What are the 3 Best wireless headphones to let you listen to TV, games and music without interrupting others?

by Bill Duffy - Read report

Sennheiser RS-120
Pioneer SE-DIR800C
Sony MDR-DS6000
The 3 Best wireless headphones that let you listen without interrupting others are the Sennheiser RS120s, the Sony MDR-DS6000s, and the Pioneer SE-DIR800Cs.
  • Background
  • Process
  • Comparison
  • Rate this Report
Wireless headphones can be incredibly convenient to use with your TV, gaming system, PC or home stereo – you can listen without interrupting others' work or sleep, and you aren't tethered by a cord. Wireless headphones come with base stations that directly connect to the sound-producing device and transmit their audio information to the headphones.

Wireless headphones typically use two different technologies – Radio Frequency (RF) and Infrared.

RF headphones operate by sending audio information from the base station as a bandwidth frequency, transmitting the two stereo channels (left and right) as a single frequency to the headphones, which then break the single frequency again into a stereo pair. RF wireless headphones are useful in that they have a much larger range than infrared – with the right pair you can achieve a distance, if you wish, of up to 300 feet from the base station, and even gather a clear signal across walls and other obstacles. The downside of RF headphones is that they a re much more susceptible to interference from other radio frequencies and metal objects, which can lead to hiss and crackles in the sound.

Infrared headphones operate by sending their signal as a beam of light from the base station to the headphones, requiring you to be in line of sight of the base station in order for the sound to be properly transmitted. As a result they have a limited range of about 30 feet – much smaller than RF headphones. However, this limited range is countered by the fact that infrared headphones are less prone to picking up interference and they also deliver true stereo (left and right channel) separation, often resulting in better sound quality than RF headphones.
I started by researching how wireless headphones work and discovered the breakdown of pros and cons between RF and infrared headphones. I then browsed various expert sites, including CNET, for reviews and appraisals of numerous brands, and checked these reviews against customer feedback on various online retail sites.
 Sennheiser RS-120Pioneer SE-DIR800CSony MDR-DS6000
CredibilityRF (926-928 MHz)InfraredRF (2.4 GHz)
UsabilityHuge range – up to 300 feet. Rechargeable base. Tuning, volume, on/off dials on headphone cup. Lightweight headphones for hours of comfort.Limited range – no more than 30 feet. Rechargeable batteries though not rechargeable on the base. Dedicated Dolby Headphone technology accurately reproduces various 5.1 surround sound formats. Various room presets add extra audio presence. Medium range – 95 feet. Rechargeable base. Replicates surround sound and auto-detects the specific surround format. Auto-tuning, auto on/off features. Compression feature limits dynamic range so you can hear very quiet and very loud sounds without losing detail.
Does Product Get Results?Widely recommended and comes with 2 year warrantyWidely recommended and comes with 90 day warrantyWidely recommended and comes with 90 day warranty. Note – due to their frequency range, in rare cases these headphones interfere with wireless internet and/or cordless phone conversations
community rating: 4.5 (2 ratings)
In deciding the 3 Best wireless headphones, I used these key considerations to focus my research:
  1. Trustworthiness – Does the product use RF or Infrared technology?
  2. Usability – How manageable is the product? How far away from the TV can you travel? Does this product experience interference? Does the product come with extra features like surround sound, bass boost or variable audio settings?
  3. Pricing – Does the overall product deliver at an affordable price?
  4. Performance - Does the Product Get the Desired Results?
While there were some other tangible factors in the selection process, and included in the discussion below, these four attributes illustrate the most important factors in the decision making process.

Sennheiser RS120

For the first best pair of wireless headphones I chose the Sennheiser RS120s, widely praised across various expert sites and by happy customers for their high quality audio at an affordable price. Because they are RF headphones they enjoy an incredibly large range of 328 feet, broadcasting between 926-928 MHz. The headphones have two large, comfortable ear cups and are incredibly lightweight – only 8.1 ounces – so your ears and head will not be fatigued, even after hours of DVDs. There are on/off, volume, and fine tuning knobs on the headphones themselves (the fine tuning knob is there so you can pick up the perfect transmission frequency). Sennheiser RS120s have top rated sound quality across the board, delivering a clean, noise-free signal - though some reviews have noted a lack of bass oomph. Finally, the base station, which can support multiple headphone receivers, also doubles as a headphone charger (just rest the headphones on the base's cradle and let the juice flow!). Though this particular model lacks the surround sound features of the other two, the Sennheiser RS120 delivers proven quality sound at the best price of the three (app. $90).

Pioneer SE-DIR800C

For the second best pair of wireless headphones I chose the Pioneer SE-DIR800Cs, substantially pricier than the Sennheisers but with features that might prove perfect for the diehard film, music or gaming enthusiast. The Pioneers are equipped with Dolby Headphone technology – meaning that they can adequately recreate a variety of surround sound formats, including 5.1 Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby Surround. This is particularly useful for those looking for a fuller listening experience. Furthermore, these headphones offer a trio of virtual room presets from which to choose, that reproduce the sound of three different listening environments by adding commensurate reverb (small, medium and large rooms). Like the Sennheisers, the Pioneer SE-DIR800Cs also have a volume dial on the headphones themselves and have large, comfortable cups for hours of listening. Though the base station does not double as a recharger, the AA batteries the headphones use are rechargeable. One drawback might be that the range of the Pioneers is limited to 26 feet, due to the fact that they employ infrared (“line of sight”) technology, but is it really necessary to be 300 feet away from your TV when watching your favorite film? Also widely praised across the board (and actually voted the best wireless headphones by CNET), the Pioneer SE-DIR800Cs are perfect for diehard sound enthusiasts, though at the average price of $300 they might be overkill for those looking for a pair of simple and reliable wireless headphones.

Sony MDR-DS6000

For the third best pair I chose the Sony MDR-DS6000s, which strike a middle ground between the first two in terms of price and features.  They employ RF technology as do the Sennheisers though the range is smaller (95 feet) because these use a different bandwidth – 2.4GHz as opposed to 927 MHz. The Sony MDR-DS6000s also have the ability to recharge their AA batteries while attached to the base. Like the Pioneers the Sonys feature 5.1 surround sound replication, auto-detecting whether your system is in Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround, or DTS mode. However, because these are RF headphones, their recreation of the stereo field might not be as accurate as that of the infrared-driven Pioneers. Unique features of the Sony MDR-DS6000 headphones include auto tuning, auto power on/off, and an audio compression function that compresses the dynamic range, allowing you to clearly hear the quietest sounds without having to crank the overall volume. Despite many, many positive reviews of the sound quality and comfort of this set, a few have noted that these headphones, because their RF occupies the same bandwidth as cordless phones and wireless internet, can interfere with wireless internet speed and experience interference if someone is using a cordless phone near the unit at the same time.

Each of these three wireless headphone sets delivers quality audio for private listening experiences. I rated the Sennheiser RS120 as the top choice for being lightweight, having a wide range and affordable price, having a rechargeable base, and for not interfering with other wireless technologies in the home. The Pioneer SE-DIR800C come in second for having fantastic surround sound replication and a trio of room presets, though its limited range and steep price prevent it from taking first place. Finally, the Sony MDR-DS6000 also delivers quality audio with surround sound replication and unique features like auto tuning and audio compression, though the rare occasion of these interrupting wireless internet and cordless phone communication land the DS6000 in third place.