Why are wireless Bluetooth over-ear, noise cancelling and in-line microphone headphones so scarce?
It is safe to say the mobile headphone or earphone market is massive and has been growing stronger ever since the decision was made by the mobile phone makers to agree on a universally standard 3.5mm audio jack instead of their own proprietary connector.
Another more obvious reason is the current explosion in smartphone, net-book and tablet technology. These devices have become more portable with bigger storage thus allowing us to take our video and music collections with us where ever we go. Headphones are now the must have accessory for any mobile device.
Take a look around the Internet and you will find thousands of websites selling headphones of all makes and models (Bose, Skullcandy, Sony, Sennheiser, Dr Dre etc).
Headphones come in many shapes and sizes (ear-buds, in-ear, sports, over-ear, on-ear) and some offer extra functionality such as wireless, noise cancelling, in-line microphone etc. If you do not know what you want, there are plenty of good forums allowing one to discuss, ask or post questions on headphones, not to mention many good video review sites. If you go into any electronics or music stores there are normally areas where one can listen to different headphones with your smartphone or tablet.
But there is one area of the travel headphone market that is sadly lacking and that is Bluetooth headphones. They use A2DP or Advanced Audio Distribution Profile. This profile defines how high quality audio (stereo or mono) can be streamed from one device to another over a Bluetooth connection. You would be hard pressed today to find a mobile device or tablet that does not support A2DP.
Yet, do a search for Bluetooth headphones specifically the over-ear or on-ear headphone. You will be lucky if you receive ten model hits. Add a few common features that other good headphones have such as noise cancelling, bass boost or SRS and finally add an in-line microphone else what is the point of wireless headphones if you cannot receive or make phone calls hands free?, and the search results drop down to four or five models at the most.
I currently own two of them (the Sony DR-BT50 and the Nokia BH-905). The latter have been on my head every work day since Xmas 2009. They are incredibly reliable wireless Bluetooth headphones that meet all my headphone criteria (over-ear or on-ear, wireless and Bluetooth, A2DP support, noise cancelling, in-line microphone, a good sound across bass and treble, are fashionable and have a long lasting battery).
The above features in the few Bluetooth headphones available are not cheap, which is disappointing. Since the choices are few and far between, the manufacturers have kept the prices at a premium. I hope this changes soon.
Here are the other three Bluetooth headphones and the prices.
- Sennheiser MM550 Wireless Noise Cancelling – £299.
- Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ Wireless On-Ear Headphones - £249.
- Nokia BH-905i Noise Cancelling Stereo Bluetooth headphones - £129.
Needless to say I will be upgrading to the Nokia BH-905i shortly. They are slightly more streamlined than their predecessors and offer extra bass boost. The Sennheiser MM550 would be my first choice if it were not for the price.