What are the very best wireless headphones for watching TV?
That’s a question a good number of CNET readers prefer to ask us, even though it’s hard to provide a definitive answer, Sennheiser’s RS 185 model is obviously among the better options out there at $280 (£230, AU$599). Black Friday will give you amazing discounts, offers, deals, right now.
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It’s among the middle models in Sennheiser’s type of 2015 RF headphones that include a new “class-leading, proprietary wireless link technology” that the business says gives interference-free sound. Operating on the two 2.4GHz band, the entry-level RS 165 model offers 30m (100-foot) range as the RS 175, RS 185 and RS 195 are rated as having an impressive 100m (about 330-foot) range.
The RS 175 carries a base transmitter/charging stand and the wireless headphones themselves. Sarah Tew/CNET
You can find that range if you are actually standing within an open field, however in our “real-world” tests within an open office together with our NY apartments, the number was similar to 20-30m (66 to 100 feet), and that range will be damaged with what your walls are constructed with.
As far as the look goes, it’s a comfortable closed-back over-ear design that does an excellent job of keeping sound from leaking out which means you don’t disturb someone sleeping nearby. However the headphones fit snugly enough that you may well be forced to take some quick breaks while wearing them during the period of a 2-hour movie.
The system involves two components: the headphones themselves and a base station (transmitter) that doubles as a charging stand to store the headphones on you should definitely used. That base station is pretty lightweight and doesn’t specifically exude high-end construction, but it’s made to be saved and kept out of view. On the trunk, it includes a digital optical connection in addition to a 3.5mm analog minijack input which allows you to hook up it to a TV or any audio tracks component which has corresponding outputs with the included cables.
For our initial TV-watching tests we used the optical connection included in our TV (most new TVs have an optical connection and an analog output). We also plugged straight into a cable box. It’s literally a plug-and-play situation: just plug the AC adapter in to the base station, plug the energy in to the wall and hook up the included optical cable and you’re all set. (Note, however, that in the event that you plug it right into a TV’s dedicated headphone jack — rather than the audio tracks output jacks mentioned previously — that you will likely take off the TV’s speaker.)
Bass boost and surround modes could be activated from the proper earcup. Sarah Tew/CNET
Each model in the line offers different sound and features, but we thought we would review the RS 175 because we think it includes the most appealing features and sound your money can buy.
The entry-level RS 165 comes with an optional bass boost but no virtual surround modes (and, as noted, its range is 30m rather than 100m). That model, just like the RS 175 reviewed here, includes a closed-back design, as the RS 185 comes with an open design and will be offering more open, detailed sound compared to the RS 175 and a manual input level control.
For the top-of-the-line RS 195 (also closed-back), Sennheiser has added some presets to handle specific “personal hearing needs” and you will make adjustments to improve speech intelligibility.
Battery life for all your new models is rated at 18 hours, that ought to gratify even hard-core binge watchers. And it’s really worth noting that you could buy a second couple of the HDR 175 headphones found in the RS 175 system and the bottom station can transmit sound to both pairs simultaneously.
What you enter the box. Sarah Tew/CNET
The RS 175 system demonstrates what lengths, literally, high-end wireless performance has come. We couldn’t verify Sennheiser’s claimed 328 foot line-of-sight range for the headphones’ transmitter, but we could actually step out of a flat, decrease the hall but still have glitch-free sound up to approximately 15m (50 feet) from the transmitter base. (The extended range will come in useful when you wish a kitchen snack break while still being tapped in to the action of a sporting event, for instance).
We also had no issue stepping into another room while wearing the headphones; the RS 175 performed correctly with out a single dropout, stutter or noise. No other couple of home wireless headphones we’ve tested — we’re looking at you, Bluetooth — has been as trouble-free.
Sound quality is pretty good, pretty much on par with similarly priced wired headphone models, and that is high praise for wireless headphones.
Side view of the headphones charging. Sarah Tew/CNET
The RS 175 headphone system sounds well-balanced with music and movies, although bass had a tendency to sound overly rich. The NAD Viso HP50 , a wired model, was more transparent and open-sounding, however, many listeners might choose the RS 175’s warmer sound.
We didn’t hear a big change in sound quality when switching between your RS 175’s optical digital and the 3.5mm analog input.
As we mentioned earlier, the RS 175 is a closed-back design, so that it doesn’t sound as open and spacious as open-back headphones just like the (wired) Grado SR325e , but has the good thing about not leaking sound to disturb someone sleeping nearby.
We tried the RS 175’s two-step Surround Sound feature with a few films, and it can “start” the sound a bit, but also adds hollowness. Time for plain stereo, the sound is more immediate and the stereo imaging is more sharply focused. After we got used to the faux surround effect, though, it worked sufficiently for some films. It’s easy enough to toggle the surround on / off and see if you want the effect.
Bass Boost definitely kicks up the bass, but we felt the non-boosted bass level was satisfying. Still, for many who crave just a little extra activate the bass the RS 175 can supply it.
Yes, there are cheaper Bluetooth options for using wireless headphones while you’re watching TV (you can hook up a Bluetooth dongle to your TV and pair it with any Bluetooth headphone model). However, if you are buying a more premium music which offers a rock-steady connection, no latency issues and extended range, the Sennheiser RS 175 Wireless Headphone System is an excellent choice, even at its somewhat elevated price.