Standard wired headphones, USB and Bluetooth: which is better?

In this article we will not talk about the audio capabilities, but rather about the connection methods. There are three types - headphones for 3.5 mm audio jack, with USB plug and wireless with Bluetooth module.


At first glance, the connection method does not play a significant role. However, if you carefully examine all three technologies, each will have advantages and disadvantages.


And which one is better and more convenient? To answer this question, you must be at least generally acquainted with all three.




By standard headphones we mean an acoustic gadget that connects to another device with a wire and a 3.5 mm mini-jack connector.


In order for the user to hear sound through standard headphones, the digital signal must be converted to analog. A chip called a D/A converter (DAC) takes care of this task. When the signal passes through the DAC, it is converted into electrical pulses. The dynamic drivers in the headphones then convert these pulses into sound waves.



Wired headphones have been the only way to listen to music privately for decades. They are so common that a cheap pair of "earplugs" can be purchased at any kiosk at the bus stop. Overhead models are also available in a wide variety in stores and on listing services.


Most portable devices (speakers, tablets, laptops, smartphones) have a 3.5 mm jack for these headphones. That is, if you buy ordinary wired headphones, you are sure to find electronics with which they can be used.


Some smartphones do not have a jack for wired headphones.


Wired headphones are powered by the device they are plugged into, and they don't have a battery of their own. Since the charging port is not used when transmitting audio, you can use them while you are charging your phone.



How well they will play depends on the DAC in the device to which the headphones are connected. If the DAC is cheap and weak, the sound will be the same.


High-end wired headphones have higher power requirements for full sound. Cheap headphones use hardware with minimal performance, so the difference in sound between cheap and expensive wired models is obvious.




USB headphones work in approximately the same way as standard wired headphones. The main difference is that the sound signal is transformed not on the device, where the sound is reproduced, but in the headphones themselves.



USB headphones with a good DAC allow you to enjoy sound no matter what device the audio stream comes from. They will always play with the same quality.


Like conventional wired headphones, USB headphones don't need their own battery. Their choice is quite wide and there are different connection interfaces: USB-A of different generations as well as USB-C.



USB headphones do not use an audio output. They are connected via the charging port of the mobile device, so you have to choose between charging and listening to music, which in some cases creates significant inconvenience.


You can get around this unpleasant limitation with a USB splitter. This is a useful, but very small device, which is easy to lose.


Junction USB-C Digma HUB-3U3.0C-UC-G 4 ports, gray


Junction USB-C Digma HUB-3U3.0C-UC-G 4 ports, gray


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Headphones with built-in Bluetooth technology exchange data over electromagnetic waves. In the form of these waves, a compressed digital signal travels from the device to the headphones, where it is decoded and converted into audio waves.



Their main advantage is that they are wireless, and therefore do not limit their owners freedom of movement.


As with USB headphones, the Bluetooth models have the DAC inside the headphones themselves. This means that sound quality does not depend on the audio characteristics of the device from which the stream comes. And, as with standard headphones, listening is available while the phone is charging.


Bluetooth headphones have many control options. They have buttons to start playback, pause, skip tracks, and call voice assistants.



The quality of the reproduced sound is usually lower than that of wired models. The reason is that more data is transmitted per second over the wire than over the air.


Bluetooth headphones have their own battery that needs to be charged regularly.


They do not have Plug-And-Play capabilities like wired ones. You have to go through a pairing process before using them.


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