In the early days, wireless headphones suffered from poor connectivity and interrupted transmissions. However, the quality has improved significantly over the years. Today, wireless headphones are a staple in many households and offices, providing users with better privacy and freedom of movement. They are especially useful when users need to listen to audio in private settings, without bothering others in the same room. We take a look at one example: The Sony MDRRF985RK Wireless Radio Frequency Headphones.
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There are several types of wireless headphones on the market; namely those that run on Bluetooth and ones that run on radio frequencies (RF). The Sony MDRRF985RK falls into the latter category, running on a frequency of 900MHz on an FM channel for cord-free listening.
Featuring large 40mm ferrite driver units, they play clear and expressive stereo sound: perfect for general use such as listening to music or audio from the TV. The frequency response is wider than the normal range – falling between 10Hz to 22,000Hz – so the headphones are able to handle both low and high end frequencies well. For music listeners who prefer bass-heavy tracks and warmer tones, the Sony is probably not for you, as they have a flat sound with accurate sound reproduction that is well-balanced. The trebles are generally crisp and clear, with sufficient bass and well-rounded and detailed mids.
A common complaint with wireless headphones is static and the hissing sound from interference or transmission. No such problem with the Sony, thanks to their noise reduction system. They have a sensitivity rating of 100dB, and the volume can be turned up pretty high with minimal distortion. As they were designed for home or indoor use, the Sony has a moderate impedance of 70ohms, making them suitable for home hi-fi or theatre systems.
Design and Build
The MDRRF985RK is not made for outdoor use, and it shows. Available in a simple, sleek black, the design is basic, with a thick headband strap and large circular ear cups. The cups envelop the ears completely for better noise isolation, but since they’re not meant to be taken on the commute, this should not matter much – unless you’re worried about bothering your sleeping spouse. They do block out ambient noise well, which is useful to minimize noises of screaming children or barking dogs in the neighbourhood.
The headphones are notportable, since they’re bulky and thick. Despite their size, they are surprisingly lightweight at just over 10 ounces, and are comfortable to wear even for long hours on end.
The headband is flexible and adjusts to fit different head shapes and sizes. It is also thickly padded with plush memory foam for added comfort. The over-the-ear style ear cups are covered in pleather which feel soft and easy on the skin, although they might build up heat in warmer environments. Inside the earpiece is a power switch so users can turn the device on and off conveniently.
Many older devices do not have Bluetooth capabilities, so users are stuck with having to buy separate transmitters and receivers to ‘turn’ their TVs and stereos into Bluetooth-capable machines. With RF headsets, this problem is eliminated; as users simply plug them in with RCA cables or standard 3.5mm audiojacks to a ‘base’, which then acts as a wireless transmitter for the headphones.
In the Sony’s case, the headphones come with both types of cables: RCA and 3.5mm. They have nickel-plated connectors and are corrosion resistant and tangle-free.They’re able to hook up to a variety of different devices, from computers to TVs and hi-fi systems. Once connected, the base transmits signals to the headphones wirelessly. It also doubles as a charging station when users place the headset on them – there is no need for plugs. A light will indicate when the headphones are fully charged. However, this means that you will not be able to use the headphones while they’re charging, unlike some Bluetooth versions.
Setting up the optimal RF signal reception is easy for first time users. Thereafter, they can switch between different channel frequencies at the simple press of a button, or use the automatic tuning function to get optimal signal reception.
The Sony runs on internal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which can last up to a whopping 25 hours. The only downside is that users will not have access to the battery compartment, so when they run out of juice, you’ll have to send them to the technician. They should last for about 300 to 400 charges.
The headphones allow for even more freedom of movement and flexibility than Bluetooth headsets, since they have an operating distance of 150ft. The signal is strong enough to penetrate walls, and rarely drops off at close distances.
Pros and Cons
- Excellent sound quality, crisp and clear
- Suitable for listening to music or watching TV
- Good noise isolation and noise blocking features
- Wide operational range, up to 150ft
- Easy to setup and use
- Comfortable and relatively lightweight
- Long battery life
- Minimal static, strong signal reception
- No mic
- Non-Bluetooth compatible
- Batteries are non-user replaceable, cannot be dismantled
Wireless Bluetooth headphones are all the rage now, but the Sony proves that there is a place for older, RF-type wireless headphones by delivering reliable performance, solid construction and high audio quality. They even offer a few advantages over Bluetooth types, such as a wider range, strong signal, and longer battery life. All in all, the Sony makes a worthwhile investment that will last users for years to come.