For watching TV or listening to music without disturbing the neighbors or your sleeping children, the best wireless headphones aim to give you sound quality that's every bit as good as you'd hear through top-quality wired headphones. Wireless models that provide the best home entertainment experience aren't meant for portable use. (We discuss portable wireless headphones elsewhere in this report; see the section detailing Bluetooth headphones.) While they allow some freedom of movement around your home, they must be in range of a base-station transmitter that's hooked up to your TV or home theater/stereo sound system.
Overall, reviewers say the Sennheiser RS 180 (Est. $330) is the best wireless headphone for home entertainment use. It uses Kleer wireless technology to stream lossless, CD-quality audio over a 2.4-GHz channel, without the interference common to other types of radio-frequency wireless headphones.
"Sennheiser has a reputation for making some of the best-sounding wireless headphones on the market, and the RS 180 demonstrates that it has learned its lessons well," says CNET's Steven Guttenberg. Although these headphones might be pricey, he says they sound amazing and are comfortable to wear. He adds: "Some may balk at the price, but the RS 180's sonic fidelity nearly matches Sennheiser's top-of-the-line wireless headphone at half the price."
Guttenberg is referring to the Sennheiser RS 220 (Est. $600) that delivers superb sound. Even so, CNET and other critics report that the difference in sound quality between those and the RS 180 is pretty small. "Unless you're only satisfied with the best, save your money and get the RS 180," Guttenberg says.
The Sennheiser RS 180 has open-style earpieces, which experts say provides a more natural, airy sound, although the trade-off is the potential for sound leakage in and out. There's no noise cancellation to be found here. Reviewers praise these wireless headphones for their excellent comfort, which many say holds up even during multiple hours of constant use. An Automatic Level Control feature unique to the RS 180 equalizes changes in volume when watching TV or movies, making it a great choice for use in living rooms.
Negatives are few and mostly minor. Some say the range of these headphones isn't as far as claimed, especially if walls get in the way. Others don't like the tightly packed layout of the volume and control buttons on the earpieces.
If the open-back design of the RS 180 is a deal-breaker for you, the Sennheiser RS 170 wireless headphone (Est. $250) offers many of the same features but with a closed back. That gives the RS 170 a different "sound" that audio purists might not like. Critics say the RS 170 is better suited for movie-watching than for music, although many still say this wireless headphone delivers top-notch performance that'll please all but the pickiest audiophiles. TrustedReviews.com gives the RS 170 a Recommended award, and reviewer Stuart Andrews calls them "among the best wireless headphones around."
If you don't want to spend more than $200 for a set of wireless cans, the Sennheiser RS 120 (Est. $90) are a great option for those on a more modest budget. While we classify them as the best cheap headphones, performance is anything but low rent. You do, however, give up some of the features of Sennheiser's higher-end wireless headphones. One drawback is the absence of Kleer technology, so interference could be more of a problem in certain situations.
Sound quality is excellent compared to other headphones in its price class, but isn't as pristine as with the RS 180. "With their excellent detail resolution, the RS 120s shined on DVDs and CDs, although their bass power and definition were only fair," Guttenberg says. He likes the comfort of these wireless headphones, calling the ear pad cushions lightweight and comfortable, but some users complain that the fit of the RS 120 is too loose. Even so, thousands of owner reviews at sites like Amazon.com report relatively high overall satisfaction.