In the audio equipment industry, Sennheiser has built a reputation for excellence especially in the design and manufacturing of headphones and microphones. In fact, not so long ago, the company seemed to have the entire headphones market to itself. It practically dominated every style at almost every price point.
Of course, the German audio manufacturer remains an immensely successful company. Nonetheless, the market is now crowded with many different offerings from almost every electronic manufacturer you’ve heard of. And even in its niche appeal, the premium segment, Sennheiser still faces great competition. Luckily for them, in-canal earphones, like the IE 80 earphones reviewed here are a small piece of the puzzle.
While they aren’t the cheapest earphones around, the Sennheiser IE 80 offers a premium build quality and a high-grade audio performance. Furthermore, you also get access to one of its kind adjustable bass response.
Boasting a wide dynamic range, these earpieces are powered by neodymium magnets and provide a frequency response range between 10 to 20,000 Hz, with every single earpiece available with custom-tuned frequency control for enhanced comfort and audio clarity. You also get a tool to aid you with the process of adjusting the bass.
Looks and Design
Just like its predecessor IE 8i, the all-new Sennheiser IE 80 is a hot candidate for astute mobile audio enthusiasts and one that promises much of the same functionality. One of the differences is that it does not come with a hands-free kit, unlike its predecessor, the IE 8i.
Just like the predecessors, the looks of the IE 80 aren’t something to write whole about. The company has decided to go with a brushed metal plate on the back. Needless to say, the overall feel and design remain angular and chunky. In other words, it’s a combination that won’t win any design awards.
The buds are made from smooth plastic and are finished in a dark, metallic brown color. This color combination adds up to a trio of color shades, with black on the cable and silver on the back. While it’s a rather unique design, it’s not exactly a beautiful one.
Looks aside, the design is well thought out. The cable is removable and personally, its one of the best feature. Detachable cables mean you just need to replace the damaged cable without needing to replace the whole earphone. The wires also end in a chunky, angular jack, which should be able to withstand a great deal of stress. Sennheiser hasn’t made any noticeable changes to tackle tangling, though the cable friction is rather low and tangling won’t be a significant problem.
The oddly shaped earphones actually make sense when placed in the ear. They do rest perfectly outside the lughole at the correct angle and sit backward enough for a good fit. The cable is also rugged with a sturdy connector at the end. However, the cable doesn’t feature an inline remote; only a simple path to the earphones with a focus on audio quality.
The earphone comes with a protective rubber casing that covers the cable inputs. In fact, the in-ear headset themselves are some of the most rugged we’ve tested in a while. You can plug them into your smartphone, and the connector will sit at a right angle. This is perfect for durability.
With the adjustable bass screws, it’s probably not a good idea to put them in a soft pouch when carrying them around in your pocket. And although the hard case is rather bulky for a pair of in-ear headphones, it looks nice, and it will easily slip in your bag.
The Sennheiser IE 80 earphones come with four different kinds of ear tips made of silicone lamella. Each of these earbuds comes in multiple sizes so that you get to experience the best in-ear fit.
They do provide decent isolation from the outside world, but it’s not remarkable. To be straight, the noise cancellation isn’t quite to the level that some competitors provide. Keep in mind that the included tips sit at the entrance of your ear canal instead of delving deep as the olive-shaped tips do.
In general, the less invasive tips need extra care and attention for the fit, as just jamming them often won’t give you the best seal. But many people still do like this style, especially those who feel like the invasive ones are trying to tickle their brain.
The optional flexible ear-hooks provide a more secure fit. As mentioned earlier, the cable is detachable and offers plenty of slack. You can also loop it around your ears for added security. There’s also an included cable clip that lets you attach the cable to your clothing to reduce tangles, snags, and friction noise. And the 3.5mm mini plug is angled for strain relief and increasing the overall durability.
However, the IE 80 doesn’t come with the traditional carry case, though part of the chunky plastic packaging can be pulled out and be used as a plastic armor for your expensive earphones.
With reference to the predecessors, the Sennheiser IE 80 has quite a powerful heritage to live up to. The IE 8 are considered as some of the best pairs in the mid-range segment and have a wide fan base among bass lovers.
This new model is a small iteration to the classic, improving on sound clarity while retaining the bass response the model line is known for. The pair even provides bass dials that allow users to control how much bass they dole out, which some might consider more of a gimmick. Anyway, the dials are on the back of each earpiece, and you can operate them via a little plastic tool included in the box.
We experimented with these dials extensively, and we concluded that the best way to use the earphones well is to turn them all the way down. While turned down, the bottom end remains to be robust, rich, and deep and doesn’t boom out the way some of the bass-centric models do. Bass aversive audiophiles should stray away from these ones, as there’s still a considerable amount of thickened to the bottom end. However, if you like to have some beef in your beats, then this pair should be right at the top of your list.
Clarity and detail are excellent here, and the compliment this low-end performance quite well. And while there doesn’t seem to be any dramatic upgrades to the sound of the IE 8, the IE80 keeps supplying detail when putting side by side with competitors such as the Ultimate Ears Fi 10, with tauter, punchier bass. However, the top-end is beaten by the Phonak PFE 232 and mids the Shure SE 535.
It’s evident that the low-mid and bass-centric approach of the previous IE models was upheld, which gives this pair a clear appeal to people who love hard hitting music. In our tests, we found out that the upper-bass and slight low-mid bump that adds some richness and warmth can clog up rock music, where the bass guitar is quite often left standing in the wings waiting to upstage the fellow bandmates. However, this is only a concern for those who favor delicate crystalline treble over everything else.
The Sennheiser IE 80 is quite a confusing upgrade from the predecessor. Although they justify the top-dollar price and provide an incredible aesthetic upgrade over the IE 8, it’s hard to convince anyone why they’re worth the upgrade, especially people who already have a pair of IEs.
Still, the attention to detail and the taut bass makes Sennheiser a winner in the segment with the IE 80 in-ear headphones. The bass tweaking option is a nice perk, along with the overall comfort and durability of the pair, that actually stands out from the rivals.
While they don’t qualify as a must-have upgrade over the IE 8s, they are worth serious consideration for anyone looking for a high-end pair with powerful bass.