Wire­less touch head­phones

We tapped, swiped and turned to find the best Blue­tooth touch­con­trol cans on the mar­ket

Mac Format - - CONTENTS - Tim Hard­wick

Leave your tan­gles in the past

Ev­ery­thing is wire­less th­ese days: your watch, your car keys, the moggy’s col­lar. In the area of au­dio de­vices, go­ing wire­less was once a trade-off be­tween sound qual­ity and con­ve­nience: lose the wiring and you were at the mercy of ethe­real fac­tors such as la­tency, range and com­pres­sion, along with an al­most guar­an­teed re­duc­tion in sonic en­joy­ment. For­tu­nately, wire­less au­dio pro­to­cols have come a long way since the in­tro­duc­tion of Blue­tooth, and with the help of codecs such as aptX and A2DP, au­dio qual­ity is fi­nally ap­proach­ing stan­dards once the pre­serve of wired sys­tems.

That’s not to say ev­ery Blue­tooth im­ple­men­ta­tion is per­fect. Blue­tooth head­phones will only sound as good as their au­dio com­po­nents al­lows, to say noth­ing of po­ten­tially mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors such as de­sign, bat­tery life, com­fort and us­abil­ity.

That last vari­able brings us to an­other in­no­va­tion that is find­ing its way into all man­ner of tech th­ese days: touch con­trols (also called ‘ges­tures’). They’re found in phone screens, lap­top track­pads and now wire­less au­dio equip­ment, as th­ese pages at­test. Rather than fid­dling with the au­dio source de­vice, the idea of touch-based head­phones is to off­load com­mon ac­tions, such as paus­ing or skip­ping tracks, to the earpads them­selves to of­fer sim­pler, more in­tu­itive con­trol of your mu­sic – in the­ory. Again, whether that works in prac­tice de­pends on a range of de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing de­ci­sions, which is why we’ve scoured the wire­less head­phone mar­ket to pit the lead­ing Blue­tooth cans against each other and find out which one man­ages this best.

The prod­ucts on test are a mix of on-ear and over-ear cans re­tail­ing be­tween £92 and £399. All of the head­sets use ei­ther Blue­tooth 3.0 or the less en­ergy-sap­ping Blue­tooth 4.0, while some also pack NFC (Near Field Com­mu­ni­ca­tion) for po­ten­tial has­sle­free pair­ing with de­vices that sup­port the stan­dard.

Not ev­ery Blue­tooth im­ple­men­ta­tion is per­fect; head­phones only sound as good as their com­po­nents

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