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Doug M. Offline OP
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Hi Folks,

I'm looking to buy some In ear bluetooth wireless headphones that might suit my 74 year father who has lost some of his higher frequencies.
He's finding his Audio-techica MRS7 headphones a bit clampy, and might like to walk around without his phone attached inside the house, so he can listen to music whilst doing jobs etc.

Use case: listening to music, playing piano

The budget is $70--$100 loosely (£50-£80 ish)---I know that's fairly low (not expecting amazing headphones); however, if you think there is something really great in value for money a little bit more than my budget, I'd like to hear about them too.

Ear size: Relatively large, not massive.

Value weighting:
1) Comfort/Fit
2) Audio quality
3) App control with EQ if possible (not vital).

Nice to haves
Noise cancelling
Phone calling (with mic)
Longish battery life

I'm finding the options a bit overwhelming (in number): I have looked on Amazon and found about 10^3 different types available.
*Review sites that do the top-ten aren't written for older individuals
*There are too many on Amazon to do a thorough analysis (something I would normally jump at)

So, I thought I'd ask people who I know and trust instead!

Does anyone have experiences with these products who would anyone be willing to offer some advice given the above variables?

Kind regards,

Doug.


Instruments......Kawai MP7SE.............................................(Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000)
Software..........Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand...............K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Piano stool.......K&M 14093 Piano stool
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Listening to music, fine. Piano playing, not too good.

Bluetooth audio has too much lag for use when playing piano.


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Doug M. Offline OP
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Originally Posted by FrankCox
Listening to music, fine. Piano playing, not too good.

Bluetooth audio has too much lag for use when playing piano.

Good point Frank, maybe he can should stick with his MRS7 for piano, or switch to a lighter OTE.


Instruments......Kawai MP7SE.............................................(Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000)
Software..........Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand...............K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Piano stool.......K&M 14093 Piano stool
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I got something like these but without the noise cancelling and bluetooth 4.1 over three years ago and they are still alive smile

This is the current one:

https://www.amazon.com/Bluetooth-Headphones-Galirity-Cancelling-Earphones/dp/B09JVMDVZH/ref=sr_1_11?keywords=bluetooth+headphones+neckband+retractable&qid=1647998108&s=electronics&sprefix=bluetooth+headphones+neckband%2Celectronics%2C106&sr=1-11


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Have you (or he) considered "in-ear monitors" like the Shure SE215 ? They're high-grade earbuds, designed for on-stage monitoring by performers, but I use mine for music listening and piano.

They're wired, not Bluetooth. If you want to use them walking around the house, you can carry a mobile phone with you, and play MP3 files from it.

You can get many free (or inexpensive) EQ apps for Apple and Android phones.

For piano, SE215's work at least as well as other phones in their price range. Since the piano is fixed, you could get a little equalizer from Behringer, or other makers.

They don't have -- and don't need -- noise-cancelling features:

. . . they're "closed-back", with good isolation from outside sounds.

The downside of in-ear phones is that he needs to tolerate things in his ear canal. If he wears hearing aids, he'll be OK. If he doesn't, he may already know whether in-ear phones will be OK, or not.


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Doug, what about two sets, one for piano (wired) and one for smartphone (BT)? I have some cheap in-ear JBL that have a good enough (if not pretty decent to my taste) sound quality. I bought them to watch videos while on the threadmill at the gymn, but they are serving me well for music listening and online meetings as well.

Last edited by EVC2017; 03/23/22 05:28 AM.

Kawai ES8, Roland RD2000, Yamaha AG06 mixer, Presonus Eris E5 monitors, Sennheiser HD598SR phones.
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Hi Doug M,

As other's have remarked all versions of Bluetooth inherently have too much latency to be used for practical piano playing. There are professional In-Ear Monitor (wired and wireless) headphones that do work but these are many hundreds of £/$. Otherwise, Bluetooth works well for playback purposes and I echo the advice to check that your father can tolerate In-Ear headphones first. If he can, I recommend RHA-Audio headphones as I've owned and used a pair of their Trueconnect 2's for more than a year and they have worked faultlessly to date (see: https://www.rha-audio.com/headphones/wireless/trueconnect-2?c=150 and https://www.amazon.co.uk/RHA-TrueConnect-2-Navy-Blue/dp/B07VS5G9R8?th=1) and are well within your budget. Although, I still use my Grado SR60 on-ear open backed wired headphones for piano playing as these provide my preferred sound balance without the latency inherit with Bluetooth. Both headphones err towards a more neutral sound balance without undue emphasis on the bass, as with many others; although the RHA's sound balance, in common with others, varies depending on how well they fit inside an individual's ear canals.

Hope this helps.

Kind regards,

Tog


Standard: Absolute beginner. Currently butchering Bach BWV846!
Kit: Kawai MP11SE; Focal Alpha 80 monitors (pair); the original REL 'Storm' Sub-woofer from the early 1990's ( manufactured by BK Electronics Ltd on behalf of REL); Roland Z-Stand; generic studio style speaker stands; HP Grado SR60
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BT has too much latency for piano.
I tried wired Sennheiser IE40 IEMs, but the sound isn't nearly as good as with over-ear open-back old HD545.

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They also make hearing aids with Bluetooth audio. At some age you might consider needing those.

I have a friend with a pair.

I have a pair of wired sennheiser ear buds I really like and some wired beyerdynamics.

There are some headphones that are Bluetooth and wired.

Last edited by Purdyd; 03/23/22 10:32 AM.

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In addition to all the advice & suggestions already given, i would also consider whether or not the final setup - using one or more of the suggested candidate products - provide some level of fail-safe for accidental high volume/loudness protection.

When the speakers or headphones or earbuds are passing sound - wired or wirelessly - from source to destination IE. a DP output jack/interface to ears input interface, the DP’s actual volume control slider/knob is the only variable of concern that is in play …. unless the user prefers using a “smart device’s” graphical app to virtually control the DPs actual controls or further prefers to sometimes source/stream audio from outside the DP such as the smart device’s resources being thru the setup to the intended ears destination; the former being a simple 1-step to ensure on or in-ear drivers are initially delivering safe level of dBs into the ears, the latter adding one or more stages to be checked before sending the desired sound source into the ears.


- Kawai MP7 and LSR308 monitors
- Roland HP-508
- DT770 Pro-80 and MDR-7506 phones
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Doug M. Offline OP
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Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to thank you all for your views.
I know I said that it looks like a mine-field so I wasn't going to go in depth. I'm a bad liar wink

What I don't like is going into any purchase not understanding why something has value and another thing doesn't, and wireless bluetooth headphones have really only one issue beyond other headphone types:
Codecs.

Here's what I found out:

Bluetooth codecs are software that regulates how Bluetooth transmits data from a source device to headphones. They set the rules and mechanism of encoding and decoding digital audio data.
Their job is to compress the sound at the source to prepare it for wireless transmission and then decompress it at the receiver to make it playable again.
For both devices to understand the encoding and decoding, the same Bluetooth codec must be present at your smartphone (source) and your headphones (receiver). Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

[Linked Image]

Bluetooth codecs’ main compromise is the relationship between audio quality and bit rate.

A high-fidelity sound requires ...
**A higher bit rate for wireless transmission
and
**More bandwidth and disk storage.

Because bandwidth is often limited, a Bluetooth signal is compressed to a predetermined bit rate. This, in turn, means lower sound quality.
So, it’s a battle between compression (saving bandwidth), and better audio quality.

Bit rate (kbps, kbits/s): is the number of bits processed per second (bits/s). Kbps or kbits/s stands for kilobits per second (kilo prefix equals 1000), so 3 kbit/s equals 3000 bits per second. A higher bit rate processes more data in the same amount of time.


High-fidelity audio files (Hi-Fi): or hi-res audio files offer the best audio quality.

Audiophiles swear by lossless audio files like...
FLAC,
ALAC,
WMA, and
AIFF,

...i.e., which are considered Hi-Fi, though there’s no official definition.

Music CDs are considered hi-res audio and have a data bit rate of 1411 kbit/s.

File type=====Kilobits per second (16-bit, 44.1 kHz)
MP3 ---------------320 kbit/s
CD-----------------1411 kbit/s
FLAC--------------1411 kbit/s
AIFF---------------1411 kbit/s
WAV---------------1411 kbit/s
ALAC--------------1411 kbit/s


No Bluetooth codec can transmit lossless files, though LDAC and LHDC come close.

[Linked Image]

Therefore, one of the first things you want to do when looking for blue-tooth wireless headphones is check your phone's compatibility with blue-tooth codecs.
My Dad has the Motorola G6 plus, and luckily for him, that means his phone can transmit using LDAC, and that made all the difference.

The below link takes you to an excel file showing the current shortlist of blue-tooth devices (2022) that score best on a variety of tests:
In Ear Bluetooth Earbuds.xlsx (2022)

Here are some interesting articles:
Blue-Tooth Codecs
14 different types of headphone

Comparing both the technical data (see tab), and studying the various reviews online, it became obvious that the current go-to model for LDAC was the Sony WF-1000XM4---a class winner by dint of it's audio-clarity, ability to Noise Cancel and also let in ambiant noise (a setting used for when you want to hear people or things in the background).

The key thing about our purchase was the following points:

1) Dad doesn't gym, so no need for super-waterproofing or more aggressive ear attachment methodology
2) Dad doesn't game. If you game, you want low-latency. LDAC has a latency of around 200ms, which is no good for gaming---instead you'd be better off using a set of blue-tooth headphones that use the Samsung codec: aptX LL (aptX Low Latency) or aptX Adaptive (variable bit rate codec)


Codec===================Latency
aptX LL------------------------------- <50ms
aptX Adaptive-------------------------80ms
LDAC------------------------------------200ms
LHDC (Huwai's vs. of LDAC)------200ms
LHDC LL--------------------------------30ms

I'm not sure if 30 ms is latency we'd hear for piano playing, but it seems like as yet, indeed Bluetooth isn't a good choice for piano, not least because the bit-rate for low-latency blue-tooth codecs is well below the best bit-rate available.

If you have a chinese phone, you might be in luck for using codecs LHDC (Huwai's equivalent to Sony's LDAC); however, I didn't find many headhpones which support this codec.

There are a number of websites that were useful in assessing the headphones, so I'll list these:

https://headphonesaddict.com/bluetooth-codecs/

https://headphonesaddict.com/types-of-headphones/#3._True_Wireless_Earbuds

https://mynewmicrophone.com/full-li...mples/#List-Of-Headphones-Specifications

https://versus.com/en/wireless-earbud

https://crinacle.com/rankings/iems/


As I know I want some In-Ear monitors at some point, I will be testing the Shure SE215 against the Moondrop Blessing 2---the audiophile wet-dream
https://crinacle.com/2020/05/28/moondrop-blessing-2-review-kilobuck-threat/

For those interested in wired In-ear headphones and are looking for a modern review, check this out:



Conclusions

Looks like the best blue-tooth in-ear wireless headphones for my Samsung is the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, which better match my phone's codec support.
So it's complicated when buying wireless bluetooth headphones due to codecs and all the massive lack of specifications out there.

It's almost impossible to find out the output impedance for mobile phone devices. With this lacking, it's hard to estimate the correct headphone impedance that you'd ideally want in a set of cans.
That said, with bluetooth headphones, there are 3 things most vaunted:
1) Driver size
2) Noise cancellation
3) Microphone quality

Driver size is now sort of misleading, as some very good drivers can be on the small side in terms of driver size, and still be better.
The Sony driver size is 6mm, but thanks to the rest of the features---high power neodynium magnets etc---it performs well against other drivers of greater size (11mm beryllium on the M&D MW08).

Having listened to these Sony WF-1000XM4, I can now say what they are like compared to other cans.
They are super clear (clarity wise) and relatively neutral sounding. Although they are warmer than the earlier WF-1000XM3 model, you will want to download the Sony Headphone Connect app, and immediately play around with the graphic EQ. Due to the clarity of the headphones, you tend to want to set-up different EQ profiles for different sorts of music. Listening to vocals for instance is much better on the built in Vocal EQ preset; however, this doesn't work so well with complex arrangements you might get in e.g., prog rock or orchestral music.

Against the Audio-Technica MRS7 headphones, the bass of the Sony WF-1000XM4 doesn't really compete (no surpise there, due to driver size/impedance etc); however, the sound clarity of the Sony is arguably much better.
The clamp force of the MRS7 is the main downside, which is why you'd probably want something like the Sennheiser HD600 for neutral sound but mega comfort, for piano. However, with the wireless bluetooth headphones, the biggest issue of comfort is the question of what happens if the music stops. They are so light-fitting, that if one fell out after the music stopped, you might not notice lol. At 7g per earphone, they fit quite well (you can use different bud sizes to match your ear).

So is it worth spending nearly £200 on bluetooth wireless headphones?

Well, if you want great sound through bluetooth in-ear headphones, you'll need a phone that supports LDAC, and you'll need headphones that do too.
That means there are only a few headphones currently available that use LDAC, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the best of these currently.
I would not buy LDAC bluetooth headphones if you have a phone that doesn't use LDAC, no matter how much you spend.

The control features on the Sony WF-1000XM4 are really good: you can set different functions to the touch sensitive button on both Left and Right earphones. This means that you can quickly flip between Noise cancellation vs ambient mode for when you need to hear the surroundings; alternatively, you can easily flick between EQ settings; alternatively, you can easily change volume or flick to next track, go back a track etc.

The Headphone Connect app is pretty good, so I can recommend that.

Last edited by Doug M.; 04/03/22 06:41 AM.

Instruments......Kawai MP7SE.............................................(Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000)
Software..........Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand...............K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Piano stool.......K&M 14093 Piano stool
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Hi Doug M,

Thanks for your detailed analysis which has comprehensively answered your own initial enquiry!

Given that sound travels at around 0.343 of a metre (approximately a foot!) per millisecond in air at sea level at 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) and assuming that your seated at the equivalent distance from an acoustic instrument's sound source or an electronic instrument's speakers of no more than say 1.2 (approx 4 feet) metres then the additional eye, ear, brain latency will likely be less than 5-milliseconds for the brain to recognise the sound propogation to be effectively instantaneous compared to their touch and eye response and any technology introducing a significantly longer delay will be noticeable; although how effectively an individual can tolerate or overcome this additional delay is likely to be variable. The consensus seems to be between 5 and 10 milliseconds.

Hence, the reason why the fastest additional latency of current Bluetooth technology, at some 30 milliseconds, renders it impractical for piano playing for most people. Wired systems inherently have much lower latency (as this will only be effectively whatever the instrument itself inherently produces and the additional latency introduced by the length of the wired connection, assuming a direct connection) given the much higher speed of transmission along a wired connection; close to the speed of light!

Of course, although these assumptions are largely hypothetical they should be emperically discernable by individual, personal, experimentation!

Once again, good luck in your quest to provide for your father's needs.

Yours in pedantry,

Tog


Standard: Absolute beginner. Currently butchering Bach BWV846!
Kit: Kawai MP11SE; Focal Alpha 80 monitors (pair); the original REL 'Storm' Sub-woofer from the early 1990's ( manufactured by BK Electronics Ltd on behalf of REL); Roland Z-Stand; generic studio style speaker stands; HP Grado SR60
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+1


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Doug M. Offline OP
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Might be fun to try them on piano when I've had a jar or two...see how easy it is to play ragtime...😁


Instruments......Kawai MP7SE.............................................(Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000)
Software..........Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand...............K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Piano stool.......K&M 14093 Piano stool
Joined: Jul 2014
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Doug M. Offline OP
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Pedantry is footile 😁😁

But also funny...
[Linked Image]


Instruments......Kawai MP7SE.............................................(Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000)
Software..........Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand...............K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Piano stool.......K&M 14093 Piano stool

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