You should know before buying a Bluetooth headset

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The fact that phones no longer use many 3.5mm headphone ports has made the wireless headset market grow at a dizzying rate. But there are a lot of terms when you first learn about Bluetooth headsets that are quite strange. Then hopefully, today, this article has explained a lot of your problems, which parameters to focus on, and which parameters can be ignored.

Bluetooth version: Does 4.2 or 5.0 matter?

When shopping for Bluetooth headsets, you will usually see Vx.x or version; generally, this is the version of Bluetooth, and usually, current headsets support: Bluetooth v4.1, v4.2, or version completely new version v5.0. If you look on the website, there are a lot of words that Bluetooth 5.0 also enhances connectivity, bandwidth, and many other improvements. The same is true, but these improvements won’t necessarily make your headphones any better.

Currently, the upgrade point is mainly emphasized on the “Bluetooth Low Energy” protocol, which helps devices such as fitness wearables, keychain trackers, or smart-home devices to communicate with each other with low power consumption. On the other hand, headphones use another protocol, Bluetooth Basic Data Rate/Enhanced Data Rate, also known as BR/EDR protocol. BR / EDR has not received any upgrade from Bluetooth 5.0.

So the simple answer is that there will be no improvement for the headset. The Bluetooth version will not have much of an impact on the headset selection process. Although the new versions will also have a lot of improvements in features and new updates, these improvements do not have much impact on Bluetooth’s main audio transmission quality.

The sound quality of transport codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, and LDAC

The above codecs are the same as your music file extensions, MP3, OGG, WAV, FLAC… but when wirelessly transmitting to a Bluetooth headset. Your phone does not simply send the MP3 file to your headset will convert and compress to another format that your headphones can understand. Headphones and music players will support different codec formats and automatically apply the best Codec that both devices support. That also greatly affects the sound quality.

Below I will summarize the common codecs currently on phones and headphones.

– SBC (Subband Coding): this is the default codec required by all Bluetooth headsets and has the lowest sound quality. Sound quality is not always bad and will depend a lot on different devices. Still, with devices that support many different codecs, the sound quality of SBC is usually worse than other codecs, quite clear.

– AAC codec with data compression performance and stable transmission, the only Codec when you play music files with AAC codec, the file will be transmitted directly to the headset without compression, so the sound quality is also significantly improved compared to SBC. It’s also the only premium codec that iPhone and iPad support (except for SBC), which you can also find on some Android products. In terms of headphones, AAC is also present on Apple products, including AirPods and Beats, and there are currently many high-end wireless headphones that support this connection standard.

– aptX and aptX HD: Owned by Qualcomm, these codecs have much better bandwidth and data compression performance than codecs like AAC and SBC; sound quality also has a significant improvement compared to SBC. You can find this Codec on many Android devices as well as high-end music players. This format aims to lower latency, high bandwidth, and high compression to transmit large music files such as Lossless 24bit/48kHz with aptX HD and 16bit/44.1kHz with aptX. If you are the type that likes to watch movies or play games, then aptX LL (aptX Low Latency) is currently the best solution with extremely low latency.

– LDAC: Owned by Sony, LDAC is a tunable codec with three transmission levels, also has the most transmission capacity compared to other Bluetooth codecs (LDAC High Quality: 24bit/96kHz). This Codec has also been integrated with Android 8.0 Oreo, so you can easily use it with new Android phones. In terms of headphones, this Codec is still not as popular as aptX, but you can find LDAC quite easily on Sony products.

That is probably quite a lot of terms and concepts for newbies, although for most people who intend to buy wireless headphones, other high-end codecs SBC will have similar sound quality. If you use Android 8.0 Oreo and high-end headphones that support various codecs, you can try to experience the sound quality of the Bluetooth codec for yourself.

If you are in the headphone market, you should invest in both headphones and transmitters that support AAC, aptX, or LDAC because to use high-end codecs, both the source and the device must be connected. All devices must support the same Codec. For example, if you have a phone that supports LDAC but your headset only supports SBC, the connection will only use the SBC codec. Another example, the phone supports SBC, aptX, and the headset supports SBC, AAC, the connection will automatically use SBC. Therefore, before making a decision, you should carefully consider both connected devices.

Quick connection: W1, NFC, and other options

Bluetooth offers a more convenient solution than traditional wired headsets by eliminating wires but also causes significant difficulty in the connection between headphones and music playback devices. Most headset products can connect extremely easily, but one product is extremely difficult to go into pairing mode to find the source product; sometimes, the connection time is very long or natural. Try to connect to another product; even worst, always disconnect, the connection fails. Every time you connect a new product, you have to go back to Bluetooth settings.

Some manufacturers try to develop solutions so that users can connect quickly and provide the best experience. The most famous is probably Apple’s W1 chip, which helps AirPods and wireless Beats headphones connect to iPhones as fast as the wind. Google also launched a unique solution called ‘Fast Pair’ that competes with Apple’s W1 chip. When opening the headset with compatible devices, a notification will appear, and you only need to touch once on the phone to connect to the headset.

However, to use this fast connection feature, both connected products must support this protocol. For example, if you have an AirPods or Beats that use the W1 chip and the phone you are using is Android, the connection will take no different from regular wireless headphones.

You can also use other fast connection technologies such as NFC, which is famous and appears a lot on wireless headsets. NFC (Near Field Communication) is the ability to touch the phone to the location with the NFC logo to connect to the headset; this is also the mechanism that you use Samsung Pay or Apple Pay to use just a light touch phone POS is deducted money. Similar to other quick connection methods, your phone and your headset also need an NFC chip to touch and connect.

Other outstanding features

Codecs and fast connections are probably the two biggest features that you need to pay attention to, but there are also quite a few other convenient features that many of you will probably need.

– “Multipoint” is the ability to connect many different playback devices on the same headset. If you listen to music on your tablet and have an incoming call on your phone, you can switch to listening to the phone without replacing the headset with the phone again. “Advanced Multipoint” allows you to receive connections from the second device without affecting the connection of the first device.

– There are quite a few Bluetooth headsets that also have their app, allowing you to adjust more features such as EQ or noise cancellation. Like my current Sony WF-1000X headset with Sony Headphone connect software, it can also adjust the level of noise cancellation, simulate the soundstage, EQ, or adjust the connection quality. Most importantly, update the firmware extremely easily. The Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless with MIY software can measure your hearing and create an EQ profile to optimize sound quality for each listener.

Finally, many other interesting features of headphones, such as Beyer Aventho, can automatically pause the song when you remove the headset from your head, or like the Sony WH-1000XM2, WH-H900N can listen to the sound. The outside bar is also unique if you use your hand to capture the earcup on the right side. Many of you are also interested in the active noise cancellation feature of the headset that can help you feel comfortable in noisy working environments, public places, or flights.

But most importantly, it’s the feel and sound quality that’s right for you. The features are also not very important if you cannot wear the headset because it is too uncomfortable.

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