There are plenty of reasons why you might want headphones for watching TV. Maybe you live in a small place. Maybe your spouse hates the sports you love? Or maybe your roommate likes to watch The Bachelor at full volume. <shudder>
Headphones connected to your TV are a great way to focus on the program you want to watch, without disturbing others, or conversely, them disturbing you.
I’ve never watched TV with headphones before; I have a sweet external speaker/soundbar hooked up to my TV that works great. But I had a chance to test out two new sets of ‘phones from audio giant Sennheiser, and I was interested in seeing the difference they might make to my viewing experience.
Sennheiser has an amazing reputation for making among the best headphones in the world. For more than 60 years, the German audio manufacturer and developer has been making headphones, microphones, wireless transmission systems, and most recently, telecommunications products. The company says that to maintain quality, it manufactures its products at its own plants in Germany, Ireland and the US.
Sennheiser’s Facebook page gives a pretty epic description of what it’s all about: “From the fragile intimacy of a whispered word to the deep dark punch of an attacking bassline. Sennheiser delivers pure emotion and excitement. A quality that has convinced a broad spectrum of artists – from Franz Ferdinand to the White Stripes to the Sugababes, and of course music lovers all over the world.
Sennheiser TV Headphones Review
I received two models of Sennheiser headphones to review: the
Sennheiser RS 125 and the Sennheiser RS 135. They’re specifically made for TV viewing (or movies, or Netflix, you get the idea).
Set up: Connecting the base station
Right out of the gate, connecting to the TV was easy. You simply plug the base station into the back of the TV using the supplied audio cable. It’s worth mentioning I made a dumb mistake by connecting the red and black audio connectors to audio “in” instead of audio “output”, so it didn’t work, and it took me a few minutes to figure that out. And it also turns out, I don’t have the proper audio out, and instead I needed to connect my TV using the included adapter, and instead plug the base station into the headphone/micro audio jack. Once I figured that out, the connection was instant.
Before I figured out my connection mistake, I was flipping through the instruction manual that comes in the package trying to troubleshoot. Unfortunately, it provides no help. A card tucked inside the box asks suggests that if you are connecting a TV (but of course you are, it says right on the box, “Made for TV”), you should go to their website and watch ‘how to’ videos. It also says you can snap the QR code to take you there instantly. (One minor note, more for Sennheiser than anyone else, the QR code takes you to a page with a list of videos for various types of headphones, except the two newest ones which I was trying. Nonetheless, I was able to search Google for some other videos, and within 30 seconds of starting one of those videos, they had identified my input mistake.)
Sennheiser Sound Quality
The first thing I noticed was the sound is crisp and clear right away. I turned on The Masters to sample some audio, and the voices were very clean and sounded sharp. I was also able to hear quite a bit of the crowd noise and background murmuring while watching the players tee off.
Having always used some type of external speakers, ie. the aforementioned soundbar for our TV, it was an interesting experience having the audio wrapped right around my head. The joy of using headphones with a television, is that it really puts you right in the middle of the scenes and the action.
How it all works together
I liked that the transmitter is relatively small and unobtrusive; it tucked easily away beside my TV and didn’t get in the way. The headphones have channels you can change if you run into interference issues with the audio, and there’s also a tiny tuning wheel on the headphone earpieces where you can fine tune the sound, and there’s also a volume wheel there.
The thing I actually liked least about these headphones was the earpieces themselves. They are made with a relatively thin and not very spongy foam, and the foam is quite flat. There’s no major give to them, so it feels more like they’re clamped over your ear, rather than wrapped around it. The fabric covering wrapping the foam is also not exactly soft, and feels kind of cheap, particularly for such a brand like Sennheiser which is known for its high-end audio components.
The headphones themselves are quite light weight, and there is a decent cushion along the top band of the headphones to keep them from digging in. I would not say I found these headphones particularly comfortable to wear, as some can be, but they were not uncomfortable either. I strapped them on for about an hour at a time, and I will say they didn’t slide off, and didn’t hurt my ears which, frankly, was what I was expecting, so that was a nice surprise.
How long does the battery last?
The headphones are battery powered via a compartment in one of the ear pieces, and the base station plugs into a standard wall jack for its power. I accidentally left the headphones on after using them one time, and it was about two hours later when I realized it. I flipped the switch off and on again, and they were still working just great and somehow I’d avoided killing the battery entirely.
How to choose: Sennheiser RS 125 vs RS 135
The primary difference between the 125 speakers and the 135 speakers appears to be the 135 model comes with a metal headphone stand attached to the base station where you can hang the headphones when they are not in use. Otherwise the size and shape of the base station is identical for each model, as are the headphones themselves. They have the exact same padding on the ears, but a slightly different padding configuration on the headband, mostly so the RS135 set hangs properly from its wire storage hook. In all other aspects they operate exactly the same, and sound identical.
The Bottom Line
For my money, I think the RS 125 are just fine. The RS135 doesn’t seem to be much of an upgrade, so the basic model here is probably all you need. The sound quality of the headphones is very good, and even though I found the padding and the overall feel of the headphones to be a bit lacking, they were comfortable to wear. The headphones come with a 2 year warranty, so I guess if they didn’t live up to their name, there’s recourse. So if you’re looking for a set of headphones to cut off the chaos around you so you can enjoy a movie, the game, or just binge-watch your top TV shows, these Sennheiser pairs are good bets.