most important flagship Phones do away with headphone jacks in 2022, and Bluetooth headphones are as popular as ever. While it’s good to have no cord on the doorknob when I leave the house, Bluetooth has its own quirks. Here are some of the most common problems you may encounter and how to fix them.
First: Narrow down the problem
Before you start pressing buttons and tweaking settings, see if you can get to the source of the problem: it could be your earbuds, sure, but it could also be your phone, or even the app you use to play music. Pair the headphones with another device to see if they work better – I find my Android phone can be a bit finicky, so I’ll often test the headphones on my wife’s iPhone to see what’s on my phone is the culprit.
You can also try a pair of wired headphones, or plug in your bluetooth headphones with a cable (if they support it). Finally, if you have another pair of bluetooth headphones, try them. If you can identify the source of the problem, you may have a better understanding of where to focus your troubleshooting efforts.
If the headset fails to pair
Don’t despair if you can’t connect the headset to your phone at all — in my experience, this is usually the easiest fix (provided the headset doesn’t completely freeze).
- Inspection Manual. Many headsets automatically enter pairing mode the first time you use them. As a result, most users can easily pair the headphones the first time around, says Win Cramer, CEO of JLab Audio, maker of WIRED’s favorite cheap wireless earphones, but leave them scratching their heads the second time around. So if your headphones don’t show up on your new device, you may want to look up the manual for instructions on putting them into pairing mode. Most brands require you to hold down the power button for a few seconds, but some earbuds—especially those with touch controls instead of buttons—have their own methods.
- Disconnect other devices. If you have connected these headphones to a device such as an iPad, they may not connect to your phone. Some headphones can connect to multiple devices at once, while others can’t. “Turn off the Bluetooth settings of the originally paired device,” Cramer said. “Then disconnecting will automatically force the headset to re-enter pairing mode.”
- Disconnect other headphonesAlso, make sure your phone isn’t connected to your spouse’s earbuds on the other side of the room – if you’ve used them before, they’ll automatically connect when turned on and within range.You can even clear old Bluetooth devices from your phone’s memory – from Bluetooth To set up on iOS, tap the “i” next to a given device, then tap forget this device. On Android, tap set up cog next to paired device and select unpair (or forgetas it is marked on some phones).
- charge the batteryIf your headphones are low on battery, they may not pair – I’ve even found some bluetooth headphones to stay on in this condition, which means they drain 0% faster than you might expect. Try plugging them in and fully charging them before pairing, even if they say they have some battery left.
- Make sure both devices are compatible. Like most technologies, Bluetooth has undergone many modifications and improvements over the years. Most devices use Bluetooth 5.0 or newer, and while a phone that supports Bluetooth 5.0 should be able to connect to most devices you own, some modern Bluetooth headsets may not connect to very old phones, tablets, or laptops. Check the supported Bluetooth versions on both devices and make sure they are compatible with each other.
With any luck, you should be able to play music right away.
If the audio is distorted or choppy
If you’re able to pair your headphones, but it doesn’t sound right — maybe the music doesn’t sound as good as it should, or it’s choppy — it’s probably a problem with your wireless connection.
- Check your sourceBefore you start troubleshooting Bluetooth, make sure there’s no inherent static in your music source – maybe you’re listening to Napster-era low-bitrate MP3s, or your streaming service defaults to a very low-quality setting . Check out another pair of headphones – you should have done it sooner! – to see if it’s really bluetooth’s fault. Again, make sure your Wi-Fi or cell phone signal is good, Cramer says. If your internet connection can’t keep up with Spotify, it will stutter with your headphones.
- Re-pair the headset. As with all troubleshooting, the mantra of “turn it off and on again” should be your first line of defense. Unpair the headset, turn it off, restart the phone, and re-pair from scratch before continuing.
- Move the headset close to your device. If you are listening to music on the iPad across the room, you may be too far away or there are too many obstacles in your path. “While most Bluetooth headsets can be 33 feet to 100 feet apart, it’s important to note that this is noticeable and that there isn’t a bunch of other Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals cramming the airwaves,” Cramer explained. Move closer to the device and away from other signal-generating electronics and see if this helps.
- Pairing a single bud correctlyIf you have “true wireless” or “wireless” earbuds, many earbuds let you listen to one earbud at a time, but you need to do it in a specific way. If you pair two earbuds and put only one in your pocket, you’ll end up with a poor connection between the two, and you’ll likely experience stuttering. Check the manual to see the correct procedure for single-bud listening.
- Disconnect other devices. I have found that on some phones, if my phone is connected to other bluetooth devices at the same time (such as a smartwatch or other inactive headphones), the bluetooth audio is distorted. Try disconnecting other devices or turning them off to see if the problem goes away.
- update firmware. I know, I know, you hear it all the time – “Maybe you just need a software update!” – but it’s really worth a shot. When I had audio issues with my Bose SoundSport Wireless a few years ago, downloading the official app and updating the firmware fixed everything. See if your headset offers a companion app that might help.
- Turn off any audio processingSpeaking of companion apps, if you already have an app for your headset, try turning off its extras. Equalizers, noise reduction, and other processing can cause distortion or other quirks, so it’s best to remove them from the equation when troubleshooting. If your phone has its own processing features (such as Samsung’s Adapt Sound feature), turn those features off as well.
- Adjust your bluetooth audio codec. In your device’s Bluetooth settings, tap “i” or set up cog next to your problematic headset to see what options are available to you. Some headphones may offer HD Audio or other similar codecs, you can turn them on and off to see if the audio improves.
- Deselect Handsfree Mode in WindowsAlso, if you’re trying to connect to a PC, your headset may have two entries in Windows’ sound settings – one for stereo music and one for phone calls. Click the speaker icon at the bottom right, select Audio Source at the top, and make sure your headset is selected from the list, not the headset or hands-free option. (You can turn off this behavior completely by going to control panel > hardware and sound > Devices and Printersright-click your headset, and select characteristic. under Serve tab, unchecked speakerphone.)
If you only hear music in one earbud
Finally, the rise of true wireless, or wireless earbuds, has given rise to a new phenomenon: You can pair correctly, but you can only hear music from one earbud.
- Reconnect the earbuds to each otherUsually, with true wireless earbuds, one will pair with your phone, then the earbuds will pair with each other, which can lead to confusion if they lose the second connection. “Restart your earbuds by putting them in the case, closing the door (if any) and waiting 10 seconds to try again,” Cramer said. “By turning your earbuds off and back on, it gives them a chance to ‘find’ each other again and restore the parent-child bond between the left and right earbuds.”
- Re-pair the earbuds. As I mentioned above, true wireless models often have a specific pairing method for single-bud listening, and you may accidentally pair the secondary buds alone. Try completely unpairing the headset and pairing it again. If you’re still having trouble pairing some earbuds, they may have a failsafe hard reset mode, so check the manual for recommendations in that case, Cramer says.
With any luck, one of the many troubleshooting steps above should get your Bluetooth earphones interfering again. But if all else fails, check the headset’s manual to see if there’s a way to reset them completely — or, in addition to that, you can reset the device’s Bluetooth settings from scratch.
On iOS, go to set up > general > reset > reset network settings, which will wipe all your saved Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices.On Android, go to set up and search for “Apps” or “Apps & Notifications”, tap show all See a list of all apps and tap the three dots in the corner Show system appss.Scroll down to Bluetooth, click storage, and clear its data and/or cache. These are more nuclear options that require you to re-pair everything, but they’re worth a try if nothing else works. Otherwise, the problem might be with your phone or earbuds, which can only be fixed by the manufacturer, or buy a phone with a damn headphone jack.
Reece Rogers contributed reporting.
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