Tech Roundup: Choosing Bluetooth Headphones in 2019
Headphones have seen an increase in popularity over the years. They have allowed a marginal group of consumers and fans to discover or get back into music. Headphones are more convenient than a Hi-Fi system – they allow us to tune in directly to our favorite artists and experience emotional moments, at any place or time. Even more convenient are their wireless Bluetooth counterparts, which represent the highest degree of musical freedom. However, when it comes to getting the most out of your music and experiencing its full potential, such as with Qobuz Hi-Res, not all headphones are made equal. To help you make the right choice, here’s our selection of the best Hi-Res Bluetooth headphones out there right now.
Good quality headphones have been around for years, for both professionals and audiophiles. However, for many years the greater public were caught up in a situation that lacked quality. Most were often content with the free, small headset or headphones provided with their MP3 or smartphone.
The dematerialization of music from the beginning of the 2000s accelerated the headphone movement. MP3 players largely contributed to the development of a large consumer base and an increase in the headphone’s quality. Headsets have become larger, with earpads that surround the entire ear, along with smaller ‘ear-buds’ that set themselves inside the ear canal. For more practicality wireless headphones were soon developed, accompanied with noise cancelling capabilities.
For our last Top Ten, we selected portable DACs that work with smartphones and other electronic music players. Thanks to them, listening to music in high definition is now possible. In order to benefit from such wire/cable-free perks, your Bluetooth headset must be compatible with your device.
Remember that there is no difference in the audio quality of Bluetooth versions 4 or 5. Both codecs associated with Bluetooth, whether it be 4.1, 4.2 or 5, guarantee Hi-Res listening: aptX HD (576 kbps) and LDAC (990 kbps). However, Wireless headphones that integrate one of these two codecs, or both, are still few and far between. Hence our list.
1. Pioneer SE-MS9BN: the perfect balance between quality and price
Price: 189 euros
Features : aptX HD, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, 27-hour battery life, micro USB charging, 300g
These large Pioneer over-ear headphones come in black and brown. They’re not the most discrete, but their finish is subtle. Boasting 40mm transducers with rare earth magnets that allow them to descend to 5 Hz, they can climb to an impressive 22kHz in Bluetooth mode. Great for Hi-Res listening in aptX HD.
The SE-MS9BN holds a battery life of 27 hours which loses three hours when the noise cancelling feature is activated. The time taken to recharge is an estimated 4 hours. They are also equipped with a microphone for telephone calls and voice commands through Google Assistant. Weighing 300 grams, they’re neither too heavy nor too light.
Do not fold
Mediocre noise cancellation
2. Denon AH-GC25W: A most compact over-ear headset
Price : 239 euros
Features: aptX HD, Bluetooth 5, 30-hour battery life, micro USB charging, 283 grams
Denon are among the major players for high-end headphones. They currently offer two wireless models of which these AH-GC25W are the cheaper. They do not have noise cancelling capabilities yet are equipped with the Clear Voice Capture system which improves voice reproduction when calling thanks to their two integrated microphones.
They are over-ear headphones, yet their size and weight are reasonably contained, weighing 283 grams. What’s more, they come equipped with memory foam ear pads and a well-padded arch. The Hi-Res certification promises production of frequencies from 5 to 40,000 Hz thanks to the 40mm transducers. They are foldable and come free with a small transport case. Denon AH-GC25W headphones are available in black or white.
30-hour battery life
Discrete aesthetic in black
No noise cancellation
No voice command features
A little exuberant in white
3. Bowers and Wilkins PX: Hi-Res Bluetooth with English class
Price: 299 euros
Features: aptX HD, Bluetooth 4.1, autonomie 29 heures, recharge USB-C, 340 grammes
Bowers & Wilins are the very example of a Hi-Fi specialist arriving late to the headphone scene. Their experience gained through making speakers has served as a baseline for the development of the PX. The headset is equipped with top of the range 40mm transducers, the same as those used in the brand’s wired P9 Signature model. The bandwidth covers frequencies from 10 to 20,000 Hz.
PX headphones contain a perfected noise cancelling system. With three modes (office, town, plane), they adapt to the environment, filtering out nothing but the essential. Their finish, made from leather and woven nylon, is exemplary. They fold up nicely to fit in the padded case that is provided. Use of quality materials increases their weight to 340 grams.
Quality of finish
Autonomy during noise cancelling mode
Not too comfortable
4. Technics F50: The most affordable aptX HD and LDAC headset
Price : 329 euros
Features : aptX HD, LDAC, Bluetooth 4.2, 35-hour battery life, mini USB charging, 286 grams
Technics have unveiled two new headsets with a reassuring bulky aesthetic. The F50s, the more affordable of two, come without active noise cancelling yet their large padded leather ear pads should already isolate you enough from the world around you. They boast 40mm neodymium magnet transducers with bandwidth of 20 to 40,000 Hz in Bluetooth mode.
For their F50 model, Technics have kept aptX and LDAC so as to allow functionality with all Hi-Res sources. They also flaunt an impressive 35-hour battery life and only require four hours to be charged up completely. They are equipped with microphones for telephone calls and voice commands. Finally, despite their large size, these foldable headphones are incredibly manageable.
aptX HD and LDAC
Voice command compatible
No noise cancellation
No dedicated application
5. Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT : The Hi-Res digital headset without DAC
Price : 349 euros
Features : aptX HD, Bluetooth 4.2, autonomie 15 heures, recharge USB, 300 grammes
In the wide range of wireless headphones by Audio Technica, the ATH-DSR7BT is a model like no other. Hi-Res compatibility has been pushed to its limits as the sound is entirely digital despite the 45mm transducers particular to this headset. The Pure Digital Drive technology without a Digital/Analog converter is in place to avoid any jitter (signal fluctuation) and deliver a high-resolution sound of optimal quality.
The memory foam earpads provide supplementary comfort. Unfortunately, wireless listening is limited to only 15 hours. Nevertheless, Audio-Technica have not forgotten to install a phone compatible microphone. Given its technology, the ATH-DSR7BT does not work with an analog auxiliary jack, but it is by all means possible to use an audio USB.
Entirely digital headset
Absence of auxiliary jack
No noise cancellation
6. Sony WH1000XM3: Sony WH1000XM: A go-to for Hi-Res noise cancelling headsets
Price : 379 euros
Features : aptX HD, LDAC, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, 38-hour battery life, USB-C charging, 255 grams
Now in its third version, the Sony WH1000XM aims to hold onto its position as champion. It improves on every aspect that made the previous models such a success. Boasting 40mm aluminium and liquid crystal transducers, the headset can cover frequencies of up to 40,000 Hz. The integrated digital amplifiers are accompanied by the DSEE HX system that aims to fix the issue of the extreme, often weak frequencies of compressed audio files.
Sony have equipped the WH1000XM headset with automatic noise cancelling that yields some of the best results on the market. Three different modes deal with different environments such as the office, noisy urban environments and daily commutes. All functions handle themselves with ease on the ears. With so many capabilities, this Sony headset remains nonetheless one of the most compact and light on the market.
Automatic noise cancellation
Compact and light
Ergonomics not always at the forefront
Price is a little steep
7. Nura Nuraphone : Nura Nuraphone: Hi-Res headphones that adapt sound to your ears
Price : 399 euros
Features : aptX HD, Bluetooth 4.0, 20-hour battery life, USB charging, 329 grams
Nura is a newcomer to the world of wireless headphones. In addition to being certified as Hi-Res aptX HD, the Nuraphone sound will adapt itself to your ears. This is achieved through a calibration procedure that owes itself to a mobile app that analyses your listening and changes the characteristics of the headphones as a result. The balanced sound that results from this is almost perfect, even if your ears are not.
Nuraphones contain two loudspeakers in each ear. The first 40mm transducer deals with bass while the second 15mm handles the mid/high range. On top of these original characteristics is a noise cancellation system and a microphone for phone calls. They are physically quite simple and unfortunately do not fold up.
Don’t fold up
Mediocre battery life
8. Audeze Mobius Cuivre : An accessible planar magnetic for wireless Hi-Res audio
Price : 449 euros
Features:LDAC, Bluetooth 4.2, 10-hour battery life, USB-C charging, 350 grams
The name Audeze carries weight among audiophiles familiar wth headphones. This top of the range brand deals as much with Hi-Fi as it does gaming and offers here a Hi-Res Bluetooth headset. The mobius headset gives aptX HD a rare miss: you will be able to experience high resolution, but only in LDAC. Make sure then that you choose a source compatible with this headset.
Mobius headphones contain 100mm planar magnetic transducers that can cover frequencies from 10 to 50,000 Hz, more luxurious tech than your standard membrane speaker. Comfort is ensured with their large memory-foam earpads covered in faux leather. Foldable and flexible, they hold nothing back. These ultra-versatile wireless headphones have one setback: their battery life is limited to only 10 hours.
Planar magnetic transducers
Poor battery life
No aptX HD
9. Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless : When a great wired model goes wireless
Price : 649 euros
Features : aptX HD, aptX LL, Bluetooth 4.2, 30-hour battery life, USB-C charging, 340 grams
Beyerdynamic have transformed their Amiron Home wired headphones into a wireless model. Wireless Amirons are identical in both design and tech and have already been met with modest success among audiophiles. Now one can enjoy the headphones outside thanks to Hi-Res Bluetooth with aptX HD. aptX Low Latency is also included, an attractive addition when used for gaming.
LThey are extremely comfortable premium headphones thanks to their arch and earpads covered in an imitation suede. Unlike the Amiron Home, the Amiron Wireless headset is a closed device with the back of the earpads serving as the control interface. More intended for music, the headphones contain a microphone for phone calls but lack noise cancelling capabilities.
aptX HD and aptX LL
Long battery life
No noise cancellation
10. Hifiman Ananda-BT: the ultimate Hi-Res Bluetooth headphones
Price : 1200 euros
Features : aptX HD, aptX LL, Bluetooth 4.2, 13.5-hour battery life, USB-C charging, 460 grams
With Hifiman, we are met with the audiophile headphone paradox: to balance Hi-Res quality sound with compressed wireless capabilities. The Ananda BT is the Bluetooth version of the wired headset of the same name. The headphones are still equipped with their 5 by 7.5 cm planar magnetic transducers providing them with huge bandwidth. Unlike with Beyerdynamic, Hifiman have kept the open structure of their headphones, even in their mobile version, allowing the detection of nearby sounds.
It would therefore be difficult to use these headphones during your daily commute for example. But for detaching yourself and wandering freely around the house or garden while listening to music they are perfect. The Ananda-BT is equipped with a small detachable wire most useful for gaming. The battery life is limited, but for household listening it should be sufficient. Finally, it lacks an auxiliary jack but works with an audio USB.
aptX HD and aptX LL
Audiophile performance and quality
Planar magnetic transducers
Comfortable but heavy
Limited battery life
Thanks to the aptX and LDAC codecs, Bluetooth has made high resolution listening experiences a wireless reality. For this to be possible, a compatible source is needed, an MP3 player or smartphone and an appropriate headset. Few headsets on the market today benefit from aptX HD. And those equipped with LDAC are even more rare. But when you bring together a compatible music player and headset, freedom and exceptional quality are finally united. Yet not all Hi-Res cans are the same and when it comes to their price, none are cheap. You will have to invest at least 200 euros to get your hands on a wireless Hi-Res headset. Some contain special features such as being decked out with noise cancelling capabilities for travel use, on the road or plane. Others are completely lacking such features and are better suited to the household or terrace. The best equipped headsets for walking around are also those that come with a long battery life. Finally, some are more comfortable than others, some fold up and some don’t, some are heavier, some are lighter. The headphones in this Top Ten are all quite different in size and function to cover a wide user base and budget range. We hope you are able to find a Hi-Res Bluetooth headset well suited to your needs and desires!
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