Wireless Audio Tech Perfected!
Sennheiser RS 170 is a mid end wireless headphone set. It retails for Rs.16990 in India or $279 in USA. It comes with a transmitter Sennheiser TX 170 (the headphone is called Sennheiser HDR 170) which needs to be plugged in to play. It uses Kleer wireless transmission technology which indeed ensures that there is no hiss due to wireless. I can vouch for this.
I will cut the fluff right here. And move straight to the point. I will compare these to my Audioengine A5 powered bookshelves and Monster Turbine (base) earphones.
Audioengine A5 with DS2 stands through Asus Xonar DX sound card
RS 170 through Asus Xonar DX sound card
Monster Turbine earphones through FiiO E11 amp and ipad 3
I know this isn't exactly Apples to Apples but this is how I regularly use them. So this is a more practical approach.
The speakers and earphones are a couple of years old. So properly burned in. The headphones are brand new.
Also, these are my first pair of headphones though I have owned several speakers and earphones in the past.
The mids are the strength of these wireless headphones by Sennheiser. The mid range is awesome compared to my Audioengine A5 speakers. The vocals are crystal clear and ideal for low volume as well as high volume listening.
The highs are there. But they don't have the same impact as my audioengine speakers. Some people may find this laid back flavor to be more appetizing to their taste, especially those who listen to a lot of highs, but I don't because my music has few highs and I want them really sharp and to stand out. Perhaps these are even more neutral than my bookshelves, but I can't exactly talk about it. But the highs are definitely there, clear and crisp but laid back to some extent. Good but not ideal for my tastes. But for music with a lot of highs this will mean fatigue less listening for hours!
RS with bass boost 7
Being bookshelves Audioengines have deep bass unlike these headphones. RS 170 is definitely not heavy on bass, but the bass is definitely there. It shouldn't make that much difference because the other plus points cover it up. Also, it may be tough for headphones to compare with other audio solutions. The bass is there, but definitely not prominent unless you turn on bass boost when it doesn't become prominent but still isn't tight nor deep. Bass is a let down for a basshead but not a deal breaker unless you are a bass head.
RS with bass boost 7
The bass isn't tight nor punchy but it does compliment the music without overpowering it. So if you want mid range focused music which has everything else laid back and balanced, then these are ideal for you. But don't expect thumping bass.
RS with bass boost 10
With bass boost turned on the bass is there. The mid range is still clear. But the emphasis is on bass and mid range equally. However it isn't tight or thumping bass. But compared to other wireless headphones in the market I doubt there is much to complain. Even compared to other wired headphones under $200 few others will probably satisfy everybody. And bass from most bassy headphones will probably be bad as well, so these are much better in that respect.
The clarity is very good. Something which sennheiser can boast of these being wireless. It is much better than my speakers in this regard.
There is a certain clearness which the headphones just perform average at. Compared to my speakers and earphones the music just doesn't sound as clear but these are my first pair of headphones as I said earlier, and it terms of clarity they are awesome, especially for vocals and midrange.
Now this is something which speakers naturally do better at. However, I have read online that the RS 180 has a certain wow to music which the RS 170 lacks. Although I haven't heard the 180 I guess I still agree. There is a certain wow factor which is missing, it does become better with a few hours burn in, so who knows. They do a good job for headphones but lack a certain X factor in their texture and music. Maybe burn in might help. But I am not sure. Nevertheless, these are great headphones and AE have a wow factor only with high volume listening which isn't allowed at home. For low volume listening these compete or even beat my AE which is what I do most of the time. This is subjective though based on preferences and reference points. Some people like flat or natural music or even studio monitors while others like Bose :)
RS170 ( HDR170 + TX170 )
Without amp directly from iPad
Pretty bad, don't like them one bit, but that was with zero burn in, now they might be a bit better.
With E11 amp from iPad
Pretty decent, worth it.
With my sound card
Great job, but not perfect due to above reasons, but definitely good.
Virtual Surround Sound Feature
There is an awesome surround sound feature which converts stereo to surround sound. I love it.
A perfect home theater experience IMO! Can't be better for the price I guess. Besides, this is virtual surround sound but certainly doesn't feel like it.
Doesn't work that well with music but some songs do perform much better with it switched on. Certainly a nice addition to the package.
Bass Boost Feature
This is something I haven't experimented too much with but have been dissatisfied with whenever I tried. For one, the bass becomes overpowering which I don't like. Secondly, the bass is still not tight or thumping bass so that doesn't help in anyway. I usually keep this on. But reviews online rave about this feature and most bass heads are satisfied with it. Even the mid range stays clear though.
I would like to emphasize that the surround sound literally feels like a home theater within your head. That is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to headphones IMO!
Overall features 9.75
Overall performance 8.75
Overall 9 because volume controls are awful, in fact unusable.
Good sound quality
Better priced that competition
Has awesome surround sound
Has bass boost
Long battery life
Upgradable with other Kleer headphones. The TX 170 transmitter can be used with other Sennheiser headphones which use Kleer wireless transmission which include HDR 160 and HDR 180. They still retain the Surround Sound and Bass Boost features, however the sound might be a bit different (slightly I guess) as compared to that with their native transmitters which are TX 160 and TX 180 respectively.
Similarly, the HDR 170 headphones can be used with Sennheiser wireless transmitters TX160 or TX180 as well, but then they don't retain their surround or bass features.
Transmitter is too light, thus need two hands to use
Both the transmitter and the headphones need to be switched on individually each time
Average bass and bass boost