Sennheiser IE 200 earbuds evaluation: reconnecting with music — actually

Once in a while, I simply want a break from Bluetooth headphones. I get fed up with recharging them. Heaven forbid I by accident put my cellphone in my left pocket whereas out and about as a substitute of my proper and begin noticing audio cutouts. (Sure, this could nonetheless occur with right now’s finest wi-fi earbuds and telephones.) And I remind myself that I’m robbing my ears of the true potential of my cultivated lossless music library by settling for Bluetooth codecs as a substitute of going I’ve been feeling that wi-fi fatigue these days, and it simply so occurs that Sennheiser simply launched a brand new pair of earbuds, the IE 200, that appeared price attempting out. 

These $149.95 earbuds promise balanced, detailed sound in a compact in-ear monitor (IEM) with adjustable ear hooks and a removable braided cable. There’s no built-in mic — these are music-only buds — and Sennheiser enables you to select between roughly bass by means of a novel “dual-tunable” ear tip design. In a single place, the IE 200s add some punch to the low finish. However mount their ear ideas within the outer place, and the decrease frequencies change into extra impartial.

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The IE 200s borrow a lot of their DNA from Sennheiser’s $700 IE 600 earbuds — ranked among the many crème de la crème of IEMs — and intention to ship a few of that magic at a extra accessible value level. The corporate despatched me a pair of the IE 600s to check alongside its newest buds so I may examine and distinction. However my focus whereas utilizing these has been to maintain issues informal; I didn’t run them by means of a DAC or do a lot intense analytical listening at dwelling. I simply wished to make my music time really feel extra intentional and deliberate. headphones will at all times try this extra successfully than a set of AirPods Professional and even Sennheiser’s personal Momentum True Wi-fi 3. “It’d be good if it meant one thing once more,” I posited aloud on the espresso store — most likely alarming the particular person sitting close by who heard me say that out of the blue.

The best way I devour music varies primarily based on what cellphone I’m at present utilizing. If it’s an iPhone, I’ll be carrying round hundreds of music tracks encoded in Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) that I’ve amassed by means of the years. I at all times need to have my favourite albums inside attain, it doesn’t matter what my present Spotify or Apple Music subscription standing is. And I’ve tried to protect my private assortment in affordable high quality with out going too overboard; if I ever want high-resolution lossless audio, I’ll flip to Amazon Music or one thing like Qobuz. 

Once I’m utilizing an Android cellphone, the place ALAC is considerably misplaced, I’ll largely keep on with Spotify, Amazon, and private library stuff that I’ve uploaded to YouTube Music. (I actually can’t advocate that service sufficient for storing your hard-to-find tracks within the cloud. It doesn’t do any of Apple Music’s mistake-prone monitor matching nonsense and makes use of solely the recordsdata and monitor metadata that you just feed it. In the event you’re a nerd like me who’s meticulous about that stuff, it’s nice — and free.) 

A photo of Sennheiser’s IE 200 earbuds next to the company’s IE 600 eabuds.

The IE 200s (left) have a sound signature impressed by Sennheiser’s IE 600 earbuds (proper).

However the dilemma in both state of affairs was the identical: I shortly crash-landed again in our trendy actuality the place the headphone jack doesn’t exist on widespread smartphones. So I swallowed my delight whereas testing the IE 200s and made certain to hold two dongles with me always: a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter for my iPhone 14 Professional Max and a USB-C equal for my Pixel 7. 

The variations between the IE 200 and far pricier IE 600 start proper out of the field. The 600s include a hardshell case, whereas the 200s match right into a smooth carrying pouch. The nicer case has sufficient spare room for a backup / alternative cable, however that’d be a decent match within the pouch. Each the IE 200 and IE 600 embrace six units of ideas: three sizes of silicone and three foam alternate options. I’m a foam particular person at any time when given the selection, and the most important measurement did me advantageous all through all of my testing. 

A photo comparing the case material of Sennheiser’s IE 200 and IE 600 earbuds.

The IE 200s have a plastic casing, whereas the $700 IE 600 use 3D-printed zirconium.

The 2 units of earbuds share the identical outer casing form and are very comparable in measurement, however they use completely different supplies. The IE 600s are produced from a very neat hand-finished 3D-printed zirconium shell that may most likely look nearly as good in 5 years because it does right now. Sennheiser wasn’t about to match that degree of expertise with the mainstream IE 200s, so it opted as a substitute for a stealthy all-black plastic shell. It may not age as gracefully, but it surely nonetheless seems to be glossy. In each instances, the earpieces had been properly compact and sat comfortable and flush in my ears. They’re each loads safe — particularly with these foam ideas. Sennheiser has carried out a superb job with ergonomics right here: the IE 200s match me naturally and comfortably in a method that not all earbuds do, and my glasses weren’t a difficulty for the adjustable ear hooks.

A photo of the cases of Sennheiser’s IE 600 and IE 200 earbuds.

The IE 200 earbuds include a smooth carrying pouch.

A photo comparing the cases of Sennheiser’s IE 200 and IE 600 earbuds.

You’ve obtained to go increased in Sennheiser’s lineup for a extra protecting case with additional storage.

The braided cable bundled with the IE 200s was tremendous light-weight and mainly felt like nothing as I used to be carrying them. That’s factor, however the twine isn’t proof against microphonics and jostling noise if you’re on the transfer. Like Sennheiser’s different IEMs, these connect to the cable utilizing MMCX connectors, however the recessed connector design on the earpiece may pose an issue for some aftermarket cables; be certain that they’re particularly suitable with Sennheiser’s merchandise. 

Sennheiser describes the IE 200s as “exceptionally impartial,” however that’s not correct. Seems, a impartial presentation simply isn’t very thrilling to quite a lot of common shoppers, and these positively share a V-shaped sound signature that’s just like the IE 600s. The bass enhance on the inexpensive earbuds is inoffensive and by no means veers into bloated territory. All the pieces is nicely managed, which extends to their balanced mids and elevated treble frequencies. The IE 200s are articulate, detailed, and an pleasant hear. 

However you’re not precisely getting the identical expertise as from the already famend IE 600s. Regardless of these two units of earbuds sharing the same frequency response, you don’t want fancy audio gear to note that the dearer pair has a smoother, extra dynamic tonality to them. The sub-bass hits just a little fuller. All the pieces feels richer and fewer clinically sharp than on the IE 200s, and the soundstage is much less condensed. The IE 600s have simply that additional contact of heat and authority to them. There’s a cause these buds are separated by lots of of {dollars}, however I nonetheless imagine the $150 IE 200s are choice if you happen to’re seeking to spend a bit on earbuds. You received’t be as involved with babying them, they usually sound loads good. I’m not right here to debate whether or not “Chi-fi” IEMs are a better purchase; I’m certain you’ll find all types of debates about that throughout headphone boards and on YouTube.  

However I’ll say that Sennheiser’s “dual-tunable” ear tip idea appears very gimmicky. Most individuals will seat the ear ideas flush with the casing, and that’s the place the IE 200s carry out their finest and are extra bass-forward. To chop again on that low finish for the “analytical” listening mode, that you must pull the information ahead to a secondary place. The simplest method to do that is to totally take away them and put the information again on very gently; they simply form of catch naturally at that preliminary outer place. Push extra, they usually’ll transfer to the bassier seating. The issue is that it’s very simple for the tricks to transfer as you’re placing the IE 200s into your ears, so if you would like the sunshine bass tuning, you’ve obtained to watch out. In the long run, it’s not price it: these earbuds sound higher with fuller bass, and this concept appears just a little too intelligent for its personal good. 

A photo of Sennheiser’s IE 200 earbuds.

These earbuds present wealthy, detailed audio — even when they will’t match the terrific constancy of the IE 600s.

It’s been good getting reacquainted with earbuds whereas reviewing the IE 200s. I nonetheless bemoan dongle life, and it may be awkward after I sometimes neglect that there’s no mic on these when answering a name. However neither of these issues is sufficient to cease me from sometimes pushing apart Bluetooth earphones — even for all their conveniences — and plugging in. Once I take the time, that’s nonetheless after I really feel essentially the most linked to the music I’ve cherished for many years and the place it sounds the very best. I’ll nonetheless seize my most popular wi-fi earbuds on most days; that’s not going to alter. However if you happen to decide up Sennheiser’s latest earbuds, you would possibly end up having fun with the identical occasional reprieve from our wi-fi world.

Pictures by Chris Welch / The Verge

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