Bluetooth audio: Is it worth your money?

May 06 2014, 06:05 IST
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What matters more, convenience or quality? What matters more, convenience or quality?
SummaryWhile wireless charging is still nascent technology, Bluetooth audio has been around for long time.

It seems odd that while your smartphone is meant to be used without cords, the box it comes in has two cords: one for the charger and another for the earphones. While wireless charging is still nascent technology, Bluetooth audio has been around for a long time. Is it worth your money though? The question boils down to how much you value convenience or quality.

Some Jargon

The most common standard you need to look for in Bluetooth speakers or headphones is “2.1 with A2DP”. This is the standard that allows for stereo audio to be played wirelessly over Bluetooth—any older and you will get mono audio, which is simply incomparable to wired headsets.

There are newer Bluetooth standards like v3 and v4 which have been made to improve upon wireless audio by reducing the need to compress the file being transferred. However, most headphones available in the market won’t come with this standard.

You might also hear of a standard called AptX, but you don’t need to pay much attention to it any more. This is an older wireless protocol for CD-quality lossless audio, but the majority of phones and headphones don’t support it now.

Bluetooth vs Wired: Quality

With the BT 2.1 standard, the audio quality for most music through streaming services and the bulk of your MP3 files isn’t noticeably worse than what you get with wired audio. Most MP3 audio files are at 128kbps bitrate, which will be transmitted fine to Bluetooth headphones and speakers, sounding just like it would on your headphones. For majority of users, this is going to be good enough. An easy way to check for the bitrate of your songs is to right-click the file in Windows and go to Properties -> Details. You will find it under the sub-header “Audio”.

If most of your files are 128kbps, then you are fine to go with Bluetooth audio over wired as the difference is negligible.

However, if your files are at 192kbps, then you will notice better quality on wired headphones over Bluetooth ones—provided the hardware of the headphones is on par, of course.

If you are an audiophile who listens to lossless audio with FLAC files, then forget about Bluetooth altogether. For Bluetooth audio to work seamlessly, it needs to compress your files while transmitting, which defeats the whole purpose of lossless audio.

Bluetooth vs Wired: Convenience

In terms of convenience, Bluetooth is a winner by a huge margin. Since it is

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