In October 2007 I read an article on Engadget about the new Panasonic RP-WF5500 wireless 5.1 headphones. The article was brief and I was unable to find a review of the headphones online.
The headphones are 2.4Ghz digital wireless headphones that offer 5.1 surround sound via digital or analog inputs. The big benefit for me to the digital input is that it it can be passed through my receiver without going through the amplifier- giving the benefit of not having to control the audio through my receiver: I can turn the volume down on the receiver and control the volume on the headphones independently. My prior headphones were analog input only so I had to use a 3.5mm to headphone adaptor and plug it into the output of the receiver- disabling my room speakers and requiring the audio to pass through two amplifiers (one in the receiver and one in the headphones).
They specifications sounded very good and I had good hopes that this would almost be the ‘ultimate headphones’ for me (they lack noise cancellation so they are not the true ‘ultimate headphones’ for me).
I watched and hoped that they would appear on the shelf at my local Fry’s store- but no such luck. I did find them on AccessoryJack and GeekStuff4U for around $230 - $250, but this is a bit expensive for a new set of headphones that no one has really tested. I added them to my Amazon Wish list (via their universal wish list option) and someone was kind enough to purchase it as a birthday present for me. :o)
The headphones took a few weeks to arrive as they were shipped direct from Hong Kong- in a paper bag:
The contents inside were wrapped in a thin bubble wrap and the contents arrived fairly unscathed:
It really made me wonder how a set of headphones can travel around the world in a paper bag and FexEx/UPS can’t manage to do this for a 50 mile delivery.
Inside the box were the headphones, charging base, wall adaptor, a 6’ optical cable, a single AA rechargeable battery, instructions and warranty information (the later two matched the box as they were only in Cantonese).
The headphones are adjustable and the ear covers pivot and twist to make them more comfortable. They are covered with cloth and are very comfortable to wear. The headphones (with the AA battery installed) weigh about 9oz.
As a size comparison, they are a good deal smaller than my old Sony MDR-RF970K 900Mhz stereo headphones:
The headphones are simplistic in design; there are for two controls on the right headphone and charging contacts on the left headphone. The controls are a simple analog volume control and an ID button. The ID button is for pairing with the base station.
The pivoting action also controls the auto power-off function of the headphones (which I was unaware of until I started playing around with them). When the headphones are worn on the head, they power on (indicated by a red light on the right headphone).
As mentioned earlier, the headphones are powered by a single AA battery located in the left headphone. The single battery gives the headphones about 6 hours of use before needing a recharge.
The docking station has to digital optical inputs and an analog stereo input via 3.5mm stereo headphone jack (cable for the later is not included). There is also a digital optical output.
The base station has three buttons and a selector switch:
- ID/Tuning: Syncs the headphones and the base (via matching ‘ID’ button on the headphones)
- Bass Boost: Obvious use
- Selector switch: Allows selection of Digital input #1, #2 or analog audio.
- Surround button: Cycles through surround modes:
- For digital inputs, Dolby Digital, DTS or MPGE-2 AAC are automatically selected. The surround mode toggles 'Dolby Headphone’ mode on/off.
- For analog input, the button will cycle through Dolby Headphone + Movie, Dolby Headphone + Music or straight stereo audio modes.
- Dolby Prologic II converts stereo audio into a matrixed 5.1 surround sound- but I was unable to test as I do not have anything recorded in this format (I am not sure if this is for digital or analog inputs).
The headphones rest in the base and charge the battery.
The headphones use a 2.4Ghz digital signal to communicate with the headphones. I was a bit concerned that there would be interference in my house that is saturated with similar frequency 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth, and wireless keyboard/mouse/game controller signals. Luckily my worry was unwarranted; I have been using the headphones for several weeks and I have not heard a single drop/pop/cross-talk in this time period.
The actual sound is very clear. I am not an audiophile by any standards (although I do rip my MP3s at 240kpbs as I think 128kpbs sounds like crap) but I am extremely happy with the sound quality. The surround sound is good- not spectacular- but I do not think I could honestly expect more from two separate speakers trying to emulate a center channel.
The range is rated at 30 meters (about 100’) but I find the signal to start dropping at about 30’ in a normal house situation. The 30m range is probably more the case in a studio type scenario.
- Consistent wireless signal; no drops/pops/cross-talk
- Good Sound
- 5.1 Surround
- Auto shut-off
- Digital input
- Light weight & comfortable
- Not available for sale in US/non-US warranty
Overall, I am VERY happy with these headphones.