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Sennheiser IE 200 earbuds assessment: reconnecting with music — actually

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Once in a while, I simply want a break from Bluetooth headphones. I get fed up with recharging them. Heaven forbid I by chance put my telephone in my left pocket whereas out and about as an alternative of my proper and begin noticing audio cutouts. (Sure, this may nonetheless occur with at present’s greatest 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 an alternative of going wired. I’ve been feeling that wi-fi fatigue these days, and it simply so occurs that Sennheiser simply launched a brand new pair of wired 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 allows you to select between roughly bass via 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 turn out to be extra impartial.

The IE 200s borrow a lot of their DNA from Sennheiser’s $700 IE 600 earbuds — ranked among the crème de la crème of IEMs — and intention to ship a few of that magic at a extra accessible worth 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 via a DAC or do a lot intense analytical listening at residence. I simply needed to make my music time really feel extra intentional and deliberate. Wired headphones will at all times do this extra successfully than a set of AirPods Pro and even Sennheiser’s own Momentum True Wireless 3. “It’d be good if it meant one thing once more,” I posited aloud on the espresso store — in all probability alarming the individual sitting close by who heard me say that out of the blue.

The best way I eat music varies primarily based on what telephone 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 via 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. 

After I’m utilizing an Android telephone, the place ALAC is considerably misplaced, I’ll principally persist 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 information 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.) 

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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 rapidly crash-landed again in our trendy actuality the place the headphone jack doesn’t exist on standard smartphones. So I swallowed my delight whereas testing the IE 200s and made positive 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 tender 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 options. I’m a foam individual every time given the selection, and the biggest dimension did me positive 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 dimension, however they use completely different supplies. The IE 600s are constituted of a very neat hand-finished 3D-printed zirconium shell that may in all probability look pretty much as good in 5 years because it does at present. Sennheiser wasn’t about to match that degree of expertise with the mainstream IE 200s, so it opted as an alternative for a stealthy all-black plastic shell. It may not age as gracefully, however it nonetheless seems to be glossy. In each {cases}, the earpieces had been properly compact and sat cosy and flush in my ears. They’re each lots safe — particularly with these foam ideas. Sennheiser has executed a wonderful job with ergonomics right here: the IE 200s match me naturally and comfortably in a manner that not all earbuds do, and my glasses weren’t a problem 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 tender carrying pouch.

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

You’ve received 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 sporting them. That’s a very good factor, however the twine isn’t resistant to microphonics and jostling noise while 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; ensure they’re particularly appropriate 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 numerous common shoppers, and these undoubtedly share a V-shaped sound signature that’s much like the IE 600s. The bass increase on the cheaper earbuds is inoffensive and by no means veers into bloated territory. All the pieces is effectively managed, which extends to their balanced mids and elevated treble frequencies. The IE 200s are articulate, detailed, and an pleasing 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 a bit of 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 tons of of {dollars}, however I nonetheless imagine the $150 IE 200s are a very good possibility if you happen to’re trying to spend a bit on wired earbuds. You gained’t be as involved with babying them, and so they sound lots good. I’m not right here to debate whether or not “Chi-fi” IEMs are a better purchase; I’m positive you will discover all kinds 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 greatest and are extra bass-forward. To chop again on that low finish for the “analytical” listening mode, you could pull the information ahead to a secondary place. The best manner to do that is to totally take away them and put the information again on very gently; they only form of catch naturally at that preliminary outer place. Push extra, and so they’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 need the sunshine bass tuning, you’ve received to watch out. Ultimately, it’s not price it: these earbuds sound higher with fuller bass, and this concept appears a bit of 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 wired earbuds whereas reviewing the IE 200s. I nonetheless bemoan dongle life, and it may be awkward once I often overlook that there’s no mic on these when answering a name. However neither of these issues is sufficient to cease me from often pushing apart Bluetooth earphones — even for all their conveniences — and plugging in. After I take the time, that’s nonetheless once I really feel probably the most related to the music I’ve beloved for many years and the place it sounds the perfect. I’ll nonetheless seize my most popular wi-fi earbuds on most days; that’s not going to alter. However if you happen to choose up Sennheiser’s latest earbuds, you may end up having fun with the identical occasional reprieve from our wi-fi world.

Images by Chris Welch / The Verge

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