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Huge Comparison of [almost] all the Best Bluetooth Headphones - post your own comparisons here

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by giogio, Dec 15, 2014.
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  1. ruthieandjohn

    Thanks so much, @opihiman. Sounds like the concern lies in the phrase "AAC...has only been picked up by a few headphones." So if they DONT list AAC, they likely DON'T support it, and just default to SBC unless you have an Apt-X source, right? So I need to stick to headphones like Harman Kardon BT or Parrot Zik 2.0 that specifically mention AAC.
  2. opihiman
    Not so fast :wink:
    Just because a headphone natively supports the AAC format doesn't mean it sounds better with your device.
    For example Headphone A supports AAC, Headphone B doesn't. Headphone B still might sound better than Headphone A due to better parts, design, manufacturing, features...etc.
    AAC codec is just a format used to deliver the information from the transmitter to the receiver. The codec doesn't necessarily mean an AAC headphone will sound great or better than another, it only means that that form of communication between the devices is allowed to happen.

    There is nothing wrong with SBC, SBC just can't mask (as well) a lossy file format (such as a low bitrate AAC file) like the AAC codec can. I doubt most people would notice the difference if you listen to the same audio file on an ipod and on an android file (assuming all EQ are matched...etc).
    At least that's my perception on this stuff.
  3. ruthieandjohn

    Thanks again,  @opihiman !
    I agree that the headphone will have at least as much influence, probably WAYYYY more, on sound quality than whether or not it is sent via AAC.
    I also learned that some headphones built their own "better" version of subband coding... the Jaybirds Bluebuds X I just got (BT IEMs) are quite proud of having done that, saying that it improves quality ( not sure I understand how it can, as it can only work with the standard subband coding that the Bluetooth of my source chooses to send out, but so they say!).
    But the particular headphones that are mentioned as best on the collection of 18 pages that comprise this thread seem to be the Fidelio M1BT, the Plantronics Back Beat PRO, and the Sony MDR-1RBT (MK2).   None of them (near as I can tell) admit to making use of AAC.  They will do Apt-X (but my source won't!), so I fear all will devolve to SBC.  My suspicion is that each of these headphones, in its own way, is excellent acoustically, so that is why my interest is focused on the flavor of Bluetooth.
    Your comments have been most enlightening to me.  I appreciate that!
  4. Soundofmusic
    Sony MDR-1ABT will support AAC, amongst other codes.
  5. mackie8
    im choosing between bose soundlink on ear and jabra revo.. 
    i read in amazon that bose soundlink on ear  is having issues with the bluetooth on iOS devices..
    anyone have experience this? i like bose more because its very comfy but i will use it mainly using iphone and ipad .. i dont want that skipping issues...
    do you think jabra revo is a good deal? 
  6. Giogio
    Hello everybody,
    sorry for my absence but I have been both very busy and quite sick (fever and stuff).
    I will try to write more tomorrow, but I just wanted to quickly say that I have found a pair of headphones which I now like more than the Fidelio for some things: the Audio Technica ATH-WS99BT.
    I will explain tomorrow where the AT are better than the Fidelio and where the Fidelio are still the winner (of course, imo, as always).
    I have also tried other ones in the while, but the only worth mentioning is the Jlab Omni, a very nice options for those looking for a quite balanced headphones capable of some powerful bass, with good overall quality and a nice price. Nowhere near to the AT, and also inferior to the Fidelio, but for $99 is difficult to find something better.
  7. ruthieandjohn
    There have been made several mentions of the Parrot Zik bluetooth headphones, but in the 19 pages of this thread so far, I've not seen any comparisons of the Ziks to anything.  I've been an enthusiastic user of the Parrot Zik original version since August 2012, when it first hit the market (after winning at the January 2012 Consumer Electronics Show), and I just purchased the Parrot Zik 2.0, which came out last November (2014).  I also purchased the Jaybird Bluebuds X IEMs, which have been compared to others several times on this thread.  So here goes...
    About a year ago, I developed a set of 10 features, associated with 4 recordings, and used them in comparative listening tests of 3 headphones at a time. I performed 10 such 3-way compares, each with its own post detailing the work, and summarized in the table here:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/723136/battle-of-the-bassys-beats-pro-yamaha-pro-500-and-beats-studio-2013-compared#post_10634722.  I used these same tests about a week ago to compare my Sennheiser HD 800s (through my Sennheiser HDVD 800 DAC/amp), my Grado PS1000s (through my Grado HPA-1 amp), and my Grado RS1is (through my Grado RA1 amp) here:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/530965/grado-fan-club/23295#post_11340487
    Test Method:
    I used four songs, all encoded in Apple Lossless Format at CD quality (I actually bought the CDs and ripped them... no internet download involved) and played by my Apple iPod Touch 5th Gen via its bluetooth.
    • "You're Going To Miss Me When I'm Gone," by Band of Heathens, from their album One Foot In The Ether (used for fidelity of drum sound, positional resolution of two vocalists, and ability to discern pitch of string bass passages);
    • "Spanish Harlem," by Rebecca Pidgeon, on The Ultimate Demonstration Disc of Chesky records (used to assess female vocals, transparency, the attack of finger on bass string, and high resolution discrimination of differences in shaker shakes);
    • "Symphony No. 3 in C Minor Op. 78 (Organ Symphony) - IV" by Camille Saint Saens played by Lorin Maazel and the Pittsburgh Sympony Orchestra (used to assess the "ripping" sound of well-rendered lower brass and organ reed pipes, and the ability to hear a very small entrance amidst a bombastic chord of orchestra and organ at full tilt);
    • "Throwback" by B.o.B. on Underground Luxury (used to assess ability of a bass tone, specifically lowest C on piano at about 32 Hz, to pick me up by the throat and shake me!)
    The 10 tests were as follows:
    • Transparency:  What is between me and the music?  A felt cloth?  A "Sennheiser veil?" A frosted window?  Dirty window?  Clear Saran wrap?  or nothing?  At its best, makes me forget I am listening on headphones and am in room with musicians.
    • Width of sound stage:  How far to the left and to the right, (yes, AND up and down in best cases) does it seem the musical sources are arranged?
    • Positional resolution:  Can I distinguish a difference in position of two singers in Song 1?
    • Bass visceral:  Does the bass in third verse of Song 4 actually shake me? Or do I just hear it?
    • Drum "twang":  At start of Song 1, do the bass and tom tom drumhead have a tone and a pitch, rather than just a thump?
    • Bass pitch perception:  For the complicated bass runs in Song 1, do I hear a pitch with sufficient accuracy to sing or transcribe the part?
    • Bass finger pluck:  Do I hear the actual impact of fingers on the bass string just before hearing its sound on Song 2?
    • Shaker variation:  In Song 2, verse 3, do the various shaker shakes sound a bit different from each other, as they should?
    • "Ripping" of organ / brass:  In Song 3, is there the sensation of hearing each vibration of the French horn and low organ reed tones (sort of the tonal counterpart to hearing a "pitch" from a drumhead in Test 5);
    • Discern added chord:  About 1:38 into Song 3, after the full orchestra and organ hold a chord at the top of a passage, can I hear a small number of orchestra instruments join in, as sort of an echo, in the second measure of that chord?
    These tests generally emphasize what I find most pleasing in a headphone, namely high-frequency-related features including transparency, upper harmonics of sounds from drum-head, brass, organ pipe, and string bass, and high-resolution effects such as fine detail of each shaker sound and the finger on the bass string. 
    For each of the 10 tests, I ranked each headphone against the other two, operating two at a time and repeating comparisons on each test and each pair until I could either rank order the three headphones as first place, second place, or third place, or determined that I could not rank two (a tie) or sometimes, all three (a three-way tie).  I assigned 3 points for first place, 2 points for second place, and 1 point for third place.  If two headphones tied for first place, I awarded each 2.5 points and gave the lowest-performing headphone 1 point, and if two headphones timed for second place, I award the top scorer 3 points and the two ties 1.5 points each, thereby preserving the fact that each total across headphones was kept at 6 points (1 + 2 + 3 = 2.5 + 2.5 + 1 = 1.5 + 1.5 + 3 = 6).  Likewise, if all tied, I awarded all 2 points (3 x 2 = 6).
    In the comparison chart that is below, I also color-coded each headphone for each test by blue ("first prize" = 3 points), red (second prize = 2 points), or yellow (3rd prize = 1 point).  Ties for first place are shown as light purple (red + blue, 2.5 points);  ties for second place are orange (red + yellow, 1.5 points). 
    Headphones Tested:
    Since both Parrot Ziks can have equalization, reverberation, and sound stage width controlled through an iPhone app, I performed twot three-way comparisons, one with both Ziks in their un-assisted, native state (equalization, reverb, and soundstage enhancement Off), and one with both Ziks in a configuration I preferred that enhanced transparency and subbass (approx. 8 dB subbass peak at 60 Hz, boost of highs starting at about 7 Khz up to 15 kHz by a slope moving up to 6 dB; reverberation set to second-to-lowest "Living Room" setting, and sound stage width set to 120 degrees).  Noise cancellation was off at all times.  The Bluebuds were unchanged between the two three-way comparisons.
    All headphones were fairly new, at least to me.  The Parrot Zik (1.0) was a Factory Refurbished unit that I bought two weeks ago to replace my 2-1/2-year-old Parrot Ziks, which had flown off my head and onto a hard floor during physical activity; the Parrot Zik 2.0 were purchased new from amazon.com and arrived three days ago; the Bluebuds arrived four days ago and were purchased new-in-sealed-box from a fellow head-fier.
    Here are the headphones, where I show the extra case available for each of the Ziks (properly color coordinated, of course... they look great in their case!):
    Parrot Zik (original,"1.0" version) in matching hard case with its iPhone app running.
    Parrot Zik 2.0 with its case; iPhone app screen set to its parametric equalizer (but not the setting used in comparison)
    Jaybirds Bluebuds X IEMs with included carrying case.
    Ideally, I would have liked to include some Apt-X-capable headphones, such as the Plantronics Backbeat Pro.  However, as I use iPhone as my bluetooth source, and since the iPhone does not use Apt-X, I have not obtained any Apt-X bluetooth headphones (.....yet....!)
    With all app enhancements turned off, the Parrot Ziks (1.0) were strongest in their bass features, including the ability to produce bass of palpable strength yet distinct pitch.  The Parrot Zik 2.0, in contrast, excelled at treble features such as transparency, high resolution of slightly different sounds or in the face of complexity.  The Bluebuds were very good at essentially everything (lots of red in their column, indicating second place showing in most areas.)  Experience over 12 such 3-way compares is that IEMs in general perform better across these features than on-ear or over-ear headphones... here is an example that compares the HiFiMAN HE-500 (over ear), the Grado PS-500(on ear), and the Shure SE 535 (IEM)  http://www.head-fi.org/t/722423/the-500s-side-by-side-testing-the-hifiman-he-500-grado-ps500-and-shure-se535-comparatively#post_10620725 .
    (click on chart to improve legibility)
    Comparison of 3 headphones on 10 features, audio app enhancements OFF.  Zik 1.0 excels at bass, Zik 2.0 at treble, and Bluebuds at everything, earning the highest total score.
    Turning on the application to perform the audio enhancement on the Ziks as described above moved the Zik 2.0 close to the Bluebuds in overall score by enhancing its bass features.  Zik 1.0 lost some of its treble capability with the app turned on. 
    Comparison of 3 headphones across 10 features with the Zik audio enhancement app turned ON as described in text above.  The Parrot Zik 2.0 total performance was brought closer to that of the Bluebuds, while the Parrot Zik 1.0 lost some of its bass resolution.
    It is most illuminating to look at each feature to compare the three headphones; however it is most tempting to add up all the scores to see which headphone came out "the best." 
    Differences of fewer than three points are insignificant.  The fact that the Bluebuds scored 21.5 in either test is just happenstance -- though the Bluebuds were unchanged in either test, the scores are based on rank orderings.  But it is still interesting.
    Had I chosen a different mix of 10 tests, for example put in more tests of bass power at the expense of several treble-related tests, the totals would change.  If soundstage is important to you, it should contribute more than one out of 10 criteria. So each total is just an equal weighting of the particular features that I chose as important to me, and have no significance beyond that.
    I had performed a similar test about a year ago that included the Parrot Ziks with two other wireless Bluetooth headphones, the Beats Studio 2013 and the Sennheiser PXC 310 BT.  In that test, the Beats Studio 2013 excelled.  However, I no longer have them, so I cannot compare them, say, to the Parrot Zik 2.0.  Here is the link:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/715959/comparing-wireless-noise-canceling-headphones-parrot-zik-beats-studio-2013-wireless-sennheiser-pxc-310-bt-quasi-objective-tests#post_10487062
    Giogio likes this.
  8. mikesjc
    For all of our soon-to-be European fans...
    We are very pleased to announce that STANCE S1+ can now be purchased in the United Kingdom on Amazon.
    Here is the link...
    Amazon Germany and France are soon to follow. Stay tuned...
    All the best,
    Mike Johnson
    Giogio likes this.
  9. Giogio

    This sounds great!
    And considering the way people talk of your Customer Care, and the feeling of something personal, human and warm in your Company, I can only be excited about it.
    One of the reasons which made my love for the Fidelio M2BT fade out is their HORRIBLE Customer Care.
    I will do all what I can to put my hands on your Headphones as soon as possible :)
  10. GuyDebord
    Here is the deal with the Parrot Zik 2.0 (cross post from: http://www.head-fi.org/t/710413/high-end-bluetooth-headphones/630 )
    If what you are looking for is sound quality and YOU ARE USING AN APPLE DEVICE, this is the best out there.
    Yes, the battery life sucks and yes, if you have a big head these might not be for you, too many glitches you say, YES! However they have the best bluetooth sound I have heard. I have had 1rBT and the MK2's which I sold in the forum, also I had the Phiaton Chord, the new Bose and the AKG's.
    You have to put in perspective the conditions you are surrounded with when you are listening to BT cans, I only use them for airplane or train travel, and I do that a lot! This means constant and annoying atmospheric noise. I dont use them for critical listening, for that I have my STAX and for calm lonely portable moments my CIEMS. No BT headphone I have heard comes close to my reference systems.
    The Zik's perform amazingly well in the conditions I use them, their noise cancelling is superior to that of Bose, especially with human voices and as I said before, the sound is way better, albeit it needs to be equalized with the app. Why is this? You may be asking, it does not support APTX!!! Well, this is where you are a bit wrong.
    Bluetooth supports other codecs, including the AAC (apple) codec to transmit lossless high resolution files, yes, thats right. And guess what, the Parrots use this codec and my 128gb iphone uses AAC to transmit over bluetooth, which in fact it is a bit better codec than APTX, especially when your files are AAC encoded. You can read more about bluetooth codecs here.
    So, if you are going to be using your iphone and your files are in AAC, well, this is the best sound that you can get out of BT so far. Of course, you have to be able to put up with all the annoying quirks of the Parrot... I do, all for better sound!

  11. ruthieandjohn

    I have LOVED both my original Parrot Zik from August 2012 and my new Parrot Zik 2.0.  It is so encouraging to hear @GuyDebord assessment that the Parrot Zik 2.0 sounds better than the Sony MDR-1RBT, the Sony MDR R1BT (MK2), and the Phiaton Chord.
    Indeed the Parrot Zik (and for that matter, the Harman Kardon BT) indicate that they send the Apple iTunes native AAC format (256 kB/sec variable bit rate) without (further) loss.  My own listening experiments indicate that I am unable to distinguish Apple iTunes AAC from lossless formats in nearly all cases.  So that is another plus for the Zik, i.e. not degrading to lowest-common-denominator SBC (subband coding) when Apt-X is not available.  The Jaybird Bluebuds have developed their own variant of SBC that they say improves audio quality above the default SBC, as well.
    @GuyDebord any guidance on what Parrot Zik app settings you use to get the best sound?  Thanks!
  12. headcoatman
    Are the Sony MK2's even being sold in the US? I can't seem to locate them anywhere online, but would love to test them out. My newly purchased Plantronics BackBeat Pro's may have too many bugs for me to keep them.
  13. WDitters

    Did you upgrade the Backbeats firmware yet? Define buggy..
  14. headcoatman
    Out of the box, I experienced issues with intermittent dropouts/stuttering. More than intermittent, actually. I use these at work where I'm moving around, and even though my phone is right in my pocket at all times, there were times when I could barely go a minute or two without some brief cut-out. I upgraded the firmware 2 nights ago, and that made matters worse, at first. After upgrading to v.22 the headphones would still auto pause the music when I removed them from my head, but the music would not resume once I put them back on. And clicking the right ear cup to hear battery life (while the music is paused) no longer worked the way it used to. Had to hold it down until it beeped a second time, then had to press once more before I got the voice telling me the battery life. 
    So, I contacted Plantronics and they advised me to completely unpair the headphones from the device, remove them from the list of devices, power down the phone and the headphones, then re-pair. This actually did solve those two new issues--but only for a little while. Both features have still been spotty, even though I've gone back and followed their suggestion twice more. 
    I so often find that while the music did pause once I took the cans off my head, it somehow starts playing again while they're resting on my neck. I'm sure it's from some movement that inadvertently activates the sensor, but it's troublesome that I can't get any reliability with this feature. And sometimes I can hear the battery life by pressing once, sometimes I have to do it twice (I realize the music has to be paused, so that's the only time I check).
    Since I love the sound so much from these headphones, I'd be willing to deal with the pausing and voice indication issues, but it's the constant dropouts that leave me truly frustrated. The phone, BTW, is a Samsung Galaxy S3. I hope to do some testing with other headphones to see if this particular issue may be inherent in the phone. Heck, maybe it's even the phone case. I still have more than two weeks left to return them if need be, so I will do further testing. 
    On another note, I do tend to find them uncomfortable. The cups are fine, it's the headband. Just can't seem to find any position on my skull that doesn't result in discomfort within 10 or 20 minutes. And if I take a break from them, and put them around my neck, they're so bulky and heavy that I can barely turn my head (feels like wearing a neck brace). Since I play music all throughout my shift, that adds up to a lot of discomfort. I'm wondering if I can come up with a DIY solution to add some extra padding to the top of the headband.
  15. n00b2
    I posted this in the other bluetooth headphones thread but I guess it belongs here as well seeing as this is the comparison thread. For anyone looking for really high end noise cancelling bluetooth headphones here is a brief comparison of some of the best ones.
    Giogio likes this.
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