Wireless headphones like the Sennheiser RS 220 face several problems. Most are compromised on several fronts, tending to be more expensive, less reliable and sound worse than comparable wired sets. Sennheiser's new set bucks the trend, though, offering sound quality on-par with the HD series's big names, and much greater flexibility than a wired set. Quite simply, these are some of the best wireless headphones ever made.
The Sennheiser RS 220 package comes in two main bits. There's the chunky headset and the plastic dock. In true Sennheiser style, the dock is a practical piece of kit rather than something to sit proudly in your lounge as a prized ornament, but it is rather special in its own way.
But first, the looks. Its front is glossy black plastic, and the rest textured matt plastic. Using plastic throughout keeps the weight below 500g, but as something that doubles up as a largely static headphone stand, a bit of extra weight could have been a bonus, along with a natty metal of wood finish. There are, however, a quartet of little rubber feet on its bottom to keep the thing in place.
The dock's front bears two touch sensitive controls that turn the set on and of, and switch the input. Being able to handle multiple inputs is where the Sennheiser RS 220 really starts to impress. On the backside of its base is a healthy selection of connections - stereo phono, optical and coaxial - and there are LEDs up front to show you which is connected. Each type of connection offers both an input and output, letting the dock function as a pass-through for when you'd rather use a traditional amplifier and speaker setup.
There's no down-mixing of surround content though, and you do have to keep an eye on what you pump through it, but the dock negates the need for a separate headphone amp. And when desktop headphone amps of note start at £50-odd quid and ramp up into the thousands, this is a very good thing. There's a basic cog-style volume control on the back to handle the base's volume level.
The Sennheiser RS 220 also has a very clever approach to battery charging. A rechargeable 800mAh AAA battery slots into a hidden cavity at the top of each earcup, and they start charging as soon as you put the headphones back on the charge dock. There are little metal contact panels on each side of the headband that match -up with corresponding metallic bits on the dock.
Metal contacts interface with the dock
Battery life is not stellar at 6-8 hours, but unless you're a fan of very, very long listening sessions, you'd never know. Using standard AAA rechargeables has a few other benefits too. They're reasonably light, leaving the headset at a comfortable 329g, and are extremely easy to replace.
The actual headphones look a little different from some previous RS-series wireless sets, with less-rounded rear grills, but they are otherwise similar. They use an open-back design and have extremely comfortable velour pads. Both these design choices are great for comfort, keeping your ears cooler than closed-back, leather-padded sets, but make the RS 220 leak noise like crazy.
If you want to rock out to Rachmaninov but don't want your pianist-hating partner to know, the Sennheiser RS 220 aren't for you. For those who live in quiet environments with cohabitees that won't mind the leakage, they're a delight. Superbly comfortable, well-made and practical, given you can dump them on the dock once you're done.