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Great sound quality
Ultra stable connection
Flimsy build quality
No digital input
The Sony MDR-RF995RK sound great for wireless at-home listening, even if they lack a bit in the build department and don’t have a digital input.
The Sony MDR-RF995RK wireless headphones are an interesting product in Sony’s line of wireless headphones. The brand has made serious waves with its bass-heavy Bluetooth headphones and its flagship noise-canceling WH1000X line. But you might have overlooked the entire category that the RF995RK occupy. Instead of connecting wirelessly via Bluetooth, they transmit audio via radio frequencies, making these ideal headphones for at-home use.
The most common use for these would be hooking them up to your TV at home—because most consumer TVs don’t come with Bluetooth functionality out of the box, this is one of the most seamless ways to get wireless audio while watching TV or playing video games. We got our hands on a pair of RF995RK and spent about a week with them watching TV, binging Netflix, and yes, playing games. Here’s what we think of them.
One of the best features of the RF995RK is just how modern they look. There are some issues in build quality, which we’ll touch on later, but on looks alone, they seem up to date. That’s because Sony has elected to employ a mostly matte plastic build, giving them a look that matches many of their Bluetooth headphones. The oval ear cups are about 4 inches tall and just under 3 inches wide, and they sit at an angle against the headband, giving them a skewed shape. And because they’re just over 1.5 inches thick, they sit flat against your head. This low profile supports that modern look we were mentioning earlier and avoids the massive, bulky design of other headphones in this space.
Even the charging stand/receiver offers a modern take on what is normally a bit of a bulky unit. It’s about a foot tall, making it essentially a plastic rod sticking up from a circular base. All the logos are pressed into the headphones as recessed letters, rather than marked in ink. Any design textures that Sony has used on the headphones themselves just serve to make them look simple, which is better than headphones that try to look too flashy and fail.
Sony has elected to employ a mostly matte plastic build, giving them a look that matches many of their Bluetooth headphones.
One corner normally cut when you dip lower in the headphone price range is build quality, which tends to affect comfort. That’s true to a certain degree on the RF995RK, but comfort largely depends on your priorities, and even on the shape of your ears and head. We liked the faux-leather covering on each earcup, as it is soft, flexible, and doesn’t feel scratchy and cheap against your ears.
The padding itself is almost an inch thick, which offers a good amount of cushion, but the foam seems pretty firm and basic—not quite as forgiving as the memory foam-esque material employed by more premium models. These same materials are used in the two top headband pads. As an aside, we preferred the dual-pad system used by these headphones which are a necessity to accommodate the capacitive charging pins, but have a nice byproduct for improving the comfort level.
Of course, this is where you start to see some shortcomings on the comfort front. For starters, the headband seems to have a tall, somewhat narrow shape which was difficult to fit around our heads. You can adjust the size of the headband, but we found that this lifted the headband pads too far off our head, making it difficult to find a comfortable, accommodating fit. The ear cups themselves, while adequate in the foam pad department, felt squared off and narrow for our ears. If you have large ears, or ears that protrude a lot from your head, it will be difficult to get comfortable in these headphones.
However, at only 9.7 ounces, the RF995RK are light, so if they do fit your ear and head shape well, you’ll probably be able to wear them for long periods of time without neck fatigue. Still, the comfort level could certainly be improved.
As we’ve alluded to in previous sections, the build quality of the RF995RK is one category that feels lacking. The entire construction is comprised of matte plastic, which looks very good, but feels flimsy. Our best guess as to why they feel so rickety is because even the inner adjustable headband frame is made of plastic, rather than the hard steel bracing you’ll find in many other headphones.
Even the sliding plastic plate that covers the battery compartment looks like something you’d find on a toy, rather than a piece of high-end electronics. That same plastic-y material carries over to the charging stand, though we don’t find it as egregious here. With grippy rubber feet, it feels stable once you put it down, but picking it up emphasizes just how light it is. Even the switches on the headphones and the base are basic. The one saving grace for build quality is the leather-esque covering on the foam pads. They feel a bit more premium than some other headphones at this level.
Setup and connectivity is a mixed bag for the Sony RF995RK. On one hand, the connection between the headphones and their receiver is very stable and solid. Sony pegs the connection range at about 150 feet, a number we couldn’t test for sure because our apartment isn’t 150 feet long. But we couldn’t find any area or room of our apartment where the sound started cutting out. Normally RF headphones don’t do well through thick concrete walls, but the RF995RK handled this aspect with ease. This is possibly due to the three different channel options you have on the base.
However, the connection from the receiver to your audio source is a bit limited, in that Sony only offers you one 3.5mm aux connection that delivers audio via analog means. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of this unit, as several other RF headphones out there give you the option for a digital, optical audio input. The aux input limits you, meaning you won’t be able to fold this headphone system into your larger, digitally connected setup. But, the 3.5mm aux is the most common connector for other, non-TV source.
Other controls are volume, a channel switcher on the base, a Voice Effect switch, which just made the sound a little thin, and an Auto Tuning control that attempts to adjust the sound based on the input. These extra controls aren’t very flexible and didn’t seem to do much for the great quality sound we got right out of the box.
The sheer power of the RF995RK’s sound profile was among the most surprising thing we discovered during our testing. When we pulled them out of the box, the build, fit, and finish seemed in line with their mid-level price point. But when we plugged them in and got some movies going, we were impressed at just how great they sound. On the spec sheet, Sony states that they cover 10Hz–22kHz (plenty of coverage for the full human hearing spectrum of 20Hz–20kHz), with a sensitivity of 100 dB and 32 ohms of impedance.
These specs seem about right, perhaps even a bit more premium than the price implies. But when we put them on, we were surprised at just how much oomph they provided, and just how much detail came through clearly within that spectrum. This is probably due to the 1.57-inch diaphragms—large for the enclosure of each earcup. Which all goes to show you that spec sheets can’t be taken as the be-all, end-all of sound quality.
On the spec sheet, Sony states that they cover 10Hz–22kHz (plenty of coverage for the full human hearing spectrum of 20Hz–20kHz), with a sensitivity of 100 dB and 32 ohms of impedance.
Whatever Sony has done with the acoustics of the enclosure, the headphones gave a beautiful sound response for almost any application we threw at them. We tested them with daytime talk show-style programming, large, sweeping cinematic soundtracks, general Spotify streaming, and even some spooky horror video game sessions (an application where you’ll definitely need a high level of detail).
While we give this category mostly a full thumbs-up, there was one slight issue. Because the fit of the headphones was a little tight for our ears, the drivers felt like they were pressed too deep into our ear canals. While this might be why so much detail and clarity came through, it also felt a little too close, especially for loud speaking voices. This is a very minor gripe, but it comes back to a key consideration—if you have large ears or a large head, you might want to try the RF995RK out in a store before picking them up.
Battery life for a pair of RF headphones, a category mostly meant for at-home use, won’t be quite as big of an issue as the battery life for on-the-go Bluetooth headphones. That’s largely due to the fact that when you aren’t using these headphones, you’ll be storing them on their charging stand. This is a cool feature of RF-style headphones, one that we’d like to see in fancy Bluetooth headphones. You can rest assured that the charge level for the RF995RK will hold strong for even the longest gaming sessions.
Sony clocks the lifetime on one single charge at about 20 hours, and based on our use, this seems spot on. One drawback is that the headphones will take upwards of 7 hours to recharge on the charging stand. This is because Sony has elected to ship a set of rechargeable batteries that you manually put into the headphones, rather than a built-in rechargeable battery. This lets you swap in some triple-A batteries if the rechargeables run out, but it does make the charging speed slower. Again, this isn’t a huge deal, because as long as you store them on the charging stand, they’ll always be charging when you aren’t using them.
Sony clocks the lifetime on one single charge at about 20 hours, and based on our use, this seems spot on.
One closing point on battery life: we had to send back our first unit of headphones because they weren’t holding a charge right out of the box. It isn’t that uncommon for a piece of tech like headphones to be one minor dud in an otherwise solid manufacturing line and isn’t the end of the world. We very quickly received a replacement pair (on the same day) and the return was seamless.
Many of the shortcomings of the RF995RK can be forgiven due to the lower price point. The Sony website lists these at about $120, but we picked up a set for $130 on Amazon that came with some basic accessories and free shipping. This is about the price you’ll find these headphones for normally, and based on the sound quality and stable connection alone, it’s mostly worth it. The build quality leaves something to be desired, but that’s something you can often forgive a product at this price point.
Sennheiser RS175: These more premium RF headphones give you the option for an optical connection, but don’t sound a whole lot better than the RF995RK.
Avantree HT280: These slightly more-budget headphones have better build quality, but will likely be plagued with similar comfort issues and a worse sound spectrum.
Ansten Wireless TV Headphones: These ultra-budget options don’t quite measure up to the RF995RK, but are a great choice if price is your biggest hangup.
Worth the price for solid home audio.
The Sony MDR-RF995RK are great-sounding headphones that are largely worth their mid-level price tag. If sound quality is most important, then they pass with flying colors. If you want something that feels more premium, or you need a digital optical input, then you’re going to have to look elsewhere. But for our money, these headphones are worth a look, as long as you’re careful with them.
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