Sennheiser recently released the TV Clear Set, which is essentially a pair of earbuds that wirelessly connect to your TV for a custom, private listening experience. While the concept is fairly simple, not too dissimilar from using AirPods with an Apple TV, their $US400 ($555) price tag might leave you a little confused. Sennheiser has been in the audio industry for quite a while and has maintained a successful streak of delivering quality peripherals. But does the brand name alone justify the TV Clear’s premium pricing? Sennheiser promises a number of features in its latest earbuds, including giving us a one up on the AirPods by having them pair without Bluetooth. Let’s take a look at whether those features make the TV Clear worth its price.
Just what’s needed
The TV Clear’s packaging includes just what’s needed. The company hasn’t skimped on accessories, and neither does it provide so many that setup or storage becomes a hassle. I was an immediate fan of how the accessories facilitate a straightforward and simple setup. In the box, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio cable, an optical cable, a micro-USB cable, and a transmitter. These are all the accessories you’ll need for a successful setup. Apart from these, you’ll come across a pair of the earbuds themselves, a charging case, a Type-C charging cable, three varying sizes of ear adaptor sets, a quick guide, and a safety guide.
A stunner in terms of looks
The TV Clear Set is nothing less than a stunner when it comes to aesthetics. The charging case is in the shape of an elongated oval and is made of premium-quality plastic that gives it a sophisticated feel. It hosts a Type-C charging slot in the front, a pairing button in between the two buds, and the company logo on its lid. A LED light located above the charging slot informs you of the buds’ battery status. A pair of pogo pins magnetically attach each of the earbuds to the case and produce a satisfying click when you house the buds.
An incredibly simple setup
As mentioned previously, the setup on these buds is as simple as it gets. The transmitter sports two ports on its back: a Type-C port for power supply and a 3.5mm port that serves both the 3.5mm audio cable provided in the box as well as the TOSLINK optical cable. All you’re required to do is plug the power supply into the transmitter and the TOSLINK cable between the transmitter and your TV. If you find your earbuds are out of juice, you also first need to replenish them using the Type-C charging cable included in the package. Three green LEDs on the case will tell you that you’re good to go.
Not the most intuitive controls
I found the controls on the TV Clear Set extremely unintuitive. I believe Sennheiser made quite a few mistakes with this model. First of all, the double tap that is required to either play/pause audio or turn Ambient Awareness on/off (depending on which bud you’re tapping) is not responsive enough. As such, the buds frequently misinterpreted my inputs. Double tapping the left bud twice didn’t always pause/play my audio. Usually, one of the two taps wouldn’t register. The right bud controls Ambient Awareness and delivered the same issue.
Moreover, the TV Clear Set overdoes it a little too much with vocal feedback. Usually, when you max out the volume on a pair of buds, it lets out a small beep to let you know that you’re listening at the highest volume possible. On these buds, there is a voice command for that. A loud and overbearing voice says ‘Maximum’ each time you’ve reached the highest volume level. The voice almost always overpowered my audio and made me miss out on at least three seconds of it. This is because it took around a total of two seconds for the voice to fade in and out.
One feature I appreciated is that the exterior of the buds doubles as buttons to control volume. There are both pros and cons of having buttons instead of touch pads, but I believe the pros heavily outweigh the cons. Sure, you might have to exert a little extra effort to press and not tap, but the lack of missteps makes it worth it. With the buttons being quite easy to press, and plenty responsive, I didn’t feel as if I have to exert extra effort.
Pretty average sound
The sound on the TV Clear is nowhere close to what its expensive price tag would lead you to believe. The sound can be best described as average, if not underwhelming. The treble is there, and that makes the high notes sound sufficiently decent. However, the low-end isn’t very powerful. The mids are also just ok. They fall just behind the highs and sound a little better than the lows. Overall, the sound profile is tinny. The timbre has a sharp feel to it. The soundstage on the TV Clear isn’t as wide as you’d like it to be. The instruments sound rather clustered together. There isn’t enough space for all the different elements of the orchestra to shine.
TV Clear offers a total of five levels of speech clarity. According to Sennheiser, this is a feature to assist people with hearing loss. Pressing and holding the buds for more than two seconds allows you to cycle between them. This is a feature I was thoroughly impressed by, even if music and sound effects were lacking. Level 5 was significantly different from level 1. Not only did I feel like the dialogue was getting enhanced with each level, I also felt the overall volume being raised overall.
I do feel, though, that for the price, TV Clear should have added ANC to the package. There is an Ambient Awareness mode, which in theory should help you hear your surroundings, but it doesn’t do much apart from slightly lowering or raising the volume depending on whether you’re switching it on or off.
A decent mic
One of the most impressive features of the TV Clear Set is that it can be paired with your mobile phone and used as regular buds, too. This helps to extend the utility of the device rather than limiting it to be used with just TVs. If you take this feature into consideration, the price could make a little more sense to you. For $US400 ($555), you’re getting a pair of buds for both your TV and your phone. What’s better is the fact that they are capable of connecting to any TV set, whether or not it offers a Bluetooth option. Even better, since the connection doesn’t require Bluetooth, you’re getting a low-latency, stutter-free experience that you wouldn’t normally get with a regular Bluetooth connection.
That said, you can also pair multiple Bluetooth earbuds to the Sennheiser Clear Set’s transmitter, so you can let other people listen in to whatever you’re watching on their personal, non-Sennheiser devices.
The TV Clear worked perfectly well with my mobile phone as well and gave me no issues in terms of connectivity or pairing. I found the mic on the buds pretty decent. It delivered my voice lag-free.
Sennheiser advertised a 15-hour battery life on these buds. According to my testing, they lasted around 13 hours, but that’s not too shabby either. The buds are also Qi-compatible and, thus, support wireless charging.
Should I buy the Sennheiser TV Clear Set?
I don’t think the Sennheiser TV Clear Set is worth its price. It is moderately revolutionary in the sense that it make the experience of watching TV a whole lot better, especially for multiple viewers who might want to listen at different volumes. They also render the days of connecting to TVs via Bluetooth obsolete and provide a lag-free connection. Additionally, the ability to also connect with your phone and the extra assistance to folks with hearing loss are excellent add-ons to have. I also appreciate the incredibly simple setup on these buds, and their aesthetic is pretty decent, too. There’s an app as well, though it doesn’t do much that you can’t also do on the buds themselves.
However, the underwhelming sound is reason enough to not go for these. The primary purpose of a pair of earbuds is to provide excellent sound. The rest of the features are all added bells and whistles that are always appreciated, but the absence of impressive sound easily overpowers those features. Additionally, not getting ANC for the price is a huge con. The controls on the TV Clear aren’t exactly what you’d call intuitive or responsive. If you’re on a budget and care a lot about sound, it’s safe to pass on these. If you struggle with hearing loss and are just looking for a reliable pair of earbuds that will provide an excellent connection with your TV, definitely consider investing in the TV Clear Set.
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