Sennheiser has a range of wireless TV headphones specifically designed to help hearing-impaired people hear the TV better. The Sennheiser TV headphones system is excellent and has independent left and right volume and clear voice processing. But it is not always easy to get a TV to cooperate.
This review started at a reader’s request, nay frustration, at not being able to use headphones to hear the TV better without cutting off the TV sound for other viewers. We responded with a guide – How to hear TV if you are a deaf adder – in search of clear speech. It explains various connection methodologies to try and get headphones and TV sound working together.
The better TVs have a setting to allow a 3.5mm headphone jack or the Optical Out port and the TV speakers to work concurrently.
If you use a soundbar to ‘process’ sound from any device (TV, Blu-ray or Media Player), the TV’s headphone jack or Optical out do not work!
If you use Bluetooth headphones, the chances are that the TV sound will not work.
And there is a big difference between standard headphones (whether BT or cabled) and headphones with an EQ (voice processing) like Sennheiser.
$349.95 (black) plus your choice of cabled headphone (free shipping), but shop around as we have seen them for as low as $299 inc delivery
Sennheiser (Est 1945) is a German privately-held audio company specialising in designing and producing a wide range of high fidelity products, including microphones, headphones, telephone accessories, and aviation headsets for personal, professional, and business applications. Sonova Holding, based in Switzerland – a global provider of medical hearing solutions – now own its consumer audio business
First, I must declare that I regard Sennheiser as one of the top players in the consumer audio headphone space. That is not to downplay Bose, Sony, JBL et al., but to say that its focus on high-end audio has never diminished. For Sennheiser, it is quality and performance over all else. For example, for its top noise-cancelling headphones – the Momentum 3 or PXC 550 II – it refuses to ramp up ANC pressures to the detriment of music quality. I will take that any time.
Its Flex 5000 Headphone receiver/transmitter is the same. German-built precision is applied to solving problems that others ignore. To my knowledge, there are no other TV headphones that have separate left and right volumes (as each ear is different) and clear voice EQ. On those areas alone, it is the king of the heap.
Nor does any other company offer such a variety of solutions and pricing. Entry-level is the RS 5200 with a stethoscope earpiece. It is the lightweight way (not over the ear headphones).
The Flex 5000 ($349.95) uses the same transmitter (base unit), but it has a separate portable, battery-operated receiver that you can plug any 3.5mm headphones into. From cheap cabled buds to its recommended HD 569, closed-back, over-the-ear headphones with ‘Ergonomic acoustic refinement’ (EAR) design. They help the hearing impaired by channelling the audio directly into your ears. Put simply; there is no noise leakage to annoy other listeners. And they have an in-line mic if you want to use them with other 3.5mm devices like a PC or smartphone.
Oh, and they come with MX 465 buds cabled buds anyway that are renowned for audio quality without ‘trickery’.
Flex 5000 receiver/transmitter
It has 3.5mm analogue and digital optical inputs. The 3.5mm overrides the optical, so you can leave the optical plugged into the TV and plug in a smartphone.
All headphones are 2.0 stereo (left and right) and take a PCM 2.0 signal from the TV or smartphone.
The receiver uses a 5V/1A plug pack (future models will be USB-C). It charges a small pocket clip sized transmitter that has a claimed 12 hours of battery life driving standard headphones. The great thing about this is that you simply replace the receiver on the transmitter, and it charges. The other great thing is that its range is about 30m (we tested it to 20m), so you can visit the toilet and still hear what’s going on. Or you can relax on the balcony and still hear music or TV.
Clear voice speech
As stated in the guide, the worst thing you can do is up the volume to ‘hear the TV better’. Sennheiser’s solution filters middy bass and harsh treble and reinforces the 1-4kHz range. It is quite amazing to listen with the function off then on. It is not compressing or clipping the sound but tailoring it for your ears.
In addition, it has three pre-set profiles predominately for music that do use compression
Warm and sweet for music. Low-frequency gets a slight boost to provide a warm, full sound. High-frequency tones are less piercing and clanking.
Bright vocal. High-frequency tones get a solid boost to provide crystal-clear sound, especially for sibilance and high-frequency tones such as twittering of birds
Mid. Recess low-frequency tones so they cannot mask high-frequency tones
Pairing other receivers
You can have up to four receivers. Each receiver stores its settings.
Maintenance – yes you can repair them
Sennheiser is exceptional at providing spare parts for many years after a model ends. You can buy replacement earpads, chargers and even the TR 5000 transmitter and receiver.
Sennheiser Flex 500- base specs
Use any headphones with a minimum of 16 Ohm
Transmitter 50 mm x 42 mm x 270 mm x 232g Receiver 29 mm x 87mm x 25 mm x 33g (W x H x D)
15Hz to 15kHz
Approx. 12 hours use with three hours charge. 30 minutes gives up to two hours Battery BAP 800 is user replaceable (Approx. $60)
Because the Flex 5000 can accept any 16-Ohm (or greater) headphones, there is not much point in measuring the frequency response.
I am using the HD 569 (recommended), which are a closed-back (noise isolation) over-the-ear and 23 Ω. I could easily use the Bluetooth Momentum 3 or PXC II in cable mode with ANC off.
I can hear clearly now – noticeably so. While I can still hear well to about 12kHz (as most sexagenarians can), sibilance (s becomes sss) and background noise impact clear voice. Using headphones has meant I can alter my listening world.
But it is at the expense of using a soundbar for Dolby Atmos and 5.1 surround sound as I can’t find a way to get an audio feed from anything processed on the soundbar. So for these, it is sub-titles and sound I can feel, albeit I have to crank up the centre speaker to get some clear voice.
There are hundreds, nay thousands of BT and cabled headphones but none with Sennheiser EQ features – so it is unique. This applies to any of the Sennheiser TV transmitter/receiver products.
Add in the 24-month warranty, exceptional long-term availability of spare parts, its unique left/right volume, 3.5/Digital and it is close to perfect.
Sennheiser Flex 5000
The Sennheiser Flex 5000 transmitter/receiver is all about helping hearing-impaired people to hear the TV better. Its wireless TV range is without equal.
Value for money
Ease of use
Works with any cabled headphone
Works with 3.5mm or Optical inputs
The only device that has onboard EQ, especially for TV listening
Long battery life
No other TV headphone does what it does
Its a keeper with replacable spare parts for years