The entry-level model for a new range of wireless headphones from Sennheiser, the RS 160 incorporates digital wireless technology from Kleer to produce some of the cleanest sounds we’ve heard from wireless headphones.
They’re also designed for portability, with a small “hockey puck” base station that can be powered from batteries when you need it. Volume controls are located on both the base station and the headphones, and the batteries in the headphones can be recharged directly from mains power.
For an “entry-level” product, the RS 160 headphones provide outstanding performance. They provide plenty of volume and a very level frequency response, meaning you hear sounds how they’re meant to be heard. It is especially good in the mid-range frequencies, and only starts to lose cohesion in the very high-frequency ranges.
The sealed cans also provide excellent noise isolation – for both you and those around you – and the headphones are very comfortable to wear for long stretches. The headphones are simply outstanding all around.
But what really shines about the RS 160 is the quality of the wireless transmission. You can have the best headphones in the world, but if the wireless link suffers from RF interference then the quality of the headphones means nothing. With the RS 160 (and 170 and 180 models), Sennheiser introduced digital transmission technology from Kleer into its wireless headphone range. It previously used FM radio transmission.
And boy does it make a difference. We could detect no wireless artefacts in the transmission from the base station. No hiss when we moved, no static ever. The audio remained perfectly in sync. It was just like being connected to the base with wires.
There are some sacrifices to be made with the new technology, however. The biggest is range – where the RS 130, for example, could receive at 150m in open air, the RS 160 is limited to just 20 metres (if you need a longer range, we’d suggest the RS 170 or 180). In our in-home testing, we started to get dropouts at about 13m, but that was through several walls. In-room reception was perfect.
Although the headphones are billed as portable, thanks to the compact battery-powered base station, you will need to pack the headphones with some care. They’re full-size cans with heavy padding and they don’t fold up. While they’re quite solid, we’d never put them in check-in baggage. Still, having the option to take a good set of wireless circumaurals on the road with you is pretty neat.
With a street price of around $300, the Sennheiser RS 160 is a bargain. The headphones produce excellent audio, and the compact base station can be battery powered. It doesn’t have the long wireless range of the older models – but it more than makes up for that with near-flawless wireless transmission, a very high comfort-level and outstanding audio reproduction. Definitely worth a look.