CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 950591 DWS
Mr. Sal Della Ventura
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
RE: "Wireless Headphone System"; Infrared Emitter, Modulator,
and Headphones; Functional Unit; Section XVI, Note 4;
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
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?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
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:
RECEPTION APPARATUS FOR RADIO-TELEPHONY OR RADIO-TELEGRAPHY
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
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"
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
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