I love good headphones but I don’t love the wire. I want good wireless headphones.

I have been seduced by the idea of not having dangling cables between me and what I’m listening to. That’s a shame because the copper wire in headphone cables is pretty good at transmitting audio. It’s reliable, reproduces the original audio almost perfectly and requires negligible power to operate.

When I say I want good wireless headphones I’m really saying I want wired headphones with the cable replaced by some magical feature that makes the space between my headphones and the audio source transmit audio like a wire no matter where I am.

That’s why I’ll never have good wireless headphones.

Let’s assume Bluetooth wireless headphones are the current state of the art and look at two of the main obstacles.

Firstly, even if your headphones are right next to your laptop they can’t be guaranteed to work. Bluetooth uses a range of the radio spectrum that is shared with all kinds of other things. WiFi routers and cordless telephones are usually well-behaved occupants of this part of the spectrum but they can introduce errors, or otherwise reduce the bandwidth available to send full quality audio. Bluetooth is also susceptible to radio interference that is generated by misbehaving household appliances like microwave ovens.

You could argue that mobile 3G and 4G wireless encounter many of the same obstacles yet work admirably for audio. Unlike Bluetooth’s 2.4GHz bazaar, mobile network spectrum is reserved almost entirely for mobile radio and it’s policed to provide reliability and safety. Also, one end of the wireless mobile phone connection is almost always fixed in well-surveyed space.

The second issue is physical impediments. Humans are mobile bags of meat and fluid that absorb and distort Bluetooth wireless. Even when Bluetooth gets through a human it may then have to traverse walls, cars, trees, handbags, tinfoil hats, backpacks or a universe of other obstacles.

And it has to navigate them perfectly or it is not a good wireless headphone.