Sennheiser RS 160 headphones review
The Sennheiser RS 160 are part of the company's digital wireless series, letting you enjoy your music without strangling yourself with cable. The RS 160 are of the over-the-ear type, giving you a full headphone and a separate transmitter station.
Before you get to your £140 headphones, you'll have to do battle with the packaging. The person who designs Sennheiser packaging must be something of a genius, but we feel it is time to say that simple is sometimes better and in this age of environmental concern, it would be nice to see something with less plastic to throw away.
Once you are in you'll find your headphones, the transmitter module, a set of AAA batteries, the power cable and the 3.5mm cable to connect to your audio source. The power cable divides into two, powering the transmitter and charging the headphones themselves. The cable is not long enough to charge whilst wearing and it cuts off the music if you do plug it in.
To provide a portable option, you can also insert two AA batteries (not supplied) into the base of the transmitter, so you don't need to be connected to the mains. Effectively this means you can go portable with any music device, although the size of the transmitter means it is better suited to your desk or a rucksack and isn't really practical to bundle into your pocket with your iPod.
The transmitter measures 87 x 97 x 27mm and is a flattish disk. Other models in Sennheiser's digital wireless range offer a stand, and if you are mostly going to be using them at your desk or around your house or room, then a stand presents a nice way to keep your headphones safe.
As a portable choice, you have to consider that you will be lugging around the transmitter too and you don't get the option to bypass the wireless aspect and plug them straight in, so overall, the RS 160 are only flexible to a point and we'd have liked to be able to plug them in to use on the plane for example.
The headphones themselves show all the attention to detail that you expect from Sennheiser. They have an adjustable padded headband, with plenty of swivel provided by the cans to make them sit properly no matter how crazy your head is shaped. Thick padding around the ears makes them really comfortable, but like many circumaural headphones, they do get a little hot with extended use. We didn't find any unusual pressure around the head in long-term use however.
The headphones have their own power switch which is flanked by volume controls, which can be a little hard to locate, but given time it doesn't present a problem.
The transmitter features a power button so you can turn it off to preserve the batteries and around the back is a volume dial so you can set the output volume. This works independently from the headphone's volume controls and the source volume, so a bit of balancing is required to make sure that the headphones will give you the volume ranges you want.
Out of the box no real set-up is required, you simply install the batteries, plug into your source, turn everything on and off you go: there is no fiddly pairing needed, it just works.
And works well, with great immersive audio produced by the RS 160. We tested them out with a wide range of music types from a number of sources and the Sennheisers impressed. Audio definition is excellent, but does lie towards the bassy side which can mean you lose some delicate detail.
Sitting behind the wireless technology is Kleer, which offers uncompressed digital wireless audio, so it beats the likes of Bluetooth with solid, great sounding audio. In all the time we tested the RS 160 it didn't crackle or lose the audio stream, something that Bluetooth is prone to.
We tried some voice podcasts and radio plays came across with plenty of clarity, whilst hooking up to the TV boosted the normal speakers on the TV. The rich soundtrack of Forza 3 really came to life and the intensity of Battlefield: Bad Company was really brought out by the headphones.
At higher volumes those in the room (or next to you on the train) will be able to hear what you are listening to, and whilst they provide a physical barrier between your ear and the outside world, you'll still be able to hear some outside noise.
But the beauty of the RS 160 comes from the portability. In this case it might not work so well taking them on your commute (unless you've got space for the transmitter), but moving them around the house with ease is a real bonus. The range is 20m, so you can stray a good distance from the source, but if you need to plug into the kitchen radio whilst washing up, or the bedroom TV for some late-night movie watching, it couldn’t be simpler.
Battery life for both the headphones and the transmitter is rated at 24 hours, although the charge time for the headphones is 16hrs, something you'll need to watch out for as you can't listen whilst charging.
The RS 160 deliver with solid design and construction, great sounding audio and are comfortable for long periods. The portable aspect seems more appropriate to the home than walking the streets, but with the transmitter accepting either batteries or mains power, you can easily switch around as you wish.
These aren't cheap at £140, but as you expect from Sennheiser, you get the comfort and the performance to soothe yourself once you get them home.