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    Cables may be untidy if unmaintained, yes, and they definitely harm flexibility in some (or even many) cases. Similar to large open plan offices, it’s form over function though.

    I brief tour of the bluetooth spec (and corresponding FOSS implementations) will give you a few grey hairs I’m certain of that, there is so much cruft that I’m suprised anyone has made it work at all.

    Bluetooth, when it works, is “decent” but cables are ‘decent-er’.

    Headphone cables in particular, though, have their own reliability problems (one ear cut outs and cable “kinks” which kill connections)- but nothing is more frustrating than having a pair of headphones that just wont link to your phone or laptop- or having cut outs as you’re walking.

    WiFi has its faults but it’s more reliable by a wide factor than Bluetooth. Running ethernet cables is hard though, but once it’s done it’s kinda done, computers don’t move too much, even if you have a laptop it’s usually fairly static while working in my experience.

    Cabling everything, Playstation, TV, Laptops; leaves more of the spectrum left for your mobile devices anyway, so it’s a little win regardless.

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      As I partially agree here but I really find, focusing on the headphone/iem part, that what make cable a real problem in term of management, simply that for most of those products they are not removable. When you tend to go to more high-end or specialized HIFI products, you find removable cables (and a crazy after-market for those…). If more products have come with removable cables, the wireless advantages would have been less impactful (IMHO yadayda) for headphones/iem.

      And cable management is clearly an art form when you have some constraints of space or placement of electrical sources.

      Bluetooth is a mess and the more codecs and rev you pill on it, the more it is a mess but the kisscool effect of “looks ma, no cable” had an upper hand for the end-user/consumer.

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        Headphone cables in particular, though, have their own reliability problems

        While it’s actually quite cheap to make them well, it’s not quite as cheap as making them poorly, meaning that only high end gear tends to get the extra 10c added to the BOM. Consumers just don’t seem to buy for reliability in this (and many other) spaces.

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          In my experience I’d love to buy for reliability, but it’s often so damn hard to find. These things wear out over years, and there’s so much $200 junk on the market that’s no better than the $20 junk. I use headphones a lot, and a couple times I tried to upscale from $20 ones to $80 ones that came well reviewed… and they broke just as quickly as the cheapo ones. So for years I just bought the same $20 headset that was comfy and had good sound quality, and expected to replace it every 1-2 years. It worked pretty well, until that model was discontinued. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to branch out and try again, and I now have a pair of headphones that actually comes with a parts list for ordering replacement components. It doesn’t have a microphone though, so… I’m back to trial and error searching for headsets. I’ll let you know in 5 years how it’s going.

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            The long cycle time for getting information about reliability is a big part of the issue IMO; by the time you find out that a brand is reliable, there’s been a hostile takeover and most of the staff who made it good are gone.

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              One of the problems is that a lot of reviews are written by professional reviewers who looked at it for 10 minutes and wrote down their initial impressions about it. There are exceptions, but a lot of reviews are just shallow and written by people who have never actually used the product. This isn’t necessarily completely without value if done well, but especially stuff like long-term reliability isn’t usually addressed.

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                I had to wade through a lot of these buying a DSLR recently. Most of the reviews were nothing more than padded spec sheets.

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                … and there’s so much $200 junk on the market that’s no better than the $20 junk.

                I absolutely agree and in fact this study underpins this statement (at least from the point of view of sound reproduction quality): No correlation between headphone frequency response and retail price

                PS: Sorry for being a bit off-topic.

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                  The reason that there is no correlation “between frequency response” is because frequency response isn’t what you are paying for unless you are buying studio headphones (and Beats Studio or other gimmicky headphones don’t count) - aside from upper/lower bounds changing slightly as you pay more in ways that people will debate the value of until the end of time.

                  The price goes to tonal quality, dynamic range, and the sound stage provided in the audio among various other features. These things aren’t measured in this study.

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                  I’m surprised you could find $20 headphones that sound as good as what you could get for $80.

                  Re: lack of mic: I buy my headphones and mic separately, with the mindset of having each do their own single responsibility well. Then I have a splitter (“combiner”?) that I plug both into, that lets me plug the pair into a standard stereo+mic jack. The obvious con is that I have more wires dangling on me, but I live with that.

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                    I’m sure they didn’t sound as good as what I could get for $80, but they sounded about as good as what I did get for $80. :-P

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                      Yeah, even with headphones that have a mic built-in, half the time they cheap out and omit the hardware mute, so you’re stuck fumbling for the software mute like some kind of chump. With a hardware mic you can pick out something decent that can be controlled on its own.

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                        I have a huge collection of headphones and my experience is that most headphones between $20-$60 sound about the same and you’re just paying for a brand name. That metric moves up to $40-$110 or so for wireless. Most $20 wireless headphones hardly even work, but the ones that do are probably comparable? It varies a lot more from $120-300, then up to about $700 it narrows a bit until about the $2000 range where things vary in really cool ways =^.^=

                        …or in other words, you can buy a $40 or $80 headphone and they’re probably about the same, and a lot of $20 sound like $80 ones in the wireless world because that $80 markup went to brand & maybe better bluetooth hardware, but likely not better audio.

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                      I found the perfect solution to this. Some brands make headphones that have a 3.5mm jack in them and just come with a double ended cable. If the cable degrades which even a good one will after a couple of years of constant use, you can replace it at very low cost. Additionally even a cheap 3.5mm cable is usually higher quality than the average built in headphone cable for some reason. When I get headphones with replaceable cables the cable seems to degrade much slower.

                      Now I have to figure out a way to replace/conserve the padding/upholstery which seems to disintegrate after a couple of years.

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                        Some brands make headphones that have a 3.5mm jack in them and just come with a double ended cable.

                        Yup. After having to replace the jack on a fixed-cable pair of headphones multiples times I decided to never buy fixed-cable headphones again.

                        Additionally even a cheap 3.5mm cable is usually higher quality than the average built in headphone cable for some reason. When I get headphones with replaceable cables the cable seems to degrade much slower.

                        Also my experience. I’ve had my current pair of headphones for around 3 years, and the cable is still working just fine.

                        Now I have to figure out a way to replace/conserve the padding/upholstery which seems to disintegrate after a couple of years.

                        The earphone pads are replaceable. I’m a big fan of memory foam ones, which are much less fatiguing to wear for long stretches of time.

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                    Bluetooth has been the worst wireless offender. Every device I try with (except an iPhone) its always a frustrating game of degraded performance and random un-pairings where the only solution is to power everything down and start fresh. As the author points out, the custom dongles do work, but I was under the impression they work specifically because they are wireless and not bluetooth.

                    The frustrating part is that many mice and keyboards are simply not available in wired versions.

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                      Never had any issues with Bluetooth on Android, neither on Windows. Only pairing speakers on Linux is a challenge, but this seems to get better over time.

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                      My particular bugbear is keyboards. Whatever your need for fancy low-latency typing, most keyboards aren’t going anywhere relative to the computer in use and having batteries just means something else to fail or need charging. When my laptop is at my desk, I use a wired USB keyboard. I worked in an office where we all had Apple “magic” keyboards, and spent some time asking who had brought their charge cable in with them, or working out whether the cleaner had moved some of the keyboards around.

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                        It’s possible to find lower-latency Bluetooth headsets if they support the right “codec,” like “AptX Low Latency.”

                        On my previous phone, AAC was slow, to the point of YouTube videos where anyone talks feeling desynced when listening on my Jabra earbuds. I’ve had to switch to SBC in developer settings.. which Android wouldn’t fscking remember, so I’ve had to do it every time >_< New phone seems to be able to do AAC fast enough.

                        many Bluetooth accessories today still ship with proprietary dongles

                        hmm — in my experience it’s much more common to ship non-bluetooth dongles (e.g. “Logitech Unifying Receiver”).

                        Most mice support both Bluetooth and a custom wireless protocol which doesn’t need configuration (the dongle appears directly as a USB HID device) and wireless gaming mice can be as low latency as wired ones.

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                          Very interesting write-up, and I learned a few things as well.

                          It also occurs to me that, because of interference and intermittent problems, wireless tech in general works better the less you use it. One phone or laptop on a wifi network will often work just fine when you need it to, but add a half dozen more plus a file server and you’re far more likely to have problems.

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                            I hated the clutter of cables, and my tendency to unconsciously chew on them if they got anywhere near my face.

                            I am not sure if the author is reading these comments but maybe someone else can answer:

                            Is this the sum total of the objections to cables? I have always been a cable purist, and when I try to convince others that e.g. our current voip difficulties would be resolved by them switching to a cable they never seem able to properly articulate what their problem with cables is.

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                              My main problem with cables is that, in the specific case of headphones and [worn] mics, they need housekeeping to keep out of the way of my arms and hands (which are typing, mousing, or handling a game controller). Furthermore, when I put devices down on my desk, the cables cause a risk of something getting pulled off the desk and dropping to the floor. I’ve added some non-slip material to some areas of my desk to help, but still.

                              Despite all that, my headphones and mic are wired, but if I could have the best of both worlds, it would be great.

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                                they need housekeeping to keep out of the way of my arms and hand

                                I’ve never had this issue. The biggest problem to me is that my headphone cable will sometimes get stuck under my chair.

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                                I don’t use wireless stuff, but I don’t like having to deal with cable management. /shrug

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                                i feel like old man yelling at cloud because i’ve personally felt this way for quite some time, and i know accomplished professionals in the field who have felt the same way the op did, as if they were on a crusade against wires, and i must confess, i tended to think less of people like that.

                                almost like “people who don’t like wires aren’t real IT people”

                                the post tends to feel a bit like vindication, but i also appreciate that not everyone that works in information technology also has like audio/visual and pro audio as hobbies, where this fact is already firmly established

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                                  The other problem with any devices that use lithium ion batteries (particularly ones that are regularly close to your face like wireless earbuds or headphones), is the potential for the battery to explode. While uncommon, it still happens from time to time. I hope battery tech for a less volatile alternative to lithium ion becomes viable soon.

                                  Part of the reason I hate wireless stuff is the lack of visibility into what’s going on. I wish there was an easy way to get debug info and statistics on Linux for the WiFi protocol – I can never tell how many frames I’m dropping due to interference or what scans are happening at any point in time. Signal strength is a very poor proxy for any of that information.

                                  I’ve heard a bunch of bad things about Bluetooth’s complexity too. I’m always suspicious (both for security and freedom) of protocols that aren’t easy to implement without a team of developers and the funding of a large organization.

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                                    To add to your point about batteries, they are environmentally pretty unsound. Slapping them into devices where a wire would work fine (headphones…) is not a trend I want to get behind.

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                                    Even non-Wifi devices may cause interference:

                                    somebody I know had problems with music streaming when the microwave was on.

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                                      When my wife and I first started dating and moved into a place together, she was kinda dumbfounded at how insistent I was about having everything we actually wanted to RELY on have an ethernet cable attached.

                                      Some wise old friend years ago said “wifi is pretend”. She was undeniably right.

                                      That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t strive to have good wifi, just that it’s a very complex equation with quite a number of variables, any of which can change at any time.

                                      Take our current apartment - it’s 1000 square feet, and EVERYONE insists that any cheapo router should be able to cover the whole thing adequately.

                                      They’re mostly right, EXCEPT for one dead spot in our kitchen, which as it turns out is blocked by our HVAC gear which has a ton of insulation around it. Repeated benchmarks show an ~10dbm and ~100Mbit/s drop in that space, which is enough to make folks with dodgy adapters of not well tuned operating systems notice and whine bitterly.

                                      So I went with Unifi gear this time around and am putting a dedicated AP in that spot which will solve the problem.

                                      But that’s a LOT of effort, and most people probably aren’t willing to go to the lengths I was to make it right.

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                                        I mostly agree, and go out of my way to hardwire everything that I can’t find a major benefit from being wireless.

                                        Desktop is wired, because duh. Why pay for a Gigabit FIOS connection and then pipe it over a WiFi that can’t possibly be that good, to a desktop a foot away that would need a wireless card? Keyboard too, since those never move much either, plus batteries, plus sending passwords over sniff-able interfaces. I also use wired speakers and mike and camera at home, though I have my own place.

                                        I do like wireless headphones and mice though. Headphone wires seem so unwieldy and likely to get tangled or snagged. I haven’t had any issues with latency or dropouts over Bluetooth luckily. And mice have proved to be pretty good with the custom wireless adapters, and no wire to get in the way of moving around is nice.

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                                          I replaced all of my wireless that I can with wired a couple years ago, but it’s unfortunate that so many devices don’t even support wired connections any more. Are there any clever hacks to get around that aside from just running an AP?

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                                            What sort of devices do you have in mind? In theory, most things which have USB ports (phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops) can use a USB-ethernet adaptor to connect to a wired network (or you can e.g. share a network connection over USB from an ethernet-connected laptop to a phone).

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                                              A lot of small semi-portable and media devices don’t support ethernet. Some do if you plug in a USB->ethernet adapter or whatever, like the Nintendo Switch, but some don’t even support that.

                                              It seems unlikely that there’s a good solution for phones or anything similar to that, so having a network for wireless devices and trying to minimize the number of devices is probably the best that we can do, but it’s unfortunate because then they can’t easily interact with ethernet devices without also putting them on the same network.

                                              Wireless is also a security concern as opposed to ethernet, but a lot of people don’t care as much for that angle I suppose.

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                                                It seems unlikely that there’s a good solution for phones or anything similar to that

                                                My phone and tablet work fine with an OTG cable and an Ethernet adapter.

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                                                  Yeah, this is an option. I just don’t see myself walking around without my phone internet off, and I also don’t see myself plugging ethernet into my phone. That’s why I used it as an example of a case where I end up needing wifi =^.^=

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                                            I’ve tried to make Steam Link work over Wi-Fi. I’ve got high-end hardware. I’ve upgraded my router to the latest-greatest cyber-hedgehog of antennas. The client is only a couple of meters away from the router. It’s supposed to have over a gigabit of bandwidth and I only need 1% of that speed. And it still doesn’t work well! Randomly the stream gets choppy, latency spikes and it’s unplayable. I’ve given up and ran Ethernet cable instead.

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                                              Same issue here a couple years ago.

                                              Even with a gigabit of bandwidth, latency and (maybe?) processing speed are still something to account for here. Ethernet works for Steam Link, but wireless networking just isn’t good at real-time video tasks. Things like Netflix only work well because they can buffer content. Even live streams on things like YouTube, Twitch, etc on most live platforms seem to fail often over wifi without buffering.

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                                              I’ve been fighting with this lately. I’m writing a client for an amateur radio transceiver that sends audio as a stream of UDP packets, and I have to deal with sample rate drift between the sender and the receiver to make sure that buffers don’t overrun or underrun. On Ethernet I’ve got things working pretty well. On WiFi… wow. I generally thought my network was pretty fast and worked pretty well. But if I run the client on my laptop on WiFi, the amount of jitter, dropped packets, and reordered packets I get… Well, it’s been a real good test of the quality of my sync algorithms, I can say that.

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                                                about the headphones, I don’t want to miss wireless. the freedom to pace around the flat while in a call / thinking etc is hard to get with wires. in case Bluetooth is not reliable enough, there are many devices with custom USB sound card receivers that are very plug and play

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                                                  Yes, I believe my FireTV stick would perform better if I could connect it via cable.

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                                                    a big reason why i stick to my trusty old home theater PC… i can’t get over those TV sticks with nothing but wireless…

                                                    i even have an ethernet cable plugged into my TV, and i only really use it for control…

                                                    my home theater receiver is also wired ethernet…

                                                    my mantra is always “if something is stationary, it should hard wired” this can be difficult when you’re renting or otherwise can’t bust into the walls

                                                    it also helps having all of the expertise and tools to run data cable

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                                                    I only needed a headphone cable to pull my $1200 phone out of my pocket and then let it smash on the concrete once before the age of wired headphones was forever over. Good riddance to them.

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                                                      I’ve definitely come to appreciate wires a lot more recently. For me, it started with headphones. I would gladly keep a wire if it means my headphones have infinite battery life, connect instantly to all my devices, and last 5 or more years. Ethernet was the next rediscovery. I have recently built a desktop and boy it’s great. My internet is faster. My hardware is faster. Linux works better. Everything is just better. I do still have a laptop, but I only use it if I have to.

                                                      It feels like someone said, “We’ll give you something that looks pretty with less effort, but in return everything will be buggier, slower, and overall more degraded.”

                                                      Not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, but if I can wire something, I definitely will.

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                                                        I’ve had about the same experience with wireless mice. My wireless Logitech G403 and MX Ergo would both lag for a second every thirty seconds or so. It was fine when just browsing the web, but I almost lost my mind playing Age of Empires, which is a very mouse-driven game… The lag even seemed to worsen and happen more often with increased CPU load.

                                                        I then switched to the only wired mouse I have, a twenty-year-old ball mouse. No stuttering, works perfectly 100% of the time, and no need to worry about charging. Admittedly, the mouse would be nicer to use without a cable, but the hassle just isn’t worth it to me.