The Bluetooth chip in cordless headphones uses both hardware and software to convert the overthe-air music data stream from your phone back into analogue electrical signals that produce the sound in the headphones. When you plug in with a headphone cable, this same digitalto-analogue conversion happens on the phone instead.
Freedom of movement remains the obvious benefit of Bluetooth headphones, and that’s a biggie, but cordless cans don’t sound as good, can suffer from unreliable connections which interrupt your music, and need to be recharged every few hours. Recent pairs do offer big improvements in range, sound and battery life, but all pairs shown here come with cables too
ON-EAR VS OVER-EAR
There are two main styles. On-ear headphone cups press flat against the ear, whereas the over-ear style goes, well, over the ear. Over-ears are invariably more comfortable and produce better acoustics, but are usually less portable and more expensive. (Headphones that fit inside the ear, like buds, are called earphones, if you weren’t sure.)
Noise-cancelling headphones use mics to listen to your environment, then produce sound waves that’ll cancel out these sounds so that you cannot hear them over your music. Sometimes this can create a soft hiss, which may affect your listening experience.
ON THE MOVE
Most headphones these days are designed to be used with phones, which then means they need to be portable. The best pairs collapse down into a small package, and come with their own protective travel bag. On bigger pairs, the cups now swivel to lie flat against your chest when not on your head.