Sennheiser RS 220 wireless hi-fi headphones
Sennheiser’s newest wireless headphones finally deliver proper, audiophile-grade quality
- Excellent sound quality for wireless
- Long battery life and easy recharge
- Extremely comfortable
- High price tag
- Minor background noise at high receiver volume
- Heavier than wired models
Sennheiser's RS 220 wireless headphones genuinely surprised us: their sound quality is easily on par with the better wired models we've heard, and they have the advantage of being completely wireless. We didn't experience any drop-outs or loss of sound quality in our testing, and the RS 220's battery life is long enough for a full work day. The headphones are comfortable and easy to use -- our only complaints are the weight and the high asking price.
Price$ 649.95 (AUD)
The sound quality of the Sennheiser RS 220 setup is, in a word, excellent. The headphones themselves are eminently clear and detailed — there wasn’t a recording we listened to where we noticed any missing elements of music or vocals. The HDR 220 headphones have a neutral character, without any significant bias towards either high treble or low bass notes. We prefer headphones to be neutral rather than excessively musical, so that if you want extra bass or treble you can dial it in with an equaliser.
Treble detail is good, with little to no harshness on high electronic or acoustic notes or soaring female vocals. Music doesn’t sound tinny or empty, though, with mid-range frequencies well represented as well, albeit slightly recessed compared to higher treble and lower bass notes. The best way to describe a good quality track, from a good quality source, on the Sennheiser RS 220, is ‘textured’: music has a lively element to it that is simply missing from inferior headphones.
The headphones are able to extend reasonably low, and are able to deliver strong bass if the audio track calls for it — with one particular Skrillex test track delivering punchy bass without the muddy, slow, over-blown decay that drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep tracks of that ilk are able to expose in cheaper headphones.
The Sennheiser RS 220, with headphones hanging on the transmitter unit.
Listening to another pop music hit, on-again-off-again scene queen Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die, showed that the RS 220 is able to easily handle the demands of rich, reverberating vocal tracks and delicate orchestral backing. Even at higher volumes the RS 220 is able to reproduce everything that’s thrown at it: there’s no nuance missing in singers’ voices or in the strums of instrument strings. It’s surprising, but the Sennheiser RS 220 delivers excellent sound quality in a wireless pair of headphones.
We tested the wireless transmission quality and range of the Sennheiser RS 220 headphones by taking them on a long walk around our office. Sennheiser claims 100 metres of open-air range, or about 30m indoors. The headphones functioned perfectly without dropping out as we walked around the entire office level, even with a couple of plasterboard walls and about fifteen metres of distance between the transmitter and receiver. Entering a concete-lined fire escape stairwell proved too much, though, and we weren’t able to listen to the RS 220 from the next office level up. These attempts far exceed anything the RS 220 should be expected to do, though, and as far as we’re concerned their wireless performance is flawless.
A view of the connectors on the rear base of the Sennheiser RS 220's transmitter.
We also weren’t able to notice any audio compression or distortion over the wireless channel in our hours of listening, either. Cheaper wireless models don’t sound great, that much is true — but to be honest, we think we’d be hard-pressed to tell the RS 220 from a comparable wired high-end Sennheiser phone like the HD 650 if both were at moderate volumes. Simply put, the RS 220’s wireless isn’t a stumbling block in its sound quality. We didn’t get any interference from the two Wi-Fi networks running in our network, either — this might have something to do with the fact that the RS 220 transmits over three channels simultaneously for redundancy.
One thing that is worth noting though is the RS 220 headphones’ internal circuitry, which tends to exhibit a little hissing at high volumes. If you turn the headphones on with no audio playing from a source, and then turn the volume all the way up, you can hear a hiss not unlike a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. There is also an almost unnoticeable continuous high-frequency tone. However, if your source is sufficiently powerful and the gain on the transmitter is correctly set, this should not present a problem — we never needed to turn the Sennheiser RS 220 headphones up that high during any actual audio listening.
Sennheiser RS 220: Conclusion
The Sennheiser RS 220 wireless headphones ably fulfil the role of both wireless headphones and hi-fi headphones: they sound excellent while offering a full day’s wireless operation with the easiest possible recharging. The asking price is high, at $649, but we think the RS 220 is unique amongst the wireless headphones we heard in that it’s comparable to a wireless model of a similar price, and with the HD 650 costing $549 you’re only paying a hundred dollars for wireless convenience.
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