Do Audiophiles Use Bluetooth Headphones?

Do Audiophiles Use Bluetooth Headphones? The World of Hi-Res Bluetooth

When Bluetooth headphone technology first arrived on the scene, wireless headphones couldn’t come close to offering the same resolution as a wired headphone. And in some respects, this unfortunate fact remains true.

However, Bluetooth technology has undoubtedly improved since its early days, now offering Hi-Res Bluetooth codecs like aptX HD, aptX lossless, and LDAC. In short, you can now play Hi-Res Bluetooth audio without compromising too much sound quality. As a result, many audiophiles have accepted Bluetooth headphones as a reasonable and convenient alternative to wired headphones, at least for travel and outdoor activities. In fact, several high-end headphone brands have released Bluetooth options that perform incredibly well.

Bluetooth Enters the Realm of Hi-Res

To better understand the complicated topic of Hi-Res, let's first discuss what qualifies as Hi-Res in the Bluetooth world. In general, anything at 16bit/44.1kHz (which approximates CD quality) or above is considered Hi-Res. A classic example of a Hi-Res file would be a sampling frequency of 96kHz at 24-bits, a standard offered by various streaming services like Tidal and Apple Music. And in most cases, Hi-Res Bluetooth codecs are now able to deliver this level of sound quality to your wireless headphones.

How Audiophile-ish Are You?

When considering particularly fussy audiophiles who disdain lossy codecs (or any file that is compressed) and crave the highest resolution, it may be helpful to note that it’s a game of diminishing returns. As one passes a certain point of sound fidelity, the improvement in quality becomes fairly incremental. And while the promise of uber Hi-Res might make you drool, it's worth considering the practical constraints in achieving this level of clarity, as well as the limits of what the average human ear can perceive. So, while there is a large and adamant group of audio enthusiasts intent on attaining the highest degree of detail and transparency possible, for the more practical audiophile, the limitations of Bluetooth are often less consequential.

Can Your Headphones and Devices Handle Hi-Res?

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a wireless headphone with Hi-Res capability, including the playback device that you use, and the type of Hi-Res codecs supported by your headphones. To get a sense of what Bluetooth can now offer, let’s start with some examples of common Hi-Res Codecs.

Examples of Hi-Res Bluetooth Codecs

aptX HD

aptX HD is one of the most widely available Hi-Res codecs. This codec can support a Bluetooth stream at 24-bit/48kHz, which is better than CD quality. It’s important to note, however, that like all Bluetooth codecs, this technology compresses files. And because of this compression, a certain amount of purity is lost.


LDAC is a Codec developed by Sony. It’s one that’s preferred by audiophiles since it allows you to stream up to 990kbps at 32bits/96 kHz, which is, so far, the best audio quality achievable via Bluetooth connection. But again, this data is delivered through file compression technology, so you’re still losing some information in the transfer. Another caveat to note specifically with respect to LDAC is that, at the highest bit rate, poor streaming conditions can interrupt playback. For this reason, some prefer the playback consistency of codecs like aptX HD. Still, LDAC allows you to adjust/select the bit rate most appropriate for the circumstance.

aptX Lossless

As suggested above, there is currently no way to listen to true-blue uncompressed files via Bluetooth, such as WAV files. However, there are a couple of relatively new Bluetooth Codecs, the most available one being aptX Lossless, that can compress files with virtually no loss of data—to an extent. That is, you can expect up to CD-quality audio quality that is theoretically uncompromised by compression. But that’s about as good as it gets for now with respect to lossless Bluetooth audio.

iPhone Users, Beware!

Here is where some budding audiophiles may become deflated. The iPhone does not support any of the above-mentioned hi-res codecs. In fact, Apple offers just one, proprietary Bluetooth codec, AAC, which is only capable of 16-bit resolution. So, even if you have the greatest Bluetooth headphones that support the fanciest Bluetooth codecs, your iPhone will not allow you to take advantage of them. Therefore, it’s also important to note that even though Apple has introduced its own Hi-Res music service, you won’t be able to take advantage of it on your iPhone using Bluetooth headphones. At least, not yet.

Android Users Have It All

Nowadays, most top-of-the-line Android phones, such as the Galaxy X series, Sony Xperia and the OnePlus lineup, support a wide array of Hi-Res Bluetooth codecs, including LDAC. So, if you own an Android, you’re already ahead of the game.

Make Sure Your Headphones Support the Hi-Res Codecs

Not all headphones support all hi-res codecs. Depending on the brand of the headphone, it’s likely that some Hi-Res codecs will be missing from the spec sheet. But most popular flagship Bluetooth models from major brands like Sony and Sennheiser, as well as those from more boutique brands, such as Bowers & Wilkins, offer at least a few Hi-Res codec options.

Examples of Audiophile Bluetooth Headphones

Mark Levinson No 5909

The Mark Levinson No 5909 is one of the most highly regarded audiophile-grade wireless headphones on the market today. With fancy 40mm Beryllium coated drivers, as well as a crowd pleasing and versatile balance, these cans can skillfully handle any music genre you throw at it. The No 5909 supports Hi-Res codecs, including LDAC and aptX Adaptive, while the ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) is impressively effective as well. Furthermore, it supports up to 24-bit/192 kHz when utilized in passive/wired mode. You can also expect around 30 hours of battery life, which is about average for a pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Mark Levinson No 5909 High-Resolution Wireless Headphones with ANC
Mark Levinson No 5909 High-Resolution Wireless Headphones with ANC

Focal Bathys

Focal is one of the most luxurious headphone brands on the market and is highly regarded in the audiophile world. In fact, its flagship model, the Utopia, is one of the most famous high-end headphones ever made. The Focal Bathys may not be the Utopia, but it certainly approximates the sound signature of the Utopia and retains many of the sonic qualities that make this French brand so unique. Like the Mark Levinson No 5909, the Bathys supports 24 bit/192 kHz in wired mode and provides about 30 hours of battery life with ANC turned on. The only drawback is that it doesn’t play LDAC.

Focal Bathys Noise-Canceling Wireless Over-Ear Headphones
Focal Bathys Noise-Canceling Wireless Over-Ear Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins PX8

The Bowers & Wilkins PX8 is another upscale headphone that’s perhaps better known for its luxury design than for its Hi-Res capabilities. But I would still place it in the audiophile Bluetooth category. Unlike the above two examples, it doesn’t process 24bit/192kHz in wired mode. It also doesn’t support LDAC, only offering aptX, Aptx Adaptive and aptX HD. That said, the sound is highly transparent and spacious, conveying a classy and easy-listening sonic personality with a generous bass response. Furthermore, the ANC is particularly effective, and like the two options above, the PX8 provides about 30 hours of battery life.

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Noise-Canceling Wireless Over-Ear Headphones
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Noise-Canceling Wireless Over-Ear Headphones

Alternative Bluetooth Options

Bluetooth DACs (Digital to Analog Converter)

If you don’t have the cash to invest in a pricey pair of wireless headphones, or you refuse to part with the wired headphones you already own, an ideal alternative would be to purchase a small portable Bluetooth DAC/Amp (digital to analog converter combined with an amplifier). You simply pair the device with your phone or computer (via Bluetooth) and plug your headphones directly into the DAC. This creates a bit of a wireless experience, or at least provides added convenience for on-the-go use or when roaming around the house. Because many of these Bluetooth DACs are so small, you can easily slip them into your pocket or attach them to your shirt. A number of these devices also come with built-in microphones, allowing you to take calls.

Examples of Portable DAC/Amps

FiiO BTR15

FiiO is one of the most popular producers of on-the-go DACs, and the BTR15 is a prime example. Besides its hi-res Bluetooth capability (supports aptX codecs and LDAC), it’s also a great entry-level DAC/Amp if you ever decide to bring your audiophile game to the next level by using it as a wired setup. When connected to your phone or computer via USB, you will be able to play uncompressed files and even make use of Tidal’s MQA offerings.

FiiO BTR15 Portable Bluetooth DAC and Headphone Amplifier
FiiO BTR15 Portable Bluetooth DAC and Headphone Amplifier

iFi audio GO blu

The iFi Audio Go Blu is another popular Bluetooth option if you decide to stick with your wired headphones. In terms of features and functionality, it’s very similar to the FiiO BTR15, but it supports a larger variety of Hi-Res codecs. It also provides slightly longer battery life, lasting about 10 hours before having to recharge.

iFi audio GO blu Portable Bluetooth DAC and Headphone Amp
iFi audio GO blu Portable Bluetooth DAC and Headphone Amp

Final Verdict

Do audiophiles use Bluetooth? Yes, many audiophiles have turned to Bluetooth headphones and DACs to better adapt to the realities of daily living, even if they do so begrudgingly. That said, it’s more than likely that a serious audio aficionado still has a high-end pair of wired headphones waiting for them at home.

For more information about the featured Bluetooth headphones and DAC/amps, be sure to check out our product pages. Or drop us a line below, and we’ll do our best to answer all your comments and questions.