Do your headphones actually need Bluetooth 5.0?
Best answer: The short answer is no; Bluetooth 5.0 introduces a handful of improvements to range, data transfer speeds, and power consumption, but it doesn't affect audio quality at all. You won't be missing out on much if your headphones use an older Bluetooth standard.
- Best true wireless headphones: Jabra Elite 75t ($180 at Amazon)
- Better value: Samsung Galaxy Buds ($110 at Amazon)
Bluetooth 5.0 brings functional, not aural improvements
Bluetooth headphones are some of the most popular electronics around these days, allowing listeners to enjoy music, podcasts, and all other forms of audio completely free of wires. You've probably seen the latest version, Bluetooth 5.0, listed among the specs of most recent headphone releases, but what difference does that version make, and what are you missing out on if your headphones don't support it?
In all honesty, not that much — at least, not in terms of audio fidelity. In fact, Bluetooth 5.0 doesn't bring any improvements to how your headphones sound, instead focusing on improving how they work. Bluetooth 5.0 standardizes the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol introduced with version 4.0, meaning devices using Bluetooth 5.0 consume less power than their older counterparts.
One of Bluetooth 5.0's main advantages is its increase to both range and data transfer speeds; it's able to handle speeds of up to 2 Mbps (compared to 1 Mbps with Bluetooth 4.2), though that performance boost comes at the cost of distance. With more typical speeds, Bluetooth 5.0 is able to travel up to 800 feet, or four times farther than Bluetooth 4.2.
These improvements were largely done with smart home tech in mind, but the increased range can benefit wireless headphones as well, especially if you're one to walk around the house with your headphones in your ears.
You can certainly benefit from the longer range and battery power efficiency if your headphones (and the device you're connecting them to) support Bluetooth 5.0, but older Bluetooth versions like 4.2 still hold up perfectly fine — which is good news, since plenty of popular headphones like the Sony WH1000XM3 and Bose QC35 II have yet to make the jump to 5.0.
Best true wireless headphones
Incredible-sounding Bluetooth 5.0 true wireless earbuds
The Jabra Elite 75t are small, comfortable, and sound great, and have fantastic and useful features like auto play/pause. Battery life is fantastic, and they're even IP55 water resistant.
Pocketable Bluetooth 5.0 headphones at a reasonable price
The Galaxy Buds don't sound as good as the Jabra Elite 75t, but they're smaller and have nice touch controls for quick and easy operation. The carrying case can be charged wirelessly, and carries hours of extra battery life.
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.