If you’ve never used Bluetooth headphones, you’re missing out. There’s nothing quite as freeing as being able to listen to your music without being tethered to your phone.
There was a time when that freedom required a big sacrifice in audio quality, but that time has passed. Bluetooth audio quality has improved by leaps and bounds, and all the best audio companies are quickly going wireless with even their most premium headsets. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars, either. We took a look at five new pairs of premium wireless Bluetooth on-ear and over-ear headphones priced from $200 to $300.
Before you break open your piggy bank, let’s take a look at what makes a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones worth spending money on. Here are the features you should look for, and the dealbreakers to watch out for.
A pair of wireless headphones needs electrical power to run its onboard amplifier and Bluetooth radio, although each of the cans in our round-up do come with audio cables for wired listening when the battery dies. Performance-wise, Plantronics’ BackBeat Pro has the best battery life (more than 24 hours of continuous listening), while Harman/Kardon’s Soho Wireless has the worst at just under nine hours).
The SoHo Wireless headphones, on the other hand, are super lightweight and portable, while the BackBeat Pros are—not so much. But part of their bulk comes from the size of the battery.
Sound quality is the most important factor to consider when shopping for headphones. But everyone has a preference when it comes to what type of audio profile they’re looking for. Younger consumers, like myself, tend to enjoy deeper bass and headphones that give off more of a “club” vibe, which is perhaps the reason bass-emphasizing headphones such as Beats by Dre are so popular (well, they’re also backed by a major celebrity, but you get what I mean).
Preferences aside, audio quality can be heard in the details: Better-sounding headphones expose more layers in your music; you’ll hear each instrument, and each instrument will be rendered more distinct; you might hear the singer breathe between verses; and so on. Drums, surprisingly enough, can be particularly revealing of quality because they produce so many different sounds.
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