Attention spans are ever shorter these days, and I’m no exception; planning to sit down and listen to music seems to require the will to be tethered to the spot for the duration. Maybe it’s psychology but the kettle starts to beckon, pressure builds in the bladder and – did I detect a knock at the door?
Not being one for compromise (too much), I found that Sennheiser‘s current crop of wireless headphones using ‘Kleer’ technology give sound quality which easily matches most wired headphones in their price bracket. The advantage of being able to take the music with me should I need to cross the room cannot be underestimated; the cable on my good old AKG K240s has me creeping around like a cat burglar in case I snag it, or knock over something brittle and expensive.
The Sennheiser RS170 is a closed-backed headphone; meaning that I am isolated from environmental sounds to a certain extent and those around me cannot easily be disturbed by what I am listening to. The ‘closed’ type of headphone historically has had problems with standing waves and resonance within the earcups, and any soundstage has appeared narrower. Which makes it all the more surprising when I have to remove the headphones to check I have not left my speakers on! I have also felt as if someone has crept up to me and purred a few lyrics over my shoulder. Closed-back headphones have really come a long way.
The headphones are very light which makes them excellent for wearing whilst engaged in various household tasks such as head-shaking, hand-wringing and general procrastination; also they are right at home outside, and can be used for working or relaxing in the garden. I find mine are invaluable if I’m working on or cleaning my motorbike at the front of the house; the noise from the road drowns out my radio, and the wire involved with in-ear headphones and a MP3 player causes problems. Over the winter they have also kept my ears warm out there!
The RS170 features a bass-boost button which works very well for a bass fan such as myself; although it is by no means overpowering. It is well balanced with the higher frequencies being slightly accentuated when this is active. Also there’s a virtual surround setting which works very well for watching films and the like, but not so well for music or speech/radio. I find that anything in the centre of the soundstage is shifted slightly to the right and a little bit of clarity is lost. The control buttons on the right earcup are a little bit of a struggle for a lot of people as they are close together and most find them tricky, but I got used to them within a week. Tip – feel for the gap between the volume/power buttons and the bass boost/surround buttons.
The leatherette earpads are comfortable enough and provide a good seal; however I have modded mine by using a thin, stretchy fabric intended for use as an insect screen and placing this over the parts which contact my head. My ears can breath a little more easily and I can listen for longer. Velour earpads are available as an alternative; these are for the RS180 but fit the RS170 also.
Being a practical-minded chap, I was happy to find the headphones are powered by a pair of the ubiquitous AAA-sized batteries which will be easy to replace when the time comes. Indeed I’m confident that other spares will be available for some time to come, as Sennheiser obviously realise the value of post-sales support when it comes to spare parts.