What are the most exciting advances in headphone audio technology?
While you might think headphones technology isn’t changing much, there are a couple of new things coming up that are quite exciting. Man listening to wireless Bluetoth music, Better Bluetooth sound quality than ever before. With the advent of more efficient Bluetooth codecs, the wireless headphones offer almost the same audio quality as wired headphones. True, wired headphones are here to stay as the golden standard for some time, especially for professional and studio use. But many average users are already changing sides. More reputable brands are releasing new Bluetooth headphones every year and pushing them hard on the market. The reason wireless Bluetooth headphones sound better is mostly thanks to a couple of companies. Qualcomm is a major company which developed aptX codec. It’s a piece of software headphones technology that optimizes signal use for audio. It offered it for free to phone manufacturers, so most modern phones support it, but require licensing for headphone manufacturers. They just came up with a new aptX called “Adaptive” which would do exactly what the name suggests. Automatically adapt the bitrate transmission based on the limitations of your wireless environment. The idea is that if you’re in a crowded place with many competing wireless signals, the codec will find a way to get your audio through a smaller bitrate thus improving reliability. On the other hand, if you’re listening to music at home where there aren’t many devices present, the Bluetooth codec will get you the highest sound quality possible but also use a higher bitrate. Currently, the most common is regular aptX, and some devices also support aptX HD—which offers the highest audio quality—and aptX Low Latency (aptX LL) which has a faster response time, which is perfect for movies and other videos. Only time will tell if aptX Adaptive answers the problem of bad Bluetooth sound better than the competition. And the competition isn’t sleeping. Another big company heavily investing in wireless audio is Sony (not new for 2019). They developed a Bluetooth codec, called LDAC. It’s actually more efficient than aptX HD. aptX HD supports the maximum bit rate of 576 kbps with 40ms lag, but the LDAC supports 3 different modes. The basic mode transfers data at 330 kbps, normal at 660 kbps, and the best (called Priority) at 990 kbps which is more than aptX HD.
However, at the moment LDAC isn’t as widespread as aptX though this might change with time. We’ll see which one wins the majority market share in a couple of years. All in all, you can be sure wireless audio will keep improving in the next years which will make Bluetooth headphones sound better than ever before. True wireless Apple earbuds with iPhone True wireless headphones are becoming a thing. True wireless earbuds haven been out for a couple years now, but at CES 2019 pretty much every major headphone brand had their own true wireless in-ear headphones on display. They are here to stay and hopefully develop into a reliable wireless option. Truth be told, the battery life has always been shorter, even lacking, but the new versions come with a better battery than before. The Sennheiser Momentum True wireless earbuds offer 6 hours, the same as the Bose SoundSport (regular) wireless earphones. The design is simple to use and offers a lot of convenience. We’re excited to see what the future hold for this new design.
What are the most exciting advances in headphone hardware?
Headphones have pretty much stayed the same for centuries. Only recently have companies started developing wireless and noise cancelling headphones. Wireless headphones are here to stay and while the past models suffered from short battery life and unreliable connectivity that’s becoming a non-issue.
Headphone battery life is increasing
Wireless headphones are getting longer battery lives. Not long ago the best wireless earbuds offered no more than 6 hours of music per charge. Today, with newer chips and larger capacity batteries you’re easily getting at least 8 hours. Some even offer over a day of playtime (more on these buds here). Bigger, over-ear headphones offer over 30 hours which is plenty of time. Add to this a quick charging capability and charging the battery stops being a hassle.
In the future, we can expect longer battery lives and shorter charging times which will make wireless headphones much more convenient. Active noise cancelling is becoming more common. Noise-canceling headphones used to be expensive and only a couple of brands made them. Today, more companies dived in the market, and many offer more affordable ANC options as well. People don’t like ambient noise, and the market answers with plenty of choice. You can get decent noise cancellation under $200 and even under $100 for budget models. We’re expecting more companies adding the technology into their headphones because it’s a nice technology to have. And, most people want to get rid of acoustic noise in their music.
What are the most exciting upcoming developments in the headphone industry?
Smartphones have been used for playing music for some time now, but only recently have companies started offering equalization software in the form of apps. Software equalization with apps is becoming more common. With some of the premium headphone brands you get software support for equalization, different profile settings for different occasions and other bonuses. Equalizing your music to sound more how you like is always a bonus and sometimes even a lifesaver. Hopefully, more brands start offering this option together with their headphones. Creative Super X-Fi plugged to headphones
Another thing that’s exciting and new is:
Virtual surround sound amplification.
With the advent of Creative’s Super X-Fi amplification, an exciting new horizon is opening up. One big disadvantage of headphones is a small soundstage. This is now changing with a proper amplifier that can make your pair of headphones sound like a surround sound speaker system. It’s a great new technology that works and if you have an opportunity to try it, do it. Sure, it’s not perfect yet, it changes the vocals a bit, but the soundstage is so much better, it’s totally worth it for music buffs.