The 10 Best Wireless Headphones
The Rise of Headphone Culture
Better yet, you can even wear top-of-the-line stereo headsets without having to stuff ten feet of zip-tied cord in your pocket.
Figuring out what to do with your wires became a matter of fashion.
Before headphones replaced shoulder-riding boomboxes, virtually eliminating music-made noise pollution on the streets of major cities around the world, headphones were made for work, not leisure.
Headphones were not originally designed for us to keep our music to ourselves. On the contrary, they were designed, in part, to allow late 19th-century telephone operators to cram into a single space like sardines in a can without fear of eavesdropping on other operators' calls and therefore dropping the ball on their own. Not only that, but an operator only has two hands and no longer having to hold a receiver to one ear allowed operators to work more quickly and more efficiently, reducing the number of operators required to connect calls as telephones became increasingly popular, everyday items.
Needless to say, the Navy took great interest in the first full pair of headphones invented in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin--a fundamentalist Mormon who got rich selling a hundred pairs only to go bankrupt funneling all of his proceeds into a campaign against monogamy. Due to the superior sound quality of Baldwin's invention, early radar technicians and, later, sonar technicians, could communicate through the din of naval artillery constantly firing overhead.
By the 1980s, headphones surged in popularity. The invention of the Sony Walkman allowed people to walk to work or ride the subway with a newfound lack of stress and frustration. What was once a chore of trying to ignore the oft-infuriating subject matter of private conversations held in public quickly became an enjoyable exercise in literally tuning people out.
Unfortunately, not getting caught up in small talk anymore meant getting caught up in wires, sometimes absurdly long, other times obnoxiously short. Figuring out what to do with your wires became a matter of fashion. There were hot-pink running suits with special pockets that carried your Walkman just a little bit closer to your ears, circular fanny packs to advertise the fact you had finally upgraded to a Discman, and even motorcycle jackets with holes near the collar so your wires don't flap in the wind. But as with all technology, practical solutions eventually rendered the fashionable ones obsolete.
Thanks to the introduction of portable mp3 players and wireless headphone technology in the early 2000s, you can now carry your music around in the tiny change pocket of your jeans and never have to worry about getting hung up on a doorknob. Better yet, you can even wear top-of-the-line stereo headsets without having to stuff ten feet of zip-tied cord in your pocket.
The Pros and Cons of the Two Types of Noise Cancellation
When choosing a pair of noise cancelling headphones, regardless of whether or not they are wireless, it is important to understand the two types of noise cancellation, active noise control and passive noise isolation, otherwise known as soundproofing. Where active noise control uses additional power to reduce the amount of noise in the signal, passive noise isolation uses additional materials that reduce the amount of noise getting in or out of a certain area.
One good look at a bulky pair of headphones will tell you that most noise cancelling headphones are of the passive type. There are a few reasons for this. First, by requiring an additional power source dedicated solely to producing frequencies that cancel noise on both the left and the right sides of the headphones, the amount of total power required for the headphones to function properly is drastically increased. This results in either a significant loss of battery life or the need for additional batteries, which in turn significantly increases the overall weight of the headphones.
Soundproofing, on the other hand, can be achieved with the use of cheap, lightweight materials, as is evident by the use of empty egg cartons nailed to the walls inside many recording studios. Not only are they cheaper and weigh less, but the same materials can be shaped and fitted for comfort, in a sense killing two birds with one stone.
Why Go Wireless?
Of all the many reasons to ditch corded headphones in favor wireless ones, the argument I find most convincing, and the one that often goes unstated, is that sometimes the best technology is technology you forget that you're using. It's invisible. You aren't constantly reminded that you're wearing contact lenses every time you try to comb your hair or wash your face. You aren't constantly reminded that you have a prosthetic leg that fits perfectly in your favorite pair of pants and your favorite pair of shoes because people are no longer staring at you all the time.
Likewise, it's easy to forget you're wearing headphones when they're wireless. They don't get caught on the edge of your desk or the arm of a friend who just gave you a hug. The jack don't get in the way and poke your palm when you decide to play a smartphone game instead of listen to music or a podcast. And they don't come unplugged when you toss your bag on the counter or your pants on the floor and walk away.
Wireless headphones aren't about looking chic when you walk down the street to get coffee. They're about getting lost in whatever you're listening to and never being yanked out of the comfort zone they put you in.