How Do Bluetooth Earbuds Work?

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For two decades, music lovers have slowly been shedding their earbud and headphone cables in favor of wireless Bluetooth options. But how do Bluetooth earbuds work?

If you like listening to music on headphones or with earbuds, traditionally you’ve been tethered to your listening device, be it a hi-fi system or an iPhone. We’re talking about that pesky, tangle-prone wire that connects the device that’s playing your music to the earbuds in your ears.

For two decades, music lovers have slowly been shedding that tether in favor of wireless Bluetooth earbuds and earphones. But how do Bluetooth earbuds work? In this article, we’ll explain the basics of Bluetooth technology and how it frees your listening experience.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a type of wireless connectivity where one device sends a signal (in this case, audio) and the other device receives it. Some Bluetooth devices can both send and receive signals—like Bluetooth headsets. Other devices only receive Bluetooth signals.

Bluetooth is a universal standard, which means that specific requirements have to be included in electronic devices that use Bluetooth. In other words, if a device wants to advertise having Bluetooth technology, it has to be compatible with other devices that use Bluetooth—even older versions of the protocol.

Though Bluetooth was invented in 1994, it wasn’t utilized in consumer devices until 2001. Since then, Bluetooth has gone through several different versions, most of which are still compatible with each other. The most recent version of Bluetooth is 5.2, and new versions are released every few years, most of which feature small performance improvements.

How Does Bluetooth Work?

Simply put, Bluetooth uses short-range radio waves to send and receive data between two devices. The short-range nature of the signal prevents constant overlap or interference from other signals, though interference is still possible. It’s also why your signal cuts out when you walk too far away from the audio source.

To use Bluetooth, you have to “pair” two Bluetooth-capable devices. The process of pairing varies by device, but essentially, both devices should be set to a pairing mode which enables them to connect to each other.

How Do Bluetooth Earbuds Work?

Bluetooth earbuds and earphones can be paired with your phone or computer. Some Bluetooth earbuds can only receive data—typically the audio from your listening device.

UE FITS can both send and receive data. In addition to receiving audio data from your phone or computer, FITS can send data both from its microphones and from its tap controls. That means you can listen and talk on phone calls as well as increase or decrease volume, skip or go back a track, answer or hang up the phone and more.

What Are True Wireless Earbuds and How Do They Work?

While Bluetooth earbuds don’t have a wire between the earbuds and the device that’s sending the audio, it doesn’t always mean they’re completely wireless. Many Bluetooth earbuds still have a wire that connects one earbud to the other, typically worn around the back of the neck.

True wireless devices like UE FITS earbuds don’t have the wire connecting the two earbuds—thus the name “true wireless.” Instead, one earbud is connected to the audio source and sends that audio signal to the other earbud without any latency.

Which Sounds Better: Wired or Bluetooth?

It would be unfair to say wired or Bluetooth earbuds automatically sound better than the other. The answer depends on the overall quality of your earbuds.

Some audiophiles point out that Bluetooth transmits less sonic data than wired earbuds and earphones. While true, Bluetooth earbuds with high-quality, finely tuned dynamic drivers or Bluetooth earphones with premium balanced armatures will absolutely sound better than cheap, poorly made wired earbuds and earphones.

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