Wireless audio for my computer and phone?
October 10, 2011 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Which Bluetooth headphones will work well with an iPhone 4 and late-2008 iMac?

We've had many AskMes about headphones before, and even some about blutooth headphones specifically. I went through them and couldn't find the answer to my specific query; if this is a double, please link me to the thread!

Basically, I want a pair of headphones that will allow me to watch movies (Netflix streaming, Hulu, DVDs, VLC, whatever) on my imac (OSX 10.5.8) without disturbing my housemate, who sleeps one very very thin wall away. I like to sit on my bed, about 18' away from the screen. For a while, I solved this problem by getting a 10' extender cable for my Sony (wired) studio monitor headphones. It broke a few weeks later (first I could only get one channel, then neither). The phones are fine -- I have the same issue with any set of cans I plugged into the extender cable. Bought another (different brand, different store) for a few bucks, and within days, this time, I'd lost one channel. Damn. Time to try a new approach.

So I thought, why not wireless or bluetooth 'phones? The computer does indeed have bluetooth, and as I googled around I realized, hey, in theory I could even use these things with my iPhone! Cool city! To reiterate: I want some over-the-ear headphones, cheaper than $100, that will connect simply to my iMac and iPhone. I'm not super-concerned about being able to control my phone via buttons on the headset (would be nice but not essential) or perfect audio quality: I listen mostly to podcasts whille out and about, and I watch mostly streaming video while on my computer, so I know I'm not getting the world's best sound as is and I don't mind one bit.

Here were some models that looked appealing to me:

Motorola S305 (Cheap, but has a behind-the-head design that might be uncomfortable as I watch movies while leaned back against the wall)
NuForce BT-860 (looks pretty solid, but kind of pricey at $80)
GOGroove AirBand (cheaper than the NuForces, but also maybe a ripoff design?)

But after much searching through reviews and user comments on Amazon and some audio/tech sites, I discovered that there were two pervasive problems with watching video while using bluetooth headphones: 1. compatibility/connectivity and 2. lip-syncing. (I understand fidelity is also a concern, but I don't really mind as long as it's tolerable -- I'm used to mp3s and streaming media so as long as I can clearly hear dialogue with no overt hissing or what have you, I'm indifferent).

1. As I read it, there are numerous protocols and codecs in the bluetooth world, and if your chosen headphone and computer don't want to play nice with each other, you're out of luck. I've read threads from a few years ago where people complained that they had problems pairing the two at all, or in some cases, consistently. Here's one:


(complaint is about his PC, not Mac, but I've read that Apple doesn't support some of the standard protocalls for bluetooth. Is that accurate and current info? Does it matter for my needs?)

2. Also, because the audio is being encoded in the CPU and then beamed to the headset, many users complained that there is a discrete lag between the moment a person moves his lips and the moment you hear what he's saying. Again, I'm not too particular about 100% perfect audiophile sound quality, but I saw enough gripes about this that I'm wary.

I've thought about getting some Sennheisers that use RF instead of Bluetooth, but the cheapest of those are north of $100, and they lack portability (they require a dock you need to plug in to your TV/stereo). Also they don't have a mic (not my main concern but given that I can connect to my phone, it would be nice to have this for calls or skyping on my computer).

Any advice, whether or not it directly answers the question, is appreciated.

Thanks, gang.
posted by andromache to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have the Motorola S305 and by and large they work pretty well with my iphone 4. I've never used them with my Macbook or for watching much video so I can't speak to that, but they're good for walking around and not having a cable dangling all over the place. The problem you get when you have a bad connection isn't hissing or static, though—instead the audio will just cut in and out—it's either there or it's not. That can be frustrating, but doesn't get really bad that often.

I'm a fan of the behind-the-head design but they do get uncomfortable after, say, an hour or so.

The other really annoying feature they have is that they start beeping about every minute when the battery is dying. I would much rather that they just die with no warning rather than ruining my last 15 minutes of listening enjoyment.
posted by mumblingmynah at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2011

The Sony MW600 is pretty good, and lets you plug any 3.5mm jack into it. This lets you plug it both headphones and sound systems, turning anything into a wireless sound receiver. I don't think Sony manufacture them any more, though you can find them on ebay and work well with iOS5.
posted by davemee at 9:57 AM on October 31, 2011

Oh - the other thing to recommend them is they can switch between multiple devices and be paired to multiple devices simultaneously.
posted by davemee at 9:58 AM on October 31, 2011

Response by poster: (Follow-up: I got the Motorola S305s. They're not too comfortable with glasses, not too loud, which is an issue on the subway, and they sometimes lose the connection to my phone for a second. But all said and done, they're cheap, and they do work well for what I want them for. And yes, they connect fine to my OSX 10.6 iMac and iPhone 4.)
posted by andromache at 4:26 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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