Technology has some jacked-up names for things but luckily in the case of wired versus wireless, the lexicon is easy to understand: there’s no wire in wireless and there’s definitely a wire in wired.
Most wireless headphones rely on Bluetooth technology. By compressing the digital audio signal coming from a device, Bluetooth transmits it to the headphone. A couple of centuries ago and it would have been witchcraft but now it’s the standard for exchanging data between devices across short distances.
Wireless Headphones in the Gym
Wireless headphones have the advantage of allowing ease of movement. There’s nothing tethering you to a device. You can move freely without hindrance in a way that just isn’t possible when you’re using wired headphones. You can see why wireless is popular in the gym. It would difficult to maintain form and focus if you were worried about getting tangled in your wires. Equally, there isn’t always a pocket or a place to store your device if you’re wearing sports clothing. Leggings, for example, are often difficult enough to pull on let alone slide a phone inside.
It helps that with wireless you can keep your phone away from many of the common dangers in a gym that could damage it. Most Bluetooth devices can comfortably handle a distance of 20-25 feet with little problem and could manage up to 30 feet in some environments. If you’re doing weights or circuits, then it might be safer to keep it away from your person. Wireless allows you to do that.
iPhone users are probably more au fait with wireless. Apple did away with headphone jacks in 2014 with the release of the iPhone 7. There are adapters, of course, but it’s easier and cheaper for iPhone users to go wireless. Having acquired the Beats brand for $3 billion back in 2014, Apple has been busy integrating the popular headphone into iOS and the recently released Beats Studio 3 is ‘a great match for iPhone users’ according to the TechRadar website.
The biggest argument in favour of wired headphones has always been that the sound quality is better. This is as true today as it was when Bluetooth technology first emerged, but wireless is definitely catching up. Audiophiles will still maintain that the issue of sound quality is what truly separates the two, but the truth is that if you’re listening to digital music then you’re probably not going to notice the difference. And let’s face it, how likely is it that you’re going to drag your record player into the gym? You’re going to be using a digital device: your phone. Midway through a rep are you going to stop, drop the weight and throw down your Sennheiser Momentum 2.0s in disgust because there’s an echo on the drum solo?
Digital or not, most of us aren’t going to notice much of a difference. Cheaper branded headphones? Yes, probably, but don’t panic if you’ve just bought wireless Beats -- the sound quality is more than adequate for the gym.
Crucially, almost all wireless headphones have a jack to add a wired headphone. It means that the technology can cater for multiple situations: go wireless in the gym and then go wired at home when you can plug into your stereo system or record player and remain immobile on the sofa. This flexibility is often overlooked by critics of wireless.
Wired Headphones in the Gym
Wired headphones have the obvious disadvantage of the cable and it can be a massive inconvenience in a gym or sporting environment. It’ll be a personal choice as to how much it’s actually going to bother you, though. A wire can easily snake under a shirt and connect to a device in a back pocket. For many of us, a bit of cord is hardly the end of the world.
Wired headphones have a higher performance ceiling, that’s according to the Sound Guys website. They’re right, too. Like-for-like the sound quality is superior in a wired set of headphones. They’re at the top of the field. There’s no need to compress the transmitting signal from the device when you’re wired in. Cheaper wired headphones won’t always score well against more expensive wireless ones, however. So it’s not something that’s always true but is something that depends on the budget of the person buying.
Bluetooth is the standard for wireless headphones. Your headphones, therefore, share a frequency range of 2.5 GHz with other wireless transmitting devices making interference, not just possible but in some situations, highly likely. Your gym might be one such place which could put a real downer on your workout. Wired headphones do not have this problem.
Battery power can be a real issue with wireless headphones especially if you’re the type of person who continually forgets to charge them. Wired headphones have the advantage of drawing their power from the device they’re connected to, so it’s far easier to manage your charging with a single device. Wireless technology is improving, however, and the issue of battery charging is becoming less of a problem. The quick charge function on later models can give you an impressive yield on a last-minute emergency charge. Apple’s W1 chip in Beats Studio 3 Wireless Headphones has a Fast Fuel system that gives three hours of playback from a ten-minute charge.
Wireless headphones have a shorter life expectancy. There’s more tech inside them which means there’s more that can go wrong. In contrast, wired headphones are relatively simple internally and so can be expected to last longer. We’re not suggesting that wireless headphones won’t give you many years of happiness, but you’ll probably end up replacing them sooner than if you’d gone corded.
If you do opt for wireless headphones in the gym, then there’s one way to keep them working for longer: Ear Hugz is headphone covers that protect against sweat damage when you exercise and they work on wired and wireless headphones. Sweat-resistant, antibacterial, machine washable and in a range of awesome designs, Ear Hugs will help keep your headphones fresh and working for longer.
The battle between wireless and wired headphones can only be settled on an individual level. Preference is a personal choice and one that won’t be the same for everyone.
We all enjoy different lifestyles and depending on what you use your headphones for will dictate whether you keep the cord or do away with it entirely. For the gym, wireless makes a lot of sense. So much so that you should probably consider them if you’re exercising regularly and at high intensity.
Research is vital to picking the right pair. Price will probably be an important factor, too. A cheap pair of wired headphones won’t sound as good as a high-end pair of wireless ones. Top range wired headphones are still superior. Maybe your tone deaf and will never hear the difference. Again, research is vital. If you can try the headphones before you buy them, even better. If you can try them before you buy them in the gym, then even better still (just make sure to use a pair of EarHugz for hygiene).
Looking for inspiration? Earlier in the year, we covered some of the best gym headphones for 2018.