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Acoustic Research 900MHz Wireless Headphones: If you're a late night gamer, you'll want a good set of headphones to hear potential fragbait sneaking up on you... without waking the wife.

Date: July 16, 2003
Manufacturer:
Written By:


Introduction

We have seen this on the marketplace for sometime now, the 900MHz wireless headphones. They give you freedom of movement while you listen to your favorite Music or Movie from anything that will put out a Right and Left channel. Hell, a lot of them even come with SPDIF outputs so you can get DD 5.1 surround sound, nice :) So I decided to check out a pair for myself. I wanted to get a name brand, although I didn't have the money for the top of the line, but I did not want a bottom of the line model either. I settled on the Acoustic Research with the Dolby Digital 5.1 capabilities. I found it for ~$80, and this was a little over 3 months ago now. There are more expensive brands out there and there are less expensive, but I figured these were a good "middle ground" for testing purposes.

Specifications

Creates a surround sound environment virtually identical to a movie theater or live music performance
Transmits through walls/floors, up to 300'
40mm titanium speaker elements with neodymium magnets
Universal 900MHz platform allows use of multiple headphones with 1 transmitter
Angled, swiveling earcups with oversized earpads
20Hz20kHz
Uses 3 AAA batteries
Includes transmitter, optical cable, and rechargeable NiMH batteries

A Closer Look

The 900MHz Wireless Headphone kit includes a nice pair of Headphones, a base station, a power cord adaptor and a Fiber Optic Cable (SPDIF). The unit uses a rechargeable battery that has a decent life span, I have played for up to 3 hours without loss of audio. Manufacturer documents say 4 hours on a full charge. It does not appear to add much weight (the headphones are more substantial than my previous ones, but they are also larger). I just have to keep reminding myself to put it on the base so it charges the headphones :)

Unlike most people (not most reading this article mind you) my purpose for buying these was to get a better sound from my computer system, and specifically gaming, with Quake III Arena being my game of choice. I also wanted to get rid of that damn cable I keep running over with my chair. So to my computer this goes, and oh, and looky here, my nforce2 motherboard with SoundStorm audio has an SPDIF out (/me dances). I am going to get Dolby Digital 5.1 (or an attempt at it). You can also plug in standard Right / Left RCA jacks and Digital Copper instead of the Fiber Optic cable.

Unfortunately the cable they include is somewhat of a short one, but at ~$20 a pop, I am not going to complain, I mean hey, they included one at least! My initial placement of the base station received plenty of feedback in the form of "white noise" or a background hiss depending on how I was sitting at my desk, and to leave my desk and wander around the house, nope, not going to happen without major static interference. I proceeded to move the base to several different areas (once again, the short cable comes into play) finally finding one that isn't 'bad'. There is some interference but it is manageable and typically only notice it when I leave the room. The only thing in my room that I can think of that might interfere with the unit is the CRT Monitor.

I found the 'sweet' spot and proceeded to ensure everything was working; I put the headphones on and selected the digital input. The headphones are very comfortable, they are auto-adjusting headphones and they work rather well, from my head (large of course) and then to my wife's head (ultra small) they adjust without me having to move a lever or click the headband to the appropriate position, nice feature. The sound is just awesome, the bass is deep and penetrating, the high tones are alive but don't pinch your nerve's like some of the Asian counterpart speakers I have tried out. The midrange is handled nicely for a single speaker system, I mean, this isn't a Klipsch surround sound system, but for headphones, it is of very good sound quality. The first time I heard a rocket blast in Quake III Arena I jumped out of my seat, as this is LOUD. I adjusted a few things, and eventually got used to the fuller, richer enjoyment of my gaming world.


As I mentioned, I am 3 months into the testing and unfortunately I have to report that the right headphone standoff broke. This required me to superglue it back together to once again utilize it. Looking at the way it was built they could have engineered it a little stronger as it is a small piece of plastic that swivels the ear piece, and even holds it in place to the headband. Asking a little too much of this piece of plastic if you ask me.

Final Words

Overall I am happy with the product. The sound reproduction is very good and the overall comfort of the product is a plus. Deep penatrating bass, high tones are 'alive' and the midrange is suitable for a single cone system. The self adjusting headband makes it possible for a wide range of user's to use the headphones without having to worry about your personal preferances in regards to adjustments being changed.

I was, however disappointed with the lack of distance I could travel from the base and the inability to COMPLETELY get rid of interference. I basically had to play around with positioning the base unit to get the least amount of interference (possibly from my CRT Monitor), but this was limited by the short length of the included fibre optic lead. Maybe if I spent a little more and got a longer fiber optic cable I could achieve that. Maybe I will need to upgrade to an LCD monitor to reduce interference :p. Or maybe it would require a 2.4GHz wireless headset &

Pros
Wireless; No cables to 'phones
Rich, full sound
Comfortable
Rechargable
SP/DIF, RCA and Digital Copper
Fibre optic cable included
Self adjusting head band
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Cons
Bit of 'interference'
A need for stronger manufacturing in regards to headphone standoff's
Dissapointing maximum distance
Included fibre optic cable is a bit short

Bottom Line
Overall the Acoustic Research 900MHz Wireless Headphones work well, have a decent sound and are comfortable to wear. They do however suffer from interference and a lack of overall clear transmission distance from the base unit to headphones.

If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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