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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Rich sound spectrum
Fairly quiet max volume
A little pricey
The bulky Sennheiser RS175 headphones offer solid connectivity for at-home wireless and a comfortable fit. They’re almost worth the steep price tag.
The niche the Sennheiser RS175 RF Wireless Headphones fill is a little known one. You’re no doubt familiar with Bluetooth wireless headphones, with Bose QuietComforts and Apple AirPods flooding the market. But an RF-connecting wireless headphone satisfies a whole different user base. Because the unit only connects wirelessly to the specific receiver stand it ships with, to hear signal on your headphones, you’ll need to connect that receiver to your audio playback device.
As such, this category of headphones is largely marketed for at-home use—for those who want to use wireless headphones while watching TV shows or playing video games. Because TVs rarely have Bluetooth capabilities built-in, having a pair of headphones that connects wirelessly via a different means is crucial. We spent about a week with our pair of RS175s, watching Netflix, playing AAA video games, and even streaming some music from one room over. Read on to see how everything worked out.
While some modern headphones from Sennheiser do sport sleek design features, we’re disappointed to say that the RS175s do not. That’s not for lack of trying, though. There are plenty of Sennheiser-esque design cues throughout the build of the headphones. The cups are about 4 inches tall and employ a vaguely upside down teardrop shape, except some of the edges have been flattened into a pentagonal shape.
On the outside of each cup is a waffled, industrial-style panel that gives the headphones their other main design nod. The whole construction is black with just a slot dark gray ring around that textured plate. Otherwise, it’s all pretty standard.
What really takes away from the headphones from a design standpoint is just how big and bulky they are. Each cup is 4 inches tall as we mentioned, but they’re also almost 2.5 inches thick at their fattest point. This makes them look almost comically large on your head, dating them compared to other models. Most of the Bluetooth headphone space, even at the budget end of the price range, consists of reasonably thin headphones. While these do make some attempts at futuristic design choices, they fall flat in execution.
What really takes away from the headphones from a design standpoint is just how big and bulky they are. Each cup is 4 inches tall as we mentioned, but they’re also almost 2.5 inches thick at their fattest point.
One last note: the stand looks pretty premium, with a two-tone construction and a tiered design. With or without the headphones docked, it will look nice in your entertainment setup.
One huge plus for these headphones is just how plush and soft they feel when you put them on. As we mentioned, they are bulky, but that seems to work to their advantage from a comfort standpoint, as both the pads on the earcups and even the dual headband pads are thick and plush. We found the covering feels much more like a thin, rubbery coating than one made of faux-leather. We’d have preferred a slightly less firm foam employed for the inside of the pads, but once you put them on your ear, it’s easy to get lost in the great fit and the isolation.
Another small plus is just how smoothly the adjustable parts of the headband slide in and out. Even some premium headphones force you to jam the adjusters in or out, with a hard ratcheting system. These are much smoother, making finding a precise fit easy. We did notice a bit of hot, stuffiness during long gaming sessions, and that’s to be expected with such bulky headphones. But all in all, these were a real joy to wear.
Another checkmark in favor of the RS175 is how premium these headphones feel in your hands and on your ears. As you know, they’re thick, particularly in the earcup area which makes them feel substantial. We also mentioned how well-built the headband adjusting mechanism is, but that carries through to every other part of the construction too. The plastic components all feel thick and rugged, owed in part to the waffled plate on each cup. One thing to note is that the connection points between each headband and earcups feel like they are just locked in slightly, making them a bit wobbly.
The covering on each foam section feels a little like it would rip after long listening sessions. The charging stand also feels substantial, with a thick rubber base that stays firmly on your TV stand. One slight gripe is because the earcups are so thick, they don’t slide easily onto the charging stand. It’s not that difficult to get them into place, but it would have made the package feel just a bit nicer if they clicked in a little more easily. Overall, it’s a nice, premium package.
Because the headphones connect through radio frequencies (specifically the 2.4–2.48 GHz bands, according to the Sennheiser site), we found that the connection wasn’t as prone to digital dropout as one that employs the Bluetooth protocol. This is a double-edged sword because we noticed interference through multiple walls. You’ll probably be fine one room over, but if you’re down a hallway or two rooms over, you might find some dropouts. This shouldn’t be the biggest issue if your use case is general entertainment and gaming.
Beyond the connectivity from receiver to headphones, you have to consider the means with which the receiver connects to the audio source. Many headphones in this class employ largely analog means for connecting to a TV, most often just a 3.5mm aux jack.
The RS175s offer the addition of an optical digital output. This is helpful to have, especially if you want to employ the surround features since that’s how most people send and receive high-resolution audio from their TVs. The optical option means that you’ll be able to connect the receiver through the same means as your soundbar or speaker setup.
The RS175’s pack plenty of richness in their frequency response—a fact we were very pleased to find when using them for video games and immersive movie experiences. On paper, the specs are solid. The headphones boast a frequency response of 17Hz –22kHz, giving plenty of buffer zone on either side of the full human hearing spectrum. There’s 114 dB of max volume capability, less than 0.5 percent harmonic distortion, and a closed, dynamic transducer build. Because they transfer sound via radio frequencies, rather than requiring the digital compression of Bluetooth, sound also carries well.
We used these primarily for gaming, an application where capturing the nuance of dialog, sound effects, and music can be tricky to accomplish, and we’re happy to report that every aspect of the sound design was portrayed beautifully.
But, what do those numbers actually mean in practice? Well, we found that the headphones provided a rich experience from a frequency response perspective. We used these primarily for gaming, an application where capturing the nuance of dialog, sound effects, and music can be tricky to accomplish, and we’re happy to report that every aspect of the sound design was portrayed beautifully. What’s more, Sennheiser has baked in a Surround Sound mode that can be toggled from the receiver or the right ear cup. We were surprised at just how effective this system was considering it’s mostly a digital trick, rather than pure five-channel surround.
Surround sound was particularly effective (and downright terrifying) for the horror video game we played while testing these—something we might not recommend when you’re home alone. Sennheiser also has a bass boost option, but we found this to just make the sound too muddy. One minor caveat is that the volume felt a bit lacking, and we’d have liked to see a bit more headroom, especially for dynamic movies. It’s a minor gripe, considering you’ll likely be using these at home and won’t need to compete with a lot of noise pollution, but it’s a good factor to keep in mind.
The RS175 is an interesting category for this type of wireless device. On the one hand, you definitely don’t want the headphones to die in the middle of a movie or a game. On the other hand, you’re theoretically not bringing them on the go, so you’re always around a charger. Sennheiser bills the battery life at about 18 hours of listening time on a single charge. We can say that this is close, though perhaps a bit optimistic, considering how our battery life was trending.
The headphones will theoretically always be charging when they aren’t on your head since the receiver also doubles as a headphone charging stand. We love this system, and with the number of people that already store their pro headphones on fancy stands by their desk, we aren’t sure why more wireless headphone manufacturers don’t also sell a charging stand.
The headphones will theoretically always be charging when they aren’t on your head because the receiver also doubles as a headphone charging stand.
As a result, the only time we got close to running out of batteries was during long gaming sessions, or when we left them just lying on the table overnight, instead of on the charger. Keep in mind that recharging takes a while because Sennheiser has opted to use rechargeable triple-A batteries in each ear rather than the built-in rechargeable lithium ion batteries you normally find in headphones. This could be a plus if you want to swap in non-rechargeable batteries in a pinch, but it doesn’t lend itself to quick charging.
A product like the Sennheiser RS175 is difficult to evaluate in terms of value. While it offers a lot of premium specs on the sound quality front, it isn’t quite as premium as something like Sony’s WH1000 line, and the use case is very specific. Sennheiser bills these at $279.99 on their site, but we were able to scoop them up for much closer to $200 from Amazon.
If the price is close to $200, we think the expenditure is largely worth it. There are plenty of connectivity features, and the headphones feel premium, so if you need at-home wireless headphone solution, the R175 are worth it.
Sony MDR RF995: You get a more affordable pair of RF headphones with Sony’s entry into the at-home wireless headphone space, but you won’t get quite as high-quality connectivity.
ARTISTE TV Headphones: You’ll find a much more budget-focused RF headphone option from ARTISTE, one that’s received a ton of positive customer reviews, but with subpar build quality.
Avantree HT5009: For right around $100, you’ll get a pretty decent build quality, but you lack something in frequency response.
An ideal option for at-home wireless entertainment.
If you need headphones for use with your at-home entertainment setup, then the Sennheiser RS175s will do well for you. It’s a very specific use case, as most consumers will be better off using standard Bluetooth headphones. That also makes the price tag seem a little steep. But because of the premium build, the Sennheiser-level sound specs, and the solid connection to the RF receiver, these will be perfect for those who want to game, watch, and listen at home.