Altec Lansing AHP612
“Getting past the price, the overall design and functionality of this product is mixed.”
- Decent sound quality; good wireless range; comfortable to wear
- Not well designed; complex tuning process; flimsy construction
Altec Lansing, a name well known in the world of PC audio, has been hard at work since 1941 producing what they feel is high-end audio equipment. One of their latest releases is the AHP612 wireless stereo headphones that make use of omni-directional 900 MHz wireless technology to deliver what Altec Lansing calls “clear, accurate” sound through walls and floors up to 150 feet away. Many wireless headphones which make this claim have problems delivering on their promise – do the AHP612 headphones pass the muster, or is Altec Lansing hurting their image of quality products by failing to deliver? Read on to find out.
Design and Features
Out of the box, the Altec Lansing AHP612 package includes the wireless stereo headphones, a transmitter/charging base, an RCA cable, a 3.5 mm Y-adapter cable, 3 AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries, an AC power adapter, user’s manual and quick start guide. Altec Lansing describes the AHP612 wireless stereo headphones, which make use of 900 MHz wireless technology, as being capable of delivering “drift- and static-free reception” up to 150 feet away, even through “walls, floors, ceilings and other obstacles”.
Taking a look at the headphones first, the AHP612’s design is found to be slightly heavy, but not of the best construction. The outer headband, while flexible and somewhat solid feeling, doesn’t feel securely built as one shakes it around in the hand. This, coupled with the unattractive inner self-adjusting headband, leaves not a lot to look at on the top half of the headphones.
Moving down to the ear cups, the design looks a little more appealing. Each cup has a nice glossy black finish lined on the exterior coupled with comfortable, soft leatherette ear cushions completely enclosing the ears. Each ear cup sports a well laid out face design, including on the left ear cup an on/off/scan button, wireless link light and charging contacts, while the right ear cup has mute and volume control buttons as well as a mute indicator light.
The charging base which doubles as a transmitter and which the headphones rest when they are charging, is nothing much to look at. It has a silver finish, a light, plastic feel and a boring design. The upper portion of the base has the wireless transmitter, charge and audio level indicator lights and the charging contacts. On the back side of the base are the channel select switch, input level control, RCA audio input jacks and the transmitter power input jack.
Image Courtesy of Altec Lansing
Setup and Use
The idea behind the AHP612, as mentioned earlier, is to get audio from its source to the wireless headphones as you move around within its range. To this end, one connects the red and white RCA cable to the back of the matching input jacks as well as an audio source such as an A/V receiver or television. To connect a computer, the previous process is done, with the extra step of the addition of the Y-adapter cable being included to accommodate a computer’s 3.5 mm headphone jack (from which the audio will be played).
What next follows is a process which some may find frustrating, while others may rejoice at having greater control. With the audio source flipped on, you set the channel select switch on the back of the transmitter to one of three channels in an attempt to find the best broadcasting frequency available. The input level control is then turned down, then you must check the audio level indicator light on the upper part of the transmitter to see how it flickers.
As the manual states “if the light flickers intermittently (about half the time)”, the headphones are ready to go. If, on the other hand, “the light does not blink or is flickering very rapidly”, one must adjust the input level control slowly “until the light flickers intermittently”.
All told, the setup process up to this point could create quite a degree of frustration needing to account for three transmission channels and flickering lights. A simpler, auto process would have made for a much better experience. This reminds us of programming your garage door opener – it needs to be much easier.
With the connection now established, the headphones, which take up to 12 hours to fully charge and get around eight hours of playback time, are flipped on. When the link light turns amber, a connection is now established between the headphones and transmitter, allowing for the audio listening to truly begin. An auto tuning process is built-in to help regain the signal if lost, which is a nice feature.
Image Courtesy of Altec Lansing
For the purposes of this review, a selection of MP3s with a bit rate of 196 Kbps was sampled through the headphones. Within a few feet of the AHP612’s transmitter, sound quality when listening to techno music was nearly as clear as if directly connected to the test PC through a cable. Even when wandering down a hallway there was little notice of hiss. It was only when outside, on another floor or walking towards the outer limits of the AHP612’s range that distortion started to occur.
When listening to something more mellow however, such as Native American flute music, more discernable hiss was noticed in regards to lower notes. Given the higher treble range of the music being listened to, it was interesting to note the occasional hiss in regards to lack of bass.
It is safe to say, however, that the general sound quality of these wireless headphones will work under most normal conditions, especially if one is using them while watching a heart pound DVD movie or playing action intense computer games.
With a suggested retail price of $149.95, the AHP612 headphones are by no means inexpensive. Getting past the price, the overall design and functionality of this product is mixed, while the sound quality tends to turn out on the good side for most listening conditions. If you can get past the frustrations of flickering lights as well as not minding the somewhat cheap construction, the AHP612 from Altec Lansing warrants at least a passing glance. For right around the same price you can get the Sennheiser RS130 wireless headphones which received an Editor’ Choice Award from us in May. These come highly recommended. Check out our review of those here.
- Sound quality generally good
- Nice wireless range
- Comfortable ear cups
- Design problems
- Complex tuning process
- Flimsy construction
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