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Need help choosing two sets of over-ear headphones for dramatically different purposes.

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Greetings Head-Fi community!


While searching the internet this site has constantly appeared as a respectable and resourceful source of information, I hope to tap into that knowledge this evening.


I am in need of 2 very different pairs of headphones. The first of which is perhaps the easier of the two to suggest so I'd like to start there. My current headphones (Labtec Elite 830 third pair!) have all but worn out, and I wish to replace them and trade up. I am looking for as similar a pair of headphones as possible: extremely comfortable for extended use, over ear, open/closed back (I confess I am not sufficiently knowledgeable in the matter to know which these are), etc etc. My primary use is gaming, video, and music on the computer—nothing in particular needs any special treatment (bass etc). I'd like to spend <$160.


The second pair is much more specific. My grandfather is getting quite old and is having a very hard time hearing the television (one of his only sources of entertainment). Complicating the matter, he is almost deaf in one ear. This pair of headphones would need to have individual volume adjustments for each ear so that he can attempt to balance out the volume by increasing the volume to his bad ear, while leaving his good ear alone. Additionally he is having difficulty understanding some words, so a pair that emphasizes vocal clarity would be great (if it's ideal for watching Downton Abbey on PBS then all the better). These headphones should be able to connect to a television, be wireless, cover the ear, and NOT mute the television while in use (grandma needs to hear as well!). He has a pair of TV Ears that sit unused, without individual volume adjustment he's still only getting to use one ear. The budget here is a little more flexible, as this is a huge quality of life purchase, I'm willing to spend more.


I look forward to taking my first step toward quality headphones and any help, suggestions, or pointers would be simply fantastic.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

post #2 of 5
As someone that spent many decades attempting to buy products for my nearly deaf father, I applaud your effort to help your grandfather.

Everything you want is easily doable - but you have to be careful that the solution doesn't get too complicated. In addition to the technical aspects of the audio, don't forget that the solution has to be VERY simple to use - if you try to have several devices that need to be turned-on, recharged, adjusted, etc - it simply won't be used past the first day you set it up for him. It needs to be set it and forget it. Does he wear hearing aids? That can also complicate the situation - you have to be careful of feedback causing a squeal.

OK, so here's some ideas. I think you need the headphone wireless cradle to be next to the chair where he sits (and I know he has "his" chair!) This will let him put the headphones into the cradle without needing to get out of his chair. This is critical, because otherwise the headphones will not be charged - they will sit next to his chair until they are dead. However, that complicates some things, because the cradle needs to be wired to the television.

Is there any way to run a cable from the TV to his chair? That would allow the wireless charging cradle to be near where he sits. If not, then we need a way to wirelessly stream the music from his TV to his chair. This can be done, but it adds A LOT of complication to the design.

I also want to talk about how the audio is obtained from the TV. Does he have a cable or satellite TV receiver hooked to his TV? Does he have a DVD/Bluray player or anything else attached to the TV? If he doesn't have a DVD player but DOES have a cable/sat box, then the easiest way to connect the headphones and still have the TV speakers work is to connect the wireless headphones to the "audio out" RCA jacks on the back of the cable/sat box (if it has those jacks).

As far as the wireless headphones themselves, I would probably look at Sennheiser or Sony. They are good quality and comfortable 'phones and they have several different models depending on your budget. In the set-up I have described, you do NOT want bluetooth wireless headphones. You want RF headphones like (for example) the Sennheiser RS180. The RS180 has ALMOST everything you need - including a left/right balance control - BUT - it is an open headphone - and that could be a problem for Grandma because she might be able hear sound being leaked from the headphones. The Sennheiser RS170 is closed-back, but it doesn't have a left/right balance.

Another issue you need to be aware of with wireless headphones is that in my experience, anything wireless with elderly folks can be a problem. If it loses the pairing with the base, Grandpa may start pushing buttons - and there's no telling what will happen then. I spent countless hours talking to my Mom on the phone who was then trying to relay instructions to my Dad. COUNTLESS HOURS!! tongue.gif
Edited by billybob_jcv - 2/2/14 at 8:16pm
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Oh billybob_jcv you know my situation all too well, right down to “his chair!” Haha.


You recommend the Sennheiser RS 180, and I can see why. They check nearly every box. Unfortunately running a wire from the TV to his table is not an option, grandma will not let that happen. As for the open back, I wonder just how bad that will be, she'll be watching the TV as well, so it's not as if we're trying to create a situation where one is reading in silence while the other is watching a Michael Bay flick. You mention left/right balance, but does that mean dual volume control as well? I'm quite certain he would prefer the balance to be in the middle, just with the left ear operating at 150% volume. Or is that the same thing?


No cable box (basic air only), standard RCA outputs, DVD player that is rarely used.

I would love for the cradle to be on his table, the ease of access would greatly improve the likelihood of the headphones being used. But if it's too complicated then I'd rather not.


Thanks for the advice so far, you've given me a great set of headphones as a baseline!

post #4 of 5
A balance control is simply lowering the volume on one side. That is the same as raising the volume on the other side. You would just raise the overall headphone volume, then use the balance control to move the perceived center to the middle.

Another option that might help with the balance is to change the stereo to dual-mono so that all sounds come from both sides. You can easily do this by using a stereo to mono adapter, followed by a mono to stereo adapter. The result is both channels having all sounds.

OK, so if there isn't a cable/sat box then you need to be a little careful with how the headphones are wired to the TV. Ideally, you will have a set of fixed volume, line-level output jacks on the back of the TV. Those would connect directly to the wireless base. That would let the TV volume be separate from the headphone volume. If you don't have those, then we need to know what you *do* have for audio output jacks on the TV.

If you need a separate left/right balance control, you might be able to find some sort of balance/fader control - I looked briefly, but I couldn't find a link.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for clearing up the balance mechanic, and nice tip regarding the stereo-mono-stereo idea! Their TV isn't flat, if that gives you any idea as to it's age. The red/white/yellow outputs are all that is available.

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