Name: Sennheiser RS 220
Type: Wireless Headphones
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price as reviewed: £349.99
Wireless headphones can be a hit-or-miss affair, but Sennheiser's RS 220 cans are among the best we've ever seen. From a neat design to superb sound quality, you'll want these things living over your ears permanently. Read on to find out just what makes them so good.
We've been burnt many times before by the promise of wireless headphones. Expensive, eating through batteries like Pac-Man gobbling little yellow pellets and generally sounding considerably worse than their wired cousins, there's often been little reason to recommend them over a premium, reliable pair of wired headphones with an extra long lead.
Sennheiser's RS 220 wireless headphones however are among the most compelling sets we've ever seen. In terms of both design and sound quality, they're head and shoulders above much of the wireless competition, and above many wired offerings too.
The RS 220 kit is comprised of the headphones themselves and a lectern-shaped docking cradle. Finished in black they look great and complement each other well.
The dock has a black gloss-plastic front with a matte black finish on the rear, with two touch-sensitive buttons on the front for power and input selection. LED lights on the front indicate input selection (Analog, Optical and Coaxial) as well as power and battery status. Stereo phono, optical and coaxial connections each are given both input and output sockets, meaning the dock can be used as a pass-through when also hooked up to a separate speaker and amp. On the rear you will also find a dial to set the base's volume level, and a button for pairing the dock to the wireless headphones.
The versatility of the connectivity options (as well as the sharp looks) would be reason enough to praise the docking unit, but they really come into their own when paired with the headphones themselves. Tucked inside a recess at the top of each headphone cup is a spot for a rechargeable 800mAh AAA battery, as well as a small metal contact strip. When the headphones are placed on top of the dock this contact strip can be used not only to secure the headphones in place, but also to recharge the batteries sitting inside.There's a lengthy initial overnight charging session to get the most from the batteries, and they'll only be good for 7 or so hours per charge, but having them recharge when docked means only those who sit for marathon listening sessions will notice. It's a superb idea, and the use of standard AAA batteries not only means replacements are readily available, but that the whole headset stays light at around the 330g mark.
The headphones themselves look a treat too. A padded black leather headband leads on to the almost-crescent shaped cans, which feature a small outer grille and chrome trim. Offering a good deal of pivot and flex, an open-back design with velour pads make for a very comfortable set, keeping your ears cool.
Thin winding buttons for input and power sit on the left underside cup, and volume and balance on the right cup. Here perhaps, along with the open-back design, are where the Sennheiser headphones show their only minor flaws; the buttons are a little bit fiddly, while the open-back cans lead to plenty of sound leakage. You won't be able to pop these on for a late night heavy metal session without waking up your nearby other half.
These small issues aside, the RS 220s continue to shine through with superb wireless performance. Using the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi wavelength rather than the Bluetooth streaming standard that many other manufacturers opt for, we never once experienced a drop out in signal. Sennheiser claim the RS 220s will serve you well up to ranges of 100 metres, and while that may be a slight exaggeration (particularly if you take interior walls into account), we had a few happy afternoons sitting at the back of the garden a good distance away with the docking unit tucked in our office upstairs.
Sonically, the RS 220s again impress. They're not quite of the audiophile nature that Sennheiser's HD 800s may be, but definitely fare favourably against their mid-range HD 650 offerings.
Sound is wide and rich thanks to the open design and the use of uncompressed wireless transmission, giving an expansive soundstage that lends itself well to dynamic classical music and the challenging range of action movies too. Smooth and warm, they sit perhaps a little too comfortably in the mid-range, but offer a solid bass response and detailed top end too.
You'll get more crunch and attack from closed-back headphones, but it's only a minimal drop in punch. Nonetheless, the headphones, as previously stated, serve classical music best of all, and likewise do well when faced with the tight beats of electronic music. Rock music is perhaps a little less well served; the chiming guitars of The Smiths' Queen is Dead album danced across the cans with much more dynamism than At The Drive-In's Relationship of Command for instance. But let us stress; whatever you're listening to with the RS 220s, it'll sound fantastic.
Everything about the Sennheiser RS 220 wireless headphones oozes quality. From the smart design to the comfortable weight and fit, they're a product very much worthy of their premium pricing. Sounding just as great as they look, with clever features like the charging station built into the base, they're a joy to use. It's not a particularly cluttered market when it comes to wireless headphones, but the RS 220s would shine even if it were. If you're after both convenience and superb sound quality, Sennheiser's latest effort should be at the top of your wish list.