Thursday , August 16 2018

Wow, BIG WOW!

That’s exactly what I said (much to the amusement of my wife) the first time I put the IE80s in my ears and turned up the volume. I’ve used a lot of earphones and headphones over the years and really enjoy my music, so I’m used to really good quality sound and am prepared to pay for it. For earphones to deliver the first impression these did, I was genuinely impressed.

Let’s start with two items that will be of interest (and possibly a deterrent) to a lot of potential buyers. They’re wired earphones and they’re expensive, really expensive, for earphones. The reality though is that they are studio quality earphones and prove the old saying “You get what you pay for”.

What are they?

The IE80s are a set of wired, in-ear earphones that are really well designed to offer great comfort as well as a genuine, premium quality sound. They’re comfortable and have (for me at least) absolutely nailed the right length of cable on the earphones.

Now its worth noting that you need to take care of these on a couple of fronts. Personally I know its easy for earphones to get banged around, or potentially even lost with their physical size (or lack of) but the carry case supplied with them is perfect for this task being solid and well designed to ensure your cables are well set out and the earpieces themselves are well padded.

The other is to understand they’re not IP rated so if you’re in a really rainy area (like Melbourne) you may find in particularly heavy downpours that it’s worthwhile just listening to the sounds of the city rather than your tunes.

What’s in the box?

When you open the box, the packaging is very simple offering a few premium options. You get the IE80S earphones with a detachable cable (1.2m), multiple sets of ear-plugs: silicone, lamella and Comply™ (each in size S, M, L) and ear hooks to stabilise the earphones for particularly active users. I will note that even at the gym on the treadmill I did not need the ear hooks — they just stayed in. There is also a sound adjustment and cleaning tool and the aforementioned carry case.

Something that will be of interest to a number of users on the IE80s is the fact that they are not noise cancelling. Deal breaker for some on the spot, but in my experience with them, noise cancellation is not needed. Let me expand on that a little…

With the right size earplugs fitted, even in a noisy environment like the gym or public transport the majority of noise around me was blocked out simply because of the fit of the earplugs in my ears creating a really good seal and preventing that ambient noise from entering my world. Turn the volume up a touch and even with someone speaking to me, I had to be tapped me on the shoulder before I realised they were there and talking to me.

There’s nothing by way of gadgetry adorned to the earpieces either, they’re very plain but ultimately these aren’t about buttons, gimmicks, extra functions or any of that other guff. Sennheiser have designed the IE80s for to do one thing really well and that’s deliver sound – you’re entering the Audiophile realm with these and if you’re a fan of quality sound then these are something you’ll almost certainly be looking into.

How do they fit/?

These are rather spectacularly accessorised out of the box with multiple options and multiple sizes of earplugs to fit to them. Once I found a pair that fitted me particularly well, I haven’t looked back.

The intent is for the cable to run behind, then over the top of your ear for a more comfortable fit without the constant weight of the cable pulling down on your ears. It works and it works well! If you don’t find this as comfortable as I did, then there is also ear hooks to assist with the weight-bearing of the earpieces and cables which is a really nice touch from Sennheiser but I can’t help but feel they are more than is required.

The comfort levels are outstanding due to the really nice design and fit, so much so that I forgot they were in at one point and sent my phone flying when I stood up from my desk. I’ve also had one of my friends try a couple of the other earplug sets and he found the same comfy, sealed fit that meant (while riding a motorbike) he still had awareness of his surroundings while riding.

How do they sound?

If the opening line of this review didn’t give it away, they sound genuinely brilliant. Let’s be brutally honest here – for RRP $529.95, they’d want to be impressive.

One of the headers on the Sennheiser Webpage is that you’re now entering Sennheiser’s audiophile range and they’re not kidding. These are by far the best sounding, most comfortable earphones I’ve used that are available through a standard retail channel only surpassed in comfort by custom fitted earpieces.

All of that being said however – One thing a couple of people who tried these out commented on is the “hit and miss” bass which I (in-part) agreed with. But after doing a bit further testing, the bass was only lacking when you didn’t have the ear plugs seated well and creating a full seal in your ear. As long as they were in your ears properly then the sound was very clean, powerful and consistent.

A majority of my work days is spent at a desk and as such I have a desktop amplifier setup and the addition of this versus listening through my phone took the IE80s to another level again with the depth and clarity of sound being noticeably better with the bass being punchier, the mid range sound being sharper and the high range being so remarkably clean.

Should you buy some?

Justifying $530 earphones to anyone is a tough ask. I’ll preface this first with a statement that these are definitely not for everyone: in fact I’d suggest the price alone will deter many potential buyers. If you are in this cohort of users then nothing said is likely to sway you.

If you’re someone who really appreciates good quality sound and perhaps consider yourself an audiophile then you should definitely take a look at these because without spending a lot more and probably paying for custom earplugs (studio style ear monitors essentially) then you’re going to struggle to find a better quality, in ear, off-the-shelf sound.

If the IE80s are something that has your inner audiophile getting hot under the collar, then head to the Sennheiser Australia Website or if you’ve got inclination to do some searching you’ll almost certainly find them cheaper at various online audio outlets.

Phil Tann   Journalist

Phil is an Android enthusiast who spends most of his time reading up on U.S. Android news so he can get the low down on what could possibly hit Australian shores. Coming from a background in IT & T sales, he’s in the perfect position to give an educated view on hardware and software.

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