Can Wireless Headphones Work Without Bluetooth? (ANSWERED!)

Last updated:
Disclosure: We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
  • Can you get wireless headphones without Bluetooth?
  • What is the difference between wireless headphones and Bluetooth headphones?
  • Is Bluetooth the only wireless technology?

We’ve entered a new era where many headphone users are ditching cords and adopting new wireless technologies. But, when it comes to wireless headphones, where do you start?

You’ve heard of Bluetooth, but is that the only option?

Which option is the best one for you?

If you’re always the confused customer in the technology store, this article will help clarify things.

So, Can Wireless Headphones Work Without Bluetooth?

Wireless headphones can work without Bluetooth if they are dedicated wireless headphones. Dedicated wireless headphones use other wireless technologies such as radio frequencies, infrared, internal memory, or KleerNet.

While Bluetooth headphones have become the de facto industry standard and are suitable for the average wireless headphone user, other wireless headphones have their advantages and disadvantages.

What are Bluetooth Headphones?

Bluetooth headphones are any pair of headphones that use Bluetooth technology.

Bluetooth technology was developed in 1998 and uses a transmitter, such as your phone or laptop, and a receiver, such as your headphones. The transmitter and receiver communicate through low-frequency radio waves and a small chip inside each device. All you have to do is pair two devices with Bluetooth audio and you’re ready to enjoy wireless Bluetooth technology.

What is the Difference Between Wireless Headphones and Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is merely a type of wireless headphones. There are other types of wireless headphones, but they use a different wireless technology than Bluetooth. The difference lies in the way the devices connect.

Bluetooth audio uses short-range signals to transmit audio, whereas wireless headphones (sometimes called dedicated wireless headphones)  use radio waves, infrared, internal memory, or KleerNet.

You can use wireless headphones without Bluetooth, but the results might be different, and the process of connecting wireless headphones will be different depending on which type of headphones you are using.

What Are Radio Frequency Headphones (RF)?

If you’ve ever been to a silent disco, you’ve experienced radio frequency headphones before. Rather than using Bluetooth, these headphones are broadcast via a radio transmitter.

The signal is transmitted from a base station and picked up by wireless headphone receivers worn by the users. RF signals are not blocked by walls or ceilings, so you can use your RF headphones in a different room from the audio source.

However, RF headphones can experience interference caused by other radio frequency devices around. such as radios, phones, and radio transmission towers. They’re generally more expensive than Bluetooth headphones.

What Are Infrared Frequency Headphones (IF)?

Infrared frequency headphones use line-of-sight technology, meaning you must be within line-of-sight to receive sound from your device.

It is the same technology that a TV remote uses to connect with a TV and also requires a base station.

Infrared also boasts a higher sound quality than both RF and Bluetooth headphones and does not experience any interference or static during use.

What Are Internal Storage Headphones?

Headphones with internal storage work do not require a transmitter because they work as both the audio source and the receiver.

These headphones usually have a micro-SD or Trans-Flash memory slot, so you can play music without any active connection to media player devices. This way you can enjoy listening without latency or sound degradation.

Internal storage headphones are typically used as headphones for swimming or other water activities. Water interferes with wireless connections, so Bluetooth, RF, and IF technologies cannot be used underwater.

Bluetooth vs Kleernet: Which Wireless Headphone is the Best? 

What Is KleerNet?

KleerNet offers a technical advantage over Bluetooth by allowing up to 4 listeners for one source, which is a great benefit for families.

The KleerNet chipset also uses far less power than Bluetooth and has low latency. With low latency, there’s less chance of experiencing delay during playback, which is helpful in situations such as synchronizing a video soundtrack, recording your voice, or being competitive in a gaming situation.

However, KleerNet requires dedicated hardware on both ends of the spectrum and has not been adopted for use in most mainstream devices, which makes it very difficult to use in a broad range of situations.

Range 

Winner: Bluetooth 

Bluetooth 4.0 has a shorter range of up to 10 meters or 33 feet, while Bluetooth 5.0 has a range of up to 243 meters or 800 feet.

Bluetooth 5.0 was released in June of 2016, so many newer devices will have Bluetooth 5.0.

Both the wireless headphones and the device you are connecting to must have Bluetooth 5.0 for the newer technology to work; however, Bluetooth is cross-compatible, so you can use Bluetooth 4 on any Bluetooth 5 device and vice versa. Your device will simply be limited to Bluetooth 4 features in this case.

Sound Quality

Winner: KleerNet

While both infrared and KleerNet offer better sound quality than Bluetooth, KleerNet offers the only wireless headphone that directly competes in sound quality with wired headphones.

KleerNet  operates in the 2.4 GHz, 5.2 GHz, and 5.8 GHz ranges, and can stream 16-bit / 44.1 kHz audio.

Price

Winner: Bluetooth 

Because of its widespread industry adoption, Bluetooth headphones are cheaper compared to other wireless headphones.

The small chip used in Bluetooth allows for a smaller headphone size than RF or KleerNet headphones, which keeps the price lower.

Popularity

Winner: Bluetooth

Bluetooth headphones are by far the most popular headphones.

Even though some devices such as the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, gym equipment, and in-Flight devices aren’t compatible with Bluetooth, many people work around this by using a Bluetooth adapter. The ability to use Bluetooth with all of their devices while still having good sound quality and manageable battery life makes it the most sensible option for many users.

Battery

Winner: KleerNet  

As a regular Bluetooth wireless headphone user myself, my one pet peeve about the technology is that the battery only lasts 3-4 hours.

However, KleerNet offers a battery life that is 3-4x greater than Bluetooth and can last around 10 hours on average.

Wrapping Up

Unless you value sound quality in your wireless headphone over everything else, Bluetooth is the way to go and remains the best for mainstream wireless headphone technology.

Bluetooth offers the greatest degree of compatibility, ease of use, range, and price.

Even though there are some distinct benefits that other wireless technologies boast, and a few devices that don’t have Bluetooth audio (Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, gym equipment, airplane in-Flight devices), a Bluetooth adapter is only around $30. Overall, the verdict in 2022 favors Bluetooth.