Thinking About Requirements: What Led me to Bluetooth Headphones

This post is the result of a thought process I’ve gone through for selecting a good set of headphones. It’s not really a review or a recommendation but rather a collection of my thoughts on why I made the choices I have. Links in this post are Amazon links.

I’ve been looking for some great headphones for every day wear for a long time. Headphones are something I use constantly but have never been happy with. After years of trying to get it right, I realised that the trouble I have is because what I need in my everyday headphones isn’t necessarily straightforward. For example, I don’t care that much about sound quality but insist on in-ear headphones. A lot of my needs aren’t anything to do with the ‘audio’ function of the headphones so much as the practicalities in their use.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need the following in a set of headphones:

  1. They must be in-ear headphones. This is because I ride a bike a lot and all other types of headphones either don’t fit under helmets or don’t work well in the wind generated by riding a bike.
  2. They must have controls on the headphone wire so that I can control my podcasts (I listen to podcasts or audiobooks mostly) while riding. Ideally this will include a “play/pause/answer phone/hang up phone” button and volume up and down buttons.

The following are ‘nice to haves’ in headphones:

  1. Sound quality. I mostly listen to podcasts, so sound quality isn’t a must for me. Most half decent headphones are fine with talking. That said, it’s nice to have good sounding headphones for those few times I do listen to music or when a podcast recording might have less than ideal quality.
  2. They must resist falling out of my ears. It is extremely frustrating and a little dangerous to be fiddling with my headphones while trying to ride a bike.
  3. They must be durable. I wear headphones constantly while doing physical exercise or otherwise moving around. Headphones should be able to withstand some abuse. My most frequent reason for buying new headphones has been that I’ve broken them. Sometimes the break point is at the in-wire control, but mostly the issue is at the headphone jack.

Compromise

For the last two years I’ve been using the Sennheiser MM30i Headphones because they meet almost all of my requirements. They are in ear headphones with an adequate control on the wire. They have decent sound quality and the design with 1 side shorter makes it easier for me to loop them around my head in a way that resists them falling out of my ears. Unfortunately they’re not very durable and break relatively easily. I settled on them because they’re cheap and therefore easy to replace - which is better than a more expensive pair that is only slightly harder to break.

Bluetooth Headphones

I’ve been interested in trying Bluetooth headphones for a while. I have heard that Bluetooth headphones are crappy but the benefits seemed to fit into what I want in headphones. The way I see it, the biggest benefit of Bluetooth headphones is the most obvious: no cables! This addresses so many of the issues I’ve had with headphones over the years. The main problem for non-Bluetooth headphones is the cable fraying at the headphone jack or at the in-wire control. Bluetooth completely negates this issue.

In researching Bluetooth headphones I have found that bluetooth headphones seem to have better ‘stay in ear’ design. Presumably this is because they’re not relying on a connection to a phone in the pocket - if they fall out, they’re gone!

Jaybird X2 Wireless

Ultimately I settled on the Jaybird X2 Wireless headphones from Jaybird Sport. I’ve been using them for about a week and so far they meet all of my requirements and ‘nice to haves’.

These headphones have 8 hours battery life and I’ve found with heavy use that this is accurate. A few days ago I wore them for 10 hours playing almost constantly and the battery held up admirably[^1]. It is one more thing to charge each day, but so far the benefits have far outweighed the negatives[^2].

Admittedly it is a little hard to tell with only a week of testing if they’ll be durable enough for the abuses I put my headphone through. Nevertheless, the build quality feels great and since they aren’t connecting to my phone directly I think they’ll be fine. I’m a happy customer!

[^1]: I had them on the charger for about 30 minutes at some point which is why they lasted 10 hours.

[^2]: Talk to me when I want to listen but find that the battery is flat - I probably won’t be so happy.

Posted on October 30, 2015 and filed under tech.