Living the wire-free Bluetooth lifestyle comes with some undeniable benefits. But let’s be honest, pairing your headphones or earbuds to a new device is a terrible experience. It’s time-consuming, difficult, and unintuitive. And that’s why multipoint Bluetooth exists.
Multipoint Bluetooth allows your headphones or earbuds to connect with multiple devices at the same time. It can reduce or eliminate the need to go through annoying pairing processes, and better yet, it can save you from missing calls when you’re listening to music on your laptop or tablet.
The Bluetooth pairing process sucks. It’s clunky, it’s slow, and it makes switching between audio sources incredibly difficult. In fact, most people just leave their earbuds or headphones connected to their phone or laptop, as it’s more convenient than struggling to pair them with a new device.
Believe it or not, but the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (which is only slightly less sinister than it sounds) tried to resolve this problem back in 2010. That’s when it introduced Bluetooth 4.0 with multipoint connectivity, a feature that, in theory, would allow users to connect their headphones or earbuds with multiple devices simultaneously.
I say “in theory” because most headphones and earbuds lack multipoint connectivity. But those that do support multipoint are fantastic.
Imagine that you’re wearing wireless earbuds during a video call. When the call ends, you decide to leave your laptop and go on a quick jog. You start streaming a workout playlist on your phone, and without going through a Bluetooth pairing process, the music automatically plays through your earbuds. That’s multipoint audio.
Bluetooth multipoint can also interrupt audio streams. If you get a call while listening to music on your laptop, for example, the music will pause and your headphones will automatically switch your smartphone. Then, when the call is over (or you ignore it), the headphones will switch back to your laptop for music.
Note that multipoint Bluetooth won’t let you simultaneously play audio from two devices. And while multipoint Bluetooth sounds like magic, it can be a bit clunky. Like all things Bluetooth, multipoint is far from perfect.
Devices set up with Bluetooth form a “piconet,” which is just a cute way of saying “a tiny network.” In the world of Bluetooth audio, these piconets usually contain just two devices—a pair of headphones and a single audio source.
Your headphones act as the “leader” of this piconet, dictating how and when connections operate. But your audio source, be it a phone or laptop, is just a “follower.” It listens to any commands that your headphones make (such as pause or play), and it complies with any rules (such as audio codec or bitrate constraints) set by your headphones.
When a pair of headphones or earbuds supports multipoint audio, its piconet can include a couple of extra “followers.” That is, audio sources. The headphones are still in charge, though, so the multipoint experience can vary depending on which headphones or earbuds you own.
And yes, Bluetooth multipoint can vary wildly between different models of headphones, earbuds, and headsets. Here are the four types of multipoint connectivity:
- Simple Multipoint: Consumer headphones with multipoint tend to only support “simple multipoint.” They can connect with two devices, and audio will pause on one device if it’s interrupted by the other.
- Advanced Multipoint: The “advanced multipoint” system is mainly intended for business headsets. It has just one notable difference from “simple multipoint”—interrupted calls automatically get put on hold. It’s easy to see how this would be useful in a call center or office, where a Bluetooth headset may be connected to two phones simultaneously.
- Triple Connectivity: This one’s exactly what it sounds like. Headphones, earbuds, or headsets with multipoint “triple connectivity” can pair with three devices simultaneously.
- Proprietary Connectivity: Products like the Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro offer “multipoint” functionality for laptops, phones, and other devices made by their respective manufacturers. This isn’t true multipoint; it’s a proprietary protocol.
Again, most consumer headphones and earbuds with multipoint connectivity only support “simple multipoint.” If you want a more advanced setup, you probably need to buy a wireless headset. (Your audio sources will work with any type of multipoint, as they’re the “followers” in the piconet.)
And even if two sets of wireless earbuds support the same type of multipoint Bluetooth, they may behave differently when in multipoint mode. Especially during the pairing process.
After decades of designing wired headphones, which are incredibly easy to use, manufacturers are now stuck making wireless headphones and earbuds. It’s a totally different ball game—wireless headphones are complicated, so they require intuitive, user-friendly design.
Unfortunately, wireless headphone and earbud manufacturers suck at intuitive design. And that means the multipoint pairing process isn’t the same for every model of wireless headphone or earbud.
Here are some common multipoint pairing instructions. Bear in mind that most wireless headphones and earbuds do not support multipoint pairing.
- For Most Brands: Connect your headphones or earbuds to one device, then go through the pairing process again for a second device. They may automatically snap into multipoint mode, although I can’t guarantee it. (If your headphones or earbuds have a companion app, check its settings for additional options.)
- Sony: Open the companion app, go to System, and enable “connect to 2 devices simultaneously.”
- Bose: Open the companion app, select your headphones, and select “source.” Then, add a second source for multipoint.
- Apple or Samsung: Own compatible products from these brands, log into each product with the same account, and pair your headphones or earbuds to each device one at a time.
If none of these options work for you, I suggest checking your headphones’ or earbuds’ instruction manual. (Some people throw away their instruction manuals, which is why manufacturers offer digital versions on their websites.)
As I’ve tried to make clear throughout this article, very few headphones and earbuds actually offer multipoint Bluetooth support. Maybe it’s a cost-cutting measure, or maybe manufacturers just don’t care. Either way, if you want multipoint Bluetooth, it may be time to start shopping.
Here are some of the best wireless headphones and earbuds with multipoint support:
If you already own some wireless ‘buds or cans, you may want to double-check if they offer multipoint support. Unfortunately, you have to check the manual or perform a Google search to figure this part out. (I suggest Googling the name of your headphones or earbuds with the words “multipoint Bluetooth.”)
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The Soundcore Life P3 earbuds support multipoint Bluetooth, pack a 35-hour battery, and feature both ANC and Transparency modes. Plus, they’re affordable!