The increasing quality of Bluetooth speakers, combined with their portability and wire-free convenience, is making them more popular than ever. There are countless types to choose from. Several new models just look cool, with sophisticated science fiction shapes, and others incorporate voice recognition and virtual assistants. But which is best for you, based on how you will be using them? Here are some things to consider when you’re comparing models.
In-home or portable?
Where will you be doing the most of your listening; at home or on the move? If you want a portable speaker system to take to work, or to use outside, you’ll want them to be lightweight and sturdy enough to take the impact of being jostled around in your bag. On the other hand, many Bluetooth speakers are designed to look like conversation-starting works of art, for home display. Some have magnetic parts that look like floating spaceships over the speaker’s base; others look like sculpted glass orbs. Unless you have rambunctious children or pets around, models with fragile, sculptural design elements work better at home. Models designed for in-home use will also usually need to be near an AC supply, so this may affect how you can position them in your space.
Battery life and charging
Most Bluetooth speakers are small and compact, and portable ones are powered by batteries, so they can go anywhere. but low battery life can be a problem if you are taking your speakers camping or to a music festival, or anywhere else that’s far from a wall socket. How long is the battery life, and how long does a full charge take? Can they charge from a laptop, over USB, while you work? And how robust (or easily replaceable) is the charging cable?
Placement and signal strength
Bluetooth technology has a maximum range of 10 metres, and signals can be blocked by a person, wall, or piece of furniture. If you’re buying speakers to use at home in a cluttered room, or over a larger space (like a gym or an open-plan office) consider a Wifi-based wireless system, or a Bluetooth/Wifi hybrid. Read related article here.
How light are they, and how bulky are they? Do they have a protective carrying case? Can they fit into a standard sized carry-on for air travel? Most Bluetooth speakers are small enough that this shouldn’t be a problem, but some have unusual shapes or dimensions, and if you travel a lot, it’s a good thing to check.
Setup and porting
Once you have your Bluetooth speakers up and running, how will you make sure that your phones, laptops and other devices recognise them? Some Bluetooth speakers have a tappable NFC (near field communication) reader that works like a key fob or contactless credit card. If you have an Android or other phone that uses NFC technology (iOS phones do not), all you need to do is tap your phone on the reader, and it’s ready to play.
Finally, what do they sound like? This is probably the most important question: once you’ve figured out what features you’ll need for the way you use your speakers, how can you find the set that gives the best sound for your budget?
What quality do you need—what audio sources will you be sending music from? How will the speaker be placed, and what kind of sound are you after? What sort of things do you listen to most, and what kinds of EQ controls do you need to hear them at their dynamic best? At this point, you’ll be able to narrow your search to a few contenders, and you’ll need to go and test them out.
Is the problem the headphones or the device?
Your headphones might be fine, but the problem is with your auxiliary port, or headphone jack. Test your headphones on a few other devices to see if the crackling persists, and test your device with a few other pairs of headphones that you know are in good working order. This should isolate the source of the problem. If it’s the jack, check that the headphones are securely plugged in and stay plugged in; a loose fit will cause crackling due to a poor electrical connection. Also try cleaning the tip of your headphone jack with rubbing alcohol on a cloth; dirt may be getting in the way of your connection.
One of the most common causes of crackling are loose wires inside the headphone cables. If there are loose wires at the points where the wires connect to the plug, or where the wires connect to the earbuds, you can reinforce these with the curable polymer Sugru [www.sugru.com] or even wrap the joins with electrical tape for a quick fix. If wires are loose or frayed deeper in the cable, this is probably because they have been bent or wrapped in the same direction over time. It might be too late to save this pair of headphones, but here are some tips to extend the life of others in the future.
[Link to the article How to Avoid Breaking Your Earbuds]
Do your headphones crackle at particularly loud or intense moments in a track? If the bass or treble settings are set too high for your media player to handle, the volume can cause cracking and popping and damage your headphone speakers. Try testing that this is the case by turning down the volume and listening again. You can also check any sound cards or drivers to make sure this is not a software issue on your computer or device.
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