Do your headphones actually need Bluetooth 5.0?

Jabra Elite 75t
Jabra Elite 75t (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

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.

Bluetooth 5.0 brings functional, not aural improvements

Samsung Galaxy Buds

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

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?

Bluetooth 5.0 lasts longer and reaches further, but it doesn't sound any better than Bluetooth 4.2.

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.

Hayato Huseman

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.