CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 950591 DWS

Mr. Sal Della Ventura
Sony Corporation
Sony Drive
Park Ridge, NJ 07656

RE: "Wireless Headphone System"; Infrared Emitter, Modulator, and Headphones; Functional Unit; Section XVI, Note 4; Electromagnetic Waves

Dear Mr. Della Ventura:

This is in response to your letter of October 2, 1991, concerning the classification of the "Wireless Headphone System" under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


The "Wireless Headphone System" (model #MDR-IF510K) is a cordless, infrared stereo headphone system which allows one to listen to a program without the use of a headphone cord. The unit is comprised of a cordless headphone, a modulator, an emitter, and a plug adapter for standard or mini-jacks. It can be used with any audio or video equipment with a headphone jack. The sound portion of an audio or video component is converted into infrared electromagnetic signals and transmitted to the headphone. The effective transmission range is up to 23 feet. The power source is an AC adapter.

The headphone incorporates an infrared receiver which then converts the infrared signal into a low-density electrical signal which is connected to the headphone speakers, where sound is reproduced for the listener. The headphone utilizes two size AA batteries as a power source. The frequency range of the unit is 18 to 22,000 Hz.


What is the proper classification of the "Wireless Headphone System" under the HTSUSA?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUSA is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's), taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

HQ 089160, dated August 2, 1991, dealt with an infrared headphone set very similar to the subject "Wireless Headphone System". In that case, it was ruled that headphone sets of this type are classifiable under subheading 8518.30.20, HTSUSA, which provides for: "[h]eadphones, earphones and combined microphone/speaker sets: [o]ther." An alternative classification considered was under subheading 8527.90.80, HTSUSA, which provides for: "[r]eception apparatus for radiotelephony, radiotelegraphy, or radiobroadcasting, whether or not combined, in the same housing, with sound recording or reproducing apparatus or a clock: [o]ther apparatus: [o]ther."

In understanding the HTSUSA, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes may be utilized. The Explanatory Notes, although not dispositive, are to be used to determine the proper interpretation of the HTSUSA. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). Explanatory Note 85.27(A) (p. 1377) provides, in part:


This apparatus is used for the reception of signals (representing speech, messages or still pictures) by means of electro-magnetic waves which are transmitted through the ether without line connection.

Radiotelephony, radiotelegraphy, radiobroadcasting and television, are all specific forms of electromagnetic radiation. "The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, 6th Edition (1987), page 154, defines "Electromagnetic radiation" as follows:

Energy transmitted through space or through a material medium in the form of electromagnetic waves. The term can also refer to the emission and propagation of such energy. Whenever an electric charge oscillates or is accelerated, a disturbance characterized by the existence of electric and magnetic fields propagates outward from it. This disturbance is called an electromagnetic wave. The frequency range of such waves is tremendous, as is shown by the electromagnetic spectrum in the table.

McGraw-Hill also tells us that the electromagnetic waves emitted from a source are oscillatory in character and are described in terms of their frequency of oscillation. Local telephone lines (not using carrier systems) carry electromagnetic waves with frequencies of about 200-4000 Hz. Medium-wave radio uses frequencies of the order of 10(6th power) Hz, whereas television utilizes frequencies of the order of 10(8th power) Hz. However, the frequency of oscillation of infrared is much higher than that of radiotelephony, radiotelegraphy, radiobroadcasting or television. Specifically, infrared uses frequencies of the order of 10(13th power) Hz. Therefore, infrared cannot be said to be encompassed by the terms radiotelephony, radiotelegraphy, radiobroadcasting or television, as delineated in heading 8527, HTSUSA. See also HQ 088599, dated May 2, 1991, in which "infrared" electromagnetic waves were distinguished from "radio" electromagnetic waves.

Section XVI, Legal Note 4, provides for "Functional Units":

Where a machine (including a combination of machines) consists of individual components (whether separate or interconnected by piping, by transmission devices, by electric cables or by other devices) intended to contribute together to a clearly defined function covered by one of the headings in chapter 84 or chapter 85, then the whole falls to be classified in the heading appropriate to that function.

The components that make up the subject "Wireless Headphone System" are packaged, imported, marketed, and intended to contribute together to perform the above clearly defined function of headphones.


The "Wireless Headphone System" is classifiable under subheading 8518.30.20, HTSUSA, which provides for: "[h]eadphones, earphones and combined microphone/speaker sets: [o]ther." The general, column one rate of duty is 4.9 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division