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We've recently released our Test Bench 1.7 update for Headphones! Read the Noise isolation R&D Article to learn more.


What it is: The inputs and outputs of wired and wireless headphones, as well as their latency performance and range.
When it matters: When you want to know whether your headphones will be compatible with your various audio sources, like your smartphone, tablet, gaming consoles, PC, smart TV, amplifiers, etc.
Score distribution

Connectivity describes the various ways that a pair of headphones can connect to an audio source. Headphones without connectivity don’t serve very many purposes besides noise isolation. Some sort of connection is required to transmit audio data to the headphones so they can create sound. The ideal pair of headphones would work both wired and wirelessly, supporting Bluetooth with various codecs as well as a lower-latency radio frequency (RF) signal transmitted by a customizable and adaptive base station.

Different connectivity options have different pros and cons. Wireless headphones provide freedom from cables that can tangle and snag on things but are also prone to latency issues. Wired headphones generally have little to no latency at all but are limited in range.

Our connectivity score is based on the different connectivity options that a pair of headphones provide. We consider whether the headphones support Bluetooth, can be used wired, come with a base transmitter or docking station, have a wireless range, and have latency.

Test results

When it matters

The way you use your headphones will greatly influence what you’ll want to look for in terms of connectivity options. Audio engineers, sound producers, and musicians tend to prefer wired headphones for their reliability and latency-free connection. Athletes who want to listen to music while training or commuters looking for ways to enjoy their favorite tracks on-the-go generally prefer Bluetooth headphones, while gamers will want to consider dedicated gaming headsets that either have a wired connection or a low-latency wireless transmitter with lots of inputs.

Our Tests


What it is: Which features and codecs are available, and the headphones' connection performance when connected wirelessly to a Bluetooth source.
When it matters: When you're connected to a Phone, tablet, smart TV, or PC and want the best connection and features for your scenario. For example, the best audio quality for listening to music or the lowest latency for synced video and audio while watching movies or gaming.
Score distribution

Bluetooth-compatible headphones can be connected to nearly any Bluetooth-enabled device that plays media. They usually come with an integrated microphone to take phone calls and have some sort of control scheme so you can manage your music and incoming calls directly from the headset. Not all Bluetooth headphones are created equally, and there’s a number of features that make some Bluetooth devices better than others, like supporting multi-device pairing or NFC.

Bluetooth headphones can be notoriously annoying to pair, which is why multi-device pairing and NFC are important. If you use your headphones at work and often switch between using your smartphone and desktop PC, or a tablet and a laptop, then you can imagine how frustrating it might be to have to reconnect your headphones over and over. Multi-device pairing eliminates this headache by allowing you to pair your headphones to a couple of devices at once, so you don’t have to reconnect so often. NFC pairing also helps too, since you can pair the headphones by simply tapping them on an NFC-enabled device bypassing what may be an otherwise pesky pairing procedure.

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Our latency test measures the delay caused by transmitting data over a wireless connection. For headphones, it's the time it takes for audio to play through the ear cups, which might be out of sync when watching videos. We measure the base latency for Bluetooth headphones with the default sub-band coding (SBC). We also measure the base latency of other RF headphones.

The higher the latency, the more delay there will be between the images you see and what you hear, which could significantly reduce your movie or gaming experience. However, depending on your choice of headphones and listening habits, it may not be as big of an issue for you.

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Non-Bluetooth Wireless

What it is: The headphones' connection performance when connected wirelessly with a non-Bluetooth protocol (usually proprietary).
When it matters: Often provides better quality and much lower latency than Bluetooth. This makes it suitable for wireless gaming.
Score components:
Score distribution

[Coming Soon]


What it is: If the headphones can function while only using a wired cable, which connection type it requires, and the connection's performance, either via analog or USB.
When it matters: For the lowest latency possible and more control over the signal quality. This is ideal for gaming and essential for audio production.
Score components:
Score distribution

Being able to use your headphones wired is helpful if you don’t want to have to worry about battery life or latency issues. A wired connection is generally more reliable than a wireless one and can be compatible with more devices. Headphones that support USB audio can be plugged into your PC to access additional features, like support software that lets you customize the way they sound.

Headphones with a 1/8” jack can be used with any device that has a regular audio jack; however, some models sometimes come with an in-line remote and microphone that may only be compatible with certain operating systems (OS) or gaming consoles.

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PC / PS4 Compatibility

What it is: Whether you can use headphones for audio and/or microphone with a PC or PlayStation 4 using analog, USB, or wireless.
When it matters: This is important for PC or PS4 users who would like to know what kind of connection they can use with their headphones. Analog provide the least latency, then USB. Wireless tends have the highest latency, but provides the most range.

[Coming Soon]

Xbox One Compatibility

What it is: Whether you can use headphones for audio and/or microphone with an Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S using analog, USB, or wireless.
When it matters: This is important for Xbox users who want to know what kind of connection they can use with their headphones. Analog provides the least latency, then USB. Wireless tends to have the highest latency but provides the most range.

[Coming Soon]


What it is: The base station, dock, or dongle transmitter of wireless headphones that receive data/audio via a specific frequency range or wired headphones that have a proprietary amp.
When it matters: When you need to know which inputs and outputs the headphones support, so you can set them up with your home theatre system for gaming or watching movies.
Score components:
Score distribution

If you’re looking for headphones that do more than simply plug-and-play, you’ll likely want to check out headphones that come with a base transmitter or a docking station that can provide you with additional features and inputs.

Some gaming and home theatre headsets have a wireless transmitter that provides a low-latency connection so you can watch your favorite shows or play video games wirelessly without visible lag. Others are entirely wired but feature dongles or controllers that have different customizable features, like channel mixing or EQ access. Most good base/dock options have lots of different inputs, like line-in/out, optical, or even RCA for greater compatibility with a wide range of home theatre setups and some even support dock charging so you can charge your headphones on your TV stand when they’re not in use.

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What is not included

There are a couple of elements that we don't test for explicitly. These elements include:

  • OS-specific connectivity advantages (W1/H1 Apple chip, Xbox Wireless, Google Fast Pair)
  • Pairing procedure (simplicity, ease-of-use/access, etc.)
  • More cable types and adapter information (Y splitter, balanced cables, 1/8”-1/4”, XLR, etc.)
  • Wireless connection stability
  • Radio frequency information
  • Compatibility with more gaming consoles (Nintendo Switch, mobile consoles)
  • DAC/amp information

If you feel there is something missing that should be included or have any suggestions about how to improve our tests, please let us know in the Discussions below.


Depending on how you want to use your headphones, you’ll want to consider different connectivity options. Bluetooth headphones can be connected to a wide range of Bluetooth sources, from smartphones to laptops or tablets, and provide wireless freedom. They do come with a couple of downsides though, noticeably audio latency and battery life, so many people prefer the stability and reliability of a wired connection. Wired headphones can generally be used with any device with a standard audio jack, but some headsets also support audio over USB, which is helpful if you like to be able to customize your headphones. That said, you’re tethered to your audio source and don’t get the range of wireless headphones.

If you’re looking for headphones to set up with your home theatre system, you’ll likely want to consider something that has a base transmitter or docking station with lots of inputs so you can get the most out of your setup. Headphones with a dedicated wireless transmitter generally have low latency and decent wireless range, but they’re not very portable since they need to be in range of their transmitter to work. Overall, what you’ll want to look for will depend greatly on your personal needs and priorities, but headphones that support more connectivity options tend to be better-suited to a variety of uses and are more versatile.