What are the best wireless headphones for watching TV?
That's a question a fair number of CNET readers like to ask us, and while it's hard to give a definitive answer, Sennheiser's RS 185 model is certainly one of the better options out there at $280 (£230, AU$599).
It's one of the middle models in Sennheiser's line of 2015 RF headphones that feature a new "class-leading, proprietary wireless link technology" that the company says delivers interference-free sound. Operating on the 2.4GHz band, the entry-level RS 165 model offers 30m (100-foot) range while the RS 175, RS 185 and RS 195 are rated as having a whopping 100m (about 330-foot) range.
You may get that range if you happen to be standing in an open field, but in our "real-world" tests in an open office as well as our New York apartments, the range was more like 20-30m (66 to 100 feet), and that range will be affected by what your walls are made of.
As far as the design goes, it's a comfortable closed-back over-ear design that does a good job of keeping sound from leaking out so you don't disturb someone sleeping nearby. But the headphones fit snugly enough that you may be forced to take some quick breaks while wearing them over the course of a 2-hour movie.
The system consists of two components: the headphones themselves and a base station (transmitter) that doubles as a charging stand to store the headphones on when not in use. That base station is pretty lightweight and doesn't exactly exude high-end build quality, but it's designed to be tucked away and kept out of view. On the back, it has a digital optical connection as well as a 3.5mm analog minijack input that allows you to connect it to a TV or any audio component that has corresponding outputs with the included cables.
For our initial TV-watching tests we used the optical connection built into our TV (most new TVs have an optical connection as well as an analog output). We also plugged directly into a cable box. It's literally a plug-and-play situation: just plug the AC adapter into the base station, plug the power into the wall and connect the included optical cable and you're good to go. (Note, however, that if you plug it into a TV's dedicated headphone jack -- instead of the audio output jacks mentioned above -- that you'll likely cut off the TV's speaker.)
Each model in the line offers different sound and features, but we chose to review the RS 175 because we think it offers the most appealing features and sound for the money.
The entry-level RS 165 has an optional bass boost but no virtual surround modes (and, as noted, its range is 30m instead of 100m). That model, like the RS 175 reviewed here, has a closed-back design, while the RS 185 has an open design and offers more open, detailed sound than the RS 175 and a manual input level control.
For the top-of-the-line RS 195 (also closed-back), Sennheiser has added some presets to address specific "personal hearing needs" and you can make adjustments to increase speech intelligibility.