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September 20, 2022  |  Electronics

Are wired headphones better than wireless headphones?

Whether it's for listening to music on public transport, playing video games or watching streaming content, a good pair of headphones can make all the difference. The biggest challenge is deciding on a brand.

But that’s only half the journey, as many often get stumped choosing between wireless or wired headphones. Each connection method has its benefits, and it largely depends on what you use them for. Still, wired headphones seem more popular than their wireless counterparts, which begs the question: are they better?

In this article: Sennheiser HD 660, Audio-Technica ATH-M50X and Sony ZX Series.

Sound quality

The most important aspect of headphones is naturally the sound quality. Pitting wireless headphones against wired ones is a bit of a contentious issue, and it largely depends on the manufacturer’s internal technology.

However, there are a few scientific certainties. While wireless technology has greatly improved over the decades, wired headphones use analog signals that can handle more data than the digital signals of Bluetooth. This means you receive an uncompressed signal in their full audio resolution.

Verdict: Wireless headphones often compress the audio signals, which degrades the quality. Wired headphones receive an unfiltered stream, producing the best audio quality.

Battery requirements

Any wireless headphones user dreads the low-battery beeping when there isn’t much play time left. The consistent need to recharge the battery is a bit of a headache, and it could put a serious damper on your day if you forgot to connect the charging cable the night before. 

This is no problem for wired headphones, which give you unlimited and uninterrupted play time. Wired headphones draw power for the built-in speakers through the device’s connection, and as long as there's a continuous source, you’re good to go.

Verdict: Wired headphones will only stop playing when you hit the pause button. Wireless headphones must be charged often, and the batteries can fail.

Device compatibility

Wireless headphones have the advantage that they can connect to any audio source that has a Bluetooth connection without having to worry about cables. However, this also eliminates their compatibility with other devices that don’t have Bluetooth. 

Wired headphones with a regular 3.5-millimeter plug connect to anything with a corresponding jack. This ranges from mobile phones and video game controllers to laptops and desktop computers.

Verdict: Wired headphones are compatible with more devices than wireless ones unless the device doesn’t have a traditional headphones jack.

Best wired headphones

Best Sennheiser HD 660 S Hi-Res Audiophile Open Back Headphones

Sennheiser HD 660 S Hi-Res Audiophile Open Back Headphones

These reference-class open-back headphones produce excellent sound quality and low harmonic distortion through improved transducers. The large 50-millimeter drivers are housed in padded ear cups and have a frequency response range of 10 to 41,000 hertz. They come with a 3.5-millimeter and 6.5-millimeter connection. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

Professional sound engineers use these 45-millimeter audio driver headphones with exceptional clarity through an extended frequency range. The oval shape of the ear cups ensures proper sound isolation in noisy environments, and they can swivel 90 degrees. The headphones come with a coiled detachable cable and two straight cables of different lengths as well as 3.5-millimeter and 6.5-millimeter jacks.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Sony ZX Series Wired On-Ear Headphones

Sony ZX Series Wired On-Ear Headphones

These lightweight headphones are perfect for on the road music or listening to podcasts on public transport. They have ample padding on the ear cups, which can swivel and fold, and come with a 3.5-millimeter jack. They have 30-millimeter audio drivers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best JBL Harman T450 On-Ear Lightweight Foldable Headphones

JBL Harman T450 On-Ear Lightweight Foldable Headphones

These headphones have exceptional bass for low rumbling sounds. The padded ear cups are covered with synthetic leather and have a built-in microphone. The cups can fold flat and swivel for comfort, and the audio drivers are 32 millimeters. They have a tangle-free 3-foot cable with a 3.5-millimeter jack.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Skullcandy Riff Wired On-Ear Headphones

Skullcandy Riff Wired On-Ear Headphones

Skullcandy’s Riff on-ear wired headphones are a great value. The cushioned ear cups can swivel and fold flat and have a built-in microphone for hands-free phone calls. They come with a 3-foot cable but don’t have any cushioning on the headband. Volume and track control buttons are on the left ear cup.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Philips Audio SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones

Philips Audio SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones

These wired over-ear open-back headphones have generous 50-millimeter audio drivers for excellent full-spectrum sound. They come with a 5-foot cable and gold-plated 3.5-millimeter jack. They have a dual-layer headband cushion and breathable ear cups.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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