Author Topic: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?  (Read 1565 times)

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Offline phinix

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Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« on: Wed, 26 August 2020, 18:25:39 »
I have a strong feeling that listening music with my wireless headset via Bluetooth sounds muffled, worse than via cable.
Is that possible?
How can I make wireless audio sound better?
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Offline fohat.digs

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 26 August 2020, 18:54:10 »
Real copper wire is always the best, the fatter the better.

Seriously, every time there is a conversion/re-conversion it is inevitable that the signal will degrade.
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Offline phinix

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 26 August 2020, 19:20:39 »
Real copper wire is always the best, the fatter the better.

Seriously, every time there is a conversion/re-conversion it is inevitable that the signal will degrade.

But is it really possible that I can hear it?
Even on pretty good quality headphones?
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Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 26 August 2020, 19:57:10 »
Well the wireless headset has its own DAC + AMP, this is the impact on sound you will hear..   


The wireless transmission doesn't degrade anything as long as the connection is digital.

Offline jamster

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 26 August 2020, 21:05:08 »
Real copper wire is always the best, the fatter the better.

Seriously, every time there is a conversion/re-conversion it is inevitable that the signal will degrade.

But is it really possible that I can hear it?
Even on pretty good quality headphones?

Are you using the same headphones both wired and wireless, and if so is the signal still being processed by the amp and DAC on the headphones for both modes of operation? If you are using the same, set, and the wired signal is digital/USB, then yeah, same amp/DAC in the path and the problem is BT.

Audio nuts will usually say that there is a drop in quality going Bluetooth that is because of the nature of the signal, which is improved with some of the newer implementations of the Bluetooth standard. I have never looked into this because I don't use BT headphones outside of the noisy gym. The only thing you can do is make sure that both devices are using aptc or aac.

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 26 August 2020, 22:02:53 »
Well the wireless headset has its own DAC + AMP, this is the impact on sound you will hear..   

The wireless transmission doesn't degrade anything as long as the connection is digital.
And adequate bandwidth.
As mentioned newer shouldn't have a problem if you are well within range.

People greatly underestimate how much electronics play a part in sound, bluetooth adds 3 more sets of electronics it needs to go through compared to a wire (BT conversion, reverse conversion, amplification).
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Offline phinix

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 03:28:27 »
Yes, same headphones on wire and then BT. I sit 40cm from the BT receiver.
I have a feeling like once switched to BT, first of all volume is lower, then whole audio is kinda muffled, like through some can or a bucket:)
Brand new Sony XM3. BT 5.0 on mITX mobo.
Weird.
Unhappy.
Thinking to going back to wire.
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Offline jamster

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 03:41:39 »
But what is the wire?

Is it analogue signal or is it digital? If it's USB then it's analogue and it's going through almost the same path as the BT signal so it's apples to apples. And if it's digital and BT is lower volume, that's odd too.

If it's an old style TRRS jack, then it's analogue. And you could be hearing differences from the amp/DAC.

Have you figured out which BT codec you're using? Is it one of the 'improved audio' variants?

But yeah... anyone seriously into audio will slam BT.
« Last Edit: Thu, 27 August 2020, 03:46:52 by jamster »

Online yui

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 04:36:25 »
so short answer is yes, long answer is that it will depend on both ends, the distance, and the cable, if one end only support an old bluetooth, or if you a too far away for your antenna you will not get enough bandwidth and so the sound will be muffled or will cut in and out. on the other hand analog cables have their downfall too. when they are long they also can introduce parasites and muffle the sound.
And it is not that weird that the sound will change when switching to/from bluetooth as you are switching DAC and amp, and some active noise canceling headphones only cancel noise when in bluetooth mode, so it may also explained the more muffled sound as it may get some of your music and cancel it.
Whenever i have the option i go wired and when i do not have the option the music is only there as background noise, so the quality is not that important.
if you are streaming from a computer you may want to try to find out if your bluetooth card support LDAC (the codec for your sony headphones) and if not try to find a compatible dongle, it may also improve sound quite a bit, but reading the marketing blurb from sony they do not tell it sounds any good, just that it insulate from the outside very well so may not have been their priority with those either.
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Offline phinix

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 04:51:31 »
Cable supplied with headphones, mini jack, digital.

I don't what codecs I'm using, this is first BT headphones or device I'm using.

Now when yui mentioned noise cancelling - these have it on, one of the best ANC on market - maybe it does catch some music?

To be honest, I'm a bit deaf (whole 90s teenage time on Sony walkman 24/7 ;) )and I'm not and audiophile so please don't think that I'm an expert in audio :D
I think this isn't just for me. I prefer my good old Sony MDR-1A cans on wire.
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Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 05:04:57 »
Cable supplied with headphones, mini jack, digital.
Mini jack as in standard headphone socket that fits in a soundcard or amplifier?  That's analog.  Unless it's optical but that's not something I've heard of.

If the options were wireless or USB both would be digital and we could call you crazy for hearing things but sounds like you just have good ears, however damaged they may be.  If you have a decent soundcard or DAC and amp that you're used to the signature of the DAC/amp in the new headphones may well be different, in time you might prefer it but instinctively you prefer the familiar.

I have no plans to touch wireless - at best you keep paying for new DAC/amp with every new headphone, at worst they sound worse and either way you have to worry about charging them.
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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 05:13:25 »
(random trivia with almost nothing to do with the subject at hand)
Unless it's optical but that's not something I've heard of.
hybrid mini jacks with toslink did exist (mini toslink) for some portable music devices but i have not heard of a motherboard with it.
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Offline phinix

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 05:25:12 »
Cable supplied with headphones, mini jack, digital.
Mini jack as in standard headphone socket that fits in a soundcard or amplifier?  That's analog.  Unless it's optical but that's not something I've heard of.

If the options were wireless or USB both would be digital and we could call you crazy for hearing things but sounds like you just have good ears, however damaged they may be.  If you have a decent soundcard or DAC and amp that you're used to the signature of the DAC/amp in the new headphones may well be different, in time you might prefer it but instinctively you prefer the familiar.

I have no plans to touch wireless - at best you keep paying for new DAC/amp with every new headphone, at worst they sound worse and either way you have to worry about charging them.

See, didn't even know the difference.
I just plugged to on motherboard sound card, supposed to be decent on mITX Gigabyte premium board, but I'm sure it is not amazing.

So, now when we touched the subject of wired headphones, DAC amps etc would you say that if I would get some external DAC for my phones it would produce better sound? Would I plug it to my pc's soundcard or would I need to buy some better external sound card?
Why people have those DACs anyway? Sorry, don't know anything about those, but I'm intrigued :)
There are loads on sale for example on Drop.
Would one of these make my wired headphones sound a lot better?
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Offline jamster

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 05:52:59 »
I actually admire you for being able to tell a difference, and trying to confirm it. Most people these days seem to drop $300 or whatever on wireless ANC headphones and insist that they are incredible because they are 'expensive'.

If you don't like the sound, there's nothing that can really be improved from a hardware perspective. The headphones themselves have some pretty hard physical limits imposed by being closed back, and (probably) having some pretty small drivers, and prioritising space and BoM for BT and ANC electronics + batteries. Fundamentally, these were not a product built for high sound quality, they were built for acceptable sound quality and ANC. These are all about the ANC, there is no other reason to buy this kind of product.

The one thing you might try is software EQ. This is... unlikely to help if you find the sound muffled, but you should be able to try EQ without cost or hassle.

Quote
So, now when we touched the subject of wired headphones, DAC amps etc would you say that if I would get some external DAC for my phones it would produce better sound? Would I plug it to my pc's soundcard or would I need to buy some better external sound card?
Why people have those DACs anyway? Sorry, don't know anything about those, but I'm intrigued :)
There are loads on sale for example on Drop.
Would one of these make my wired headphones sound a lot better?

Yeah, external and discrete gear can make headphones sound better. But it depends on the source material, the gear, whether the gear complements other components, and how much effort you put into listening. People talk about keyboards being a 'rabbit hole', a term which I really dislike, but keyboards are nothing compared to higher end personal audio. I have a single pair of headphones that cost more than all my keyboards combined.

The headphone world is full of magical thinking, snake oil, and slavish trends. It's surprisingly easy to get 'good enough' but it's also easy to get trapped in a recurring cycle of meaningless, money-wasting, side grades chasing the lastest FOTM.
« Last Edit: Thu, 27 August 2020, 05:58:03 by jamster »

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 06:48:55 »
(random trivia with almost nothing to do with the subject at hand)
Unless it's optical but that's not something I've heard of.
hybrid mini jacks with toslink did exist (mini toslink) for some portable music devices but i have not heard of a motherboard with it.
They do, I had one on a Pentium 4 laptop ... 18(!) years ago.  It worked nicely with my minidisc recorder which also had one but there were no headphones that used it :)



A soundcard (integrated into a motherboard or not) is a DAC (Digital to Analog Convertor) and will also have an amplification section.  Motherboards are full of electronics which can introduce noise once the sound is converted to analog so good soundcards are often shielded to avoid this.  External DACs avoid it too but if you go for a cheap-ish USB DAC/amp (what you see a lot of) you can then pick up noise through the power lines - I can hear when I scroll a white page on my monitor if there's no music playing on mine.  If you go optical to avoid USB noise (this would need an optical connector on your motherboard) but don't spend lots you can have fun with ground loops in your house's wiring creating background hum through the power supply...

Also between synergy (parts working well together) and personal taste it's the same as not telling a newbie what switches and plate they want on their keyboard - the only way to know what you like is to try lots of things and as jamster rightly says this is crazy expensive.  If you have the international 48ohm version of the MDR-1A it will benefit from an amp, the 24ohm US version won't as it's designed to be more mobile friendly.
« Last Edit: Thu, 27 August 2020, 06:50:31 by suicidal_orange »
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Online yui

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 06:55:33 »
See, didn't even know the difference.
I just plugged to on motherboard sound card, supposed to be decent on mITX Gigabyte premium board, but I'm sure it is not amazing.

So, now when we touched the subject of wired headphones, DAC amps etc would you say that if I would get some external DAC for my phones it would produce better sound? Would I plug it to my pc's soundcard or would I need to buy some better external sound card?
Why people have those DACs anyway? Sorry, don't know anything about those, but I'm intrigued :)
There are loads on sale for example on Drop.
Would one of these make my wired headphones sound a lot better?
most likely not, a bit better maybe but the file format you use will most likely have more effect than a dac/amp but is you want to go all out it is like keyboards, it is a bottomless pit of old techs with new twists on them
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Offline phinix

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #16 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 08:12:22 »
I'm not sure which ohm version I have, would need to check.

Files I listen are FLAC.

Mobo has optical output, I wonder if optical DAC/AMP would make a huge difference with these cans.
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Offline jamster

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #17 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 08:22:44 »
DACs usually make bugger all difference unless something is practically broken.

Amps won't make much difference with most non-niche headphones as they are designed to be easy to drive.

Mess around with DACs and amps if you go off the deep end with wired audiophile hear, not with Sony portables. The sound won't change much. Maybe a tiny, tiny, bit with an amp, but you're better off just getting headphones that suit you from the get go.  Don't look at more and fancier electronics as a band aid.

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #18 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 08:28:57 »
I'm not sure which ohm version I have, would need to check.

Files I listen are FLAC.

Mobo has optical output, I wonder if optical DAC/AMP would make a huge difference with these cans.
well yeah then you are already using the "best" file type around. i put best in quotation because there is more than one lossless format and well they are all in theory the best as there is no losses.
Toslink (optical) is just cd audio so if your files are > 44.1kHz 16bit then you will have loses through it so i do think that you may actually be at the best you can without going all in with shielded cables and high end DAC/amp, but even then the difference in quality will only be marginal at best, the difference in sound profile becomes more important than quality in the high end, it is why you have high end amps in which you can change the tubes/transistors and filters to alter the sound just the way you like it. still then i am only a low end audiophile :) only got an old 20 euros hifi stack and a VE odyssey as a DAC.
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Offline jamster

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #19 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 08:45:00 »
Pedantic correction: filters are in DACs, and these days opamp rolling tends to be in the extreme budget end of amps. Tube rolling is a thing though.

Offline phinix

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #20 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 09:55:36 »
Right.. so to sum it up - just stay with what I have and chill out with some nice music :D
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Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #21 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 15:51:13 »
The DAC makes ZERO difference.  If it also has an AMP stage, that's where the majority of sonic differences happen.

DACs are almost entirely linear, at least all the modern ones are. 

The problem with Amps is that it's not end-to-end tuned.  The impedance of the cable/headphone drivers will make a huge sonic impact that is not accounted for by the amp maker.

This is why HIFI in general is BULL ****.    Unless the device is done End-to-END,   Everything they claim on the box, user-reviews, professional-reviews  are ALL UNICORN Pewp.


It's like claiming Computer Monitors have Great color Accuracy out of the box,   The COMPUTER has no idea what the monitor is outputing, UNLESS it is calibrated by a Colorimeter or Spectrometer or both.

The Computer, the DAC, the AMP, again has no idea what the Headphone is doing, Transparent audio = LIESSSSSS.

Offline jamster

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #22 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 20:10:03 »
Off memory, amp impedance is extremely low (unless there's a problem with amp design) compared to headphones, it's really not a big deal. Cable impedance is negligible.

I've noticed possible impedance problems with one of my headphones, but that's because they are 8 ohm, which is freakishly low (planars with incredibly wide traces), connected to my laptop jack. Not 100% sure it's an impedance problem because my laptop audio is generally pretty bad all round.

My other headphones range from 150-300. My inexpensive desktop amp is 0.5 Ohm. Even my easy to drive portables, designed for smartphones, is 25 Ohm. Impedance really isn't an issue 99.5% of the time.

However, I would totally agree that the vast majority of reviews are total bull****. They are usually so subjective as to be devoid of any meaning, or more recently there's been a counter trend where go the other way and obsess on objective measurements which are irrelevant to human hearing. It's generally wankery via verbiage or via graphs, there are not many sources which I consider reliable. Audio is a total minefield of various flavours of crazy.
« Last Edit: Thu, 27 August 2020, 20:18:37 by jamster »

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #23 on: Thu, 27 August 2020, 21:41:58 »
The DAC makes ZERO difference.  If it also has an AMP stage, that's where the majority of sonic differences happen.

DACs are almost entirely linear, at least all the modern ones are. 
Considering you can tune a DAC in software, I have doubts.
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Online yui

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #24 on: Fri, 28 August 2020, 01:46:03 »
The DAC makes ZERO difference.  If it also has an AMP stage, that's where the majority of sonic differences happen.
it really depends on the dac, almost all DAC have at least an amp stage to line level and the design of the traces can introduce noises

DACs are almost entirely linear, at least all the modern ones are. 

The problem with Amps is that it's not end-to-end tuned.  The impedance of the cable/headphone drivers will make a huge sonic impact that is not accounted for by the amp maker.

so there exist impedance followers/adapters for the worst cases but mostly all hifi stuff uses couples impedances making it pretty easy to mix and match if you do pay a tiny bit attention and the fact that headphones have a different impedance to proper speakers is why you have specialized headphone amps

This is why HIFI in general is BULL ****.    Unless the device is done End-to-END,   Everything they claim on the box, user-reviews, professional-reviews  are ALL UNICORN Pewp.

well i still do agree that there is a lot of misinformation out there on audio stuff a bit of electronic knowledge goes a long way in making sence of it all

It's like claiming Computer Monitors have Great color Accuracy out of the box,   The COMPUTER has no idea what the monitor is outputing, UNLESS it is calibrated by a Colorimeter or Spectrometer or both.


The Computer, the DAC, the AMP, again has no idea what the Headphone is doing, Transparent audio = LIESSSSSS.

there is quite a difference, one in the context and two in the tech, when someone claim a monitor has great color accuracy out of the box is compared to other out of the box monitors, not against calibrated monitors. and then speakers are much simpler to measure and adapt to, if someone wrote the software, a sound card have all the capacity to characterize your speaker/headphones, no one does that because for most peoples it does not matter in the slightest and for audiophiles half the fun is find the right combo to make everything work.
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Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Does Bluetooth wireless audio reduce sound quality?
« Reply #25 on: Fri, 28 August 2020, 06:48:18 »

It's like claiming Computer Monitors have Great color Accuracy out of the box,   The COMPUTER has no idea what the monitor is outputing, UNLESS it is calibrated by a Colorimeter or Spectrometer or both.


The Computer, the DAC, the AMP, again has no idea what the Headphone is doing, Transparent audio = LIESSSSSS.

there is quite a difference, one in the context and two in the tech, when someone claim a monitor has great color accuracy out of the box is compared to other out of the box monitors, not against calibrated monitors. and then speakers are much simpler to measure and adapt to, if someone wrote the software, a sound card have all the capacity to characterize your speaker/headphones, no one does that because for most peoples it does not matter in the slightest and for audiophiles half the fun is find the right combo to make everything work.

This is not true, The fact that the general buyer is IGNORANT, doesn't mean they don't care.

If they Don't care at all, why spend more money, why buy into the accuracy marketing at all, why even have specifications.

Movies and Television are produced to EXACT standards.

Music generally is not, because adapting the listening environment is an insurmountable obstacle for most home customers.


Actuators are also dynamic over time.  Nothing in this world stands still.  Computer monitors go out of tune after the 1st 100 hours of use regardless of how well it's been tuned at the factory. and afterwards they're only stable for ~200-500 hours before again needing re-calibration.

Speaker cones are even less stable over time and sonically vary greatly with humidity/temperature.

It's the music industry's own fault for not applying rigorous standards of production.


The Hifi environment as it is today, is like taking a Ferrari Engine, sticking it in a Kia, then throwing the whole car in the english channel with the owner making motorboat noises as he sinks to the bottom and drowns.