Sennheiser TV Clear – crystal clear TV sound for the hearing impaired (AV review and soundbar update)

The Sennheiser TV Clear comprises a pair of in-ear BT True Wireless earphones and a TV transmitter. It claims that ‘TV will never be the same’ – and it is right. Although at $639.95, it needs to be.

Now to be clear (pun), most TVs have Bluetooth capabilities, and you can use any earphones or headphones. But these are only about volume, and as the hearing impaired know, that is useless.

As we said in Sennheiser Assistive Listening wireless TV headphones (review), 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 is the only one to do that. You can read more about the science of hearing in that article.

There are significant differences to BT earphones

  • Five speech Clarity programs cater for different levels of hearing impairment. Think of these as hearing pre-sets
  • You can pair multiple TV Clear buds with the TV transmitter (not tested)
  • It is BT, so you can also use it with smartphones, PCs etc. and enjoy hearing clarity
  • 15-hours battery life and Qi/USB-C charge case
  • Ambient mode for passthrough conversation and hands-free mic for use with a smartphone
  • Sennheiser TV Clear App is very easy to use

Bottom line – these make an appreciable difference to the sound quality, richness and clarity over traditional BT earphones. You will rediscover sound.

Why do the hearing-impaired need Sennheiser Clear TV?

Almost all sexagenarians and older are hearing impaired.

First, you lose the treble high notes (>10kHz), making the music sound a little distant and string instruments dull.

Next, you start to suffer from sibilance. Consonants like j, u, z, f, s, and th, are simply unintelligible. For example, ‘s’ (5-7kHz) becomes Sssssssibilance (hiss) in vocals. 

Finally, you may start to lose mid-upper bass (50-200Hz), resulting in muddy bass.

Then your hearing range settles down to a pretty narrow range taking all the pleasure out of music and movies. Oh, and your hair falls out!

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.

Australian review: Sennheiser TV Clear earphones and transmitter set

WebsiteTV headphone site, Product page and Manual
Price$639.95 (free shipping), but shop around. From Sennheiser or its dealers.
CompanySennheiser (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 owns its consumer audio business.
MoreCyberShack Sennheiser news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass(able) rating that is not as good as it should be and a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed. You can click on most images for an enlargement.

First Impression – Pass+

Sennheiser quality. The Buds come in a nice matte black USB-C/Qi charge case (TVCE1) and, unusually, have three LEDs to indicate the left, right and case charge – a small feature that other brands should emulate. Inside there is a BT manual pair button (should you need it).

The buds (TVCE1-EB) are typical Sennheiser but feature an integrated silicone tip and ear wing – you can select small, medium, or large. The wing is great for picking them up (good for arthritic fingers) and helps for a good intuitive fit.

Setup – Earbuds/smartphone – Pass+

Download the Sennheiser TV Clear App for Android or iOS. You can avoid setting up an account, but it offers a few extra features if you do.

One of the early options is to select one of five clarity levels. It plays a test song, and you work through the levels until you get the clearest sound. Level one is for the most basic clarity enhancement, and level five is for the highest. It makes a world of difference but the higher the level, the lower the music accuracy.

It also supports the phone’s Voice Assistant.

Setup – TV transmitter – Pass+

The transmitter is an AirStream dongle (not BT). It requires either a 3.5mm audio (headphone) or Optical (TOSLINK) TV connection and a micro-USB 5V/.5A/2.5W power (all cables supplied but no power pack).

AirStream is a low-latency audio streamer developed by Sonova/Phonac and allows for multiple TV Clear buds (and Phonak or Unitron hearing aids) to connect. It switches on automatically when the TV comes on – no need for anything to be paired or configured again. It is superior to BT and has no lag.

Now you have a few decisions to make as a) you can bypass the receiver and use the TV/smartphone/computer/host device Bluetooth, or b) connect to the TV as above.

UPDATE CAVEAT: Short answer is that if the TV Settings support PCM Output, then an HDMI soundbar will work, except it will not receive Dolby Atmos passthrough from the TV. This means up to 5.1 surround sound is fine.

So connect the Sennheiser to Optical out and the soundbar to HDMI and find the setting that allows both to work. If you play a movie with Dolby Atmos sound, you will need to switch the TV back to DA and the buds will not work.

Clarity and Volume – Pass+

You can adjust the clarity levels up with a 2-second press on the right bud and down with a 2-second press on the left bud. I found level three to be voice/sound-accurate for my ears.

These settings are stored in the buds regardless of power on/off.

Hands-free – Pass

It has two mics (one on each bud) for voice beam forming and one on each bud for ambient awareness.

You can use these as hands-free buds for phone calls and video conferences. As they are not noise cancelling, it is best used indoors. Test calls were crystal clear on both ends.

You can use one earbud (mono) – the one you take out of the case. The usual touch controls apply – answer, mute, end etc.

Ambient awareness – Pass+

By default, it uses level three – which enables normal conversation to pass through the buds. You have seven levels to choose from – level one least amplifies the outside noise. This also increases sidetone – hearing your voice through the earphones.

Comfort – Exceed

These are 6.9g each and are not noise-cancelling – the no-pressure design helps pulsatile tinnitus (hearing your heartbeat in your ears). These should be good for you if you have this itchy ear or hay fever.

In our tests, we used them for up to eight hours with no issues. The wings are excellent for fr and comfort.

Battery – Pass+

Sennheiser claims 15 hours of use (69mAh battery in each bud), and our tests show that it is conservative. The case holds about 22 hours of recharge.

 A full recharge (490mAh in the case) takes two hours via USB-C or three hours via Qi wireless. We recommend you get a Qi charge pad and leave it near where you sit. Qi is intelligent and only charges when needed, so you can leave the case on the charging pad. Lithium-ion batteries last about 800 full recharges, so Qi maximises battery life.

We noticed a lower battery life when BT connected to a smartphone for music streaming.

Bluetooth range – Pass

It uses BT 4.2 SBC codec, and the maximum range is 10 metres (tested). Our advice is to use the AirStream dongle where you can.

FAQs – Exceed

An extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions here includes a plethora of short instruction videos.

CyberShack’s view – Sennheiser TV Clear for crystal clear TV sound

It does what it promises – adds five clarity programs to a pair of BT in-ear canal earphones that can connect to any BT host or the AirStream TV Connector.

It makes quite a profound difference to what you hear – details jump out at you, and frankly, it puts the enjoyment back into sound – any sound from music to TV and even movies. We tested with PCM 5.1 content and Dolby Atmos content, and the sound stage had decent left/right separation and, in DA’s case, some 3D spatial height.

BUT, and there is only one BUT, it will not work with Dolby Atmos passthrough to HDMI soundbar – you will get 5.1 sound from that instead.

Oh, and perhaps a second, BUT. If you are not hearing impaired, why are you reading this because they are not for you?

On soundbars, there are a few I recommend that are better for clear voice.

  • Sonos – the $699 Beam Gen 2 and the $1499 Arc plus rear speakers at $578 have excellent clear voice and night modes.
  • LG 2022 Soundbar range – something completely different – specifically those with Dolby Atmos, centre up-firing speaker, and rear speakers (S95QR, S90QY and S80QR) have an excellent clear voice setting.
  • Bose Smart Soundbar 900 – Dolby Atmos 5.0.2 soundbar is interesting as it supports SimpleSync to connect some Bose headphones. But the headphones don’t have programmable clarity. Still, it is a pretty good way to get a soundbar and headphones simultaneously.

Remember, it is not about volume. It is about reinforcing the frequencies you have lost.

Rating Explanation

As these are unique, we don’t have a baseline to rate them against. So 10/10!

Features: Quality Sennheiser BT, SBC buds. Well-made and can pair with the AirStream TV Connector or BT smartphone etc.

Value: Expensive, but I can see where the money goes

Performance: The five clarity pre-sets (there is bound to be one for you) really cover the hearing impairment spectrum very well. But remember that these are at the expense of music accuracy, so don’t expect an audiophile performance.

Ease of Use: The buds pair via the push button in the case to the TV connect (push button), and that is it. The App is intuitive and easy to use. Similarly, the case push button activates BT pairing mode for smartphones etc.

Design: Typical over-engineered Sennheiser design and very well made. I like that you can buy extra buds for other users. Excellent comfort, and I like the ‘wings’. The touch controls are a little slow.

Final Comment: Apart from the soundbar issue, these are excellent for podcasts, video/audio conferences, hands-free calls and music (at lower clarity levels).

More help videos here