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Our Wireless Range Score And Tests
Headphones

What it is: Headphones that offer a cable-free listening experience over a wireless network, typically via Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: When you don't want to be limited by the length of an audio cable. This means having the freedom to move around in your home or office with much greater range than an audio cable could provide, especially if the audio source is heavy or difficult to carry. Note that wireless range also depends on your audio source's signal strength, which may vary between devices.
Score components:
Score distribution

Wireless range refers to how far wireless headphones can carry a stable audio signal without cutting out or decreasing in sound quality. Wireless headphones use radio frequencies to transmit and receive data, either via the Bluetooth standard, a proprietary wireless protocol, or an unstandardized technology. It’s difficult to tell in advance how well a pair of headphones will perform in the wireless range test, but we found in our tests that most headphones tend to achieve between 30 to 50 feet of obstructed range, no matter what wireless technology they use.

Wireless headphones offer a lot of range from the audio source. This means you can listen to your music or movie while having the freedom to move around in your environment and even continue listening in another room. They also free you from the hassle of cable management, preventing the headphones from being yanked off your head because the audio cable got hooked or tangled on something.

Our wireless range tests determine the direct line of sight and obstructed range of wireless headphones. We measure the range in feet (ft) and score headphones based on how many feet of wireless range they obtain.

Test results

When it matters

Playing audio over a wireless network frees the listener from cable length restrictions. Most Bluetooth headphones have enough range so you can jog on the treadmill with your smartphone resting in the accessory tray without a problem. If your headphones have even better wireless range, you could leave your phone charging at your desk and still listen to your music or take calls while walking about in your home or office. Wireless range is especially important if you use your headphones with a source that's difficult to move, like a desktop PC or the TV in your living room.

Our tests

We measure the range that the wireless headphones are capable of, when in direct line of sight and when the Bluetooth source is obstructed.

Our wireless range tests are performed with a Bluetooth 4.2-enabled smartphone or the dedicated wireless transmitter that comes with the headphones.

Note that wireless range is greatly dependent on the Bluetooth source and surrounding environment. It is very likely that your results may not match ours due to differences in device technology, building conditions, interfering connections, and other potentially mitigating factors.

Obstructed Range

What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room. We test our obstructed range with a Moto E4 Plus. Results may vary depending on your phone model or Bluetooth source.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you while listening to your audio in an indoor environment. Although, the obstructed wireless range will slightly depend on your home or office layout. Note that wireless range also depends on your Bluetooth source's signal strength which may vary from device to device or depending on your phone model.
Good value: >35ft
Noticeable difference: 5ft
Score distribution

This is the headphones' range when the Bluetooth source is placed in a separate room obstructed by walls. We test for this by connecting the headphones to a Bluetooth 4.2 enabled phone or to their own wireless transmitter and placing the phone or transmitter in the furthest of the four rooms we currently have in our office. We then evaluate the distance with a measuring wheel, going from room to room, until the wireless connection is too weak to reliably transmit audio without any drops or issues in quality. This measurement is done three times and then averaged to obtain the obstructed range.

Although the results are consistent in our office, it may vary depending on how many walls or obstructions the Bluetooth source will have to go through in your home or office layout.

Line Of Sight Range

What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when in direct line of sight of the Bluetooth device.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you while listening to your audio in a large and open environment.
Good value: 170ft or more
Noticeable difference: 10ft
Score distribution

This is the headphones' range when in direct line of sight with the Bluetooth source. We test for this by connecting the headphones to the same Bluetooth 4.2 enabled phone or transmitter in a large open area such as a parking garage. We then evaluate the distance with the measuring wheel until the wireless connection is too weak to reliably transmit audio without any drops or issues in quality. This distance is also measured three times and then averaged to obtain the line of sight range.

Unless you are often in a large and open environment, line-of-sight range won't be as relevant for you and is therefore attributed a much lower percentage of the wireless score than obstructed range.

What is not included

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

  • Bluetooth 5.0 range
  • Range of headphones with the W1/H1 chip when paired with an Apple device
  • Wireless connection stability

If you feel there is an item missing that should be included, please let us know in the Discussions below.

Conclusion

Our wireless range tests measure the reach of headphones' wireless connection. Wireless headphones typically transmit data via Bluetooth or other radio frequencies to provide a cable-free listening experience that gives listeners more freedom and mobility. This means you can listen to your music, movies, or podcasts without needing to move the audio source or be in the same room. We test the wireless range when in direct line of sight and when the Bluetooth source is obstructed. However, depending on your listening habits and headphone choice, wireless range may not be that important to you.

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