There are a few earphone brands in the market place standing out in consumer IEM (in ear monitors). Sennheiser, Westone and Shure are probably reviewed more than any other brand that is commercially available. Shure have the SE846, Sennheiser have the IE 800 and Westone have a broad range of custom and off-the-shelf IEM monitor/earphones including the Westone W50.
We’ve been using the Sennheiser IE 800 in-earphones for a couple of weeks and have a wrapped up review. We’ve also purchased some Comply tips to see if the ‘stay-in-your-ear’ factor and audio signature was changed at all. We used these on the Skytrain in Vancouver, on Air Canada planes to Toronto and while sitting at home working on the couch. There are a couple of key observations to make which we think will help you decide if the IE 800 are for you.
Build Quality Firstly they are small, have two open outputs on the back and are made from ceramics which makes them feel fragile and indestructable all at the same time. The build quality is fantastic and the cable is really tough. These things will last.
Sound Quality The IE800 have a wide open soundscape. It almost feels 180 degrees in your head. If you like a wide audio landscape you’ll like these. There is clear separation in each element/instrument in the mix. You can place/imagine people and instruments in the room and where they are sitting as they play. If you like jaw-dropping bass that is clear and tight then these will make you happy. At this price you should expect solid bass but there are times where it really makes you go ‘wow’. Playing Chet Faker or Macklemore & Lewis can bring on the bass nicely, as does Ellie Goulding, Eminem and some rock and classical favourites. There is not a lot of sibilance in these but the tops are nice. The treble is good but not hissing. Most people will like this also but there were times we wanted more from Damien Rice and The Civil Wars in terms of hearing their breath spitting over the microphone. As others have commented there is a bit of an issue with microphonics. We overcame this by putting them down the front of our shirts or similar when out and about. It made a huge difference but there will be times you’ll notice the scratchy effect as contact sounds travel up the cables to your ears. Some people use a cable clip or tie clip to secure the cable to a shirt or jacket.
Fit & Feel The fit is really good. At first it’s hard to believe such small earphones can create such an amazing sound. They come with different sizes of thin rubber inserts. The thin rubber allows for some ‘breathing’ in the music (see additional comments on Comply t-200 below). At first it feels like the earphones are going to fall out all the time but overall they actually stay in, and are comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time. Like all earphones and IEM’s these things sometimes take some tweaking before you find the right fit for you.
How the IE800 differ from the SE846 (as most people compare these two models)? The IE 800 have great tops and bass but the mid is less pushed forward. Some feel the snare sound is a little plastic. The Shure SE846 have super solid bass but are also known for their especially strong mids. For some people this feels more alive and in your face (ears).
- The IE 800 are very well made but if the cable goes you can’t replace it. The SE846 have replaceable cables and you can get an inline option.
- The IE 800 are down the front lapel style. The SE 846 are best over the ears and then to the front (although there are best used as designed which is down the back).
- The IE 800 have a single audio filter – this sounds super. The SE846 have interchangeable audio filters you can change to alter the sound signature of the earphones.
- The IE 800 have a single driver. The SE846 have a quad driver.
Using Comply T-200 foam tips with the Sennheiser IE 800 With Comply T-200 tips the sound signature changes slightly by becoming a little deeper and some might say ‘stuffed’ or stifled. We found this wasn’t a negative experience for us. It didn’t sound stuffed, rather it sounded more isolated – like sitting in a well noise-proofed sound booth. It provided more noise-cancelling than the default rubbers and sealed the sound a little bit better. They also helped keep the earbuds in. The T-200 are not designed for the IE 800 but they do fit, you just have to be careful as the foams can pop off in your pocket if you take the earphones off – they don’t ‘clip’ on as well but they work. If you find yourself having difficulty keeping them in with the supplied rubbers it’s worth spending $15 on the T-200 from www.complyfoam.com. It might be in the future that Comply decide to make a foam for the IE800 but we have nothing to share on that yet.
Conclusion Generally the overall population (95%+) and audiophiles will love these earphones. The price is worth it if you have the money. These bring a sound quality and build quality you won’t regret buying into. You don’t have to be an audiophile to appreciate these. Solid bass and good tops. Sennheiser have done a great job.
As far as ~$1,000 in-ear headphones go these are in our top 3 best IEM’s for sure. Sennheiser IE 800 earphones
What are your thoughts on the Sennheiser IE 800? Comment or ask questions below.