my next pair of bluetooth headphones. I think you should be too. With the rising trend of smartphones without a headphone jack, with the iPhone 7/8/X and now the Pixel 2 just to name a few, bluetooth headphones will be gaining in popularity regardless of where your loyalty may lie.