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Sound and Vision: Wired headphones are making an unlikely comeback

OPINION: We live in the age of wireless devices. There are probably only a few electronic devices in your home that couldn’t be connected via a wireless connection.

And we all think that’s great, right? Wireless is more convenient, and wireless presents less clutter. Wireless devices simply fit more into our lives than they did twenty years ago.

But are they better? When it comes to headphones, the case could easily be made that wired and not wireless headphones are better in terms of sound. You won’t suffer any wireless interference or dropped connections, and in this day and age of sustainability, there’s less technology inside wired earphones and no battery to charge.

Sure, there’s no noise-cancellation which will be a bummer for some. And for those who like to multi-task you can’t connect to two devices at once.

But in recent years I’ve seen an uptick in people wearing wired headphones. Having been cast aside into the wilderness by wireless headphones, they do seem to be back in the consciousness for reasons I can’t actually fathom.

Some say it’s a Gen Z fad – but I’ve seen people much older who wear wired headphones – perhaps some want a simpler experience, one where they do not have to deal with battery charging, or noise-cancelling isn’t as effective as it could be, or that aesthetically wired headphones stand out more for those who among us who are more fashionable inclined.

Maybe it’s that wired headphones are more often than not more affordable than their wired cousins.

But wired headphones have their own issues. Those Apple EarPods from years ago were cheap and not particularly durable – the kind of headphones where they were packaged for free with iPhones and iPods and you would ditch them ASAP and replace them with better earphones. I remember having issues with the jack (after a while there’d be an issue with the contact plate) and then there were issues with having to conceal the cable lest it got snagged on something and pulled the earphones clean out your ears.

Focal Hadenys wired headphones
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

But this year I don’t think I’ve ever been as inundated with wired headphones for review. Headphones from Meze, Austrian Audio, Final, Grado, FiiO, Focal, Beyerdynamic, Kefine, Sennheiser, Sony, Campfire – even wired office headsets from EPOS, and that’s not even counting the number of wireless headphones that offer the option of wired listening from DALI, Bowers & Wilkins, Shure, and others. You’ve also got the fact that wired headphones push forward the use of DACs, and if you don’t have a 3.5mm jack on your headphones, a USB-C adapter.

It goes to show that nothing ever truly dies but just adapts to its new context. The rise (and rise again) of wired headphones doesn’t mean that they’ll be back to their former glories but sometimes convenience ain’t all that.

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