Headphones: USB-C or Bluetooth?
October 22, 2020 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm upgrading to newer devices, and none of them have 3.5mm audio jacks! Do I need to go wireless with Bluetooth headphones, or should I seek out USB-C headphones?

Are USB-C headphones compatible with ANYTHING that has a USB-C port, including my Lenovo Thinkpad running Ubuntu, or will they just work on the Android devices?

Are there pros & cons beyond the obvious (one has wires, the other has to be recharged)?
posted by sibilatorix to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have bluetooth, wireless headphones and I am NEVER going back to wired.

I didn't understand how amazing wireless headphones were until I started using them. They make participating in work meetings, exercising, listening to music, and talking to friends and family on the phone so much more enjoyable and comfortable.

Today I used my bluetooth headphones to follow a guided audio workout, attended several work meetings, and talked to a friend on the phone while I did the dishes and made lunch. I could have done all those things with wired headphones but it would have been much clunkier and frankly there are a few I just wouldn't have done, or wouldn't have done with as much ease. Mine hold a charge really well and don't take very long to be charged back up when they die.
posted by stellaluna at 2:19 PM on October 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you like your headphones, USB-C to 3.5mm audio converters are widely available.
posted by agentofselection at 2:19 PM on October 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

I would pick bluetooth over USB-C. It'll work on many more devices now and in the future.

There are also headphone bluetooth adapters that you plug your headphones in to and then listen to the audio over bluetooth.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:00 PM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I use the USB C earbuds that came with my Pixel 3 phone with my Dell XPS 13 running Linux, and the Lenovo Yoga 900 I used before it. They work fine, including the buttons. They're detected as an audio device, and a keyboard for the buttons, which my computer dutifully configures to use the UK Dvorak keyboard layout.

I probably wouldn't go out and buy USB C headphones if they hadn't come included, though.
posted by wjt at 3:17 PM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I recently bought a pair of Sony headphones that are the best of both worlds: WH-CH700N

They're Bluetooth, but also have a stereo minijack like traditional headphones so you can use them like traditional headphones even when the battery is dead.

I'd go for Bluetooth over USB for the flexibility and comfort of not having wires, and I like these specifically because they have active noise cancelling and last ages on a charge. They also have NFC so if you have an NFC phone you just tap your phone against the headphones and they sync, no futzing with getting them into pairing mode and using the Bluetooth control panel.
posted by signsofrain at 4:45 PM on October 22, 2020

I have Apple 3.5mm to USB-C adapters that work just fine plugged into the USB-C port on my Dell Inspiron 13 7386. I also have Bluetooth headphones, but they always seem to be connected to the wrong device when I want to listen to something on my laptop (and the 3.5 inch jack has been flaky at times),
posted by lhauser at 7:17 PM on October 22, 2020

Double-check before you buy anything, but USB-C headphones *should* comply to a universal standard and be compatible with any device that has the right port.

I find bluetooth a mixed bag, both in terms of playback quality and device pairing. But wireless is pretty damn convenient.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:09 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Beyond compatibility and convenience concerns, the USB will have way better audio quality than the Bluetooth, if that is something you are concerned about.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:38 AM on October 23, 2020

I'm pretty sure that both bluetooth and usb push more data to the headphones than your audio is going to need anyway. If a given pair of headphones has poor audio quality it'll be because they're doing a bad job of putting out audio not because they're not getting enough data from your device.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2020

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