What are IR Wireless Headphones?

The “IR” in the question “What are IR Wireless Headphones?” stands for infrared.

In this article, I’ll be diving in deep to look at how infrared headphones work and what differentiates them from the other two types of wireless headphones.

What are IR Wireless Headphones

Firstly, what are the other two types of wireless technologies used in headphones?

  1. Radio Frequency – these headphones receive audio signals from a transmitter through radiofrequency waves, mainly in the 2.4 GHz range.
  2. Bluetooth – these headphones connect to a Bluetooth-enabled audio device via radio waves in the 2.4 GHz ISM spectrum band (2400 to 2483.5 MHz) without the need for a separate transmitter.

How Do IR Wireless Headphones Work?

An infrared headphone does not need an audio cable.

It acts as an audio signal receiver through an infrared beam sent from a transmitter (sometimes called a docking station).

It is a line-of-sight technology used by your TV remote and won’t work if there is any blockage between the transmitter and the receiver on the headset.

Two types of headphones use infrared:

  1. Single-channel which transmits one audio signal
  2. Dual-Channel which transmits two audio signals at the same time without interference

So how exactly does infrared technology deliver the signal?

Let’s dive deeper to find out.

  • The infrared transmitter is powered by an AC adapter plugged into a power outlet that in turn connects to any sound device that has a headphone jack
  • In a single-channel type of headphone, the signal converts into one infrared frequency
  • In a dual-channel set up the left and right stereo channel signals are converted into two discrete carrier frequencies
  • The infrared signals are compressed, multiplexed, and transmitted as an IR lightwave
  • The headphones, powered by a battery, have a built-in photoreceptor that accepts the multiplexed signal
  • The signals are decompressed and converted back to the left and right channels, with the electrical signals routed to the appropriate ear to deliver the audio sound produced by the sound device
  • The headphone battery does a lot of work, from powering the decoding circuitry to amplifying the speech and musical sounds. So, it needs to have extended battery life. Rechargeable batteries are best if you don’t want to be caught not keeping your supply up to date.

The infrared frequency can vary from headphone to headphone. Some private brand-name headphones design their headphones to use only a particular frequency to differentiate themselves in the market.

So it’s crucial to ensure your headphones are compatible. In addition, it pays to check that your headphone frequency matches that of your sound source, whatever that is.

When buying a vehicle or installing a headrest DVD player with IR capability, see if you can extend to getting a dual-channel version. It will make for a happier ride with your two kids because each can watch the movie of their choice at the same time without the challenge of audio overlap.

That’s it for the detail about IR headphones.

Now let’s step back and see the pros and cons of using IR Wireless Headphones.

What are the advantages of infrared wireless headphones?

  • There is no interference from other radio wave transmissions.
  • Sound quality is comparable to that produced by high-quality wired headphones.
  • IR wireless headphones are available for a wide range of compatible devices. These include TVs, Home Theater, Gaming Stations, Flip Down Monitors, Car TVs, and Car Headrest DVD Players.

Are there any disadvantages of IR wireless headphones?

  • You always need a clear line of sight between the transmitter and your headphone, so a busy lounge room with people passing through will break the connection – very frustrating.
  • IR headphones have a limited operating distance of around 30 feet.


Are IR headphones the same as Bluetooth?

No. IR headphones are not the same as Bluetooth headphones. See earlier for the detail, but there are two main variations.

Firstly, Bluetooth headphones use different frequencies.

Secondly, Bluetooth is mainly but not exclusively installed in a mobile device, which acts as the transmission point to the Bluetooth headphones, avoiding the need for a separate transmitter as IR Headphones do. 

What is IR wireless?

In short, it’s the process of sending data and communications wirelessly (without wires) over an infrared connection. Electromagnetic waves carry the signal over all or part of the data communication path.

The shortest infrared wavelength borders visible light/ultraviolet on the electromagnetic spectrum, and the longest wavelength borders microwave.

Are infrared headphones any good?

Yes, they can deliver a sound quality equally as good as wired headphones, mainly due to the lack of interference from other radio signals. The main downside is that IR headphones must have a clear line of sight to work and only have a short operating distance, compared to Bluetooth and RF headphones. Nevertheless, they’re ideal to use in a car or a Home Theater where these limitations don’t apply. 

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