Monday, December 6, 2010

Sennheiser RS 170 wireless headphones and iTunes

Had someone find this blog using the keyword phrase "sennheiser rs170 audio quality with itunes" but then bounced as he couldn't find what he was looking for. Figured this gave me an opportunity to discuss iTunes audio compression (the little I know) and wireless earbuds/headphones that use Kleer wireless audio technology.

Wireless earbuds, wireless headphones, wireless speakers that are built using Kleer technology deliver uncompressed lossless, CD-quality, digital stereo audio. This means you hear what the musician/artist/director (if you're watching TV) intended.

But, and here's the catch, if the music you're listening to is already compressed, then that's what you hear. Now most of the time you might not notice or really care. But when you use Kleer-based wireless earbuds/headphones, you might notice you're missing something, especially if you've heard the songs before on your CD player, so you have something to compare. 

One of my favorite web articles about bit rates is the What does your bit rate say about you? article on the CNET Australia website. Here's some excerpts:

You probably don't know the bit rate at which your music is encoded -- this is the default iTunes rate -- and it seems good to you. You're probably happy with the headphones that came with your MP3 player. But you may have started downloading free music back when Napster was in its original illegal P2P form, and you may currently be a Limewire user, having never heard of or felt the need to understand BitTorrent. You don't see the advantage in hard-disk-based MP3 players and wouldn't know what to listen out for when offered an album encoded in lossless format. You're perfectly happy with having a 2GB MP3 player or an iPod Shuffle. You're unlikely to own a large library of CDs.

So of course the biggest advantage to using the highest (lowest?) compression rate is that you can fit the most songs on your iPod, Touch, iPhone, you get the picture. 

At the other end is lossless compression (as opposed to lossy). So when you rip a song at lossless, the file size is huge. But it is true CD-quality. So when you listen to a ripped song at lossless quality with Kleer based wireless earbuds/headphones, you hear it at true CD-quality. 

Here's how someone is described who likes their songs lossless on the CNET Australia site:

"Lossless (FLAC or Apple Lossless)
You are most likely to be born before 1978. You are the most likely group to be a Mac user and your headphones cost in excess of AU$150, possibly made by Shure, Sennheiser or Ultimate Ears. You own a fifth-gen video iPod and an HDTV. Your laptop cost at least AU$2,500 and you consider yourself a cinema fan. You are the least likely to download music illegally, instead preferring to own a huge CD library. You're highly likely to be a musician and own at least one book about either quantum mechanics, philosophy or psychology. Your mobile phone bill is considerably higher than average and you may work in the technology industry.

You're depressed when you see people on the train using their MP3 player's bundled headphones and you probably listen to technology podcasts. You may well know the bit rate your podcasts are encoded at. You used Napster back in the day, but you never stopped buying CDs. You use Limewire or BitTorrent to occasionally sample an album, but you always buy the CD if you like what you hear.

To be perfectly honest, I did rip CDs at the lowest bit rate, then also ripped the same songs at lossless. And using the Sennheiser RS 180 wireless headphones, I could hear a difference. 

So of course you can use the Sennheiser RS 170 wireless headphones with iTunes (you just gotta hook it up properly) and enjoy your music without the wires. But just remember, if you purchase the songs off iTunes, you get the bit rate you purchase at. And if you rip songs using iTunes, you can set the compression rate as low as you want so that you can really get the full benefits of your Kleer-based products. 

One last little bit of of advice. On your iPod / Touch / iPhone / iPad, rip the songs you really want to hear all the finest details at lossless levels. Other songs, rip it at 128. This way, you should be able to fit all your favorite songs on your iPod. Cause really, why do you need 1,000 songs on your device? 

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