Should I buy wireless headphones?

Considering we all carry around small rectangles that allow us to play practically any song ever recorded, almost anywhere in the world, and at any time of the day or night, headphones you have to plug in are starting to look as out-of-date as DVDs and fax machines.

The main benefit of owning a pair of the best wireless headphones is pretty obvious: the lack of wires. But snipping them introduces numerous other issues that you just don’t have to consider when plugging in a cable. 

If you’re tempted by the wireless life, it can be a confusing world to navigate. Do all wireless cans, including the best budget wireless headphones, use Bluetooth? What’s the point in paying £300 for a pair when others only cost £20? And isn’t it a pain having another battery to remember to charge?

Kind of Bluetooth

To answer the first question: yes, pretty much every pair of wireless headphones available nowadays uses Bluetooth. You might find the odd RF (Radio Frequency) pair for sale but these are a relic of a bygone age that require an extra transmitter to be plugged into the source of your music, so they’re not designed for portable use. 

Bluetooth won out largely because it’s built into every mobile phone, tablet and laptop available, it doesn’t feast too heavily on your battery life, and it’s less prone to interference. While sound quality used to be noticeably poorer than a wired equivalent, Bluetooth can now handle enough data for high-quality music, plus pairing devices is much less of a hassle. A similarly priced wired pair will usually sound better but to most people the difference is negligible.

Of course, if you’re an iPhone owner, Apple pretty much made the decision for you when the headphone port was removed in search of a thinner chassis and longer battery life. Now anyone buying a new iPhone has a choice to make: use that stupid little adaptor that comes in the box or go wireless. 

There are some headphones out there that use Apple’s Lightning connector but they’re few and far between. If you’re going to shell out for a new set, you might as well take the opportunity to snip that wire.  

Just your type

Just like wired headphones there are two main types: in-ear and over-ear, although there are variations in style within each. 

Over-ear designs tend to have better battery life, simply because there’s more physical space to fit one in, plus the larger size of the drivers (the bits that physically move within the ear cups to generate the sound) usually allows for fuller bass and a more weighty sound overall.

Pricier pairs often also come with noise-cancelling, which is handy if you use them while commuting, and some also allow you to plug in a standard headphone cable and continue to use them even after the battery is dead. 

They are, however, more cumbersome than in-ears. You can get pairs that fold up rather neatly but they’re usually still too big to fit in your pocket when you’re not using them.

While some Bluetooth in-ears have ditched wires completely (think Apple’s AirPods), most come with a single cable linking the two buds together. That’s great for making them lightweight and portable but often means battery life suffers, so you’ll have to keep remembering to charge them. 

Others come with a chunky neckband that houses the extra electronics necessary to boost the battery life, but that does mean you’ll either have to wear them when they’re not in use or carry a bag to keep them in, which kind of defeats the object.

Ready to take the plunge? We’ve put together a list of the best pairs you can buy right now, plus our pick of the best budget options available. After using a pair of Bluetooth headphones for a few weeks, the thought of getting tangled up in wires will seem awfully old-fashioned. We'd also recommend you take a look at wireless noise-cancelling headphones for the best of every audio-on-the-go-world.

Black Friday music deals are fast approaching. Keep your eyes peeled to our Black Friday wireless headphones deals page for the very latest offers on in-ear, on-ear, wireless and noise-cancelling headphones.

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