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Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless Headphone System review: Premium wireless headphones for TV watching

Sennheiser's new RF-based wireless headphone system is easy to set up and delivers strong performance for both movie watching and music listening.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
David Carnoy
Steve Guttenberg
4 min read

What are the best wireless headphones for watching TV?


Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless Headphone System

The Good

The Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless Headphone System offers impressive wireless sound, a comfortable fit and extended range (through walls), and easily connects to your TV, computer or any audio source with the included cables. Connection is rock-solid and features include faux surround and bass boost modes.

The Bad

Somewhat pricey compared with Bluetooth options; base station/charging stand feels a little cheap.

The Bottom Line

Sennheiser's new RF-based wireless headphone system is easy to set up and delivers strong performance for both movie watching and music listening.

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).

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The RS 175 includes a base transmitter/charging stand and the wireless headphones themselves. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Simple setup

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.)

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Bass boost and surround modes can be activated from the right earcup. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Battery life for all the new models is rated at 18 hours, which should satisfy even hard-core binge watchers. And it's worth noting that you can buy a second pair of the HDR 175 headphones used in the RS 175 system and the base station can transmit sound to both pairs at once.

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What you get in the box. Sarah Tew/CNET


The RS 175 system demonstrates how far, literally, high-end wireless performance has come. We couldn't verify Sennheiser's claimed 328 foot line-of-sight range for the headphones' transmitter, but we were able to step out of an apartment, go down the hall and still have glitch-free sound up to approximately 15m (50 feet) away from the transmitter base. (The extended range comes in handy when you want a kitchen snack break while still being tapped into the action of a sporting event, for example).

We also had no problem stepping into another room while wearing the headphones; the RS 175 performed perfectly without a single dropout, stutter or noise. No other pair of home wireless headphones we've tested -- we're looking at you, Bluetooth -- has been as trouble-free.

Sound quality is quite good, more or less on par with similarly priced wired headphone models, and that's high praise for wireless headphones.

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Side view of the headphones charging. Sarah Tew/CNET

The RS 175 headphone system sounds well-balanced with music and movies, though the bass had a tendency to sound overly rich. The NAD Viso HP50 , a wired model, was more transparent and open-sounding, but some listeners might prefer the RS 175's warmer sound.

We didn't hear a significant difference in sound quality when switching between the RS 175's optical digital and the 3.5mm analog input.

As we mentioned earlier, the RS 175 is a closed-back design, so it doesn't sound as open and spacious as open-back headphones like the (wired) Grado SR325e , but does have the advantage of not leaking sound to disturb someone sleeping nearby.

We tried the RS 175's two-step Surround Sound feature with a few films, and it does "open up" the sound a bit, but also adds hollowness. Returning to plain stereo, the sound is more immediate and the stereo imaging is more sharply focused. Once we got used to the faux surround effect, though, it worked well enough for most films. It's easy enough to toggle the surround on and off and see if you like the effect.

Bass Boost definitely kicks up the bass, but we felt the non-boosted bass level was satisfying. Still, for those who crave a little extra kick in the bass the RS 175 can supply it.


Yes, there are cheaper Bluetooth options for using wireless headphones while watching TV (you can connect a Bluetooth dongle to your TV and then pair it with any Bluetooth headphone model). However, if you're looking for a more premium sound experience that offers a rock-steady connection, no latency issues and extended range, the Sennheiser RS 175 Wireless Headphone System is a good choice, even at its somewhat elevated price.


Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless Headphone System

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 8Value 8