Wireless Headphones – Worthy For The Budding Audio Engineer?

Audio engineers and producers need appropriate tools. Playing back audio is an integral activity for any engineer or producer, and the tools to do this shouldn’t be skimped on.

Speakers are a must, and headphones are used for listening by almost everyone these days. Technology now has us looking at wireless headphones, which are a great idea – an advantage in many practical situations, although they have inherent limitations that make them unacceptable for critical listening.

Original versions of wireless headphones used RF (radio signals) to transfer the wireless audio, but this needed a transmitter to be plugged into the wall (along with other issues). Bluetooth has come on the scene to become commonplace for the transmission of wireless music and is great for casual listening or as background music while you do other tasks.

But, that’s where it ends. 

Bluetooth typically compresses the audio stream, sometimes reducing it to 14 bits. Even in the best case scenario, this makes it essentially MP3 quality – fine for casual listening but not what audio engineers need – it would give you a false idea of the material you’re listening to. It’s unfortunate that we can’t send full quality audio over Bluetooth, but the large amount of data transfer would suck excessive battery power from both the transmitter (probably your iPhone) and the receiver (the headphones). This reduced battery life would end up diminishing the user experience, which is why the manufacturers compress the audio to smaller sizes for easier transmission and longer usage time.

For travelling and car audio… bring it on, I’m already blued up! But when you’re  mixing or producing tracks, plug in and do it properly because no-one has made a wireless system good enough… yet!

Here’s a link to some more reading on the wireless technology if you’re interested. 

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Written by Jason Torrens, Audio Specialist and Audio Production Course Coordinator at Collarts.