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Wireless headphones are improving faster than anything else in tech

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Wireless headphones are improving faster than anything else in tech
Issue Time:2019-03-05

Wireless headphones are improving faster than anything else intech

Equipped with USB-C, voice assistants, and better batteries, 2018’s wireless headphones kick 2017’s butt

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If you’re in themarket for new wireless headphones, IFA 2018 has been an absolute treat foryou. If, on the other hand, you just bought a pair, well... this is going to bean upsetting read. At this year’s IFA in Berlin, headphones manufacturersbrought out a litany of meaningful, tangible, delightful improvements that havemade the wireless audio market much more exciting than it was just a few daysago. Let’s take each new change in turn.

 

USB-C IS THE NEW CHARGING STANDARD

Anyone who’s been following my writing will know that I think this change is overdue. For months,I’ve been imploring headphone makers to get with the times — a majority of smartphones and laptops now charge via USB-C— but most of them kept updating their flagship models while keeping the flimsier and now outdated Micro USB standard. No longer. Every new pair of wireless headphones or earphones I’ve come across here at IF A has featured a USB-C charging port. Whatever market data everyone has been looking at, it’s finally showing the investment into USB-C to be worthwhile, and the industry has promptly responded by flooding the Berlin Messe halls with USB-C-powered headphones.

 

You might think Sennheiser’s 12-hour total battery life (four in the buds with two extra four-hour charges in the case) on the Momentum True Wireless less monumental,but they’re extracted from a lightweight design that’s effortless to wear. Weal ways say we want more battery life and would tolerate bulkier designs, but Sennheiser has rightly listened to the way we spend our money — on extra-thin phones with fewer features but slicker design — and it’s made its first  wireless earbuds as small as possible. Plus, they sound pretty damn good, and 12 hours of damn good music is worth more than 20 hours of discomfort and mediocre audio.

 

EQUAL PARTS EXCITING AND ENTICING, THE HEADPHONES MARKET IS EVOLVING THE WAY SMARTPHONES ONCE DID

In all cases,whether larger over-ear designs or smaller in-ear ones, each successive generation of wireless headphones is taking major steps forward in increasing battery life. The smartphone market hasn’t known such a rapid pace of improvement since the early days of 4G, when most phones had terrible battery life and every new model offered a chance to make significant advances. Now,smartphones have plateaued in most respects, we’re still waiting to see how good ARM-powered laptops will be with their extended battery, and smart watches are waiting for more efficient chips to push them forward. Headphones are the consumer electronics category that is in the most fast-moving part of its development cycle.

 

SMARTER DESIGN

Give designers enough time and enough tries, and they’ll really perfect a product. Sony’s third-generation 1000Xs are, once again, the cardinal example of this. These are a massive redesign from the first two 1000Xs, which were already super comfy to wear for long periods of time. But the new edition, well, it just ratchets the goodness up a couple of notches. Now even lighter, even more gentle in their embrace, these are benchmark-setting headphones. My colleagues in the Verge New York office tried them out before me, and each was elated(one, already an owner of 1000X M2s was more frustrated than thrilled) with how comfortable Sony’s latest headphones feel.

 

I already mentioned above that Sennheiser seems to have made the right trade-offs with its Momentum True Wireless, but the matter bears expanding upon. If we rewind to only a couple of years ago, truly wireless buds were huge, ugly, didn’t hold a connection well, and sounded like an indistinct mess of exaggerated bass and tinny treble. This is hardly ancient history, yet here we are today, looking at a pair of neatly crafted buds that you might quickly forget you’re wearing if it wasn’t for their great passive noise isolation. Oh yes, the Momentum True Wireless are also great at isolating noise.

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