How Do I Choose the Best Infrared Headphones?

M. Kayo

The best infrared (IR) headphones will provide a clear, distinct sound without any static, variance in tone, or signal degradation within the trasnmitter's range. Choosing the best infrared headphones is relatively simple if some time is invested in researching all the available options and capabilities of the various models. The best infrared headphones include a variable volume control, an automatic shut-off function to preserve battery life, and a long line-of-sight signal. Infrared technology is the same technology that allows a remote control to work, and there are different types of infrared headphones for use with television, video games, computers, and even for the car.

Infrared headphones may be used when watching television.
Infrared headphones may be used when watching television.

While infrared headphones are not as vulnerable to RF (radio frequency) signal interference as similar RF wireless headphones, IR wireless headphones will only function if they stay within the line of sight of the infrared transmitter. Even when this requirement is met, the signal is still susceptible to interference from strong light, sunlight, or the glare from a plasma TV screen. It is critical that the headphones be able to receive the IR signal clearly. Light, even infrared light, that is invisible to the naked eye, cannot pass through any sort of solid obstruction without an interruption or break in the signal. Generally, the cheaper the IR headphones, the shorter the range of practical use to receive an optimal signal.

The best infrared headphones should provide a clear, distinct sound without any static.
The best infrared headphones should provide a clear, distinct sound without any static.

One of the most important factors in selecting the best infrared headphones is the overall sound quality. Since this will mean different things to different people, the best thing to do is to sample a few models before making a final purchase. What the headphones will be used for is another important consideration. For example, you may want those deep bass jolts typically experienced when playing a video game or watching a motion picture with lots of explosions and loud sounds. On the other hand, you may want the superior high-end clarity and depth of sound needed to fully enjoy a recording of classical music played in a concert or opera hall.

Another feature to look for is an auto-off sensor that automatically turns the headphones off a few minutes after the source signal has been terminated in order to maintain longer battery life. IR headphones may use regular batteries or have an internally powered battery that is charged on a charging cradle. Consistent use of a cradle charger to charge IR headphones may be fine for users who are able to place the headphones on the charger after each use. If you forget to place the headphones on the charger, however, they will not work until charged for an extended period. Headphones that use regular batteries provide an option for those who might forget to use a charger or who use the headphones for long periods, beyond the limits of a single charge.

The infrared transmitter, which sends the IR signal to the headphones, is typically mounted within the line of sight of all areas in which the headphones will be used. Most transmitters are powered by some sort of AC power adapter, so be sure to consider the wiring set-up when installing the IR transmitter. Most infrared headphones are very simple to set up initially, by plugging the RCA connector cable in to the "line out" jack on any audio or video device, like a television, stereo, DVD player or mp3 player. Since the range of the IR transmitter will determine the area in which the headphones can be used, find out which infrared headphones have the longest range and the best sound quality before making a final decision.

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