The Future of Audio Should be Wireless

Apple’s move away from wired headphones towards bluetooth solutions is the right move. Wireless audio is simply a better experience on mobile and desktop.

I appreciate high quality audio. I have a pair of Sony MDR7506 headphones which I use on my desktop, and Sennheiser CS300 earbuds that I use with my phone. I’m the first to admit that neither of these in the category of insane “audiophile” gear, but to my ears they produce very good quality audio. I also have a beat-up wireless gaming headset - a Logitech G930 - which by all measures has inferior sound quality to my other headphones. However, I use my gaming headset probably about 90% of the time for general listening because of the much better ease of use.

It’s extremely convenient to throw on my wireless headset, and then not care about the cord. I can walk around, even go into another room without caring about juggling a cable, all while still having music streamed from my desktop to my ears. The case for wireless audio on desktop is super simple: portability.

Obviously, if you really want the best listening experience, a wired headset is still going to produce better sound. It’s nice to have a quality headset for the times when listening is the primary experience I want to have. But for the vast majority of my day, high-quality simply isn’t my primary concern.

The argument for wireless on mobile is less obvious, which is why I think Apple has been getting a lot of blowback on it’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. Bluetooth sucks. It’s difficult to pair, it has range issues, and the quality can sound compressed.

Since the rumors of a jack-less iPhone started stirring up, I’ve been using my Anker Bluetooth Earbuds a bit more. They don’t sound as good as my Sennheiser earbuds, but they’re actually quite a bit better than the Apple earbuds - at a pretty reasonable price. Anker has also seamed to have gotten bluetooth down too: I turn on the earbuds and they always connect in ~5 seconds. I’ve yet to have any quirks with the wireless.

Where the Anker earbuds fall flat are in comfort. When I’m wearing them, I feel kinda like the cyborg guy from the Cloud City with these huge things sticking out of my ears.

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Also, the fact that there is a cable connecting the two earbuds causes them to pull a bit, and it can be hard to keep them in my ears when running.

Assuming that Apple can pull off comfort, and maintain a decent amount of battery life in their Airpods, I think they’ll be a success. If not for anything else, then to give a reference of what wireless audio should be in the future.

I was a skeptic for several months that I’d be willing to give up the headphone jack. I still think it’ll be a huge PITA while now obsoleted interfaces, like the AUX cables in cars, still hang around. However, I think it makes sense in the long run to further remove the necessity for heaps of cables to get anything done.

I hope that if nothing else, the iPhone 7 causes manufacturers to focus more on wireless audio solutions like the Airpods. Other ‘truly wireless’ earbuds have been flops for one reason or another, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the first generation Airpods aren’t great.

Hopefully with the increased interest in this product category, wireless audio will reach quality parity with wired audio and become the clear choice going forward.

Cover: Flickr