Wireless vs wired headphones: which is better? | Stuff (2024)

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Are there any benefits to tethering yourself with a cable?

Wireless vs wired headphones: which is better? | Stuff (2)

Wireless vs wired headphones is a pretty niche debate these days, what with everyone from youngsters to grandparents rocking a pair of AirPods (or another flavour of wireless earbuds). But if you’re on this page, it means you’re at least curious as to why you’d ever want to consider picking up some of the best wired headphones. Of course, if you’re an audiophile, you probably never left the world of wired headphones in the first place, and with good reason. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Below you’ll find all the main differences between wired and wired headphones, beyond the fact that one has a wire, and the other doesn’t. Otherwise, this would be a very short article indeed

  • Read more: Best smart speakers with Google, Alexa and Siri built-in

Wireless vs wired headphones: sound quality

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Bluetooth tech has come a long way, and the latest codecs like aptX Lossless prove that wireless sound quality can be superb. Trouble is, you need the right equipment to take advantage of it. You might have a pair of aptX Lossless headphones, for example, but if you don’t have a smartphone that supports it, you’re missing out on the best possible quality.

Wired headphones, of course, don’t have that problem. Plug them in and, well, that’s it. Despite the fact that most smartphones have unfortunately dropped the tried and trusted audio jack, you can still grab USB-C adaptors for a hassle-free fit, enjoying the best possible sound quality without faff. On that note, if you’re rocking older or less capable Bluetooth devices, there’s no doubt that wired headphones will sound better.

In a similar vein, wired headphones have practically zero delay, which means that if you’re a regular video watcher, you’ll never have to deal with audio that’s out of sync with the on-screen action. Even some of the most expensive and more advanced Bluetooth headphones still suffer from audio delay, which can really ruin a marathon YouTube session.

All that aside, if you’re willing to spend a pretty penny (or quite a bit more), you can nab yourself some serious audiophile-grade headphones that will blow any Bluetooth ones out of the water, if you have a source that will do them justice. That’s edging straight into the heart of audiophile territory though, which is a dangerous path to walk down…

Wireless vs wired headphones: practicality

Wireless vs wired headphones: which is better? | Stuff (4)

Wired headphones are incredibly practical when it comes to battery life, because, well, they have no batteries. As long as your connected device has juice, you’re good to go, and you’ll never need to worry about having another set of gear to charge either.

Wireless/Bluetooth headphones, on the other hand, will need relatively regular charges, especially if you’re a power commuter. And if you’ve ever forgotten to charge your headphones before a long trip, you know how annoying it can be. Sure, some have quick charge options, but if you’re flying across the ocean on a seven-hour flight, that won’t save you from the smug smirk of someone who’s happily enjoying their tunes on wired headphones.

Having said that, wired headphones can be impractical in other ways. Their cables can simply get in the way, and in some cases, completely ruin experiences. If you’ve ever gone to the gym or run cross-country with a wire constantly thwacking against you, you’ll know how annoying those pesky cables can get. And don’t get us started on the instant rage-inducing experience of having the cable snag on something when you’re simply walking around.

Which should you buy?

Wireless vs wired headphones: which is better? | Stuff (5)

There’s a place for both wired and wireless headphones, and you don’t have to spend thousands on either to find a happy medium. Having a wireless pair for commuting and the gym is absolutely sensible, especially when you take things like active noise cancellation into account.

If you’re at home and want the best sound quality though, then a dedicated pair of cable-toting cans is a wonderful treat, letting you stay put and really focus on the music. There are no rules though, and you can do whatever you feel is best.

  • Read more: Best cheap headphones — earbud and over-ear headphones reviewed

Esat DedezadeContributor


Esat has been a gadget fan ever since his tiny four-year-old brain was captivated by a sound-activated dancing sunflower. From there it was a natural progression to a Sega Mega Drive, a brief obsession with hedgehogs, and a love for all things tech. After 7 years as a writer and deputy editor for Stuff, Esat ventured out into the corporate world, spending three years as Editor of Microsoft's European News Centre. Now a freelance writer, his appetite for shiny gadgets has no bounds. Oh, and like all good human beings, he's very fond of cats.

Wireless vs wired headphones: which is better? | Stuff (2024)


Wireless vs wired headphones: which is better? | Stuff? ›

In terms of sound quality, if your music is in MP3 format, you probably won't notice much difference between wireless and wired headphones, but if it is stored in ALAC/FLAC/WAV, sound differences may be more distinguishable. Generally speaking, most wired headphones provide better sound quality than wireless.

Is it better to use wired or wireless headphones? ›

Better Sound Quality: Wired headphones typically offer superior sound quality compared to their wireless counterparts. This is because they can transmit uncompressed audio data without any signal loss or interference caused by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Which is better for your health wired or wireless headphones? ›

The U.S. government sets safety standards for the amount of radiation emitted from consumer devices. 8 Bluetooth devices are well below that level, even when placed directly against the skin. Simply stop using wireless technologies if you want to be even more cautious, advised Foster. Instead, opt for wired headphones.

Why wired earphones are still better? ›

Headphones that you stick into a jack or charging port of your phone, computer and other devices typically cost less than comparable wireless models. Unlike wireless headphones, plug-in models don't have batteries that are destined to die. And they don't leave you stranded if you forget to charge them.

What is the advantage of wired headphones? ›

At the end of the day, wired, over-ear headphones offer several advantages to their wireless counterparts, including superior sound quality, reliability, durability, and comfort.

What are the disadvantages of wired headphones? ›

However, they also have some drawbacks, such as limited mobility, tangled wires, and compatibility issues. For hardware diagnostics, wired speakers and headphones may be preferred if you need a reliable and consistent audio output, and if you don't mind the hassle of wires.

How many people still use wired headphones? ›

Wired headphones account for 83% of unit sales, compared to just 17% for wireless ones. However, it is undeniable that although the unit sales of wireless earphones are much lower than that of wired earphones, their revenue accounts for 54%, surpassing that of wired earphones.

Are wired headphones safer? ›

However, the radiation from a wired headset results in weak radio waves at audio frequencies -- difficult to detect, even with sensitive equipment, and several orders of magnitude weaker than the radio signal the cell phone produces. Using a wired headset is one of the safest solutions available for cell phone users.

Which headphones are healthier? ›

When we look at these two options, audiologists tend to agree that over-ear headphones tend to work best. In general, here are a few reasons why that's the case: They provide more room for sounds to reverberate because you're not funneling music directly towards your eardrums.

Do wired headphones last longer? ›

If you use your wireless headphones every day and only recharge them as needed you'll likely get three years or more out of them. Do wired headphones last longer than wireless ones? Yes, wired headphones generally last longer than wired ones because the cables are typically replaceable.

Do wired or wireless headphones last longer? ›

If you use your wireless headphones every day and only recharge them as needed you'll likely get three years or more out of them. Do wired headphones last longer than wireless ones? Yes, wired headphones generally last longer than wired ones because the cables are typically replaceable.

Do wired headphones use more battery than wireless? ›

When Bluetooth is on, it sends data to the wireless headset. This generates more heat and consumes more energy. This is also the reason why wireless headphones lag. So wired headphones use less power.

Are wired headphones louder than wireless? ›

Wireless headphones will always have the volume range the manufacturer intended (safe listening volumes) while wired headphones will vary and can be overdriven if connected to a powerful source.

Why do wired earbuds sound better than AirPods? ›

Wired headphones are the best for chatting on the phone, not just for battery life, but for clear, crisp audio. There were times when I was using AirPods, and the audio would cut out, causing me to constantly repeat myself. With my wired earbuds, I don't need to worry about the sound cutting out.

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