A challenge sent my way is to identify a foolproof way of watching television in bed whilst a partner is sleeping. Certainly most people would get around this by using an iPad or tablet with a set of headphones however what if you want that big screen effect or perhaps have a TV nailed to the bedroom wall that doesn’t get as much use anymore as you are often having to resort to the tablet method to catch up on some crucial TV in the darkness of night.
Most are happy to sleep with colours blurring across the room however the sound pouring out of a television in the wee hours can never be just right as a gunshot or explosion can upset the perfect volume level you may find to just be able to hear the dialogue without disturbing anyone.
German audio company Sennheiser seems to have cracked this dilemma that probably bothers a large amount people all over the world. The flex 5000, a particularly Goofy title for the hardware creates a wireless link between the base unit and a small remote control that you pin to your lapel and plug your headphones into.
Sennheiser recommended that I use their HD 569 headphones to test as these closed back headphones are designed to give the best playback of television audio and isolating audio. But obviously, you can use whatever headphones you prefer.
The flex 5000 itself looks like some kind of elongated TV remote control crossed with a cartoonish wedge of cheese. It’s an odd shape for a TV stand or a chest of drawers and it occupies maybe a little more space than it really should. There are a couple of cables required to connect the Flex 5000 to your television. Initially, I tried the 3.5-millimetre cable, however, there was a hiss associated with this and whether this was to do with my television or just a sub standard cable I opted to change to the optical cable quite quickly afterwards, and for the better. Having a wall mounted television meant this was a bit of a pain as the optical socket was right in the middle of the back of the television and not accessible from the side, so I had to take everything down in order to plug it in. And now it’s in I’m never taking it out.
The power socket goes into the appropriate socket on the back beside the optical cable and aside from the headphone unit you’re ready to go. Lifting the remote unit out of the dock there are only a couple of buttons for you to familiarise yourself with and at the bottom is a 3.5 mm headphone jack for you to plug your headphones into. Clicking a button on the remote activates the connection and the audio will start pouring through. The flex 5000 does not over take the audio channels on your television, in fact, it runs in tandem with them and you will need to turn down the volume of your television whilst the flex 5000 is running.
This isn’t a system for you to be able to stream music to headphones and walk around your house. I live in a brick house with brick walls throughout and I was really only able to move about 10 feet from the television before it started cutting out. The signal can certainly travel through a brick wall however it does have trouble with multiple brick walls. In testing the range I was able to walk across my garden up to around about 100 yards away from the unit with only a double glazed window obstructing the Line of Sight between the main unit and the remote.
There are three different hearing profiles built into the Flex 5000. These profiles are designed to intelligently sort out speech from TV background sound and honestly, it works pretty well. The profiles switch is built into the main unit alongside the remote and with the click of a button you can flip between them and the LED on the front of the main unit changes colour. You can also balance the audio between your left and right ear from the main unit. All of this works extremely well however it will take some experience to realise which profile suits, what the best and you might find yourself clicking through them and struggling to hear the difference when watching particular content.
Using high-quality headphones to listen to a TV show is a very different world to having the greatest surround sound system set up around your television. Watching something on the move with a pair of in-ear noise cancelling headphones can be a very isolating experience. The amount of detail to the audio with particular voices sounds gorgeous to your ears on such a personal basis. The flex 5000 recreates this in the home and adds a beautiful personal experience the television viewing.
There is a latency of less than 60 milliseconds and I will go as far to say not noticeable at all. And with the battery life on the remote of up to 12 hours, it means you’re not going to be running out of battery too soon. I tested this by accident when my wife knocked the remote off the Cradle before we went on holiday only to come back to have a couple of minutes of usability in the remote before requiring a charge. I honestly thought something had gone wrong with the unit however a quick charge restored everything to normal.
The Flex 5000 is easy to use and easy to get the most out of. Audio quality will suffer with a lesser pair of headphones however the Flex 5000 really helps provide a beautifully personal experience for home media. You can pick the Sennheiser Flex 5000 up from Amazon for £179.99.