How To Choose Between Wireless vs. Wired Headphones (2021)

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Apple made controversial headlines when they announced that they would be getting rid of their 3.5mm headphone jack…

Was it a good move? That’s debatable. In my opinion, it wasn’t – because I’m just salty that none of my headphones are the time were wireless.

But I will say this – it is a step forward towards a wireless world.

The debate between wireless vs. wired headphones will be neverending since both headphones suit different needs and scenarios.

In Apple’s case, they’ve put their foot down and declared that going wireless is their future, and took a stand doing so.

And this can be further backed up by their successful launch of their AirPods (which is their version of wireless earphones).

At first, if I were to go to the gym, or to game at home, my wired headset was always my go-to.

But…

When I got my first set of wireless headphones… damn! I was hooked.

Not having the wire bounce around in front of you is really a strong selling point for wireless headphones, and it really does make a difference.

…but what about for gaming? When playing FPS games, using sound to your advantage is vital, and can be the deciding factor between life or death.

Wired headphones are said to have better sound quality, since there’s a direct connection from your device to the headset, and you’ll never experience any sort of dropouts.

So which one should you choose? The answer is not so simple, so I researched everything you need to know to make your decision, and put it in a criteria that you can follow.

This way, you can choose what the best headset is to buy depending on your situation.

Below you will find the criteria to choosing what the better option is between wired vs. wireless headphones.

Oh, and if you’re in a rush and want a quality headset that won’t break the bank, check out the 5 best cheap gaming headsets for pc, ps4 or xbox one.

Audio Quality

Wireless headphones allow you to be at a certain distance away from your phone and still be functional 

However, it results in lower sound quality due to the audio signal compressing the sound.

Depending on how far you are, you may also start experience interference or dropouts.

This is because of the wireless signalling. Although, this can be avoided if you simply keep the connected device near you, or within your vicinity.

Wired headphones won’t have this problem, as you’ll have a direct connection to the selected device and won’t have to deal with any potential connection issues.

That being said, audio quality depends on the actual product, and not whether or not they’re wireless or wired.

Yes, wireless headphone quality will drop if you are at a certain distance, but ideally, you’ll be in very good proximity to your gaming device anyway.

With wired headphones, you receive an analog signal, which in turn makes the connection more reliable and faster than wireless headphones.

This means it also handles more data than what wireless headphones can, so overall it offers better sound quality.

Although that may be the case, wireless headphones can still have amazing sound quality. If you’re not an enthusiast looking for the best of the best, there are many wireless options that will be a great choice for gaming.

Battery Life

Where you might find it annoying with wireless headphones is the battery life.

Constantly having to charge your headset can be a pain, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

You charge your phone every night before you go to bed, and headphones would be the same – you can easily make charging your headphones a habit.

Although there are convenient ways to ensure that your headset is always charged (like charging them every night), you also run the risk of losing battery at inconvenient times.

You need to have a power outlet nearby in order to charge your wireless headphones which can be an inconvenience.

If you’ve owned a pair of wireless headphones before, you’ve probably forgotten to charge them, and as a result, had to resort to other options.

For gaming, you can just chuck the headphones on charge when you go to turn off your PC or console.

On average, wireless headphones last between 8 – 12 hours, whereas on the higher-end can last up to 40 hours.

Wired headphones will last as long as the device you’ve connected to can generate power.

Portability

In terms of portability, it really depends on your situation when looking at choosing between wired vs wireless headphones.

For many, if you’re gaming on your battlestation, you won’t be going anywhere, so getting wired headphones will be fine since you’re not on the move.

u/XpIyt from /r/battlestation

If you constantly travel and game, both options are viable – the easiest option being the wireless version since you won’t need to deal with any tangled cords.

Where wireless headphones start to win in portability is if you use your headset while in constant movement.

Games like Just Dance, or if you like to do Zumba – these are the types of games that would be great with a wireless headset. Bear in mind it’ll look like you’re in a silent disco though!

Wireless headphones are especially good if you like to exercise outdoors, or at the gym. From personal experience, you won’t want to deal with a cord when exercising.

Compatibility

For gaming, wireless headphones usually include a USB dongle which you plug-in to your computer/laptop which in turn gives the ability to connect your device.

Majority of wireless headphones use Bluetooth and can connect to any device which includes Bluetooth, and Bluetooth has been around since the brick Nokia phones were popular and are known to be widely compatible.

There are wireless headsets which use their own technology to connect wirelessly, given that you connect a USB dongle to your device.

Wired headphones will also work with gaming PC’s and laptops since all you need to do is plug in the 3.5mm cable.

Where wired headphones fall short are if you own an iPhone X or above. Since their phones don’t include a 3.5mm jack anymore, you’ll need to inconveniently connect to the adapter which plugs into the lightning port.

Which means you can’t charge your phone and be plugged into your wired headphones. Bummer. Opt for wireless headphones to make it easier for you.

Price

Wireless headphones will usually always be more expensive than wired headphones, due to their wireless connection capabilities.

But don’t worry, there are great products to choose from in both categories, at different price points.

When searching for a headset, be sure to do your due diligence and look at customer feedback and reviews, and if you can do in-store trials – that’ll be the best method to test the sound quality.

If you want to ensure that your headset will provide you with a reliable connection, quality sound, and be cost-effective, wired headphones are the way to go.

If you want to have a headset where you don’t want to be limited by a cord, like to move around freely, and don’t mind spending a little bit extra, wireless headphones are the way to go.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below you will common questions about both wireless and wired headphones.

Wired vs. Wireless Headphones – Are There Any Health Issues?

A wireless headset can transmit radiation directly into the ears, whereas wired headphones transfer radiation through the cable (which means it won’t affect you).

Wireless headphones transmit more radiation since it’s directly into your ears. Although, this doesn’t become a problem unless you are using your headset for hours at a time with no break (4+ hours).

Radiation can lead to hearing problems, or headaches, and can escalate to more dire problems like depression, if not used without proper safety.

Personally, I’ve used wireless headphones for 3-4 hours without taking a break, and have not experienced any issues due to radiation.

For best practice – if you game for long periods of time and use wireless headphones make sure you stand up and walk around every hour. 

So… Are Wired Headphones Safer Than Wireless Headphones?

In general, wired headphones are considered safer than their wireless counterparts. But this is heavily dependant on the type of situation you’re in.

Yes, wireless headphones emit EMF and RF radiation through the ears – but only if you use your wireless headphones for long periods of time without breaks.

You can use your wireless headphones safely by following good safety practices, like ensuring you take a break every hour, stretching out your body and looking away from your monitor.

Do these often. This will ensure you won’t come across any physical or eye-related issues in the future.

Although if you’re an ‘active’ gamer who likes physically-demanding games, wireless headphones are much safer, since there’s no obstruction in the way of your movement.

Is The Bluetooth Battery Worth It vs. Wired Headphones?

Absolutely!

Battery life ranges from 8 hours – 40 hours, depending on the product.

So if you decide to go for a higher-end wireless headset, the battery can last you a full work week, without needing to be charged.

Think of your headset like your phone. If you own a smartphone, you most likely charge your phone every night before bed and have made this process a habit.

Putting your headphones on charge after a gaming session, or before bed can become a habit you can quickly and easily adapt to. Plug-in your charging cord near your device so you’ll have a constant reminder.

Better yet, buy a few extra charging kits for your headset, and you’ll never run out of juice as long as you’re near a place with a power outlet.

Wireless vs. Bluetooth Headphones… Are They Any Different?

Yes, there is a difference between wireless and wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Bluetooth is a subtype of wireless – they basically do the same thing, but differently, using different technology.

The best way to explain this is through an example:

Not all wireless headphones are Bluetooth, but all Bluetooth headphones are wireless.

The technology used to transmit the sound is different.

This is how it works:

Wireless headsets need a set device that they must work with. 

The link can be made with a signal or through radio – for example. Some gaming headsets include a USB dongle that you plug into the PC that you can connect to.

On the other hand, Bluetooth is a type of ‘technology’ that is pre-built into devices allowing them to easily connect to other products which have Bluetooth built into them.

Many different brands nowadays know the importance of wireless connectivity and are now using Bluetooth technology to make it easier for you to connect your already bought Bluetooth devices.

You can differentiate the two by the way they transmit data (sound waves):

  • Wireless Headphones: Use radio and infrared waves to transmit data.
  • Bluetooth Wireless Headphones: Use radio frequencies only to transmit data.

Wireless headphones need an adapter to be used. This allows you to travel up to 30m – 100m without losing connection.

Bluetooth headphones can connect to many other products since the Bluetooth technology has been around since the brick Nokia phones but is limited to 9m travel distance before the connection starts to drop.

Are Wireless Headphones Louder Than Wired?

It depends.

From personal experience, wireless headphones can get damn loud. This is because wireless headphones get as loud as the amplifier that’s built inside the headset.

Whereas wired headphone sound is determined by the amplifier you use (the amp built into the device you’re connected to, not the headset).

Therefore, you have much more flexibility of how loud you want the volume to go.

To put it into perspective, when I connect my wireless headphones to my iPhone and put the volume from 0 to +1 – it sounds loud, despite it being up by only +1.

If I connected my wired earphones to my iPhone, and put the volume from 0 to +1, it would be significantly quieter than my wireless headphones.

If I was to connect both to my PC, and put the volume on max, my wired headphones would be significantly louder than my wireless headphones.

The internal amp in my wireless headphones will limit how much sound will emit from the headset, whereas my wired headphones will go as loud as I want them (depending on how high you can set the volume in the software).

For both, the devices you use to manipulate the sound limit you from going too loud, as a safety precaution, which is a good thing since listening to sounds which are too loud can damage your ears.

So to answer the question:

No, wireless headphones aren’t louder than wired headphones.

Bare in mind that you’ll never need to go higher than what the settings allow you to. This is a safety precaution that many sound manufacturers ensure to have as too loud of a volume can cause serious hearing problems.

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