12 votes

Product recommendation request: low latency wireless earbuds

Alright, so I fell down a rabbit hole of trying to understand a whole bunch of techy things that I don't fully understand and could use some help:


What I'm looking for: a pair of Bluetooth wireless earbuds that I can pair with my computer, with low enough latency that it won't impair my enjoyment in casual gaming/video watching


What I understand so far: Almost nothing. 😔 I get that Bluetooth will always have some level of latency, but, beyond that, I've got nothing. I'm so confused.

There are lots of different versions of Bluetooth, and then there are different Bluetooth protocols within that, and then different audio codecs, and each piece of hardware seems to support completely different combinations of those, and I'm not sure if the devices have to match configurations or even how to figure out what my computer supports? It seems Bluetooth will gracefully fall back to worse codecs/protocols if better ones are incompatible, but I don't really want to buy something that's just going to fall back to its worst usecase.

I also don't know what's an "acceptable" level of latency. What's reasonable versus what's intolerable?

It also seems like the information I read online is subject to rapid decay. I read a bunch of stuff only a few years old saying I should look for aptX Low Latency capability, but then I read very recent posts saying that's dead and to go with aptX Adaptive instead. Meanwhile there are a handful of gaming-focused headsets that say they're low latency but don't really say how (e.g. Razer's Hammerhead). And some, like Samsung's buds, having a "gaming mode" but it only works on special hardware.

Also, how do I know what my computer itself will support? Is there anything I can do from the computer side to reduce latency, or is that strictly a function of what my hardware supports and which earbuds I buy?


My usecase:

My computer is a System 76 Oryx Pro (5) running Pop!_OS 21.10. I think its Bluetooth adapter is version 5.1 (though I'm not confident on that). I do not know which protocols/codecs it supports, nor how to find that out.

Audio quality isn't too important. These will be for everyday video-watching and gaming, which is what's prompting the latency requirement. I'd rather them be responsive than rich.

Active noise cancelling would be nice to have (especially if it has a toggleable transparency mode), but I don't know if ANC adds latency and is therefore incompatible with what I'm wanting.

I don't have a specific budget for it, and that's honestly the least important requirement. If the solution exists I'm fine paying for it (within reason, of course). These will end up getting used for thousands of hours, so even a big price difference upfront will even out over time.

I'd appreciate any help anyone can offer in pointing me in the right direction on this!

39 comments

  1. [4]
    babypuncher
    Link
    Bluetooth is basically out of the question still. Even with my AirPods Pro, which are generally very low latency when used on high end smartphones (iPhones, Galaxy S, etc), they still render games...

    Bluetooth is basically out of the question still. Even with my AirPods Pro, which are generally very low latency when used on high end smartphones (iPhones, Galaxy S, etc), they still render games basically unplayable on my Switch and my PC. The topic of latency in bluetooth audio is incredibly complex, and dependent on both the sending and receiving devices.

    There are wireless gaming headsets that come with a USB dongle that use a proprietary modified version of bluetooth. They will work on any device that supports standard USB audio devices, which includes any PC/Mac and I believe all the modern consoles.

    7 votes
    1. Akir
      Link Parent
      I would agree. If you want good low-latency earphones, you should go with zero-latency, and that means wires. Alternatively there are RF wireless audio solutions that have close to zero latency,...

      I would agree. If you want good low-latency earphones, you should go with zero-latency, and that means wires.

      Alternatively there are RF wireless audio solutions that have close to zero latency, but they're fairly niche and generally require a relatively bulky reciever with a wired headset.

      2 votes
    2. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Have you used any of them that you would recommend?

      Have you used any of them that you would recommend?

      1 vote
      1. babypuncher
        Link Parent
        No. I had a bad experience with the Logitech G930s a long time ago and gave up on gaming headsets in general. These days I buy proper dedicated headphones (my current favorites are my Beyerdynamic...

        No. I had a bad experience with the Logitech G930s a long time ago and gave up on gaming headsets in general. These days I buy proper dedicated headphones (my current favorites are my Beyerdynamic DT-880s) and turn them into a headset using my Antlion wireless ModMic.

        I doubt modern wireless headsets are as bad as my 930s were so I wouldn't let that dissuade anyone from going that route.

        5 votes
  2. hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    EDIT: As the comments and anecdotal experiences (including mine) continue to be posted, these are the two things I want to stress most: Again, providing the output of lsusb and lspci would be...

    EDIT: As the comments and anecdotal experiences (including mine) continue to be posted, these are the two things I want to stress most:

    • Again, providing the output of lsusb and lspci would be super helpful for determining what version of bluetooth your laptop supports
    • You really ought to buy a pair of wireless earbuds, regardless of the good or bad anecdotes posted here. I personally have had a phenomenal experience with my pair of earbuds with my laptop, but like most other wireless products, earbuds can behave weirdly and differently across hardware. You're never going to know for sure what your experience is going to be until you actually buy and try (and you can just return them if you have a bad experience)

    Hi kfwyre, I recently went through the gauntlet of finding a good pair of wireless earbuds for my laptop.

    First and foremost, providing the output of lsusb and lspci like @mtset suggested would be very helpful.

    Second, I respectfully disagree with @babypuncher. I use a pair of bluetooth wireless earbuds every single day. They work perfectly for watching videos, listening to music, and playing games. I cannot discern any latency at all, the audio quality is great, and they have completely replaced my wired headphones when using my laptop.

    It's important to keep in mind though, that every person's "latency tolerance" is going to be different, so earbuds I cannot detect any latency when using might not give you the same experience, even on the same hardware.

    And of course, you and I do not have the same hardware either, so that complicates things further.

    Having said all that, my recommendation is simple: buy one of the three pairs of earbuds I am going to recommend, test them out for latency, and then either keep or return them if the latency is too high for you, or if you want to spend more money on another pair with active noise cancellation (which I did not splurge for, because I rarely use earbuds in public).

    My laptop has an Intel AX201 controller that provides bluetooth 5.2, so I specifically set out to get bluetooth 5.2 earbuds. This is the first pair I tried:

    These were actually fine for me "mechanically". They had no noticeable latency, the audio quality was great, and they paired and connected to my (Linux) laptop with zero issues.

    Unfortunately though, no matter which of the included eartips I used, they ultimately were uncomfortable and caused my ears to hurt after about an hour of wearing them.

    So, I returned them and picked these up instead:

    Just like the pair above, these were "mechanically" perfect. No noticeable latency, great audio quality, worked excellently with my laptop. Zero issues.

    This is the pair I ultimately ended up keeping and am using today.

    Also, I have not personally used them, but I have heard that the Nothing ear (1) are great.

    Finally, the first pair of wireless earbuds I used with my laptop were hand-me-down first generation Samsung Galaxy Buds. As far as I can tell these were just plain bluetooth 5.0 earbuds. I replaced them because their audio latency was very noticeable. If your laptop only supports bluetooth 5.0 then:

    • you might not be able to use bluetooth wireless earbuds without noticeable latency
    • or it could have just been a fluke with my laptop and that specific device
    • or maybe even if your laptop is bluetooth 5.0 only, bluetooth 5.1(2) earbuds might still work better
    • welcome to the flaky world of wireless products 😁

    Seriously though, please post the output of those commands @mtset mentioned. That will provide some valuable insight into what you should or should not buy


    Oh and also, regarding aptX, my laptop and earbuds support it, and it is the default profile, so that is what I use. I have tried the non-aptX profiles before though, and they also worked fine with no noticeable latency, no discernible difference in audio quality, etc. The only time when the audio quality is noticeably worse is when I am using an "input + output" profile that allows me to use the built-in microphones on the earbuds, during Zoom calls for instance, but I rarely do that because that's what my laptop's microphone is for.

    7 votes
  3. [13]
    Adys
    Link
    Hi kfwyre, I know this rabbit hole all too well. And I have bad news, which you may have gathered from the other comments already... Bluetooth audio is a non-starter on Linux. In short, you might...

    Hi kfwyre, I know this rabbit hole all too well. And I have bad news, which you may have gathered from the other comments already...

    Bluetooth audio is a non-starter on Linux. In short, you might have gathered there are multiple protocols for transmitting bluetooth (HSP, HFP, A2DP). Which one you use will influence bidirectionality (whether you have a mic) and audio quality (at a "why is the music sounding like it's coming through a landline phone" level).

    Earbuds-wise, I love my airpods pro. Headset-wise, I really like the Sony wm-1000xm4. But I use neither of those on Linux as right now it's a fucking lost cause. The software support is abysmal in terms of pairing experience, and the UX is awful all around. This is before we even get into the more finnicky things you want out of bluetooth earbuds.

    Furthermore, you're targeting low latency, but that is a lost cause on all systems. It does depend on your tolerance for it, but you mentioned gaming, IMO there is no product that exists right now that will be good enough to address latency at a gaming level. Nintendo refused to add support for bluetooth audio on the switch for the longest time because of this.

    I see you in the rabbit hole right now, but you're still within reach. All I can do is extend my hand and tell you "it's time to come out now", before you fall too far into the abyss of "low latency bluetooth audio on linux".

    Let's talk about simpler things, like geopolitics.

    7 votes
    1. [4]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I literally laughed out loud. 🤣 I was DEEP in the rabbit hole when I made this post. I looked up, saw that my browser had maybe 50+ tabs open, and realized that I felt further away from an answer...

      I see you in the rabbit hole right now, but you're still within reach. All I can do is extend my hand and tell you "it's time to come out now", before you fall too far into the abyss of "low latency bluetooth audio on linux".

      Let's talk about simpler things, like geopolitics.

      I literally laughed out loud. 🤣

      I was DEEP in the rabbit hole when I made this post. I looked up, saw that my browser had maybe 50+ tabs open, and realized that I felt further away from an answer than when I had first started.

      It's actually great to see so many informed people here like you affirming the complexity of the situation, as for a while I couldn't tell if the problem was me or not. "Am I WAY overcomplicating this?" was a common question as I tried to find an answer last night.

      A huge thank you to you and everyone else in this community for being trusted, knowledgeable, and helpful voices I can turn to with tech questions.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        Protected
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Just a heads up; if you do decide to go with bluetooth, and depending on your portability use case, you can always choose to carry around one of these and plug it to the s/pdif (optical) out...

        Just a heads up; if you do decide to go with bluetooth, and depending on your portability use case, you can always choose to carry around one of these and plug it to the s/pdif (optical) out compatible jack in your laptop. It supports a wide array of codecs and will handle connection to your wireless device flawlessly (in my experience) while being completely transparent to the OS, so your laptop specs and handling of bluetooth issues (or lack thereof) really stop mattering.

        This solution does not support microphone use AFAIK.

        EDIT: I see someone else already recommended an adapter, so this is just a matter of quality and range of supported codecs in this case.

        Some people have mentioned Sony WH1000XM3 and WH1000XM4 (newer, more expensive) headphones. Some things to have in mind about how these two compare:

        The WH1000XM3s still use Bluetooth 4.2.
        The WH1000XM4s use Bluetooth 5.0. However, inexplicably, they dropped support for aptX. They have slightly better noise cancellation than the XM3.... But the touch controls on the cans seem to malfunction very easily (you can look this up for testimonials). You can disable these touch controls.

        I would go with the newer model if you care about the noise cancellation and bluetooth version, otherwise the older model is likely a better deal.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          Akir
          Link Parent
          Is this still a thing? I haven't seen an optical output on a laptop since around the year 2000.

          plug it to the s/pdif (optical) out compatible jack in your laptop.

          Is this still a thing? I haven't seen an optical output on a laptop since around the year 2000.

          1 vote
          1. Protected
            Link Parent
            Apparently it's a thing on this laptop at least.

            Apparently it's a thing on this laptop at least.

            1 vote
    2. [8]
      mat
      Link Parent
      Sounds like a DE thing, because in Gnome: Open 'Bluetooth' settings. Click 'set up' on previously unpaired device. Pair. Then, for an audio device, simply adjust the relevant volume slider as...

      The software support is abysmal in terms of pairing experience, and the UX is awful all around.

      Sounds like a DE thing, because in Gnome: Open 'Bluetooth' settings. Click 'set up' on previously unpaired device. Pair. Then, for an audio device, simply adjust the relevant volume slider as required.

      It's pretty painless, generally more faff is involved in making sure my device is in pairing mode than in getting my laptop to play nicely.

      I can't comment on the other points you raise because I very rarely use BT audio on my laptop and when I do it's not for gaming - but Bluetooth UX being broken in linux isn't entirely the case.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        Both Gnome and KDE have decent UX for the base scenarios, but I've repeatedly found it to be broken in case of failures such as pairing errors, protocol support, failing requests, etc. It's broken...

        Both Gnome and KDE have decent UX for the base scenarios, but I've repeatedly found it to be broken in case of failures such as pairing errors, protocol support, failing requests, etc. It's broken enough that somebody that is dealing with edge cases or any kind of imperfect scenario will be scratching their head at "what the fuck is going on and why is all this so mysterious?".

        5 votes
        1. mat
          Link Parent
          Ah, fair enough. I haven't encountered any of those kind of issues but Bluetooth is such weird voodoo that's probably just me being lucky than anything else.

          Ah, fair enough. I haven't encountered any of those kind of issues but Bluetooth is such weird voodoo that's probably just me being lucky than anything else.

          3 votes
      2. [5]
        petrichor
        Link Parent
        Unfortunately, also in GNOME: Open Bluetooth settings, click the "on" switch, it doesn't turn on and there's no feedback Search around a bit, run systemctl start bluetooth.service Flip switch on...

        Unfortunately, also in GNOME:

        • Open Bluetooth settings, click the "on" switch, it doesn't turn on and there's no feedback
        • Search around a bit, run systemctl start bluetooth.service
        • Flip switch on again
        • Settings stall out, but Bluetooth looks like it's on from the system tray
        • Try to open Bluetooth settings from there - instant crash. all bluetooth settings vanish.
        • If you somehow do get it up and running, then pairing is a dice roll for whether it'll work perfectly, silently fail, or just won't detect your headset.

        When it works, it works nicely like how you described, but when it doesn't...

        5 votes
        1. [4]
          mtset
          Link Parent
          May I ask what distro this is on?

          May I ask what distro this is on?

          2 votes
          1. [3]
            petrichor
            Link Parent
            It's on Arch Linux - which I think has a pretty normal Bluetooth stack. I never looked really hard into the problem, because I was just using it occasionally when I was someplace and only had my...

            It's on Arch Linux - which I think has a pretty normal Bluetooth stack. I never looked really hard into the problem, because I was just using it occasionally when I was someplace and only had my cheap wireless earbuds that I use with my phone. What makes it annoying is just how inconsistent it's been. My experience above was from just last week, but I tried it again today and had no problems after a systemctl command.

            3 votes
            1. [2]
              mtset
              Link Parent
              Yeah, that's very annoying! I've never had that issue on Ubuntu - I wonder what's different about their configurations?

              Yeah, that's very annoying! I've never had that issue on Ubuntu - I wonder what's different about their configurations?

              3 votes
              1. petrichor
                Link Parent
                Maybe something to do with the higher level interface? The whole Bluetooth stack doesn't crash whenever I run into problems, just everything that GNOME does with it (in Settings and the system...

                Maybe something to do with the higher level interface? The whole Bluetooth stack doesn't crash whenever I run into problems, just everything that GNOME does with it (in Settings and the system menu). I'm not sure what Ubuntu uses but maybe its frontend can recover better from errors?

                1 vote
  4. [2]
    DrStone
    Link
    Whenever I'm looking at headphones, I see if rtings has anything on them. They do a bunch of analysis from latency and audio frequency response to an ear thermal image.

    Whenever I'm looking at headphones, I see if rtings has anything on them. They do a bunch of analysis from latency and audio frequency response to an ear thermal image.

    5 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This is great resource, thank you. They have latency numbers for each type of connection under the Bluetooth section, which is exactly what I'm looking for. This brings me to another question:...

      This is great resource, thank you. They have latency numbers for each type of connection under the Bluetooth section, which is exactly what I'm looking for.

      This brings me to another question: across many different earbuds, the connection to iOS and Android is significantly faster than to a PC. For example, the Sennheiser CX True Wireless buds have >300ms latency when connected to a PC but <40ms when connected to iOS/Android. The Jabra Elite 75T has a similar gap. Other headphones follow a similar pattern, and even when the gap between connections is smaller, the phones consistently outperform PC connection.

      Anyone have any idea why that is?

      3 votes
  5. [6]
    mtset
    Link
    I know nothing about the rest of this question, as I shun wireless whenever possible, but if you post the output of the commands lsusb and lspci, I can look up your Bluetooth adapter.

    I do not know which protocols/codecs it supports, nor how to find that out.

    I know nothing about the rest of this question, as I shun wireless whenever possible, but if you post the output of the commands lsusb and lspci, I can look up your Bluetooth adapter.

    4 votes
    1. [5]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      cc: @hungariantoast lsusb Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub Bus 001 Device 005: ID 04f2:b685 Chicony Electronics Co., Ltd Chicony USB2.0 Camera Bus 001 Device 004: ID...

      cc: @hungariantoast

      lsusb
      Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub
      Bus 001 Device 005: ID 04f2:b685 Chicony Electronics Co., Ltd Chicony USB2.0 Camera
      Bus 001 Device 004: ID 046d:0a13 Logitech, Inc. Z-5 Speakers
      Bus 001 Device 003: ID 045e:00db Microsoft Corp. Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 V1.0
      Bus 001 Device 007: ID 8087:0aaa Intel Corp. Bluetooth 9460/9560 Jefferson Peak (JfP)
      Bus 001 Device 006: ID 06cb:00c7 Synaptics, Inc. 
      Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0db0:0d11 Micro Star International MSI GM11 Gaming Mouse
      Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
      Bus 004 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub
      Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
      
      lspci
      00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation 8th Gen Core Processor Host Bridge/DRAM Registers (rev 07)
      00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 6th-10th Gen Core Processor PCIe Controller (x16) (rev 07)
      00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation CoffeeLake-H GT2 [UHD Graphics 630]
      00:04.0 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Xeon E3-1200 v5/E3-1500 v5/6th Gen Core Processor Thermal Subsystem (rev 07)
      00:12.0 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH Thermal Controller (rev 10)
      00:14.0 USB controller: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH USB 3.1 xHCI Host Controller (rev 10)
      00:14.2 RAM memory: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH Shared SRAM (rev 10)
      00:14.3 Network controller: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH CNVi WiFi (rev 10)
      00:15.0 Serial bus controller [0c80]: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH Serial IO I2C Controller #0 (rev 10)
      00:15.1 Serial bus controller [0c80]: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH Serial IO I2C Controller #1 (rev 10)
      00:16.0 Communication controller: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH HECI Controller (rev 10)
      00:17.0 SATA controller: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake Mobile PCH SATA AHCI Controller (rev 10)
      00:1b.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH PCI Express Root Port #21 (rev f0)
      00:1d.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH PCI Express Root Port #9 (rev f0)
      00:1d.6 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH PCI Express Root Port #15 (rev f0)
      00:1d.7 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH PCI Express Root Port #16 (rev f0)
      00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation HM470 Chipset LPC/eSPI Controller (rev 10)
      00:1f.3 Audio device: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH cAVS (rev 10)
      00:1f.4 SMBus: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH SMBus Controller (rev 10)
      00:1f.5 Serial bus controller [0c80]: Intel Corporation Cannon Lake PCH SPI Controller (rev 10)
      01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation TU106M [GeForce RTX 2070 Mobile] (rev a1)
      01:00.1 Audio device: NVIDIA Corporation TU106 High Definition Audio Controller (rev a1)
      01:00.2 USB controller: NVIDIA Corporation TU106 USB 3.1 Host Controller (rev a1)
      01:00.3 Serial bus controller [0c80]: NVIDIA Corporation TU106 USB Type-C UCSI Controller (rev a1)
      07:00.0 Non-Volatile memory controller: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd NVMe SSD Controller SM981/PM981/PM983
      08:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 15)
      09:00.0 Unassigned class [ff00]: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTS525A PCI Express Card Reader (rev 01)
      
      3 votes
      1. [4]
        mtset
        Link Parent
        Thank you! Your Bluetooth adapter is: You were absolutely right, it supports Bluetooth 5.1 at maximum.

        Thank you! Your Bluetooth adapter is:

        Intel Corp. Bluetooth 9460/9560 Jefferson Peak (JfP)

        You were absolutely right, it supports Bluetooth 5.1 at maximum.

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Thanks, mtset! Also those are two very handy commands I didn't know about, so thanks for teaching me some Linux basics too! Follow-up question for the group: is there any way I can figure out...

          Thanks, mtset! Also those are two very handy commands I didn't know about, so thanks for teaching me some Linux basics too!

          Follow-up question for the group: is there any way I can figure out which protocols/codecs are supported by my hardware now that I know what it is? I tried searching up the specifications or a manual for it but didn't turn up anything.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            mtset
            Link Parent
            Absolutely, I'm glad to help! lsusb, especially, is very helpful when a device isn't working; those numbers they give (xxxx:yyyy) are unique per kind of device, and you can look them up here. I...

            Absolutely, I'm glad to help! lsusb, especially, is very helpful when a device isn't working; those numbers they give (xxxx:yyyy) are unique per kind of device, and you can look them up here.

            I think the audio codec support is on the software side. Pop! 21.10 ships with Pulseaudio 15, which supports aptx, aptx_hd, ldac_hq ("High Quality"), ldac_sq ("Standard Quality"), ldac_mq ("Mobile Quality"), sbc, sbc_xq_453, sbc_xq_512, and sbc_xq_55. I don't know enough about Bluetooth to say which would be better.

            3 votes
            1. kfwyre
              Link Parent
              Awesome. I'm far from an expert, but from what I've gathered in my frenzied, disorganized, and cursory web searches on the matter, LDAC can support very high quality audio, aptX is below that, and...

              Awesome.

              I'm far from an expert, but from what I've gathered in my frenzied, disorganized, and cursory web searches on the matter, LDAC can support very high quality audio, aptX is below that, and SBC is the lowest quality fallback that works if everything else is incompatible. (Note: I could be VERY wrong on this!)

              The list you provided is especially helpful and exactly what I was wanting to know, as it doesn't have aptX-LL (Low Latency). It's unclear if that's something I can enable on the software side or if I'd need to buy an adapter like @psi mentioned in their post. I'd rather avoid the dongle hanging out of one of my ports, so if it's not something I can easily enable, I'm leaning towards rolling the dice with a standard aptX-compatible device with low-ish latency.

              I appreciate the help, mtset!

              3 votes
  6. [3]
    Gyrfalcon
    Link
    As an admittedly anecdotal counterpoint to some of the despairing responses here, I have a pair of bluetooth headphones that I did not make any effort for selecting Linux compatibility and they...

    As an admittedly anecdotal counterpoint to some of the despairing responses here, I have a pair of bluetooth headphones that I did not make any effort for selecting Linux compatibility and they work just fine. They are the Jabra Elite 75t, which I purchased manufacturer refurbished through eBay about 10 months ago. They connect without major issue to my Windows work laptop, my Android phone, and my Linux personal laptop and desktop. The Linux machines are both running Manjaro with a Cinnamon DE, and fairly up to date kernel, ~5.15 or so. The laptop has an Intel 8620 wireless controller and the desktop has an Intel 3168NGW wireless controller, both supporting up to Bluetooth 4.2, though the headphones work up to Bluetooth 5.0. The same company has newer models available, and explicitly lists compatibility with the various Bluetooth protocols such as A2DP. They even work in the two devices connected mode with one device being a Linux machine, though I have not tried connecting both Linux machines simultaneously.

    For me personally, I have not noticed any excessive latency when watching video, even in a sync test like this one. I have not done really any gaming on my Linux machines with these headphones, but all mobile games have been fine. I can investigate this later today and respond with an update. They also have ANC and a mode to allow noise through, but I have not investigated latency on these modes as I usually use them when cleaning the house and listening to something only. My only complaint is that I typically use them for work, either to listen to music/podcasts while I work, and to do only the receive audio on calls as I have a separate mic. For an 8 hour day, I have to make sure to pop them in the charging case while I eat lunch to avoid running out, but in the end that's fine as it encourages me to read instead of playing on my phone at lunch.

    I have also had lesser success with some Soundpeats Q12 headphones, but those are a much lower budget option, so I won't go into detail unless someone asks.

    4 votes
    1. psi
      Link Parent
      My experience with Bluetooth headphones on Linux has also been almost entirely problem free. I have a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones (over-ear, not the in-ear model) which I've been using with...

      My experience with Bluetooth headphones on Linux has also been almost entirely problem free. I have a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones (over-ear, not the in-ear model) which I've been using with Linux for years. These are, without doubt, the best headphones I've ever owned -- the noise canceling is excellent, the sound quality is great, and they are about as comfortable as they could possibly be (I can wear these for 10 hours without any discomfort). There is a bit of latency -- it's enough so that I can't use them for audio/video production --- but it's perfectly acceptable for videos and gaming (unless you're playing a rhythm game perhaps). Mind you, this is despite the fact that these headphones do not support the AptX Low Latency codec.

      As other folks here have mentioned, however, optimal performance requires codec compatibility between the headphones and the adapter (for you, /u/kfwyre, that means the chipset in your motherboard). Of course, you could always buy an external adapter to use instead, which does make things a bit easier when Bluetooth is being finicky, as you can simply detach/reattach the adapter. I have an Avantree Leaf adapter, which works well with my headphones.

      Moreover, I don't think Bluetooth woes are particular to Linux -- it's sort of just a mess in general. If you pair a Bluetooth headset with Windows, for example, there's no way to determine which codec your headset is using.

      My advice would be to buy a pair of bluetooth headphones and try them out for a week. (I would recommend either the Sony WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones or the newer model, with the caveat that they are a bit expensive). Possibly also buy an adapter, as it does make fixing issues a bit simpler. If you don't like the headphones, return them.

      5 votes
    2. Gyrfalcon
      Link Parent
      Update: I went onto my Linux desktop to test some things out. I tried two games, Super Smash Brothers Melee emulated in Dolphin, and Minecraft. Latency was noticeable in both, atrociously so in...

      Update:

      I went onto my Linux desktop to test some things out. I tried two games, Super Smash Brothers Melee emulated in Dolphin, and Minecraft. Latency was noticeable in both, atrociously so in Melee, but easily tolerable in Minecraft. Melee is a bit of a worst case scenario IMO, it has a lot of distinctive audio cues, it is very fast, and if you are actually good at it (unlike me), it has some frame perfect (16ms) timings. I would consider Minecraft to be more representative overall. Despite noticeable audio latency in gaming, I still can't tell side by side when watching youtube, but watching video from my hard drive I think I can see it a little bit. I guess Bluetooth 4.2 isn't quite good enough for my ears after all!

      Some other annoyances I stumbled upon, since I usually use these with my laptop rather than my desktop, are that when bluetooth is on on the desktop and the headphones come up and connect automatically, they default to one of the low fidelity protocols, rather than A2DP. Not sure if this is something that could be configured with some effort though. The other is that when I first turn bluetooth on after waking up the machine, the first connection of the headphones crashes my bluetooth manager, so I have to wait a second and try again. It has always worked the second time, though I can't say I have tested exhaustively. On my laptop, it occasionally gets the profile wrong, but I don't think I have observed the crashing, so may be an adapter issue. Lastly, and this is true on both laptop and desktop, is that support for the function buttons is hit or miss. Overall better with something like Spotify versus youtube, but don't expect skip and rewind to do what you expect, pause may pause what you are listening, or unpause something else you have open, volume up and down work but seem to modify some internal volume on the headphones and not the volume setting on the computer, etc. Importantly, toggling standard, pass through, and ANC does work, pretty much no matter what I have connected to, since I think the settings for those live on the headphones once you configure them with the app.

      1 vote
  7. [2]
    kfwyre
    Link
    UPDATE: A big thank you to everyone who gave their feedback in this thread! After hours of consideration and research, I ended up deciding to try a pair and see if they worked, and I chose the...

    UPDATE:

    A big thank you to everyone who gave their feedback in this thread!

    After hours of consideration and research, I ended up deciding to try a pair and see if they worked, and I chose the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless earbuds because they had aptX support and active noise cancelling (plus I've had good experiences with Sennheiser in the past).

    I'm happy to say that they're great! I played a few videos in YouTube and didn't perceive any delay at all, and then I tried a few video games and there was the tiniest smidgen of lag, but not nearly enough to disrupt enjoyment. I don't really have any way to measure it, but it's definitely not in the 200-300ms realm I was seeing as a common delay measure for Bluetooth audio.

    I won't be returning them and am very excited to have something that works so well.

    4 votes
    1. hungariantoast
      Link Parent
      Oh wow, those are a great deal on sale! I'm glad that, despite all the naysaying feedback, you found something that worked well for you

      Oh wow, those are a great deal on sale! I'm glad that, despite all the naysaying feedback, you found something that worked well for you

      2 votes
  8. streblo
    Link
    It’s been a while since I’ve worked on bluetooth stuff so the following may be out of date but I would avoid any sort of bluetooth headset on Linux unless it’s just for voice calls. Bluetooth...

    It’s been a while since I’ve worked on bluetooth stuff so the following may be out of date but I would avoid any sort of bluetooth headset on Linux unless it’s just for voice calls. Bluetooth devices implement profiles which are specifications that describe the implementation of a set of features. There are many of these but A2DP is the one you want for listening to music or playing games and it was, when I last worked with it at least, a uni-directional audio stream. For any sort of two-way communication (i.e. calls/voice chat) you’re stuck with a profile like HFP that carves out space for a bi-directional audio stream at much worse quality. Now I’m pretty sure streaming audio two ways via A2DP is a solved problem just from looking at modern phone headphones but whether that solution has landed in Bluez/ the Linux kernel I’m not sure. Given my own experience with trying to use Bluez in a product several years ago, I would be somewhat surprised.

    3 votes
  9. [7]
    simplify
    (edited )
    Link
    Bluetooth just... it sucks. I mean, it mostly works but it's crazy that we're this far into the protocol's life and I still have to say mostly. A lot of people here are helping you out with...

    Bluetooth just... it sucks. I mean, it mostly works but it's crazy that we're this far into the protocol's life and I still have to say mostly. A lot of people here are helping you out with recommendations, but I'm just going to spend some time and go in another direction: instead of wireless headphones, get some really nice over-the-ear wired headphones.

    The DAC (digital to analog converter) in most modern computers is just fine, and sounds pretty great. But we all love geeking out, so if you want to geek out about audio and get a high-end external DAC you might consider a Schiit Stack. The audio equipment company Schiit has two devices, the Magni headphone amp and the Modi DAC. The Modi converts the digital signal from your computer over USB into analog, and the Magni amplifies your headphones. Together they are called the Schiit Stack, and are available in either black or silver. They connect together with standard RCA audio cables, but there's a guy who makes a rigid cross connect for the Schiit Stack to help with cable organization and to better line-up the stack on your desk. For the Magni, Modi, and the cross connect you're looking at $255.

    Headphones are a whole can of worms. They are a rabbit hole of truths and falsehoods and often difficult to decipher differences and you can spend so much money on if that's what you want to do. But if you want a decent introduction to nice sounding headphones, consider spending around $250. I personally have Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7BKs, which I've had for 5 years and they have just been excellent. There's probably a newer model now. My only complaint about them is the faux-leather deteriorated and while I could replace the earpads, I can't really replace the headband and it's flaking now. Sound-wise, I love them.

    When I have money again, I want to get the BeyerDynamic DT 1990 Pros or whatever the updated model is at the time. I did a lot of research years ago that lead me to these. They are open headphones, studio and reference quality, and being open means they will bleed sound but that sound will sound much clearer and focused to you. My current headphones, the Audio-Technicas, are closed which I bought so as not to disturb others. But if I was sitting at my computer, listening to music, the BeyerDynamics would be amazing.

    Anyhow, get the Bluetooth wireless headphones if that fits your needs. But I urge you to consider the possibility of wired headphones for the sake of sound quality. Little wireless earbuds will never sound as good as some professional over-the-ear headphones.

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      mtset
      Link Parent
      Yeah, this absolutely. I really wish there were more of a focus on personal analog wireless networks; a UHF NBFM <0.5W transmitter and some rechargeable headphones with a high-quality NBFM...

      Bluetooth just... it sucks. I mean, it mostly works but it's crazy that we're this far into the protocol's life and I still have to say mostly.

      Yeah, this absolutely. I really wish there were more of a focus on personal analog wireless networks; a UHF NBFM <0.5W transmitter and some rechargeable headphones with a high-quality NBFM receiver would whip ass. Zero latency because it could be done all analog (3.5mm cable to transmitter, all-analog superhet receiver, good to go), and within the range of usual Bluetooth headphones the reception would be flawless. And 33cm/900MHz is ISM anyway, so you wouldn't need a license! Add in like, digital channel-hopping or something, and it might even be pretty scalable.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        streblo
        Link Parent
        How many channels fit in NBFM? Would be a cool hobby project but I think it would break down quickly as a bluetooth replacement in an office, gym, etc. -- not only is channel hopping to find...

        How many channels fit in NBFM? Would be a cool hobby project but I think it would break down quickly as a bluetooth replacement in an office, gym, etc. -- not only is channel hopping to find something open annoying you'd also run into capacity problems, people trolling you, etc.

        3 votes
        1. mtset
          Link Parent
          Interesting question! The allocated ISM band there is 26 MHz, and the normal ham radio offset used for duplex NBFM is +/- 600 kHz, so 26,000 kHz / 600 kHz = 43 bands. I'd spread them slightly...

          Interesting question! The allocated ISM band there is 26 MHz, and the normal ham radio offset used for duplex NBFM is +/- 600 kHz, so 26,000 kHz / 600 kHz = 43 bands. I'd spread them slightly more, say using 40 channels. But, yeah, it's fundamentally not secure and not private. It'd be useful for music and gaming, but not for audio conferencing.

          2 votes
      2. [2]
        simplify
        Link Parent
        This would be undeniably cool, but I fear that it's so niche that the pricing for such a system would be prohibitive for all but the most obsessed audiophile. Additionally, we already have a...

        This would be undeniably cool, but I fear that it's so niche that the pricing for such a system would be prohibitive for all but the most obsessed audiophile. Additionally, we already have a pretty great system for listening to music with wired headphones. Wireless Bluetooth headphones are nice when you're on the go, being active, or otherwise away from your home listening system. But with wired, you don't have to worry about battery life, so your expensive investment could last you years, decades even, with a really nice high-quality set of headphones. Anything wireless without a replaceable battery has a relative short shelf-life, so that has to be taken into consideration when you consider cost.

        I mean, heck... Apple's AirPods Max are trying to be some kind of high-quality wireless audio option, but they still come with the problems of Bluetooth, have a battery that will probably only last you a few years, and they cost $550. I can't imagine getting those and thinking you're really going to have some hi-fi experience when lossless audio and Bluetooth don't really mix.

        2 votes
        1. mtset
          Link Parent
          True! I think you could probably make a module that plugs into a set of wired headphones, if you wanted to let people use their own headphones.

          I fear that it's so niche that the pricing for such a system would be prohibitive for all but the most obsessed audiophile.

          True! I think you could probably make a module that plugs into a set of wired headphones, if you wanted to let people use their own headphones.

          3 votes
    2. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Thanks for your detailed thoughts! I actually already have a DAC and some quality cans for music listening. The experience is genuinely stunning, but I really only use that when I'm deliberately...

      Thanks for your detailed thoughts! I actually already have a DAC and some quality cans for music listening. The experience is genuinely stunning, but I really only use that when I'm deliberately focusing on music or parked at my desk for extended periods of time.

      The earbuds I'm wanting are a convenience buy -- for the times where I've got my laptop on the couch and I'm up and down a lot.

      2 votes