Sennheiser RS180 & RS220: The Wireless Adventure
It took a while for us to get review samples of the latest Sennheiser wireless headphones but the RS180 and the new RS220 (which was only officially launched at the last CES) finally made it to the Headfonia.com office. These are the first wireless headphones I have ever used so I’ll only be comparing them to each other for now.
The RS180 & RS220 both use digital technology to transmit the data from the docking station to the headphone, yet the technology used is not the same. The newer RS220 uses the DSSS technology with an asynchronous transfer. This means the headphone is in charge of the data transfer and not the transmitter and we all know this is a very good thing to have. The inputs on the RS180 are very basic with just a line in and a switch to select 0db for a DAP or -8db for use with a DAC. The RS220 offers analogue, optical and coaxial ins and outs and has a volume control on the base station. It is of course advised to use a digital input.
The Sennheiser sound signature naturally is present in both headphones but at the same time there is a reasonable gap in sound quality between both. Overall listening to the RS180 is like hearing a more entry level Sennheiser and listening to the RS220 is more like hearing a cousin of the famous HD600. The sound the RS220 produces is very enjoyable and relaxing and I loved it. It really has the smoothness of the HD600(/HD650) and you wouldn’t be able to tell this was a wireless headphone if you didn’t know. It really is like a cousin of the HD600, you can clearly hear the resemblance and yet it just isn’t quite at the same level as the HD600 (for now).
The RS180 is sounding a bit thinner and forward as the RS220 and is less dynamic and balanced. You get a more “inside your head” music with a smaller soundstage. While detail retrieval on the mids and highs is reasonably good, the bass is pretty loose and loses detail. The RS220 places you right inside the music, balance and soundstage is very good and the sound has a lot more body as the RS180. It’s a completely different and improved sound compared to its predecessor. As said before the bass on the RS180 has more impact as on the RS220 but with the 220 it is much tighter and detailed. It’s not at the level of the HD600 and certainly not the HD650 but the bass is very good. The treble is just gorgeous to my ears and the mids are very nice too, more leaning to the HD600/HD650 mids, (but not at the same level) with excellent detail retrieval. A very impressive wireless headphone.
The design of both headphones and docking stations is great, I preferred the RS220 but not everyone did. The RS180 as you can see in the pictures is to be used with the narrow side facing you and has 1 connector in the middle of the headband to charge the batteries. The headphone itself was nicely built and very light but could have used slightly bigger ear cups as they were touching my ears partially. The RS220 station is more impressive and has touch controls on the front. Here there are 2 contact points to charge the batteries. Both sets have excellent built quality as we’re used to with Sennheiser but overall comfort was better with the RS220 as the headphone pads were a bit bigger. The 220 even has a beautiful leather headband and it is a bit heavier too but still very light to me. (RS180 = 204gr without batteries & RS220 = 329gr inclusive batteries). They both have controls to change the volume and the balance and on the RS220 you can even select the source. The only thing I missed with these was a pause, next, and stop button, but that’s another story. They are very easy to use and very comfortable and I could get used to not having a cable hanging around, I never had this much fun doing chores.
You can’t mix the headphones between docking stations as the technology used is different but you can get an extra headphone for the RS220. I can’t really comment on the battery life as they always charged during the night and so I never ran out of battery during the day. It does take reasonably long to charge the batteries though.
As I mentioned, using the wireless headphones was a great experience. When I stayed on the same floor reception was always perfect and I can’t remember getting any drop outs at all, not even micro ones. When I went to another floor however, the headphones both immediately started losing signal. To my surprise the RS180 did better and stayed listenable, the RS220 couldn’t handle the drop outs quite as well and I had to stop listening to it. I assumed the newer product would perform better but that’s not what the experience showed me. You’ve got to hate concrete and steel… I wouldn’t focus on this point too much because in normal conditions with an open space, furniture etc they both performed great without errors but there of course are limits to the wireless technology. Look at it this way, with a cabled headphone you wouldn’t even be able to make it to the kitchen from the living room.
Wireless technology isn’t cheap, in Europe the RS180 costs around 259€ and the RS220 is available for 399€ but considering the RS220 is getting close to the HD600 level (369€) those prices seem legit to me. The RS180 and RS220 are both good headphones and for watching movies I could live with the RS180 without doubt. For my musical experience however, especially after having heard the latest creation, I would fall back to the RS220 each time. I really think the RS220 is worth the upgrade if you’ll use it to listen to music, it really is a few levels better. Also important to mention in relation to the price is that in example a HD600 setup + amp + dac will set you back much more as the all in one RS220. If you’re not planning on investing in a full setup, the RS220 might just be what you need with an incredible value for money.
I only had the sets for 2 weeks and already I was sad to send them back to Sennheiser and so I’ve added the RS220 to my “Wanted” list. If you’re looking for a great wireless headphone and you like the Sennheiser sound, the RS220 should definitely be on your short list. The Sennheiser products can be bought online in the official Sennheiser shop or from an official distributor. Thank you Sennheiser BeNeLux for providing with the samples, I enjoyed using them both a lot.
Gear used: Audio GD NFB3, Fiio E10, Kenwood CDP, Violectric V100, LaFigaro 339