Sennheiser RS 185 Headphone Review

Build Quality
PRICE $400

New lossless wireless audio technology
Two-year warranty
Lightweight design
Wireless ’phones can’t play loud

The Sennheiser RS 185 raises the bar on audiophile-grade wireless headphone sound quality.

I’ve auditioned a number of wireless Sennheiser models over the years and was always satisfied with the sound. Sennheiser claims their latest ’phones are better than ever, and the RS 185 is the best sounding of the twelve wireless models the company currently offers. No other brand has as broad a range of wireless headphones, starting with the $99 Sennheiser RS 120.

The RS 185 boasts a new lossless 2.4-gigahertz wireless transmission system developed in conjunction with Texas Instruments. One new feature I really appreciate is that when you turn on the RS 185 headset, the transmitter/charger base automatically wakes up and is ready for action (with the older models you had to turn them on separately). The transmitter has optical digital and stereo RCA analog inputs (one each). You can play two pairs of headphones from a single transmitter (the HDR 185 headphone sells separately for $200).

Sennheiser claims a 328-foot line-of-sight range for the RS 185 system; walls and other obstacles between the transmitter and ‘phones reduce the useable range. Even so, everywhere in my 1,000-square-foot Brooklyn apartment, and up to 35 feet out into the building’s hallway, the sound never faltered. Beyond that, the sound cuts out—but no other wireless headphone has performed as well in my space. Maximum playtime is 18 hours.

In daily use, the RS 185’s performed admirably. Older wireless headphones sometimes hissed, sputtered, fizzed, distorted, and dropped out from time to time. Bass oomph and dynamic range were in short supply. The RS 185 largely avoids those pitfalls, and it’s worth noting that its 32mm drivers share DNA with the drivers in Sennheiser’s legendary HD-650 wired headphones.

I watched a bunch of movies with the RS 185 and found a lot to like. First, the headphone felt light on my head, though ear pad pressure was just a tad high. The upside is that the RS 185s stay put even when you move around. I was taken with Noah Baumbach’s quirky little indie film Frances Ha. It felt a bit like HBO’s Girls, but Frances (Greta Gerwig), stuck with a bad case of twenty-something doldrums in NYC, really caught my fancy. The acoustics of tiny NYC apartments, noisy clubs, and bustling street scenes sounded spot-on to me, a lifelong New Yorker. In mid-movie I switched over to the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 over-the-ear headphones to see how the RS 185 compared with a wired Sennheiser, and it was no contest. The closed-back Momentum 2.0 definitely sounded closed-in, the open-back RS 185 far more spacious. Momentum has more midrange presence and a livelier sound, but I preferred the smoother RS 185.

To test the RS 185’s dynamic punch, I popped on jazz drummer Peter Erskine’s Old School album. The RS 185 had a fuller, more potent sound. They were close in terms of dynamic punch, but I’d give the nod to the Momentum. Since the Momentum was plugged into an NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier, it could play a lot louder than the battery-powered RS 185 (it has a 1.2 volt AAA in each ear cup). Don’t get me wrong here, the RS 185 can rock, but it’s a matter of degree. If you want to feel the power of full-throttle assaults with films like Mad Max: Fury Road on Blu-ray, the RS 185 won’t thrash your ears the way the Momentum, or most wired full-size headphones can.

The bottom line for me is this: How close can the sound of a wireless headphone come to that of a wired headphone costing around the same dollars? By that score, the Sennheiser RS 185 does very well indeed.

saint279's picture

A friend has these and he agrees that my Noontec ZORO II Headphones sound as good. Most of these High priced Cans aren't worth it. Mine cost 149.00