The 2010′s are coming to a close, so this blog will look back at the technology innovations that defined this decade. The first in this series is about headphones, and there have been two major developments during the 2010′s.
At the beginning of the decade, Bluetooth wireless headphones were a rarity. The sound quality on them was not only awful, but connections often dropped out. Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, and some other companies put out wireless headphones in the early part of the decade, but it wasn’t until the first Beats Studio Wireless headphones (released in 2013) that wireless sound quality could almost match wired sound.
However, many found the $399 Beats too bass heavy. Sennheiser’s first major stab at wireless headphones, the Momentum Wireless, not only came in both over-the-ear and on-ear versions, but offered a really balanced sound. Bowers & Wilkins soon entered the race with the successful P5 Wireless headphones.
Soon, wireless headphones became more popular than wired headphones, especially since Apple removed the headphone jack in 2017. The sound still isn’t as good as wired sound, but it comes close. In the past few years, wireless earbuds have become very popular and many wireless earbuds offer sound as good as much larger wireless headphones.
Perhaps the biggest thing to happen to headphones this past decade has been active noise cancellation, which reduces ambient noise by creating a second sound designed to cancel the first. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t.
Bose was on the cutting edge of noise cancellation technology with many wired noise- cancelling headphones. However, Sennheiser and Beats were ahead when it came to wireless noise-cancelling headphones. Bose eventually released the Quiet Comfort 35 headphones in 2016, and those were considered the standard for wireless noise-cancelling cans.
In fact, when one thought of noise cancelling headphones just a few years back, Bose was the first brand to come to mind. However, Sony has caught up with the WH-1000XM3 headphones, which are considered equal to all of Bose’s new headsets.
Bluetooth, now matter what codec one uses, can only go so far. The next step forward with headphones will likely be Wi-Fi enabled headphones, which will offer a more robust sound range. If portable Bluetooth speakers can connect with Wi-Fi (see Libratone Zipp), why can’t headphones? Expect this change to happen within the next two years.