Why Audiophiles Have Gone Wired
Audiophiles are on a sick, relentless quest for the highest level in audio fidelity. They demand headphones that can reproduce music with jaw-dropping detail. For ages, wired headphones have been the only acceptable option, promising a direct connection that preserves sound quality in its purist form.
The Wireless Audiophile Revolution
But brace your silver-coated copper wires. Bluetooth headphones have burst onto the scene. And although, for a long time, it was agreed that wireless headphones couldn’t deliver the same resolution as a wired headphone, the Bluetooth world has finally caught up bigly. Now armed with hi-res codecs like aptX HD, aptX lossless and LDAC, you can stream high-resolution audio while sacrificing very little, if any sound quality.
What is Hi-Res?
As a general consensus (though it may be a dated one), anything that is CD quality (16-bit) or above is considered hi-res. A common example of a high resolution file would be a sampling frequency of 96kHz at 24-bits. Hi-Res Bluetooth codecs now have the capacity to play these bit depths and sample rates, depending on the device you’re playing from. Additionally, streaming services like Tidal and Apple Music are also able to deliver this level of wireless audio quality.
However, for hard-core audiophiles who abhor lossy codecs and crave even higher resolution, it’s important to note that as sound resolution increases, the difference becomes more marginal, if not entirely unnoticeable, even to most trained ears. While the idea of ultra-high-resolution audio may seem enticing, it’s worth considering the practicality and limitations of human perception. Our auditory system has its limits, and beyond a certain point, the improvements in sound quality become imperceptible to most listeners. So, while there may be a group of dedicated audiophiles chasing the highest resolution possible, for the “reasonable audiophile,” or average audio enthusiast, the shortcomings of Bluetooth Hi-Res are insubstantial.
Before you Buy your Audiophile Wireless Headphone
Make Sure Your Headphones Support Bluetooth Hi-Res
Before shopping for your wireless headphones, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want the Hi-Res experience. Go for headphones that support hi-res codecs like aptX HD, LDAC or aptX lossless. And consider which codec your audio device supports. Which brings me to my next unfortunate point…
Apple is a Bummer for Audiophiles
One major thing to note for iPhone users is that Apple has yet to offer a hi-res Bluetooth codec. Currently, the company uses the AAC codec, which is not considered high-resolution. Bummer. Time to get an Android or one of these new “walkmans” (DAP). Or just wait a year or two until Apple gets their ducks in a row.
Maybe You Just Need a Bluetooth DAC
If you already have a fantastic pair of wired headphones that you just can’t part with when you leave the house, consider buying a Hi-Res Bluetooth DAC/Amp. You simply connect your headphone wire to the little device, and pair the device with your phone. Boom. You’ve got a Bluetooth headphone, even if you’ve got slightly less freedom than you would with a dedicated wireless headphone.
Examples of Portable Hi-Res Bluetooth DAC/Amps
iFi Go Blue
The iFi Go Blue is a portable device that provides high-quality audio conversion and wireless connectivity. It supports various codecs, including AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, and SBC, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of devices.
The Go Blue offers a battery life of approximately 8 to 10 hours, which isn’t a hell of a lot when you compare it to the battery life of leading wireless headphones. But hey, no one said audiophillia was easy.
The BTR7 is another Bluetooth DAC that supports a range of high-resolution codecs, including LDAC, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency. It offers a battery life of only 9 hours, but again, if you have to recharge more often for the sake of great sound, then so be it.
Get the Latest Bluetooth Version (If Possible)
You’ll also want to consider what Bluetooth version the headphone utilizes. Try to go for anything that’s Bluetooth 5.2 and above. It’s not a huge deal, but the later Bluetooth versions have improved signal transmission and reduced dropouts.
Examples of Audiophile Wireless Headphones
In the realm of audiophile praise, Focal’s most renowned headphone is the Utopia. Regarded as a masterpiece, the Utopia has garnered fervent admiration for its precise sound reproduction and exceptional build. The Bathys is not the Utopia. But it is this famous brand’s solid first attempt at approximating the sound of their high-end cans in wireless form.
The Focal Bathys is designed with aesthetics in mind, copying all the design elements it uses in its wired models. It should be noted that the Bathys does not support LDAC. (If you’re an Android user, not to worry; it does offer aptX) Additionally, the Bathys does not have a passive wired mode, meaning it cannot be used with a wired connection unless it is switched on. (i.e. no passive mode)
These shortcomings aside, the Bathys still offers fantastic clarity and a balanced, crowd-pleasing tuning with dynamic vocals. The headphones also excel in noise-canceling performance, effectively blocking out the low rumbles of life and allowing you to focus solely on your music. Not that audiophiles care about ANC….
T+A Solitaire T
In addition to its top tier sound right out of the box, the Solitaire T boasts a “High Quality” mode powered by a Quad SABRE HiFi DAC (Digital to Audio Converter), ensuring exceptional audio performance. And in general, these cans exhibit remarkable design effort in a wireless release, especially considering that, unlike the Bathys, the Solitaire T is one of the few headphones of this caliber that can be used in passive mode.
With a battery life of 70 hours (35 hours in high-quality mode) and 2-hour charging time, the Solitaire T employs Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity and support aptX, and aptX HD codecs for high-resolution wireless audio transmission. Again, no LDAC or aptX lossless. But again, if you own an Android, you can utilize aptX HD to transmit your hi-res audio files.
To see a complete list of top audiophile headphones, visit Audio 46.