In the world of gaming hardware, sometimes a really great idea just doesn’t quite become the hoped-for reality. The examples are plentiful: The Nintendo PowerGlove, Sega Dreamcast, and now the Saitek A-350 Wireless Headphones. The reason I cite the Dreamcast and the PowerGlove is that they are REALLY good ideas, much like the A-350. Unfortunately, all three simply don’t live up to their lofty goals.
The A-350 is a wireless headphone system using a LiPol battery and a behind the head configuration to support 6 hours of use on a single charge. The problem with this is that hard core gamers are going to spend a lot more than 6 hours in one sitting, and having the batteries die mid game is not acceptable. One answer to this is to plug the unit into the AC adapter. This however infringes on head movement and obviously kills the purpose of having a wireless unit. For users whose purpose is primarily music, the 6-hour battery life is probably adequate. In addition, the unit charges very quickly (less than 1 hour on average), so you don’t have to be without the headphones for long when the battery dies.
The wireless connection is created when the transmitter unit (roughly half the size of an I-Pod shuffle), is plugged into any 3.5mm line-out audio source, and both the transmitter and headphones are turned on. Unlike its wireless sibling, the A-250 Wireless 2.1 Speaker System, getting the transmitter unit and the A-350 to link up can be a bit of a challenge. Being that transmitter plugs directly into the audio source it’s being used with, the signal broadcast is ripe for interference. I attempted to use the device with my PC, my I-Pod Shuffle, a conventional bookshelf stereo system, and the DVD player from my surround sound system.
The transmitter worked relatively well while connected to the audio out jack on the CD player of my PC, and established a connection within a few seconds. The connection showed no noticeable interference. When connecting the transmitter to the audio out jack on the sound card of my PC, it took several attempts to finally link the transmitter to the A-350, and there were fairly sizable amounts of signal interference. When the transmitter was attached to my Shuffle or the bookshelf stereo, the units synced nearly instantaneously, and had no interference whatsoever. Finally, when I attached the transmitter to my DVD player, it took nearly 5 minutes of trying before a signal was obtained.
Another issue with the unit is the range. At first glance, 10 meters (30 feet) seems like decent range. Sadly, once the wearer moves beyond the 20-foot range, signal quality begins to degrade. Again, unlike the A-250, which maintained it’s wireless signal even behind the closed doors of a kitchen cabinet, the A-350 loses signal quality or losses signal all together around corners, or even through a glass door.
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