Do Wireless Headphones Have Delay?

When your audio is out of sync when you’re watching movies or gaming it’s annoying. Do all wireless headphones have a delay? Read on for more info!

Bose headphones with books on table

Wireless headphones are quite the hype recently. Understandably so, we all like to be free to move while communicating. Some are still sticking to wired headphones though. The concern is with the lag that comes with wireless headphones. Let’s clear things up, do wireless headphones have a delay?

All wireless headphones have a delay. The delay depends on the performance of the Bluetooth circuit and codec. Better, expansive models have a shorter delay. The delay can vary from 34 ms to 300 ms.

Don’t worry though, with good wireless headphones the delay isn’t that noticeable. Let’s see why that is.

Why Do Wireless headphones Have A Delay?

Basically, all headphones have a delay. With wired ones, the lag is so small, that it’s not even noticeable. Wired headphones have a delay of 7 ms. The problem is with Bluetooth headphones. Sometimes, the lag will be obvious but in most cases, it’s barely noticeable.

All Bluetooth headphones have a circuit that determines the quality of the signal. Bluetooth headphones work by sharing audio data which is compressed and decompressed. That is crucial for the delay time. Better compression means less latency.

Wireless Bose headphones on a wooden table

Bluetooth Signal Strength

It goes without saying that headphones and the device you’re pairing them with should have a strong connection. If something is interfering with the signal, the latency can become noticeable.

High-quality headphones have a good Bluetooth chip. They provide a stable connection and are harder to interfere with. Usually, the delay happens when the signal is really bad. In those cases, most devices will alert you of a bad connection.

So, you shouldn’t worry about having a bad connection and not noticing. The important thing is to make sure there isn’t another Bluetooth device turned on. Wi-Fi devices can interfere too, only when too close to the headphones though.

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Bluetooth Codec

When it comes to wireless headphones delay, the codec is what you have to worry about. A codec is a program that codes and decodes data. That’s essentially what the delay is. Before the data becomes audible, it needs to be processed by the program.

The device you’re using the headphones with compresses the audio output data. Then, the headphones decompress that data. Conversely, the headphones compress audio input(microphone) data which is decompressed by the device.

This whole process happens in mere milliseconds but the delay can still be noticed. So it comes down to how well the Bluetooth headphones code and decodes the data. With bad headphones, the codec can take up to half a second, it is quite annoying.

Wireless headphones and other tech devices

Bluetooth 5.0

Now, headphones with the latest Bluetooth version don’t have as much latency. No matter the codec program, Bluetooth 5.0 has made some improvements in terms of delay time. However, it still has a problem with live audio.

It’s not that significant but it still makes a change. I would still recommend looking for headphones with aptX LL and LDAC.

Seeing as how the codec program determines the delay, you would want to know about the best codec.

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Best Bluetooth Codec

There are two codec programs that are competing for the best, Sony’s LDAC, and aptX. Apple’s codec shouldn’t be thrown out of the window but it’s only compatible with Apple products.

If you’re looking at high-quality, expensive Bluetooth headphones, chances are, it has one of these codecs. You can still look for something better but most likely, the delay won’t be noticeable.

Now, you can find two variables of the aptX codec; aptX HD and aptX Low Latency. The aptX HD doesn’t make much of a difference in delay, the accent is on the sound quality. Specifically made for audio files compressed in Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC files).

The aptX Low Latency makes a huge difference in delay. Although the sound quality isn’t as good as with aptX HD, the delay is cut to 40 ms. I guess this is the codec you want if you’re looking for low-latency Bluetooth headphones.

Sony’s LDAC comes close to aptX LL but aptX still has a shorter delay. LDAC like the aptX HD also focuses on high-quality audio. Customers praise LDAC because it provides lossless audio but still manages to cut the delay. Unfortunately, we can’t find the specific delay for LDAC.

You won’t be able to get the benefit of these codecs if your device doesn’t support them. Keep in mind, that not every smartphone or device supports these programs. So, it would be a good idea to make sure everything is compatible before buying.

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Girl listening to music on wireless headphones

Related Questions And FAQs

Can You Get Rid Of The Delay On Wireless headphones?

Entirely getting rid of latency on wireless headphones is impossible. All headphones have a delay.

The only problem is when it’s noticeable. If the source of the delay is software related to the device you’re using, then you can try to fix it.

Is It Okay To Have A Delay On Wired headphones?

Experiencing high latency on wired headphones is not normal. Wired headphones have a delay of only 7 ms. You can try troubleshooting the issue. Check the cable, and check for software issues.


So, wireless headphones have a delay, it’s a problem we can’t get rid of. But there’s a justified hope in the technology. There’s still space for improvement, and low latency headphones with codecs like aptX LL are proof enough.

In the meanwhile, if you are willing to pay, you know what to do. Look for wireless headphones with codec support: aptX Low Latency, and LDAC.

Related article – Do Wireless Headsets Have A Delay?