same headphones - different behavior when bluetooth vs corded
December 5, 2021 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Is there a setting I have wrong or is it impossible for my bluetooth headphones to connect to Teams and to stream white noise simultaneously, if they are perfectly capable of it when plugged in?

I have a pair of Soundcore Space NC headphones.

I basically wear them all day while I work remotely and have mynoise playing the Aircraft cabin in the background. Periodically I join Teams meetings. If I have the headphones plugged in via the physical cord, the white noise stays on in the background when I connect to Teams. If the headphones are connected by bluetooth (no cord), the whitenoise turns off once I connect on Teams. This is a bummer because it's noisy in my neighborhood and I really need the white noise to concentrate. So I have to stay corded, but that's also inconvenient as I am then physically tethered to my desk.

1. Is there a setting I can change so that I can play the Teams call and the white noise through the headphones at the same time? I have a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (although this same thing happens with a couple different laptops I've cycled through in the past few years). Do I need some other doodad or program here?

2. Is there another pair of headphones (with the big noise-cancelling-helpful muffs, not earbuds) that *would* be capable (and is $100 to $200), if the current set up will never work?
posted by Tandem Affinity to Technology (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think it’s related to Windows switching from the “nice high-quality sound” Bluetooth profile to the “voice conference” profile (Lower-quality sound, lower latency, with microphone) when you answer a Teams call. My Bluetooth headphones do the same thing, only it mutes my music, which I like. So I don’t think a different Bluetooth headset will solve the problem.

That said, if anyone knows how to control how Bluetooth conferencing audio is routed and if there’s a way to mix , I’d be interested to learn!
posted by Alterscape at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One thing to keep in mind is that if it's plugged in, it's receiving either an analog audio signal (over a headphone jack) or uncompressed digital signal (over USB) which can reproduce the original sound more-or-less exactly. Bluetooth is somewhat more sensitive to bandwidth concerns and it will typically use some sort of perceptual compression on the audio where it drops frequencies that humans typically don't hear or notice as much. White noise is basically death to these perceptual compression algorithms since it doesn't prefer any specific frequencies and so either the compression is less effective (i.e. it isn't compressed much) in order to preserve the original sound or it changes the way that it sounds in order to make the audio more compressible. Since you want low-latency for conference calls in particular, it wouldn't surprise me to hear that it favors better compression over quality for calls, so that it can send the call audio without as much delay that additional compression might introduce.

If you want a wireless headset that is better capable of handling this, I'd recommend looking at gaming headsets rather than bluetooth headsets. They will use their own wireless dongle instead of bluetooth and are designed to facilitate both good quality audio and low latency sound, and you'll probably have more luck with them. I use a SteelSeries Arctic 7 and can recommend it.
posted by Aleyn at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks! This reminded me that I have a pair of Sennheiser RS 160 RFs that I use to watch TV and play Animal Crossing :) For that purpose, I hadn't cared if they had a microphone and thought they didn't have one based on the product sheet. But indeed they have a microphone and work very well to solve the problem.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:02 PM on December 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

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