If you like to crank the TV while others sleep, listening on headphones is a good solution. Except for the cable. Most viewing positions will be too far away for even a three-metre cable to reach the TV, and besides, many TVs these days have ditched the analogue headphone socket, so there’s nowhere to plug a headphone cable anyway.
One obvious solution is to use wireless headphones. And some TVs can send via Bluetooth to Bluetooth headphones. The problem can be latency — the delay inherent in Bluetooth transmission can be enough to throw the audio out of sync with the picture, especially if there’s codec conversion or analogue-to-digital sampling in the process, or if you're sensitive to such delays (as are we).
One of the best solutions we know for listening comfortably to TV on headphones is Sennheiser’s RS range of home wireless headphones, the second generation of these released two years ago (range information here; review of the RS 185 here).
Far less pricey, though, is a new solution from the German headphone meisters — the $349.95 Sennheiser Flex 5000. This comprises a transmitter and receiver pair. The transmitter goes by your TV, and receives either an optical cable from your TV (best), or a minijack cable from your TV’s headphone socket. Then you can sit on the couch or wander around with your headphones of choice plugged into the wireless receiver unit. The Flex 5000 comes supplied with Sennheiser’s MX 475 in-ear headphones, but you could use any favourite wired headphones with a minijack plug. Those with hearing aids can also use an induction loop if the hearing aid supports an induction coil (T-coil).
The Flex 5000 seems to use the same transmission system as the RS range — not Bluetooth but a true CD-quality digital transmission system (8-FSK modulation on a 2.4-2.4835GHz carrier frequency). The Flex 5000 specifications say latency below 60ms. The RS 185 manual doesn't quote latency, but we can attest to never experiencing such issues during our time with the RS range.
With the Flex design, the transmitter takes the inputs and also serves as a docking station for the wireless receiver, so that the receiver will be constantly fully charged and ready to go; it is quoted for 12 hours use between charges, and a range of up to 30 metres.
There are volume controls on the receiver, since the optical output of a TV is generally fixed level and unaffected by the TV volume control, and Sennheiser has also included sound tailoring, with three different “hearing profiles”, plus, thank goodness, a no-EQ setting to listen as nature intended. A “speech intelligibility” button “dynamically reduces TV background noise” (whatever that may mean) “for crystal clear dialog”.
Price is $349.95, available from April.
Product page: Sennheiser Australia