Thoughts On Wireless Earphones

how the wireless technology affects the sound of earphones Most of us are very particular about our music. We know what we like and what we don’t. And we spend time and money to have the music we like. But after we find it, we listen to it with cheap headphones that came with our smartphone. See our article on: why good music requires good headphones

Nowadays, there is a significant surge of interest in wireless headphones and earphones. And it’s easy to see why. Because it’s so easy to not have wires to worry about. But we can’t ignore the fact, why we are using earphones in the first place: To listen to music. (not to look cool:). So all the convenience in the world is pointless if we can’t listen to music well on our wireless headphones. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects that come into play here.

The wireless connection

This is the most obvious place to start. Wireless earphones require a wireless connection to receive the music. Pretty much every model, right now, uses Bluetooth. It’s good to realize that bluetooth was originally designed to send small messages with very little power between devices. To get high quality music to our headphones we need stability, no interference and plenty of bandwidth. These aspects were never part of the design of Bluetooth.

We are using a very different Bluetooth now compared to it’s original design. It has been revised and upgraded in many ways, and different protocols have been added to it. So it’s current capabilities are much better. And that means that the quality of music that can be streamed is theoretically at CD level. I say theoretically because we all know from our Wifi-routers and cable internet that you rarely get the levels of bandwidth that were written on the box.

Miniaturization

Looking at some wireless earbuds, I can’t help but wonder how they ever got all that stuff in there. These things are tiny. Batteries need to power all the electronics, the wireless receiving and provide the musical energy. It’s amazing that the stuff is working in the first place.
All this miniturization comes at a price. When the components are very close to getter it’s easy to run into problems with interference. The channels on the PCB get very thin, which makes it harder to play loud music. And there is not so much room for the actual transducers anymore. Some very cutting edge engineering has been used to still get good sound from wireless earbuds. If you take a look at http://kanoareview.com you can see what is possible with the latest technology.

Signal Interference

This part of getting good sound is very much related to the first: the wireless connection. When the music is being streamed continuously to the headphones, any electrical interference will mess with our listening. To solve this, the engineers have created buffers in the headphones. These buffers make sure that if the signal becomes interrupted for up to a few seconds, the music will keep playing. In order for that to work properly, the bandwidth of the connection will have to higher than the bandwidth of the music being played. Otherwise the connection can never catch up after a loss of signal.

Mechanical Interference

Another aspect that can get in the way of listening to good music can be mechanical interference. The good thing about wireless headphones and earphones is that this is already greatly reduced. The wires are normally a big source of mechanical interference for the listener. They transmit sounds to the ear when touch or pulled. The phenomenon is often called microphonics. So this is not a big problem with earphones.

Wind can also greatly interfere with your music. Especially people that use their earphones outside will know how much noise can be created by the wind. I am not sure whether designers actually test for this. But it’s something that they should do. If you want to use your earphones while cycling for example. Then the wind interference can make it almost impossible to hear the music.

Conclusion

Wireless earphone or earbuds provide an interesting alternative to their wired predeseccors. At the moment they can’t give you the most high-resolution music that is available on wired versions. But they can play music in a very acceptable quality and do so with a lot of comfort for the listener. This is something I haven’t really expanded on in the article because it seems so obvious. Without the wires to your headphones you enjoy a lot of freedom.

Comments are closed