Audio and music is a big part of nearly everyone’s lives today. If you’ve ever taken a public bus, you’ve most likely noticed someone with headphones or earbuds on, connected to their smartphone or MP3 player. Or perhaps you’ve looked out on the sidewalk and have seen someone jogging along with music playing in their heads. It seems that everyone always wants to listen to something!
So, what’s common about these types of situations?
Well, the obvious part is that they’re all listening to something. But beyond that, what’s common about them in terms of what kind of technology they’re using? They’re all either headphones or earbuds, certainly, and they’re using devices that can play back audio.
But what’s the piece that in-between, that we can never seem to escape?
That’s right. Wires. Wires have been around ever since electronics and electrical devices were invented. They serve the useful purpose of carrying power and/or information, but it’s hard to escape the fact that they can get a little unwieldy considering how prone they are to tangling.
Fortunately, as technology as advanced over the years, we’ve started to develop a multitude of ways in which we can be rid of all those wires. Whether it’s your home internet connection, Bluetooth headset, public Wi-Fi hotspots, wireless charging pads, and so on, wireless technology is becoming more and more ubiquitous. And audio is no exception. Initially, the technology used in wireless bluetooth headphones was very sub-par, offering iffy clarity and quality compared to traditional wired headset, and were nowhere near the quality desired by audio professionals.
Today, the landscape for wireless/bluetooth headphones is a little bit different. And we’ll show you why!
What are wireless TV headphones?
This might be pretty obvious, but it’s all in the name. They’re headphones that require no wires. You’re free to roam around (to an extent) without having to worry about tripping over a cord or accidentally unplugging something. By far, it’s one of the more convenient ways to listen to your audio.
The technology works much the same way as any other wireless device; the audio signal, instead of going through a wire, is transmitted over the air using a certain radio frequency. A powered base station will plug into your audio source and transmit it to the associated headphone unit. In the past, this has resulted in terrible audio quality due to limited bandwidth and/or compression technology. Today, these problems still may exist to some degree, but the technology has improved substantially over the years.
The best quality tends to come from wireless/bluetooth headphones that use dedicated base stations rather than something like Bluetooth. While Bluetooth does work fine for most purposes, it does have limited bandwidth. It leaves less room for things like full-quality surround sound (although it doesn’t prevent it), which may not be desirable for those who consider themselves to be audiophiles.
For most purposes, however, wireless TV headphones are pretty usable these days, especially if you stick to the proven and well-known brands on the market. They’re certainly a little more expensive than regular headset, but unless you’re looking for top-of-the-line professional-grade hardware, it shouldn’t be outrageously out of your budget.
But wireless headphones for Television?
If you’re looking to get the best possible audio experience on your television without cranking up the volume and waking the neighbors, a pair of wireless headphones for TV might be just the thing you’re looking for. Most head-phones come with a receiver that you can hook up to your television. From there, you can put on your headphones and listen to your favorite shows in peace. In this article, we’ll go over the pros and cons of different brands and styles, and hopefully help you find the pair of recivers that are ideal for your needs.
What are the best headphones for TV?
That depends on a few things. One of the most important factors to consider when looking at wireless headphones for TV is the type of transmission system they use. Many lower-end wireless or bluetooth headset utilize either FM (radio) or IR (infrared) signals to wirelessly beam audio from the receiver to the headphones. These systems have some advantages, such as a long listening range, but this comes with an attendant loss of quality.
The higher-end wireless TV headphones tend to use a straight Wireless transmission – Sennheiser has Kleer, which they themselves designed – or Bluetooth, which has the advantage of hooking up to multiple devices without a separate receiver unit.
When looking for the best model, it’s important to remember that everybody has different needs. If you’re a hardcore audiophile, any level of hiss or static might be a dealbreaker for you. On the other hand, if you like listening to your television wirelessly while doing household chores, a long range and reliable signal might be the most important attributes to consider.
When it comes to headphones specifically designed for TV use, two brands stand tall above the others: Sony and Sennheiser. Both companies offer wireless earphones at a wide variety of price points, and they all have generally positive reviews.
Let’s go over a few of the top models:
Quality On A Budget
Sennheiser RS120 (our review)
If you’re in the market for wireless TV headphones but ambivalent about dropping a few hundred dollars on your first pair, the RS120s are a great choice. They have received excellent reviews from consumers and tech magazines, no doubt due to their price point. The RS120s utilize an FM transmitter that can project audio up to 100 feet from the source. Since it’s FM, the signal can also travel through walls.
Sony MDRRF985RK Wireless RF Headset (our review)
Another quality budget option is the Sony MDRRF985RK Wireless RF Headphones. These are likely one of the cheapest quality headphones you’ll be able to find. They are quite comfortable and broadcast a full-throated signal over RF (radio frequency), with a maximum range of about 150 feet. Like the Sennheiser 120s, they can transmit a signal through walls, so you don’t have to worry about getting cut off when traveling from room to room.
As for the downsides, many consumers complain about intermittent static hiss, especially when there’s any obstruction between the receiver and the headset. Yes, you’ll be able to hear the audio from another room, but you’ll have to sacrifice some sound quality to do so.
The Higher End
If money is no object, and you want the best quality of wireless (RF or Bluetooth) headphones possible, a company like Sennheiser will serve you quite well. Ever since the company was founded, they’ve been known for making premium, high-end audio equipment for a variety of different niches and audiences. And a big reason that they’re still in business today is that they have never compromised on the quality of their products. One of their latest wireless headphones for TV is the Sennheiser RS 220 – and now even better: Sennheiser RS 195.
Sennheiser RS 195 is better than RS 220 (Sennheiser RS 220 is discontinued by Manufacturer). Designed to be as slick and modern as possible, it offers pretty much everything you could ever want, including a base station with both analog and digital inputs, over-the-ear head-phones with the weight and meatiness you would expect from professional equipment, and of course, amazing acoustics that continue the company’s tradition of only providing the best quality possible.
Inside of the headset are 2 NiMH rechargeable batteries. Even though these batteries are technically removable, you don’t necessarily need to remove them since the base station can also recharge these batteries, which is quite convenient. These batteries will last you around 6 to 8 hours, depending on how actively you use them, and the base station will consume a mere 0.30 watts in standby mode.
Overall, these are headset with the absolute latest technology and the highest amount of clarity and quality that you could possibly ask for. As mentioned, though, if money is no object, then these wireless headphones for TV will take you a very long way.
Sony MDR-DS6500 Digital Surround (our review)
Sporting a Wi-Fi range of up to 95 feet, the Sony MDR-DS6500 Headphones are a solid mid-level choice. They feature a battery life of up to 10 hours, as well as a beefy Surround Sound mode that utilizes a subwoofer in the earpieces. The bass is adequate, but it won’t shake you to your core.
One potential drawback is its Wi-Fi transmission system. If you tend to run multiple internet-enabled devices around your TV simultaneously (such as an Xbox 360 or PS3), their signals might interfere with your audio.
Sennheiser RS175 Digital Wireless System (our review)
If you’re looking for audiophile-level sound for a not-too-outrageous price, it’s hard to beat the Sennheiser RS170s. These headset feature the lossless Kleer Digital Wireless System, which provides an especially crisp sound quality for up to 260 feet. They also feature Automatic Level Control, which compensates for variances in the volume of television programs and enhances speech intelligibility. This keeps your audio consistent – and your hands off the volume buttons.
Bose SoundLink Bluetooth (our review)
If you’d like to get more functionality beyond just TV-watching out of your headphones, the Bose AE2w/SoundLink Bluetooth Headphones might be the best fit for you. Unlike the other wireless TV headphones on this list, the AE2w headphones utilize Bluetooth, rather than an FM or digital transmitter signal, to wirelessly connect to your devices. This means that you can use your headphones with an iPhone, iPad, car stereo system, or any other device that’s Bluetooth enabled.
There are a few downsides to this, however. First and foremost, these headphones can only sustain a meager 7-hour battery life. This is nowhere near the battery of life of even the lower-end FM wireless bluetooth headphones, and might be annoying for regular television usage. Plus, if your TV is older and not equipped with Bluetooth, you won’t be able to use them at all.
The Bluetooth signal is also not quite as strong as an FM signal, so you may not be able to stray as far from your TV without impacting sound quality. That said, Bose has a well-earned reputation for making stellar audio equipment, and the AE2w headphones don’t skimp on sound quality in the slightest.
Sennheiser RS 185 Digital System (our review)
This model is for serious audiophiles only. The RS220s have all of the advanced features of the RS170, such as the Surround Sound and Dynamic Bass modes, but it ups the ante by featuring better dynamic range, as well as both digital and analog inputs.
The RS180s also score high marks for their insane level of comfort. They sport an open-back design that keeps you from sweating during long viewing and listening sessions.
There aren’t many downsides to the RS180s, but one common complaint is the awkward placement of the control buttons. All in all, however, they pack a serious audio punch that rivals the best wired headphones out there.
Sony MDR RF985RK (our review)
If you want wireless headphones for TV that are a little more approachable on pricing, you can try out the MDR RF985RK from Sony. These ones can be found online, and it includes a number of goodies that you certainly won’t be disappointed in.
Perhaps the biggest thing to boast about with these headset is the fact that it has over 25 hours of battery life, which is substantially higher than the mentioned Sennheiser model. The only caveat is that this can come at the expense of audio quality. The base station transmits at a frequency of around 915-916 MHz, which has the implication that any audio data transmitted will be a little more limited by bandwidth. Still, if you’re the type that simply wants to listen to music away from the audio source, then this can be a good way to go.
The advantage of operating at a lower frequency, however, is that it tends to have significantly better range. The wireless signal will reach for up to 150 feet, while the typical 2.4 GHz can only reach up to around 30-60 feet, depending on the layout of walls and other obstructions.
As far as inputs, the base station includes stereo RCA inputs as well as a standard mini-jack. For most people this may be adequate, but these days the absence of digital audio input might knock it down a point or two. Still, for what they set out to do, these wireless headset tend to work pretty decently.
Which headphones for Television will best suit your needs?
There are a few factors to consider besides price when you’re deciding which head-phones to buy. One is the battery life. The higher you go in price, the longer battery life you’re going to get. The Sennheiser RS120s, for example, have a batter life of about 10 hours. The RS170s, on the other hand, boast over 16 hours of battery life. On the highest end, the RS185s can be used for up to 24 hours straight.
Another important factor is the transmission range. The lower end headphones, some of which rely on FM transmitters, sport ranges of about 100 feet. On the higher end, the range can reach as high as 300 feet or more. If you have a small apartment or your television is in a relatively confined area, you may not need all that extra range.
What do I look for?
First, while wireless headphones for TV receive their audio in a different manner, they still output it in exactly the same way. The only difference is that headset have to be optimized for battery life, which may or may not influence audio quality depending on what you get.
In any case, battery life is obviously one of the most important things that you should look at. Ideally you would want headset that are rechargeable, so that you can leave them plugged into a power source when you’re not using them. But besides that, it’s not uncommon to find wireless TV headphones that have anywhere from 4 to 8 hours of listening time. Unless you’re going to be away from any source of power for a long period of time, this should be too big of a deal. Still, you want wireless TV headphones that maximize the amount of battery life.
You only need to make sure that it doesn’t emphasize battery life in favor of audio quality (unless you’re okay with that). If you only need to listen to your music for the day and don’t need absolutely top-notch quality, you might be able to find wireless headphones for TV with higher battery life.
Besides the battery, you also want to make sure that the base station (if it’s the type that uses one) doesn’t have too many reported issues of dropped signals, or getting constant interference. Much like a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless headphone base stations hover around the 2.4 GHz frequency, which is also shared by microwaves (for example). This means that it’s possible for your Internet connection and/or electrical appliances to interfere with your audio, but only if they share the exact same frequency and channel by chance. You also cannot have too many walls between the receiver and headset.
It’s also good to have a variety of audio inputs on the base station, just so you can have your wireless TV headphones be more versatile than simply being used on a computer or smartphone. For example, you may desire to have your TV go through your headsets. In this case, you may need a base station that includes RCA and/or digital coaxial inputs. It’s up to you and your needs, however.
Which one is right for me?
All of these different models have different advantages and disadvantages, but which one you buy depends on what you need. Do you want the absolute latest in wireless headphone technology along with the highest quality sound that money can buy? Look for something from Sennheiser.
Do you want something that will just let you listen to music with less wires to worry about? Go for JBL, Altec Lansing, or any other model that’s below $100 (depending upon your budget).
Whichever one you choose, you’ll be sure to enjoy the enormous benefits of wireless TV headphones. There won’t be any more wires to get tangled. You can move around. You can spin around in your chair without getting into a precarious situation. People can walk around without tripping over something. And so on. Given that nearly everything else we use has gone wireless, including computers, mobile devices, mice and keyboards, game controllers, etc, it’s only fitting that headphones should follow along. And of course, the next major frontier is wireless power at a distance. Soon (hopefully).
Which one should you purchase for Television, then?
If you’re looking to get the best possible value for your dollar, I recommend getting a pair of the Sennheiser RS170s. They provide excellent sound quality and a fantastic transmission range. They are also feature excellent Surround Sound and Dynamic Bass settings that give your audio a definite boost. If you really want to, you could opt for the RS180s, but it’s questionable that the handful of added features are worth an extra $60. If the open-back design isn’t a deal breaker for you, the RS170s should suit your needs quite well.
Currently, the Sennheiser RS170s are the highest-rated headphones (an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars). They certainly aren’t the cheapest set on the market, but chances are you’ll be able to rely on them for years.
Most of the major headphone manufacturers produce wireless versions of their products as well. The prices can vary quite a bit depending on the kind of quality that you’re looking for, whether it uses a base station, and so on. Companies like Sennheiser, Beats, Altec Lansing, Sony, JBL, Monster, etc, all have serviceable wireless audio products.