Bluetooth has improved the quality of our lives in many ways — for one, we no longer have to struggle with all those cords! However, it’s also a famously inconsistent connective technology. If your Bluetooth headphones keep cutting out your music at the most inopportune times, you probably agree that something should be done.
Of course, getting to the bottom of the issue is a responsibility that will probably fall upon you. In most cases, the underlying cause of the connectivity issues isn’t too difficult to fix, so you probably won’t have to suffer for long. With that in mind, let’s talk about the main things that might be causing this audio stutter.
What Causes Bluetooth Connectivity Issues?
The things that could be causing your headphones’ faltering audio problems can be separated into four groups. The first and second groups include issues with the source device and headphones. If the electronics are fully functional, the issue may lie with the mode of connection or even various external factors.
More specifically, you might have to make sure that the versions of Bluetooth technology your devices are using are compatible. If all those things check out, the interference could be caused by the presence of strong electromagnetic fields. But even if that is the case, you should be able to ensure a strong connection with the tips we’ll discuss later on. For now, let’s dive a bit deeper into explaining the potential causes of Bluetooth connectivity issues.
Problems With the Source Device
Bluetooth headphones can connect to a wide range of devices, including PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. But while your headphones may be ready to pair at all times, the source device you’re streaming from may not be. Several things could be interfering with the Bluetooth signal of your source device.
For one, you might have neglected to check if the Bluetooth is even on. As mentioned, your headphones will automatically have the feature enabled even if they’re the convertible kind that comes with a 3.5 mm jack aux cable. Unlike your headphones, though, laptops, smartphones, and other potential source devices aren’t automatically ready to pair as soon as you turn them on.
Even if you keep the Bluetooth feature on, the source device may not be actively searching for pairing devices. Besides, manually finding your headphones on the list of Bluetooth devices that are available for pairing usually works best.
In any case, forcing your source device to continually scan for Bluetooth signals would drain its battery. If the device in question doesn’t have a constant power supply, a low battery charge may contribute to the connectivity issues. Therefore, it might not be a bad idea to keep your device plugged into an electrical outlet.
Lastly, having too many active apps or programs is another thing that might compromise your Bluetooth connection. The software could be another drain on your battery capacity. Additionally, the processing power your device is wasting on the unnecessary apps may slow down the data transfer between it and your wireless headphones.
Problems With the Headphones
If you can’t find anything wrong with your source device, you might find an issue with your headphones. For example, a low battery charge is something that can happen to your wireless headset, too. Alternatively, the problem may simply be in the distance between it and the source device.
To begin with, you’ll have to figure out what kind of battery life you can expect to get from your headphones. If you’ve been using them for a while, you should already know whether you can get five, eight, or more hours of playback out of them.
Both the volume of your music and your microphone usage can affect the battery’s endurance. So keep that in mind if you want to make the most of your wireless headset — limit your call duration.
Ultimately, if your source device is a newer smartphone, you’ll be able to see your headphones’ battery percentage on the screen when you pair them. So it should be easy to establish whether they need to be charged.
Of course, there would be nothing you could do if the battery inside your headphones is deteriorating. If your wireless headphones are relatively new, the battery shouldn’t be failing yet. However, if you purchased a cheap pair, poor battery life would be par for the course. So that may be why you’re experiencing a flickering Bluetooth connection.
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Then again, it could be caused by something as simple as distance. If you’re trying to connect your headphones to a source device that’s out of their reach, it’s no wonder your audio is stuttering! Different versions of Bluetooth have varying ranges, but you shouldn’t be testing those limits if you want to establish a strong signal.
Bluetooth Version Compatibility
Ever since the first Bluetooth-enabled headphones hit the market in 2004, the physical range of these devices has been expanding. The maximum range on some wireless headphones used to be only a few feet. Meanwhile, some newer models boast a physical range of about ten yards!
Otherwise, Bluetooth technology overall has had the same range for generations now. Versions 2.1 and 4.0 both had a range of just under 100 meters or approximately 110 yards. However, with the arrival of Bluetooth 5, we now have about 400 meters of leeway — in theory. Yet there are still some benefits to doing things the old-fashioned way.
Namely, if the source device has the newest version of Bluetooth but your headphones are running on an outdated one, they’ll be more likely to connect to a nearby device that also has the old version. For that to happen, though, such a device would need to be close by. Moreover, it would have to have an active Bluetooth feature.
Of course, if your headphones are using Bluetooth 5, they won’t have a preference either way. Instead, they should simply connect to whichever device is the closest — although there are several ways to ensure their pairing with the right one. But more on that later. For now, let’s look into the last set of obstacles you might have to overcome.
Bluetooth technology operates at a frequency range between 2.402 and 2.481 GHz. Any other device that relies on that frequency range can easily disrupt the functioning of your wireless devices. What’s more, other things could come between the source device and your headphones — namely, solid structures.
As you may have noticed, walls, floors, and even doors may obscure the wireless signal your audio transmission needs. So even if your Bluetooth has a superior physical range, these factors may still disrupt its signal.
On the other hand, we’ve already established that other devices might cause similar difficulties. After all, most of our electronics use the frequency range I’ve mentioned above. Computers, TVs, portable devices like tablets and phones, and modern vehicles could negatively affect wireless signals. Even some washers and dryers could emit electromagnetic fields that are strong enough to break your Bluetooth connection.
Best of all, figuring out whether they’re the underlying cause of your problems should be easy enough. So if you want to solve your connectivity issues, just follow the guide below.
How to Fix Bluetooth Headphones That Keep Cutting Out
At this point, you’ll have picked up on some of the tips that might make your headphones’ Bluetooth connection stronger. Still, let’s go through the list of some commonplace and other, less expected ways to fix that audio stutter.
Charge the Headphones and Source Device (if Necessary)
First things first, you’ll want to make sure that both of your devices are fully charged. You wouldn’t want a low battery charge to get in the way of the rest of the troubleshooting process, would you? What’s more, this first step might uncover that your headphones’ battery has been compromised, which would affect your choices.
Most wireless headphones have an LED battery indicator somewhere that will blink while they’re charging. When they achieve a full charge, the light will become constant.
If you want to see if the battery is degrading, measure the number of hours you get from that one charge. Ideally, you would be able to compare that number to a previous measurement you’ll have taken when you first got the headphones. However, if you never performed that initial test, you could rely on the number provided by the manufacturer (even though they tend to overstate it).
Depending on the type of device you’re pairing with the headphones, that might be all you need to do. PCs have a constant supply of power, so battery life wouldn’t come into play. However, laptops, smartphones, or tablets would need to be charged to make sure the Bluetooth signal doesn’t cut out because of that. Alternatively, you could keep these devices on their chargers while you try to pair them with your headphones.
Stay Close to the Source Device
The next tip is another fairly obvious one: don’t stray from your source device while you’re using wireless headphones. Even though Bluetooth technology, in general, has a maximum range of 100–400 yards, your headphones are probably much more limited. Your range of motion while wearing them will probably be around 15–26 feet.
You could check the box your headphones came in for additional information, but really, the closer you can stay to the source device, the better. As we’ve already established, the physical space you’re in can affect the connection. So staying close will ensure that no walls or floors are coming in between your headphones and the source device.
While we’re on the subject, you should know that our bodies can also block Bluetooth signals. So keeping your phone in your bag or the back pocket of your jeans might cause connectivity issues too.
Make Sure Your Source Device Is Ready to Pair
Most people miss the obvious solution here — perhaps the Bluetooth on your source device isn’t on. Alternatively, it might be shutting off automatically after a certain period. That would certainly cause the connection with your headphones to flicker. To prevent that, you’ll have to go into the Bluetooth settings of your source device.
The path to that looks different in various versions of Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android operating systems. Still, you should find what you’re looking for in the settings, near other connectivity options.
In Android devices, Bluetooth settings should be somewhere around the Wi-Fi settings. In fact, you could probably access them from the dropdown menu. Computers that are running Windows 10 now have a similar setup with the Action Center that comes in from the right side of the screen. If you right-click the Bluetooth button you find there and select Go to Settings, a new window will pop up.
There, you’ll find all the options your source device has. If you’ve enabled Swift Pairing mode or something similar, your device may be looking for devices with a higher pairing priority. So at this point, you’ll want to uncheck any of the settings that could make establishing the connection more difficult.
Check if the Bluetooth Versions Are Compatible
You probably won’t find which version of Bluetooth your devices are running in the Bluetooth settings. For that, you should look to the product packaging or warranty, if you happen to have kept those. If not, you can Google the devices to figure out if one of them has an outdated version of the technology.
If it does, you might have to make your peace with the shoddy connection. Or just keep following the rest of the tips in this guide. The next one might be particularly useful for people who are struggling to establish a connection between devices with incompatible Bluetooth versions.
Unpair the Source Device and Headphones From Other Electronics
If your Bluetooth connection is spotty, you might find that your source device is still searching for other nearby devices. To prevent that, you’ll have to go into the Bluetooth settings of the device and make it connect with your headphones manually. But first, you’ll have to unpair it from any other devices.
For example, if you’re trying to connect to a Windows 10 laptop, you’ll find a list of all the devices you ever paired with in the Bluetooth settings. From there, you’ll want to left-click each device and select Remove. If you want a fresh start, unpair all devices, including the headphones you’re trying to connect.
So what do you achieve by doing this? Simply put, it makes it so your source device isn’t prioritizing any of the devices on that list. Instead, you’ll be able to manually see all the devices it finds while scanning and manually choose one to pair with. In the future, you might have to go through these extra steps before pairing your device, but it’ll be worth the stable connection.
Exit Any Other Apps You’re Using on the Source Device
As we’ve established, running too many apps on your source device can slow down the data transfer between it and your headphones. So if you want to avoid Bluetooth audio stutter, you should exit out of any apps you’re not using at least while you’re pairing the headphones.
If the sound keeps cutting out when you start using the apps again, you might just have to avoid them altogether. Some apps tend to cause more issues than most. For example, Apple users have noted that the AirBattery app can make AirPods stutter even if it’s running in the background.
Of course, if you’re using your headphones while you’re gaming on the source device, exiting out of the app may not be an option. In that case, you could try to restart the source device in hopes that will allow it to make the most of its resources.
Alternatively, you could get another source device that will be able to do both things at the same time. Your smartphone may not have the capacity to keep the Bluetooth connection strong and run games at the same time.
Distance Yourself From Other Electrical Devices Before Attempting Pairing
If your Bluetooth connection is still spotty, you may be experiencing electromagnetic interference. As we have established, many electronics emit an electromagnetic field that uses the same frequency range Bluetooth does. So if push comes to shove, you might have to go to another room to pair your devices.
After all, anything in the room could be causing signal interference. Even if there are no smart devices in sight, even unshielded cables could do it. But if you’re trying to pair your headphones to another portable device, you could easily step out of the room to get the job done.
Alternatively: It Might Be Time for New Headphones
If all attempts at fixing your spotty wireless connection fail, it might be time to get a new pair of headphones. There are several things you’ll need to consider in that case, such as what kind of headphones would best suit your needs.
Earbuds and over-ear headphones provide better passive noise insulation than on-ear models. However, on-ear headphones are more portable than over-ear ones and more comfortable than earbuds, to some people. But ultimately, that’s not even the most important decision you’ll have to make. Instead, you ought to consider whether you want to trust a wireless connection again.
Of course, you may not have any choice if you’re trying to connect to one of the newer iterations of the iPhone. Since the manufacturer took out the headphone jack port, people who don’t want Bluetooth headphones have had to use connectors. However, Apple’s dongle makes it impossible to charge your device at the same time. Still, if you’re not worried about using other manufacturers’ products, some connectors come with both ports.
Ultimately, though, you shouldn’t be afraid of giving wireless headphones another shot. You’ll just have to get ones that are using the newest version of Bluetooth technology. The upgraded version of the COWIN E7 headset is a fantastic choice — it even has active noise canceling technology. But if you’d rather have earbuds, you can’t go wrong with the Bose SoundSport model, which is also available as a completely cord-free design.
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On the other hand, if you’re just not willing to give Bluetooth another chance, you could get corded headphones instead. At least that way you’ll be sure that your connection won’t break — unless, of course, you damage the cable.
Never Experience Bluetooth Audio Stutter Again
Unfortunately, Bluetooth technology is still pretty fickle, though the newest version did improve upon its predecessors’ weaknesses. As you now know, it doesn’t take much to come between the source device and your headphones. Practically anything could interfere with the signal — even our bodies!
With that in mind, you should know that the solutions I’ve laid out above may not work in your case. If that happens, you’ll be left with only one choice — getting new headphones. But hopefully, the problem will resolve itself before that becomes necessary.
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