Let’s assume you are a music-loving tech-recluse who likes concentrating sound in private and silently wishes those messy, cumbersome wires never existed. Hey, the IFA 2018 must have been a sheer delight for you!
The colossal tech show marked a milestone moment in Berlin this year and unveiled a fresh wave of wireless headphones that reveal how the device has come of age. The demonstrated upgrades are substantial and worthwhile, and undoubtedly spice up the world of transducer technology.
Let’s get some more detail.
MicroUSB is Dead
USB-C would now charge wireless headphones. Yeah.
Almost every pair of wireless headphone that debuted at IFA 2018 is equipped with USB-C – the industry-standard connector for data and power transmission – as the charging port. Common to almost all modern-day smartphones and laptops, this feature in headphones might also mark the end of MicroUSB.
In short, it seems headphone makers have collectively jumped on the bandwagon of removing the jack altogether and replacing it with USB-C in their flagships.
Be it Sony canceling some more noise with revamped 1000X M3s featuring USB-C charging, or Sennheiser reacquainting us with USB-C-enabled Momentum True Wireless earbuds, or Beyerdynamic outdoing itself with its rebuilt (read USB-C fitted) range of Byrd earphones and Lagoon headphones, the improvisations have been overwhelmingly impressive.
Of course, IFA 2018 also saw some behind-the-times laggards who dragged their headphones to the show along with their primitive concept of MicroUSB and thus, failed to give any hope of ringing the cash registers. While the world would look forward to USB-C featuring headphones from now onward, these dilly-dalliers would soon be forgotten for sure.
There would be a Voice Assistant Trigger to Show the Way
Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II started the trend and the rest followed suit. In plain language, the Voice Assistant feature adorned most headphones in IFA this year.
Sony’s latest 1000Xs, Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless and Beyerdynamic Lagoon – all three will have a Google Assistant trigger from now on. This same function will work for iPhone users in the form of Siri. Also, Jabra has already integrated Amazon Alexa in its flagship Elite Active 65t. Indeed, just like Bose says, “Your music. Your voice. You’re in control.”
For now, the integrated voice assistant will work as a link-up only, connecting with smart assistants via smartphones in just one tap, perhaps. However, in the coming years, they are expected to evolve owing to the fact that brands are increasingly paying attention to voice technology.
Battery, Thou Shalt Live Longer
This is revolutionary.
Sony’s new 1000X promises 30 hours of battery life with noise cancellation active. Audio Technica’s ATH-SR50BT is rated to last about 25 hours on a single full charge, although the absence of USB-C makes it a tad less attractive.
Beyerdynamic’s flagship Lagoon competes with a promise of 24 hours of battery life with noise cancellation active and 46 hours without it. Panasonic HTX80B wireless headphones claim to last about 24 hours of active use after a full charge.
Even Skullcandy has come up as a strong contender with its wireless Venue, which lasts up to 24 hours with noise cancellation active. The device also recharges at a rate of 5 hours of playback time for every 10-minutes charge.
Compared to all this, Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless offering 12 hours of total battery life (four in buds and two four-hours in the case) might seem insignificant.
However, it compensates for the shortcoming with their lightweight, sleek design and buds that are splash and sweat-resistant. In a cacophony of accepting bulky design to get longer battery life, Sennheiser has levelheadedly shown how to do it right.
Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay E6 wireless earphones also deserve special mention here. Although the battery life is only about 5 hours after a full charge, the device has tried to compensate this with a snap-on charging unit that enables you to recharge it while using it. What’s amusing is the fact that the charging unit needs to be connected to a power source first!
A similarly functioning device is Sudio’s Tolv. However, it doesn’t defy our sanity like Beoplay E6, because its case acts as a power bank, which is very much portable.
Let’s Welcome Smarter Technologies and Designs
Wireless headphone makers are apparently on a redesigning spree. Sony has upped its already comfy 1000Xs a notch better. The devices are even lighter now. It has also added a new dedicated chip meant for more effective noise cancellation.
We have already discussed Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless a while ago. Moving on from its bulky and ugly wireless buds of the yore, it has created a pair of sleek buds crafted so neatly, you wouldn’t realize you are wearing them.
Even Audio Technica’s ATH-SR50BT has managed to show some magic with its Hear-Through feature, which allows instant active noise cancellation when you cover the left cup with your hand. The magic doesn’t end here. The touch sensitivity of the left cup also allows you to control the volume in just one tap.
However, leaving everyone behind in the game is Beyerdynamic’s Lagoon with its LED lights placed exactly where they belong – on the interior of the ear cups. A pretty neat lighting trick, it makes use of informative colors.
A Lagoon pair that’s on will show a blue glow in the left cup and a crimson one in the proper. You won’t have a hard time telling which is what. Also, while syncing with a Bluetooth device, both cups will pulsate a blue color in alternate periods from one cup to another.
Once paired, the orange color will indicate that the device is ready for use. The crimson color would mean the device needs immediate recharging. While charging, the colors will graduate from crimson to orange, and then to yellow, and eventually green once fully charged.
Supply in Response to Demand
Wireless headphones making great strides this year is nothing but proof of how demand drives supply. This demand isn’t going to stop growing anytime soon.
With cities expanding, commute time increasing, and content producers pinning their hopes on podcasting, vlogging, and web television, quality headphones are the need of the hour. The global tech industry seems to have sensed this need right.
Let us know your thoughts on this.