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Philips SBC HC 8300

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  • prone to sudden silences
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      09.05.2002 10:49
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      • "prone to sudden silences"

      I wanted a pair of cordless headphones to listen to DVDs without disturbing everyone else in the house. I knew I didn't want plain line-of-sight infra-red earphones, since the quality of the signal is said to be patchy at best, so the next option was a pair using FM radio signals. My not-very extensive search only turned up two different models, one which was outside the range I was willing to spend at around £60, and the Philips SBC HC8305 at around £40. The headphones have two moulded earpieces with another moulded piece making up the adjustable band. The earpieces have only got thin foam covers, similar to those on in-ear earphones, rather than padded "donuts" as found on better models. This makes them uncomfortable to wear for extended periods - if you're watching a long film or playing games for a long period, chances are your ears will feel sore before you are finished. The headphones are also almost impossible to wear at the same time as a pair of glasses, trapping the flesh of the ear painfully between the earpiece and the arm of the specs. The documentation states a maximum range of 100m. I would guess that this is only out on a flat plain, devoid of buildings, vegetation or other radio sources. You can walk around your house and even out into the garden, but if the transmitter is inside, your maximum range will likely be more like 50m if you're lucky. Most annoying about the reception is that if you are in the same room as the transmitter, you can find areas where the signal seems to cancel itself out interacting with reflections from the walls and furniture and small movements of your head result in static in your ears. The absolute worst thing about these headphones, though, is that they has a built in volume limiting system which cannot be disabled. You set the volume of your output (speakers, amp or whatever) to about 90%, just below the point where distortion sets in, then fine tune the volume
      using the volume control on the headphones. This should ensure the best sound quality possible through the headphones. To prevent damage to your ears or (more likely the manufacturer's concern) the headphones, the actual volume coming out of the headphones is dependent on the built-in volume control, not the source audio. This means that as you raise the volume on the amp, the perceived volume in your ears remains more or less constant as long as their volume control is untouched. Since DVDs have a lower volume than most other audio sources (especially on a computer) for reasons of sound quality, the headphones adjust their sensitivity appropriately. When a loud sound such as an explosion is played, the sudden rise in volume causes the headphones to drop their output volume level drastically. This happens in a second or so, but the return of the volume to normal levels seems to take 15-20 seconds. The result is that any ordinary volume sounds immediately following a loud noise are all but inaudible for some time before gradually returning to normal levels. The problem occurs regularly when watching DVDs or playing computer games which often feature explosions, gunfire, raised voices and so on. If you watch DVDs on your computer you may also have a number of sounds associated with background tasks currently running. Each time one of these samples plays, its higher volume causes the headphones to suddenly become quiet, infuriating during quiet scenes in your film. In summary, I would suggest that if you are thinking of buying cordless headphones, make sure of at least two things: good quality ear pads and, if possible, digital transmission rather than FM to reduce chances of interference. As for the volume limiting features, the HC8305's made no mention on the box nor in the manual, so you are probably taking a chance if you don't see specific details on the packaging.

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