Wireless speakers and headphones are almost everywhere nowadays. Whenever I go out for a walk, I find people with both wired and wireless earbuds.
Even in my house, everyone has at least one pair of Bluetooth headphones. So it begs the question, are wired headphones better than their wireless counterparts?
The answer is: it depends. It really comes down to what you value most in your headphones. If your objective is to enjoy sound quality with no lag (which is usually the case with hi-fi speaker fans), then wired headphones are still what most will recommend.
But if you’re looking for convenience and portability, then wireless headphones are the better option. The same is true for speakers.
But these are basic speakers and headphones for an everyday user. What about their high-fidelity usage? Which is better for an audiophile like you and me?
Wireless Hi-Fi Speakers – My Findings
When I first tried out wireless speakers, I was really disappointed in the sound quality. It simply didn’t compare to my wired speakers. The lag and loss of audio cues were unbearable for me.
But then I realized that I was using the wrong type of wireless speaker. There are two main types of wireless hi-fi speakers: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth Wireless Capabilities
Bluetooth speakers are the most common type of wireless speaker. They’re convenient because they can connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device, like your smartphone or tablet. But the sound quality is not as good as Wi-Fi speakers.
Wi-Fi Wireless Capabilities
WI-FI speakers, on the other hand, have much better sound quality because they’re directly connected to your home network. This means that they can stream high-quality audio without any compression.
Furthermore, Wi-Fi’s bandwidth is usually higher than Bluetooth as well (5 MHz vs. 1 MHz for base variants). So if you’re looking for the best sound quality, Wi-Fi speakers are the way to go.
My own surround sound speakers use the Dynasty Pro Audio WiFi speaker kit, and it’s great [full review here].
But there’s a downside to Wi-Fi speakers: they’re not as portable as Bluetooth speakers. You can’t always carry around a Wi-Fi router with you, right?
This means that there are trade-offs between sound quality and portability. It really comes down to what you value most in a speaker when wondering which one to choose. Of course, you have the option to go wired as well.
Before jumping to the next section, though, I should mention that wireless hi-fi and regular audio equipment are more than just a trend.
Smartphones, which are the main devices people use to listen to music these days, don’t have headphone jacks anymore.
So, if you want to use wired headphones with your smartphone, you’ll need to use an adapter or buy Bluetooth headphones.
Personally, I hate the choice of removing the headphone jack, but alas, this is the way the world is turning out now. This is just one example of how wireless audio is becoming more utility over trend.
Wired Hi-Fi Speakers – My Findings
I’ve been using wired speakers for hi-fi at home ever since they were first introduced. And I have to say, the sound quality and response time are still unbeatable.
If you want the best possible sound quality, wired speakers are the way to go, without a doubt. The delay is only a few milliseconds and won’t be noticeable for normal users, but it could be like screaming Bloody Mary for audiophiles!
The main downside to wired speakers is that they’re not as portable as wireless speakers. They also require more setup since you need to connect them to your home stereo system or AV receiver.
But at this point, I gotta ask – are you really going to roam around with your bulky hi-fi speakers as much? As an audiophile, would you rather listen to music alone or with others? I like to dive deep into music on my own as it’s a more personal experience for me.
If you want to share your music with others, then Bluetooth speakers might be a better option.
There are several different types of wired hi-fi speakers and headphones, too, which ultimately determine the quality of sound you will get. For example, studio monitors are designed to produce an accurate representation of the sound, while home theater systems are designed for movies and gaming.
Let’s take a closer look at these two types of wired hi-fi speakers for your consideration:
Studio monitors are designed to produce an accurate representation of the sound.
This means that they don’t boost any frequencies or add any coloration to the sound and are much more accurate compared to mass-produced speaker systems. They’re often used by professional musicians and producers in recording studios. These monitors can also be used with headphones.
In my experience, these are better suited for use with wired speakers or headphones than wireless ones because even a nanosecond delay can lead to misalignment when creating music!
Home Theater Systems
Home theater systems are designed for movies and gaming. They usually have a subwoofer to add some extra bass to the sound. These are designed to give you the most immersive sound possible and are better suited to speaker systems than headphones.
Yes, there are surround headphones as well, but at the end of the day, you will not be able to truly experience a sound coming from behind unless the speaker really is at the back. Headphones emulate the sound effect, but audiophiles will definitely know the difference when they listen to a ‘rip-off’ compared to the real thing.
Again, with home theater systems, it is better to stick to wired options than wireless. It may be a bit messy to sort the wires, but it is well worth the effort! Remember to first set your system and acoustics up and then focus on wire management.
The quality, type, and number of cables also play a big role in the sound quality. For example, using an optical cable will give you better sound quality than using a standard 3.5mm aux cable. For hi-fi speakers, there are several types of cables you can use, including:
- Optical Cables. These are cables that use light to transmit the signal. They’re often used for digital audio signals. The biggest benefit of optical cables is that they don’t degrade the sound quality. They also don’t pick up any electromagnetic interference. However, they’re not as common as other types of cables, and finding them can be a mission, to say the least. I personally use optical cables with my Hi-Fi system to ensure better quality and no loss.
- Coaxial Cables. These are cables that use a single wire for the signal and a shield to protect against interference. Coaxial cables are often used for analog audio signals. The biggest benefit of coaxial cables is that they’re low-loss, which means that they don’t degrade the sound quality as much as other types of cables. Of course, there is some degree of loss, and if you are setting your own wires up, it can be very difficult to manage the insulation and plastic jacket. Ideally, you should not have any connections along the wire. Otherwise, there may be even more losses and distortions.
- XLR Cables. These are cables that feature three pins that carry the signal. They’re often used for professional audio equipment. The biggest benefit of XLR cables is that they’re very rugged and can be used in a variety of applications. However, they’re usually more expensive as well. These cables aren’t as common as headphones but can be used for hi-fi systems easily. You will need to find a dedicated audio port to enjoy the best quality, though.
- Speaker Wires. These are normal wires that come with your daily speakers. They connect speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, and more and are often made from copper or silver. These wires are further coated in an insulating material. The benefit of using speaker wires is that they’re cost-effective and easy to find. However, they can be relatively low quality and may not be the best option for audiophiles.
- RCA Cables. These are cables that have two pins that carry the signal (labeled white and red). They’re often used for home theater systems. The biggest benefit of RCA cables is that they’re relatively inexpensive. However, they can degrade the sound quality if they’re not high quality.
- HDMI Cables. These are cables that have 19 pins and can carry digital audio and video signals. They’re often used for home theater systems. The benefit of HDMI cables is that they can carry both audio and video signals. However, they’re not as common as other types of cables and can be more expensive. To use your HDMI cable with your speaker, you will need to route it with an RCA cable – something that I figured out after a lot of toils.
Wired hi-fi speakers can get more expensive than wireless hi-fi speakers because of the wire(s) you choose to go with. But the reliability and audio quality that comes with wired speakers is quite literally unbeatable (yet), in my opinion.
It really comes down to what you value most in a speaker when wondering which one to choose.
If you want the best possible sound quality, then wired speakers are the way to go. But if you value portability and ease of use, then wireless speakers might be a better option for you.
Slava is a man of mystery and no-one seems to know exactly where he is at any point in time. When he isn't enjoying writing about all things audio and technical he can be found researching his next project of interest. The man never rests.