Hands On Sennheiser ie80 Review – A Cut Above the Rest?

It’s hard to imagine a time when headphones were ever more popular than the present day. In these times people are literally attached to their ‘phones whether it be plugging in for Smart phone calls, tablet TV binge watching, while on a run, or just good old fashioned relaxing in the recliner listening to music.

As the demand for headphones has grown, so has the quality and modern products need to be at the top of their field in sound quality, customization, and ease of wear.

One thing that consumers who have been out of the headphones game will notice is that products on the market today aren’t your average $12 foam Walkman headphones. Most of today’s units are considered high-end and retail for upwards of $200-$300 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).

It’s not out of the realm to see one of your favorite sporting events sponsored by Bose or Beats by Dre while other mainstream companies such as Skullcandy have developed quite a loyal following.

A company with an equal quality of product as the better known headphone manufacturers but perhaps with less recognition is Sennheiser (link to website). Their ie80 headphones are one of the most coveted on the market so let’s see why:

A Little About Sennheiser

Sennheiser is no startup company having been founded in 1945. They are based in Germany where their full product line is manufactured but also have satellite plants in Ireland and the USA. Besides headphones the company also markets microphones, audioconference components, and monitoring systems and the business prides themselves on ‘having a vision and shaping the future of the audio industry.’

Sennheiser ie80 Overview

Unlike the popular Beats by Dre headphones that popular athletes are seen sporting over their ears before a big game the Sennheiser ie80 are discreet in-ear buds.

The sound quality of over-ear vs in-ear can be debated as some people prefer encapsulating the sound while others like the audio emanating from inside their drums. Perhaps the main benefit of the in-ear bud is the fact that they are lighter but can also be worn in only one ear much more conveniently which many people like for use with their cell phones.

The problem that high-end noise canceling headphones face is the desire to appease everybody. There are two main spectrums of music listeners – the detail freaks and the bass maniacs.

“Does a company limit their profit potential and only market to one or do they offer features and tweaks to satisfy both?”

The smart business answer is the latter and Sennheiser is confident that every user can enjoy the listening experience although it may take some adjusting of preferences.

The Sennheiser ie80 Features

One thing that Sennheiser kind of backs themselves into a wall with in their ie80 headphones is the $299 – $449 price tag (For the latest prices and discounts, check here). Anybody who has ever gone through packages upon packages of wraparound $20 ear buds know how easily the wires can become frayed and how one earbud always seems to fail early.

The ie80’s should be consider a high-end audio system. The $300+ cost is one usually reserved for the durability of over-the-ear phones and at that price the ie80’s better not only be durable – they better perform as well.

For the performance aspect Sennheiser has marketed the value of their product on customization. Bass ‘maniacs’ will enjoy the tiny screws on the headset that allow the bass response to be tuned up or down depending on their tastes.

Sennheiser likes to label this ‘manual frequency response tuning’ but what it really means is that if you don’t like the way your output is sounding you can do something about it. As expected the IE80’s are compatible with every major sound components from MP3 players, CD players, iPads, iPods, iPhone, etc.

Sennheiser ie80 Feel

One thing where ear canal headphones must be up to the task is in the area of comfort. Not only can an abrasive ear piece scratch and damage the canal but a rough wraparound piece can wear on the outer ear itself.

Part of the overall customization process that Sennheiser gives with their ie80 headphones is the inclusion of 6 different foam and rubber ear tips to provide the ultimate comfort into the ear that varies on a user-by-user basis. The different ear tips also provide various sound outputs which is once again customizable on an individual level.

The cables themselves are round and coated in plastic which helps avoid tangling and the wraparound section features a lining that can conform around the ear or be removed altogether. There is also clip to use with the cord for customization and ease of use either for attaching to the back of a shirt while running or to a shirt lapel when in use with a phone.

The feel of the IE 80 is consistent with the overall mantra of the product in that there’s more than just one way the phones can be used all around.

Sennheiser IE80 Sound Quality

Features and comfort are always important aspects to any headphones but when a consumer is going to drop over $300 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) on a set they want to know the deciding factor – how good is the audio quality? For premium headphones sound quality involves two things – a) perfecting the sound quality produced and b) limiting the outside background noise coming in.

The IE80’s are what’s considered a noise-canceling headphone even though they are meant to be placed on the inner ear. To some people that term might be considered an oxymoron as deep placement into the canal would seemingly muffle the sound and there’s minimal covering to deflect outside noise.

This is where finding the right tip is paramount although most users concede that the noise-cancelling does leave something to be desired.

While Sennheisers goal is to market the IE80 to both classical music listeners as well as heavy metal rockers, there’s little doubt the sound quality for sharp bass and rough vocals exceeds that of acoustical riffs, coffee house ballads, and other classical toned genres.

This of course is more true for day to day use on a loud commute or a heavy-motion run compared to sitting in a quiet room where the IE80’s perform just fine.

After some fine-tuning most users will be able to find settings where the quality of the sound is to their liking. It’s not exactly necessary to know why such as because of the neodymium magnets inserted inside the headphone to ensure sonic accuracy clarity or the 10-20,000Hz signal frequency response or even the 26 dB attenuation (noise cancellation).

When you pay upwards of $250 you should expect crystal-clear crisp sound and the only question many people ask is if it’s worth it?

Sennheiser IE 80 Durability

When a consumer spends $240-$300 or more on in-ear headphones they’re usually not worrying about if the sound quality will be up to par, they’re mostly hoping the product is durable enough to stand up to rigorous use.

Sure inner ear buds will last 4-5 years or more if they’re kept in their protective case whenever not in use and if listened to only in a dedicated music chair but most people want crisp sound on the go. Quality headphones are used in travel, at the gym, on a run, and while watching TV or listening to music in bed so they must be able to withstand all sorts of angles, twists, and turns.

The IE80 headphones have two things going for it that should put durability issues at ease. The first is a removable cable that allows it to be removed and reattached new without having to replace the earphones themselves.

The second is a 2-year warranty that states even if the unthinkable happens in the first few months of using the headphones you’ve at least got a bit of recourse.

Sennheiser has also found a way to help prevent the fraying that so often debilitates any headphones by adding a protective rubber casing around the cable inputs. On top of that the jack that plugs into the phone, MP3 player, etc. sits at a right angle which also helps diffuse some of the usual stress and bending that shortens the life span of a set.

Plus the IE80 headphones also come with a protective plastic case that should keep them safe in transport.

The Final Countdown: Are the Sennheiser ie80 Headphones Worth it?

The truth is some people simply prefer the in-ear headphones compared to the over-the-ear as they are easier to work out in and more convenient to carry. For years in order to enjoy the luxury of ear buds you always had to sacrifice sound quality.

Sennheiser set out to change that and their IE80 ‘phones offer arguably the best and most customizable listening experience of any ear buds on the market and the only real downfall is the price (if price is the primary concern). If you’re a responsible owner who values premium sound the IE80 are a worthy investment.

Juan Alexander

Juan is a self-professed sound-nerd and the webmaster / lead author & tester for AllSoundLab. You might literally walk into him on the street because he's tuned out to the world and tuned into his beats...

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