Review: Hauppauge XFones PC2400 WiFi HiFi Headphones
Don Bradbury tries out a pair and finds them comfortable, with good sound quality
|Product||XFones PC2400 WiFi HiFi Headphones|
|Price||About £80 incl|
|We like||Good sound quality; comfortable; PowerDVD v7 software for Dolby sound options on Windows computers|
|We don't like||Only compatible with USB-equipped devices and OSs that provide the drivers|
It's such an obvious move, utilising a wireless connection from your PC/Laptop to a set of decent quality headphones, thus avoiding trailing wires all over the room. Of course others have used it before Hauppauge, but these Xfones have a few tricks up the sleeve.
First, the over-ear cups house the three replaceable AAA batteries that power them, as well as volume up/down buttons, a bass boost and pairing button, the power on/off button, and LEDs for power and link status. Power off is also automatic if no sound passes through the phones for 5 minutes, thus saving on battery life. That's a good idea as the three AAA batts don't last forever of course; 9 hours is claimed (presumably for Alkalines). Others have used rechargeable batteries, but at least Alkalines can be changed cheaply, unlike rechargeables which can easily go profoundly flat if left too long, and then they take no further charge and you have the expensive problem of replacement on your hands.
The connection to the computer is via a USB dongle, complete with channel and pairing controls. The former lets you avoid any RF interference you might possibly come across in the link by letting you select between eight different channels. Just move sequentially through the eight channels until the sound is clear if you need to. We didn't.
Installation under the supported XP, Vista, and Mac OS 9.1 to 10.4.3 requires no software additions. The Xfones drivers are automatically loaded when you insert the USB device.
Adjust the bass
Bass Boost was reasonably applied, and the overall sound quality good, with adequate volume before distortion. We did note, though, that bass boost produced excessive distortion at listening levels that some may want to use; we just switched bass boost off under those circumstances. Purists will never use it in any event.
A copy of Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 is included in the pack, and in this the user can set up for Virtual Surround Headphone with Dolby technology if this is preferred to standard stereo. It's dramatic alright, but again purists will probably prefer their sound stage to be rather more conventional. It depends, of course, on what the particular sound you're listening to accompanies; video, theatre atmospherics, concert hall or whatever.
The main facet of these phones we weren't particularly keen on was battery housing. You access the battery chamber behind the left ear cushion. Twist to the left to release it, that's OK, but getting the cushion back on again, when you've added or changed the batteries, demanded just a little patience. Otherwise it worked reasonably well.
Using 2.4GHz frequency connectivity, with up to 6Mbits/sec, and support for multiple headphone sets if you want, this unit promises an exciting experience for audiophiles. But of course it's not universally applicable; it only works with OSs that feature the required audio card drivers, plus hardware that features USB. Basically, the XFones are computer headphones. Further, using the same frequency as is used for wireless computers could potentially compromise WiFi Internet connectivity, and some have reported finding that. We didn't, we have to say; everything worked just fine for us.
Nitpicking, the adjustment of volume could perhaps have been rather better, with more control in the mid-range. After all, at very high volume you should be turning it down, and at low volumes you might as well remove the headphones. As it is, you get the complete range of volumes from the headset buttons and so the mid-range adjustment might not be entirely to your musical taste, but this is a relatively minor quibble.
Some people like the all-enveloping headphones principle and some don't. There's no doubt they do exclude external sounds better than earplug phones, plus they can't slip out of your ears like the typical MP3 player headphones can do. But some can also feel uncomfortable after prolonged use, and too warm on hot days. For ourselves, we rather liked these Hauppauge units. The sound quality and stereo stage were both presentable, the ear cushions comfortable, the controls adequate (though a little closer control of volume would have been welcome), reception was excellent within the prescribed 10 meter range, so we recommend interested parties give the PC2400 Xfones a try.