I use headphones on a daily basis as I do a lot of sewing on industrial-class machines and like to block out the mechanical noise as well as listen to the radio clearly. When these new Z710 wireless headphones arrived from Zensonic, I was keen to see how they compared to my existing ones. I had been using a pair of Radioshack wireless headphones which were adequate though somewhat uncomfortable for long periods and a bit hissy in terms of sound quality.
The brightly-coloured Zensonic box contains everything you need to get set up: transmitter, headphones, 2x rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries, recharging cable, AC power pack for the base transmitter, 3.5 stereo audio cable for connecting to headphone jack and a converter cable for connecting to dual RCA outputs. There's also a thin but useful manual included.
One thing that isn't made clear in the manual is the installation of the base-station antenna. It's just a plastic tube, which doesn't seem like it will do much for transmission. I initially installed it as per the instructions by simply sticking the tube into the base station, and I found I could walk around the outside of the house with the headphones on and get good reception, but hardly the 100M range quoted on the box - too far from the house and I would get dropouts and static. When I was taking the photos for this review later, I discovered that the base station has a tiny coiled wire inside the bottom of the antenna hole. Fishing this out, uncoiling it and extending it into the plastic antenna tube during installation improved range notably. I can now walk around the perimeter of our quarter-acre block with good transmission all the way. Anyway, no mention of this wire is made in the instructions, which is strange.
Apart from the antenna issue, setting up the system was easy: just a matter of plugging in the AC adaptor for the transmitter, connecting the headphone jack to the source (in my case radio) and to the transmitter, then fiddling a bit with the tuning dial on the headphones. On the other side from the volume, tuning and power controls is the battery compartment and the charging jack.
The reception doesnít seem to alter much whether the transmitter is on the floor or a couple of metres off the ground. Tuning in is definitely easier with the Zensonic headphones - the Radioshack ones require tuning both on the headphones and the transmitter. Horrible noises ensued if you didnít get the frequency exactly right. There are 3 options for transmission channel on the Zensonic transmitter base station and you can tune multiple headsets to the same base station - handy for late night TV.
The included batteries are 2x AAA NiMH and they are recharged by plugging the headphones into a cable on the transmitter base station. There are indicator LEDs on the transmitter to let you know when the batteries are fully charged. I seem to get about 12 hours of continous use before the batteries seem to run down.
When Iím not listening to radio, changing over to Hi-Fi use is simple. The system comes with a dual-RCA converter cable for plugging into an amplifier or other source even if it doesnít have a headphone jack.
Regarding sound quality, Iíve been pretty happy with both sets of headphones. There is a faint background hiss on both - less so on the Zensonic pair. This takes a moment to get used to but once youíre over that itís fine. I should say at this point that I usually listen to radio with a lot of spoken-word articles and current affair programs so the background noise is pretty obvious due to the periods of silence in the broadcast. Itís much less obvious when listening to music.
These are not audiophile-class headphones and for the $99 AUD asking price you'd be silly to expect them to be. However, the sound quality is perfectly fine for radio or CD music. The only issue I noticed was a minor distortion during some particularly excited and high-pitched classical music. Prior to getting the wireless headphones I was using a pair of Sennheiser headphones (about $300.00 worth) and any quality difference between the wireless headphones and the Sennheisers was soon negated by the convenience of not accidently sewing over the headphone cord or getting it caught under my chair.
The biggest inconvenience Iíve found with the Zensonic headphones so far is the on/off switch. Itís kind of hard to move, so if someone starts talking to you itís easier to just take the headphones off rather than trying to flip the on/off switch.
In comparison with the Radioshack headphones Iíve found the Zensonicís to be lighter, have a much better range, slightly less background hiss and they are considerably more comfortable for prolonged use due to the cushion shape. They also look a lot groovier and the transmitter is much smaller and lighter weight.
In conclusion, I now wear the Zensonic headphones for about 6 hours every working day, in preference over my Radio Shack wireless or Sennheiser wired headphones. Highly recommended for anyone looking for reasonable quality comfortable wireless headphones with a really good range.
Thanks to Zensonic (who are associated with PCRange, an OCAU Major Sponsor) for providing the review unit.
All original content copyright James Rolfe.
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