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Headphone Sessions 2/07/2012: Sennheiser RS 220 Wireless

We’ve long thought the Sennheiser ‘RS’ systems were the top-sounding wireless headphones on the market and, beginning with the RS 110 model over a decade ago, HeadRoom has carried all the various RS wireless products over the years. The recent RS 220 design easily surpasses previous RS wireless performance in sound quality, ergonomic comfort, source control, feature set, connectivity options and transmission range quality. The principal issues we discovered with previous RS systems were embedded transmission compression artifacts and dialogue not quite lining up perfectly with mouths moving on the screen. Utilizing KLEER transmission technology like in the RS 180, the audio signal was compressed and then transmitted wirelessly to the headset where it got processed again to sound “uncompressed”. All of that electronics processing hoo-haa causes similar distortion to low-quality mp3 files and it takes time to get it all through the signal chain, hence latency. The new DSSS technology employed by the RS 220 gets rid of latency by not compressing the signal at all, resulting in a much more cohesive and well-detailed audio presentation. There is no doubt by any reviewer on our HeadRoom panel that the Sennheiser RS 220 is the best wireless headphone system we’ve heard to date.

[caption id="attachment_2340" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Sennheiser RS 220"] Sennheiser RS 220[/caption] Given the RS 220 were so impressive for wireless headphones and the fact that Sennheiser touts them as basically being equivalent to the ‘wired’ HD600/HD650 headphones, we set up a pair of HD650and a HeadRoom Micro Stack (HeadRoom Micro Amp + Micro DAC) right next to them for a listening A/B test. Our testers quickly noticed the effortless fluidity, midrange presence and low-end authority of the HD650 over the smooth but perhaps slightly thin tonal presentation of the RS 220. The bass and treble frequencies are sufficiently represented but there is a slight scoop in the lower midrange which may likely end itself toward better speech intelligibility for understanding TV or movie dialogue. We also noticed a lack of huge dynamic energy in the RS 220, but this is a common drawback of wireless transmission and the reason we recommend a wired set-up for the best sound quality for serious reference listening. That being said, the overall sound from the RS 220 was as clear and robust as we’ve experienced from wireless headphones. The Sennheiser RS 220 awesome feature sets and great connection options also thoroughly impressed. With the handy ability to accept both digital coaxial and optical along with analog RCA inputs, it opens up options to connect to any source you put in front of it and easily connects to modern flat-screen TV digital outputs. Each input also has an output that allows you to send the same signal you are feeding the headphones to a second system, giving you the option of listening to the headphones or a speaker based system -- or both at the same time. If you’ve got the sources, you can connect one to each of the inputs and switch between inputs via a button on the headphones. You’ve also got on-board volume and balance buttons for full control up to 300 feet away from the base (300ft outside range, 100ft inside). Of course, the thing most of our HeadRoom reviewers complained about is the rather steep price tag. $599.95 may steer away the average hard-of-hearing listener who simply wants an improved TV experience, but to the seasoned audiophile who wants the best possible wireless headphone sonics or for the budding newbie who wants to get into a DAC, ‘headphone amp’ plus a set of wireless cans, all the components and performance of the RS 220 are there for the taking and can even offer an excellent value if thought about that way! For more information on the RS 220, other Sennheiser headphones or any other headphones and headphone accessories on the market, please call our HeadRoom tech geeks to help you Get It Right Between The Ears at (800) 828-8184


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