Re(al)view: Acoustic Research AWD209 Wireless 2.1 Headphones

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We got to test drive some new headphones from Acoustic Research recently and wanted to give you a "heads up" on their performance. Always suspicious of wireless technology, we approached this with closed minds and superstitious self-righteousness. Seriously; without wires to hold you back, you may indulge in all kinds of unnatural acts.

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To begin with, let's just start with the stats that are listed by AR:

  • 1 button pairing to 2.4ghz digital transmitter
  • Patented dual-speaker design in each earcup: 15mm Neodymium drivers + 30mm Neodymium subwoofers
  • Frequency response 20-20k
  • Distortion (THD)
  • Uncompressed CD-quality audio
  • Lithium Polymer Battery- up to 4.5 hours and AC adapter
  • Effective range of 100'
  • 3.5mm mini-jack input and mini cable
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Wireless tech can work differently in different environments under different conditions so we wanted to try out a few things. Bear in mind that these headphones cost around $100. They look quite nice at this price- compare their looks with these.

After charging the battery, we hooked the AWD209's up to an ipod. Just press the power button on the headphones and it links up after a few seconds.

We tried some meditative music to cleanse the product before risking any music that might inspire sin. We listened to some Chakra Journey by Thunderbeat (which is apparently too good for the New Age as they are listed as 'Unclassifiable'). It kept its mystical electronic continuity while being passed over the air. Then we moved on to George Winston's 'Summer' which sounded its usual twinkly self. From there, we basically determined that sound quality was maintained when playing MP3's from a digital source. Due to the integrated subwoofers, music is full, though not bassy at all:

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Next on deck: direct CD play. We popped in some 'Post' by Bjork and listened carefully... it was actually difficult to hear the difference between it and the MP3. We even switched back and forth repeatedly twixt MP3 and CD within iTunes. Car parts, bottles and cutlery; all sound similar as they slam against those rocks.

A little shot of the not so easy to use volume buttons:

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Next up- video games. Over the holidays we picked up a Blu-Ray player that also plays video games. We tried out a game that is probably single handedly responsible for the downfall of mankind: Grand Theft Auto. The fourth incarnation of this game has all kinds of directional audio integrated into gameplay and therefore can be a good way to determine if your audio system has any kind of soundstage.

We could hear plenty of this and that going on around us and there were defintely some moments when we thought someone else was in the room... and we could tell where they were. (...suspicions rising up again...) Overall, a pretty convincing experience.

Despite our concerted efforts to expose him, there was no devil in the details. In fact, for under a C-note, this is an amazing value. Get a set here. The quality is quite good and despite not being perfect in all categories, you would not be able to do much better in this price range. We experienced no hiccoughs when within range of the transmitter, though obviously, once walls start to double and triple up, you can expect some disconnects from time to time. Another thing that was a pleasant surprise was the lack of buzzing and static, even when you are disconnected, there is no hissing while the unit tries to connect back to the phones. Comfort was above average with the soft surrounds.

So if you want to give wirelessness a try, the barrier to entry is low. We have enjoyed our time with the AR SWD209's, even with the obvious moral quandry that the interaction has placed us in. Perhaps wireless ain't such a bad thing, after all.

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