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Wireless headphones buying guide

Enjoy great sound without the tether to your device


David Brown

David Brown is a member of Crutchfield's Home A/V writing team. He studied writing and politics at Ithaca College in upstate New York, where he grew up. He spent 12 years in Washington, D.C., where he earned a Masters degree in journalism and wrote an award-winning humor column. David relocated to Charlottesville, VA, in 2012. He enjoys listening to music, playing the guitar and piano, and hiking with his wife and children.

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If you’ve ever been annoyed by a wire dangling between your headphones and your smartphone, you may want to try a pair of wireless headphones. They allow you to enjoy high-quality sound without being tethered to your device. Once you experience the freedom of wireless headphones, you may find it hard to go back to wired listening.

Wireless headphones

Two kinds of wireless headphones

How do wireless headphones work? There are two kinds, each with its own technology to establish a wireless connection to your listening device…

Wireless headphones with separate transmitters

Sennheiser RS 175 wireless headphones with transmitter

Some wireless headphones use a separate transmitter to communicate with a music source. This transmitter is connected by a cable to your receiver, amplifier, or TV. The transmitter usually plugs into a wall outlet, while the headphones use a rechargeable or disposable battery.


  • Long range wireless listening from up to 100 feet away
  • Can transmit CD-quality sound
  • Can use multiple sets of headphones with one transmitter

Who are they for?

  • Late night TV watchers who don’t want to disturb others
  • Home fitness equipment users who want to watch TV while they work out. Wireless headphones ensure you can hear the TV over the noise of a treadmill.
  • Enjoying music on a home stereo for listening late at night or while others are watching TV in the same room.

Bluetooth wireless headphones

Most Bluetooth headphones offer controls on the earcups for taking calls, adjusting volume, and controlling music playback.

Bluetooth® headphones

Bluetooth is a wireless protocol found in virtually every smartphone and tablet on the market, as well as many computers. Bluetooth headphones connect wirelessly to your phone, tablet, or computer. Then you can listen from a range of up to 33 feet away.


  • Easy wireless connection between headphones and a smartphone or tablet
  • Earcup buttons offer control of music playback, volume, and phone calls

Who are they for?

  • Mobile listeners who don’t want to deal with dangling wires
  • Tablet users who watch video but don’t want to be tethered to their device

Instant pairing with your device

Pairing Bluetooth headphones with a smartphone is as easy as pressing a button on each device, then choosing the headphones from your device’s Bluetooth settings menu. If you have an Android® device with Near Field Communication (NFC) compatibility, you can pair your smartphone by simply touching it to a pair of NFC-compatible headphones.

Better sound from Bluetooth headphones

If you want Bluetooth headphones with enhanced sound quality, look for aptX® technology. Found in some Android devices, aptX is a high-quality wireless streaming codec which offers improved sound quality over standard Bluetooth transmission.

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  • G. Freedman

    Posted on 5/27/2015 12:36:26 PM

    Can wireless headphones be connected to cable boxes provided by cable companies?

  • David Brown from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/28/2015 11:55:35 AM

    Yes, most wireless headphones that work over RF with a separate transmitter, such as the Sennheiser RS line of headphones, can be connected to a cable box. Most cable boxes have stereo RCA outputs that can output audio simultaneously with the HDMI output for audio and video. With these cable boxes, you could connect the headphone transmitter to these RCA outputs and listen wirelessly to cable programming using the headphones.
    This would allow you to listen either with headphones or with your TV's built-in speakers or an external audio system such as a sound bar or home theater system - or both at the same time.
    To find out how wireless headphones will work with your specific gear, call, chat, or email us.