I lack the coordination needed to operate a keyboard and mouse while tethered to my computer by the wire on my headphones. To protect my laptop from being thrown across the room by a careless jerk of my head, I invested in a pair of wireless headphones, the Sony IF140s (pictured right), about 10 years ago. They had an infrared transmitter that plugged into a standard headphone jack, which sent a signal to the wireless headphones. They were powered by a rechargeable AA battery, the charger for which was conveniently located in the transmitter. All in all, it was a simple useful design that was comfortable and effective for office use. I wish I still owned a pair. In my search for a replacement pair of headphones I tried out the following alternatives.
Nothing tells your co-workers, "If you must bother me with your inane questions and pointless chit-chat, at least do it via IM" quite like a pair of enormous headphones. Though bulky, the here.
The Koss Cobalt were the headphones I coveted the most, expecting to easily connect via Bluetooth to my laptop and my mobile phone and use the built-in microphone to make calls when needed. It turned out that these were only great in theory. In testing, I found them to be a middle-of-the-road headphone that seemed passable for computer or MP3 player use, but not outstanding for either. A little too large to wear when out and about (especially because they require the included bulky Bluetooth transmitter), some minor improvements in comfort and size would greatly benefit these. I look forward to the next edition; with improvements, they could be my headphone of choice. Buy them for $300 here.
Like the Sennheisers, these Pioneer SE-DIR800C would not look out of place on the tarmac at your local airport. True sound geeks would probably get more out of these than I did, since the benefit of paying their premium price seems to be their extensive range of audio options, including Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound. I found the array of options to be overkill for office use, however I'm sure it's great for home use. Decoding the settings on the transmitter seemed to require a degree in computer science and experience programming the Altair 8800. Note: the red light for "on" goes off when it's turned on. Available for a steep $400 here.
Intended for the rare user who listens to music on a mobile phone (iPhones excluded), I thought I'd give the MotoRokr S9s a whirl here in the office. I love the one-button call/music switching, however—much like the Koss Cobalt—these lack the comfort of larger headphones and the portability of earbuds. I wish they could fold up for storage in my bag, solving the portability issue. I also found them difficult to put on and take off, which I need to do frequently over the course of the day. However, they did have the most radical design, which we always appreciate. Available for $130 here.
Ten years later I figured that recent improvements in digital and wireless technology would have resulted in even better wireless headphones on the market. Although there have been some great advances, like many things, it seems that newer isn't always better. Good thing the Sony IF140s are available for £23—unfortunately, they seem to only be sold out of the U.K.
by Karen McGrane