Are Wireless Headphones finally going mainstream?

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A Little History

When smartphones became popular, more and more people were starting to listen to their music on the go.  This meant that headphone manufacturers had to shift their attention to a new niche, namely the Lifestyle Headphone.  One company that took advantage of the passiveness of the leading headphone manufacturers was Beats.  Beats caught big names like Sennheiser and Sony totally off guard and put Lifestyle Headphones on the map. With aggressive marketing and celebrity endorsing, they passed the competition and from nowhere became market leaders.

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The first generation of the Beats Solo in different flashy colors

With people using their mobile devices to listen to music, a logical next step would be that headphones should be wireless.  However, the technology was not mature enough to release wireless headphones to the masses.  There were wireless headphones, but they were very expensive and needed to compress the sound, because of bandwidth issues, using Bluetooth technology. This meant that wireless headphones would not become very popular and manufacturers including Beats still released their most popular headphones as wired.

Present day

Bluetooth is getting mature enough to provide great sound. Sennheiser releases their two very popular lifestyle models in wireless variants:  The Momentum Wireless and the Urbanite XL Wireless.  These two models pack a lot of cool features and most importantly, impress with very good sound! I would not say audiophile, but it’s getting there…  Although wired headphones still have a massive market share advantage, we are seeing a big step up in the sales of wireless models.  I think it’s safe to assume that this market share will keep increasing in the next few years.

Now, I’m particularly fond of the Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless.  It’s not only about just listening to music through your smartphone anymore.  It’s about giving the user the best user experience using his or her smartphone with their headphones.  Check out these neat features:

  • Call handling with dual microphones
  • Touch control on the right outer earpad (pause, play, volume up/down, forward, skip,…)
  • NFC panel on the left earpad for pairing with NFC devices
  • USB charging
  • Cool design
  • aptX technology should provide great sound with mobile devices that support this.

I hope to get my hands on one of them in the future so I can do a decent review of them.

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The Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless. A great Lifestyle headphone packed with lots of cool features for people on the go!

As of today, one of the biggest disadvantages of wireless headphones is still the price tag.  The Momentum Wireless goes retail for $499.95, compared to the wired model which costs retail $349.95. That’s $150 difference for going wireless.  To be fair, I have to say that the wireless model has active noise cancelling.   When we look at the Urbanite XL Wireless which goes retail for $299.95 compared to the $199.95 for the wired model, the price difference is a massive $100!

What’s Next?

I think we are at the beginning of an era where wired Lifestyle Headphones will be surpassed by wireless models. It is so much more convenient! Besides Bluetooth, there’s even stuff going on to connect the headphones through a WiFi connection. So your smartphone will create its own a private WiFi network where the headphone will connect to. We’re gonna see a lot of technical innovations in the coming years when it comes to wireless headphones!

Conclusion

To conclude. Wireless headphones are gonna become a lot more popular in the next few years. Today we already have some great options, but unfortunately, you’ll still be paying a premium for going wireless. However, I’m convinced that the price difference will eventually go away as wired Lifestyle Headphones become extinct.

So what about you guys? Have you already gone wireless? If yes, are you happy with your experience or not? If you have not switched, what’s the main thing that’s stopping you? I’m curious to hear what you guys have to say, so leave a comment below!

38 thoughts on “Are Wireless Headphones finally going mainstream?”

  1. I’ve always liked the idea of wireless headphones. It removes the annoyance of wires etc.
    However, I’ve never invested in any, mainly due to the price. A lot of the good quality ones are extremely expensive.
    But also, because i’m not usually very good at keeping things charged!
    If there’s wireless headphones out there with an easy charging system, and for a reasonable price, i would defiantly consider them!
    nice article.

    1. Hi James, the good thing with Bluetooth headphones is that most of them also include a cable, so you can still use them even if the battery is empty. If you’re going for full-size headphones, yeah they are still more expensive as their wired-only counterpart. But there are some nicely priced Bluetooth in-ear headphones that I’ve reviewed recently. Only thing is that they can only be used wireless.

  2. I just love headphones!!!

    Would love to get my hands on some great sennheiser wireless headphones. I am a sound engineer and love crisp but bassy overear headphones. I am currently using some Beyerdynamic dt770 pros but the cord is so long and i often stand on it.

    These would be a great addition to my little studio.

    1. The DT770 Pro’s are awesome headphones! I suggest you use the coiled cable. It’s much more practical for studio work.

  3. Hi Jurgen,

    I’m not an expert in anything sound-related, but I’ve always thought that what you hear from any wireless device will be lower quality than the same from a wired counterpart. The convenience of using wireless headphones is doubtless, though – no arguing here.

    Sorry if this is too dumb of a question 🙂

    1. Hey Dmitriy, it’s no dumb question at all. In fact, you are right. And it’s mostly with Bluetooth that still needs to compress the signal to send it to the headphone. Compressing means loss of detail & dynamics. Depending on the headphones capabilities, you’ll be able to hear the difference.

  4. I had a pair of wireless headphones back in the late 90s I think it was and they sucked. Used to drop out all the time, every time I moved or something interfered with the signal. And they were expensive. I ended up selling them off cheap.

    Obviously technology would have come a long way since then. Going by your post wireless is still a more costly option. What do you think of the sound quality of today’s wireless models as compared to the wired variety?

    1. Hey Darren, yeah technology has improved a lot. Theoretically speaking Bluetooth headphones are still not up to par with the wired ones. However, it’s only in reproducing the last bit of detail and dynamics that can be found in lossless audio formats like CD. If you mostly listen to lossy formats (mp3, ogg,…) than if audio quality is not good, it is not because of Bluetooth but because the headphones in general are not good enough.

  5. I believe wireless headphones will of course become completely mainstream if not already. For one thing no worrying about an annoying mess of wires. The amount of new tech being added to them is awesome as well too. They will probably become smaller and smaller in size or time as well.

  6. For anyone interested in wireless headphones and portable media systems this is a most useful resource.

    Some years ago because my wife is an ardent TV watcher and I prefer listening to my music, I invested in a set of Sony wireless headphones that received the signal from a satellite transmitter plugged into the headphone output of my amp and driven from the mains.

    This has proved to be a most useful accessory for me and they are still performing well.

    I imagine that today’s headphones are somewhat more sophisticated than mine. A very informed site with well explained content.

  7. I agree with you and can say that wireless headphones will invade soon and their prices will drop and will be available for every one.
    The prices you mentioned is very expensive if talking from another economical perspective. This is very expensive here is Egypt. So, we will wait a little longer to use it here 🙂

  8. Hi Jurgen, this is absolutely an outstanding topic! Love it because this is what’s thriving today, music! And I think your site is excellent as well. I just love the header, all the visuals, the content, and I just want to share it with my new social media friends. Your site is very welcoming and friendly to me and I will definitely tell my family about this, as they all love music and headphones. It is also uniquely and professional put together and it seems as if you’ve creating websites for years. Wonderful job!

  9. Sammi - www.alittlebitofextrahelp.com

    I have to say I love my wireless headphones, you are so mobile with them rather than walking and being pulled back sharply when you remember you are plugged in still! Its funny how headphones have gone back to big DJ phones from the little in-ear phones – its just a shame about the price of them. Do you have a favourite brand? Sammi

  10. It is nice to know that wireless headphones are getting better and better, thanks to technology. But I am looking at the problems that may also arise from its being wireless, like when you mentioned many other functions being put into the headphone. Will there be a possibility of a hijacked phone, a ‘headphone-jack’ something? That is, somebody smart enough to takeover the control of the wireless headphones en masse…

    Or when you are hopping on or off a bus or train, and your headphones accidentally falls off your head, then you won’t be able to say, “Gotcha! Thanks to the wires!” your expensive headphones are gone for good.

    Well, I like the convenience of wireless headphones, who wouldn’t? I guess I I am just looking at what could happen if…

    But thanks for the brief tech update. I am sure when headphones become mainstream, any and all problems will have a solution.

    Till then. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      That’s a very interesting observation. Who knows what certain hackers are capable of.

      Also, it’s like they say: for every yin there’s a yang 😉

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  11. I guess you’re definitely right about wireless headphones surpassing wired ones one day. However I don’t see myself using them outdoors because they do take up some space in my bag. I also don’t really fancy the idea of wearing bulky headphones while on the go. I prefer to hear what’s happening around me for safety reasons. Maybe an earpiece just for one ear will suit people like me better!

    1. Hi Regina,

      You should check out some Bluetooth in-ear’s 🙂 Let me know if you want a nice recommendation.

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  12. You just can’t knock technology. The one thing that seems constant is the continual advancement of electronics and how much more affordable they become. My poor wife listens every night to heavy yellow earphones run by batteries that expire about every other night. They were the gnat’s ass twenty years ago. I can’t wait until the price of wireless goes down to where I can afford to get her a new pair. How will she be able to listen to the radio with the new wireless models?

    1. Hey Jerry,

      Simple, she just needs to connect the headphone via Bluetooth. Most phones today also have a radio receiver, so that shouldn’t be a problem 🙂

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  13. Hi, being an audio engineer myself I’ve always been a little dubious of the overall quality of cordless/wireless headphones.
    They do seem to be catching up though and your article indicates this well.
    Would these types of things be useful in a studio situation yet? Do you feel they are up to standard?

    1. Hey Chris,

      Not sure I’ve ever seen a wireless professional studio headphone. Not sure if it’s really useful since you’ll be sitting behind your mixing equipment.

      But if you could connect it, then I suggest a neutral sounding pair of cans.

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  14. Hey there. Was doing some research on headphone and came across your article. I use to be a big fan of wired headphones. I always thought the sound quality was better than wireless. I got a new Bluetooth headset awhile back and I was pretty impressed. The sound was amazing. I have officially switched over.

    Which wireless headphones would you recommend over all? I currently use a Beats by Dre set

    1. Hey John,

      Maybe you noticed but I’m a bit exited about the Urbanite XL Wireless. Although I haven’t tested it, I like the reviews I’ve read so far. It’s supposed to be a very fun sounding headphone. A bit like the Beats but better 😉

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  15. Great post. I did not know anything about the history, but definitely prefer headphones over the ear plug ones. The sounds is just a lot better, plus they aren’t uncomfortable. No one likes sticking things in their ears 🙂
    I am however, still rocking the wire, as I can’t afford the wireless alternatives just yet. As you said the price is the biggest disadvantage. But hopefully as the technology advances and they become more mainstream, the prices will drop and I will make the switch eventually.
    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Lucinda Freestone

    Dear Jurgen

    Very informative article on headphones. It is such a pity that wireless headphones are so expensive – completely out of my range!

    I don’t actually have a Smartphone either as I am trying to live on a tight budget and can’t afford these luxuries at the moment!

    So I don’t use headphones personally because I don’t listen to music or videos in public.

    However, I will bear your recommendations in mind when I am in a position to purchase wireless headphones.

    Regards
    Lucinda

    1. Hi Lucinda, I got to admit. Most of my listening happens at home on my laptop, with my wired headphone 🙂

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  17. TheDopestMatrix

    those are actually pretty dope. the first wireless headsets I can remember must be the beats by dre. Those were dope but it seemed like a lot of people would get them easily broken. Think that’s the case with these guys? Have you used them yourself?

    Right now I have a really cheap headset, I plan on upgrading in the future, I just want to make sure I make a smart decision.

    Matt TheDopestMatrix

    1. Hey Matt, no I don’t own those headphones. I do own the wired version of the Momentum and that thing is unbreakable. The headband. You can pull it anyway you want. It’s really solidetly build. Now I’ve seen tons of reviews on the Urbanite. Even reviewers stretching the headband to a flat line and it just jumps back into place. So I have no doubts about the build quality. It’s supreme!

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  18. Hey, Jurgen. I love the idea of wireless headphones, but sadly, I cannot find them. For a brief while, I was working at an at home call center. The work was nice, but my wife hated it because for the time I was working, she couldn’t do anything. We tried to look for headphones she could use so she could watch TV, but everything was wired and FAR too close to the TV. We couldn’t find anything wireless. You mentioned some new ones that are coming out with Bluetooth capabilities for cellphones, are there any that I can use our TV as well?
    Thanks,
    -Matt

  19. What’s up Jurgen,

    Cool post on wireless headphones really liked the portion on the history.

    I do a lot of running and have a pair of wireless headphones that I use, that work really well, but they were a bit pricey.

    Do you have any recommendations for a quality pair of headphones that are affordable?

    Thanks in advance

    Brok

    1. Hi Brok,

      I can give you 2 affordable recommendations:

      The Scosche RH1060 at $130 is a more V-shaped sound and has lots of bass.
      The MEElectronic Air-Fi Matrix2 AF62 at $90 is a neutral sounding headphone.

      All the best,

      Jurgen

  20. Nice article, you’ve provided me with a ton of info on the wireless options here!
    I have a question for you though. I’m an audio engineer and I’m constantly in a studio situation. I was wondering what the sound quality was like on these cans?
    Do they slightly color the sound with some sort of bass boost or are they reasonably flat response?

    1. Hi Chris, the thing with Lifestyle Headphones is, that they tend to be a bit elevated on the bass side. The Urbanite XL Wireless is a bit more bass heavy than the Momentum XL. Actually the Momentum XL is relative neutral, but still has a bit of an elevated bass. Not much though. The sound quality of both cans should be very nice from what I’ve heard. I don’t own them. I’m looking to get my hands on the Urbanite XL Wireless though 🙂

      For studio use, I would not recommend these headphones. You’re better off with a full-size wired headphone. Check my review of the Sennheiser HD598 for example.

      All the best,

      Jurgen

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