The Latest in Headphone Technology – Audio & Bluetooth Technology
What’s new in headphone technology? What you can be looking forward to in the next few years.
Here you’ll get a good idea about the new development of technology in headphones.
- What’s New in Headphone Technology in 2019
- Headphone Technology for Active People
- Headphone Technology for Audiophiles
What’s New in Headphone Technology in 2019
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
You can check the Creative Super X-Fi review here.
Headphone Technology for Active People
Music and sports go together like bacon and eggs. The desire to listen to music while you take a run or lift weights is an old one.
Thankfully, headphone brands are listening.
You can choose from more waterproof headphones than ever before.
The most common way to measure sweat-protection and water-resistance is with the IP or IPX rating.
The higher the IPX rating, the better the protection.
Some waterproof headphones can be dipped and washed under water without damage.
So, today most brands are using some kind of water protection layers that block water.
This makes the workout headphones suitable for all kinds of sports.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of sports headphones, make sure to check their IPX rating before buying.
Headphone Technology for Audiophiles
If you’re a part of the “elite” who calls themselves audiophiles, then you might be excited about a couple things.
Sonarworks offers balanced sound in any headphones.
You probably find many headphones lacking in audio quality. The highs might be too high, the bass is often overpowered, there might be a lack in vocals, you name it.
No pair of headphones is perfect, but with Sonarworks that might become a possibility.
The idea behind this new software is to get a perfectly balanced high fidelity sound out of any headphone model.
They monitor all the most popular headphones—they have quite a collection now—and figure out which ranges are off balance.
Then they create a profile for them that basically “fixes” their sound (changes frequency response to neutral).
You can download their software on your phone, get some quality FLACs, pick the right profile in the app (for the headphones you have) and enjoy a never-before-heard audio quality from your old headphones.
It supportes hundreds of models, including in-ear headphones.
It’s hard to put it into words, and you have to hear it to understand it.
There was nothing like it available up until now. You can read more about Sonarworks here.
What are the differences in features and technology between professional studio headphones and consumer headphones?
The differences are in technology and usability.
Professional studio headphones are usually big over-ear headphones with wires that produce a natural sound. Pros use them in closed environments with lots of studio equipment. Convenience isn’t a big priority.
Sound quality and neutrality are the most important. That’s why studio headphones aren’t the best for everyday users.
Consumer headphones have a far better user experience.
Many consumer cans nowadays, are wireless and offer active noise cancellation.
Wireless technology frees you up from wires. But requires battery charging and has a limited lifetime (because batteries eventually die).
And, the freedom is more than worth it.
Active noise cancellation can make a plane flight tolerable.
ANC is very popular with consumers that travel a lot and need headphones that cancel out the headache-inducing noises.
Water protection is also common for sports headphones.
A lot of work out and do sports, so they need sweat-resistant headphones. Consumer headphone brands have developed many sports-oriented headphones that cater to active people. And, they’re super popular.
A microphone makes it possible to make phone calls with headphones.
You won’t find any studio headphones with a microphone, but many consumer models have it. It’s for convenience purposes and users like it.
Studio sound quality is (usually) different.
When it comes to sound, studio headphones try to be neutral, not so for consumer cans.
Consumer headphones can get away with coloring their audio quality so you can find many bass-emphasized, V-shaped and other types of models.
Beats by Dre headphones are super “bassy” but still popular with consumers, even though you won’t find them in studios.
In the end, you can enjoy a pair of studio headphones at home, in comfort of your couch without distractions, but for on the go use, you’ll probably enjoy wireless ANC headphones more.