Sennheiser Assistive Listening wireless TV headphones (review)
As we get older, we start to lose the full 20Hz-20kHz hearing range. That, unfortunately, means we find it harder and harder to hear conversations and voices on TV. Sennheiser Assistive Listening wireless TV headphones are the best solution we have found for TV watching.
Why? Well, as you become more hearing impaired, you tend to turn up the volume. That may work for you, but it is hell for non-impaired listeners.
You see, excessive volume is not the answer. It is about selectively reinforcing specific frequencies you have lost and overemphasising clear voice and speech frequencies. As far as we can find, Sennheiser Assistive Listening wireless TV headphones are the only ones to do that.
The science of hearing
Volume is about decibels (dB). Kids can hear sounds well below 20dB. As they get older, that increases, and at 35dB, you are considered hearing-impaired. Upping the TV volume helps a little, but you are still missing the nuances.
Hearing impairment is more about losing specific frequencies. Perfect hearing is from about 20Hz (Hertz – you can’t hear, more feel, this low bass) to 20kHz (kilohertz – again, you cannot hear this, but it fills in the sound, making it crisp and directional). An average adult with good hearing is closer to 150Hz to 17kHz.
Typical hearing loss means low-frequency response levels creep up from 20Hz to 1kHz, and high levels drop from 20kHz to as low as 8kHz. Each ear is different, too – stereo (sound from both ears) is unequal.
Frequency loss usually means that bass sounds muted or muddy, and treble disappears with consonants like j, u, z, f, s, and th simply unintelligible. For example, ‘s’ (5-7kHz) becomes Sssssssibilance (hiss) in vocals.
So clear speech is 150Hz-6kHz (men) and 350Hz-8kHz (women). The most critical part for clear speech (intelligibility) is a narrow band from about 1-4kHz.
Sennheiser Assistive Listening wireless TV headphones
|Website||TV headphone site and Sennheiser Flex 5000 Headphone receiver/transmitter Product site|
|Price||$349.95 (black) plus your choice of cabled headphones (free shipping), but shop around as we have seen them for as low as $229 inc delivery.|
From Sennheiser or its dealers.
|Company||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
|More||Cybershack Sennheiser news and reviews|
First impression – Sennheiser Flex 5000 Headphone receiver/transmitter
To my knowledge, there are no other TV headphones with separate left and right volumes (as each ear is different) and clear voice EQ. On those points alone it is the best solution.
Sennheiser offers a variety of solutions and pricing. The entry-level is the RS 5200 with a stethoscope earpiece, and it is the lightweight way (not over the ear headphones).
The Flex 5000 ($349.95 as reviewed) uses the same transmitter (base unit), but it has a separate portable, battery-operated receiver that you can plug in any 3.5mm headphones. They come with MX 465 cabled buds renowned for audio quality without ‘trickery’.
Flex 5000 receiver/transmitter
- Inputs: 3.5mm analogue and digital optical (TosLink)
- Output: Stereo 2.0
- Power: 5V/1A/5W plug pack, which provides power for the transmitter and to charge the receiver
- Receiver: Small pocket clip sized transmitter with 12 hours of battery life driving standard headphones. The range is about 30m so you can visit the toilet and still hear what’s going on. You can have up to four receivers per transmitter.
You can use cheap cabled buds to its recommended HD 569, closed-back (noise isolation), 23 Ω, over-the-ear headphones with ‘Ergonomic acoustic refinement’ (EAR) design.
These 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.
I have tested with a range of headphones, and a closed-back is best
Sennheiser hearing science
It has three pre-set profiles predominately for music.
- Warm and sweet for music. Low-frequency gets a slight boost to provide a warm, full sound, and 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
Cybershack view – Sennheiser Assistive Listening wireless TV headphones do it right
There are many options, and their effectiveness depends on your level of hearing impairment. If you are in the early stages, then Bluetooth or cabled headphones may work.
The Sennheiser Assistive Listening wireless TV headphones do it right, providing three different hearing profiles, adjustable left/right volumes, a portable 3.5mm receiver, and you can use any earphones or headphones.
The catch 22 with any solution is that your TV speakers may turn off unless there is a TV setting to use both. We have been unable to find any solution when you use a soundbar – working on that.
Sennheiser Flex 5000- base specs
|Headphone||Use any headphones with a minimum of 16 Ohm|
|Size||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)
|Frequency||15Hz to 15kHz|
|Charge||Approx. 12 hours use with three hours charge. 30 minutes gives up to two hours|
Battery BAP 800 is user replaceable (Approx. $60)
|Range||Up to 30m|
|Maximum volume||Around 80dB|
|Audio stream||PCM, 16-24Bit/16-96kHz|
|Latency||60ms – no lip-sync issues|