Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › In-Ear › Sennheiser IE80 › Reviews › jnxr's Review

Warning, now entering audiophile territory!

A Review On: Sennheiser IE80

Sennheiser IE80

Rated # 10 in In-Ear
See all 18 reviews
Recent Pricing:
Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Isolation
Value
jnxr
Posted · Updated · 26855 Views · 2 Comments

Pros: Amazing Sound Quality, Tunable Bass, Replaceable Cables, Great Micro-phonics, Excellent build quality, Looks, Value for Money, 2 Year Guarantee

Cons: The housing is a bit huge. If you seek isolation, the stock tips will not cut it for you.

Anyone aspiring to be an audiophile would have heard the name of these IEMs, they are one of the very best around and only a few are in the same league as this one.
The IE80 was released a few years ago, following the IE8 which was for a long time, the best that Sennheiser had to offer in this regard. Lets cut the introduction short.

This review is not an Audiophile perspective. Its just my experience after one years usage. While it may not give you side by side comparisons with rival products, it will give you an idea of what the IE80 truly is.


Short version of review:
------------------------
If I had to tell you about the IE80 in one line, then I would say, you will not be disappointed by these IEMs no matter what. Sound quality and build quality are top notch. Bass and mids are fixed from the IE8, which was the main complaint of certain users. Sound stage is excellent. Metallic finish is awesome. No complaints in any department. It retails at an MSRP of INR 29,990. But I got this from my dealer for around 19k, though I was seriously willing to pay an extra 5-6k just for getting it on time. My dealer convinced me to wait and it took a couple of weeks which was kind of a letdown. So do some research depending on your priorities for the money before you pull the trigger.
http://shop.sennheiserindia.com/ie-80.html 

 

 

Long version of review:
------------------------
Ear tips:
---------
The IE80 comes with several ear tips, 8 rubber and 2 foam pairs to be precise. Of those three pairs are double flange tips, which are great in the gym and other activities which involve movement and external noise. The foam tips are softer than what you get from most third party sellers, but they also reproduce the sound much more true to the fidelity of the recording itself. Individual preferences may vary though. There is no medium size foam tip, usually small, medium and large are the three standard sizes which are offered. But the small one is somewhat larger than the small rubber tips, so it fits me fine. The large one is the right size though. The foam tips are good for home use, where you won't be sweating and you can clean your ears before usage. The rubber ones are awesome. The dual flange tips give great isolation, albeit not like the foam tips, but they are pretty close. They offer much better grip inside the ears, and its hard to yank them off even no matter how hard your training routine may push you. This is very good when you are in the gym or other places. The regular rubber tips are very soft, and very comfortable. They also produce very high fidelity sound. The details are better than the foam tips, and dual flange tips. Another two pairs of tips were included, in which one is somewhere between medium and small, and the other one is large. These are pretty much useless, and its safe to discard them. They are very thick, and uncomfortable. I cannot see anyone using these tips under any circumstances.
----------------
Comfort of tips:
----------------
As for comfort, I would say that the default rubber tips are the best for every occasion. This is because they are very thin, and it almost feels like they don't exist. Unlike foam tips, which make you feel somewhat congested after extended use, the default rubber tips just blend in. Listening for hours on the go feels natural, and the audio detail is the best I have heard. Now you will read a lot of recommendations for hybrid tips, and what not from the people on the internet. Don't believe them, its a load of bull crap. I have personally used Sony Hybrids, and Comply Foams, and they just don't cut it. They lack the detail which is there in the default tips. Some of them just end up muddying the audio with a little extra bass. Stick to the default rubber tips if you wish the best quality audio. The foam tips provided come second, as they provide excellent attenuation of external sound and can take the shape of your ear. The dual flange tips are awesome too. I have never tried triple flange tips though.
---------------------------
Comfort of the IEM housing:
---------------------------
The wearing comfort of these IEMs can vary. That's because the housing is a little bigger than the average IEM size. One good thing is that they are over the ear design, which is great. Even the newly launched IE800 isn't over the ear, so its less secure than these IEMs when it comes to outdoor activities. The large housing size means that they aren't pillow friendly. But its not that big a deal. I can easily fit them inside my bike helmet and ride comfortably and without adjusting them from time to time. The traffic sound is so much lesser, which means I can ride while listening to quality music.
--------------
Micro-phonics:
--------------
Micro-phonics is an important factor of IEMs and I am pleased to say that its very much controlled in these IEMs. So much so that I barely hear the sound of the wind while travelling at about a 60kmph on the bike with the IE80s in the helmet. Going above 100 though, it becomes a little audible because of the wind on the helmet, which means you just have to crank the volume up a little. Please note that the IEM itself is enclosed in the helmet, or else you won't be able to hear much over 60kmph because of the housing which has to cut the air. As if that weren't enough to take care of the interference, Sennheiser have been kind enough to include a clip which attaches the IEM to your shirt or clothing. This reduces the interference caused by the cables even more, not to mention the added support for external activities. You will never be bothered by accidental touches of the cable while listening to that crucial part of your favorite song
--------------
Build quality:
--------------
The built quality of these IEMs is just fantastic. The IE 80's certainly stand out when it comes to looks. A brushed metallic finish to the outside housing gives it a classy look. The cables themselves feel very strong and sturdy. Much different than the ones from the CX series from Sennheiser. The 3.5mm pin area is well fortified, so its going to last pretty long. If that weren't enough, you can change the cables as and when you feel the need to. I have not tried this though, so no comment on this area. The place where the tips attach, is covered by a metallic mesh, which is pretty much standard in all IEMs, but I wish even the tips had these covers like the IE800 tips.
-----
Case:
-----
The case provided, is much the same case as the rest of the IE series, nothing special here. Just a hard plastic case with a metallic finish. The case has a two pairs of tips. So when you open the package right away, you will notice few tips missing, which will be hidden in the case. This provision is great, because you can change tips on the go as per the situation, if you keep your case with you. It also has a ear tip cleaning tool, with which you can remove the dirt from the housing and ear tips. This tool can also serve as the screw for the bass knob on the housing, about which I will talk later. There is another small compartment to the back side which has a small silica gel pouch to get rid of any moisture from within the case. It has a magnet in the bottom as its opening & closing mechanism. The only gripe I had with it is that its a little big to fit comfortably in your jeans pocket. You'd have to put it in your bag or your side pocket if you have one.
--------------
Sound quality:
--------------
As for audio quality, this IEM has a very large sound stage. It feels like a huge place inside your ears. No matter what kind of music I listen to, its very easy to be awed by the sound they produce. The bass and mids are perfect. Bass is pretty tight and the mids are lush with plenty of warmth. Treble is amazing, with no sibilance even at the highest volume. This is an awesome thing, because you get to enjoy they cymbals and clangs better with absolute detail. Many IEMs especially BA driver IEMs are better in this regard, but they produce sibilance, which can be quite a spoil sport. With the IE80, you can't go wrong. Play anything with it and you are guaranteed to be happy with it. These IEMs are only 16 OHMs and it doesn't take a lot to drive it. A dedicated amp would add little to no benefit over the source. You can easily drive it with your mobile phone and MP3 player. I have no complains with the Sansa Clip Zip, which is a perfect companion for the gym. The volume levels are pretty high for an IEM, and clarity is maintained even at the highest volumes. Instrument separation is good too. Pleas note that this is just the starting point in the audiophile territory, its bigger brothers HD800 & HD650 can do much better when paired with an amp. This is just a portable solution for audiophiles who don't want to lose much while travelling or at the gym.
-----------
Bass knobs:
-----------
There are bass knobs on each of the earpieces which can be adjusted using the earpiece cleaning tool provided in the case. Note that its best to leave them at the lowest level, which is the factory setting of these IEMs because they produce natural sound close to original. Increasing it will change the bass response. It can be useful if you are getting different volume levels of bass in each of the earpieces due to the fitting provided by the ear tips. No two ears are alike and the difference can be quite a bit. Another scenario where this can be useful is when the source itself is giving out unbalanced sound. The last case is when your IEM itself is losing balance, then you can correct it to some degree using this knob. Anyways, as I said before, its best to keep it at the lowest setting.
----------
Isolation:
----------
The isolation provided is pretty decent. The housing is well sealed, and the cables have a good resistance to micro-phonics. So there is not much to complain about. But people who are used to other brands may be dissatisfied, as they may be used to the fit and isolation provided by other IEMs. Its not a deal breaker though. You can always replace the tips any time you want. Sony's hybrid tips will give you the best balance between comfort, isolation and sound quality. Comply is not for everyone. Firstly I dislike the the foams which get all oily after a few months of usage. They also give you this congested feel if the foam is too thick. If its too thin, then the bass and isolation suffers. Well I can go, but to say the least, Sennheiser's package which includes 10 pairs of ear tips will satisfy most of the buyers of the IEM.
------------------------------------
Durability (cables, housing & case):
------------------------------------
The cables are awesome. They tangle much lesser than the cheaper models, and are much more durable. The rubber is made from a much more durable compound, and there has been no degradation after extended use. Usually, cables can harden or crack over the course of a year, and extended usage under all elements. But these cables can take anything you throw at them. They are even much better than even the Kevlar cables used in the CX680/685 etc sport editions. 

The housing itself looks pretty much the same like it used to when it was new. Its very solid even after so many drops and bumps. The brownish paint has now become all shiny and polished, with a little of it beginning to fade away. The metallic part has a lot of small scratches, but none of them are substantial enough to be an eye sore. Overall, from a distance of a couple of feet, you can't say its much different from a new one at all.

The case itself is very durable with a very solid plastic construction, but the same cannot be said about the metallic plates to the outside. Once they take a beating it becomes a dent and looks distorted. But apart from this minor problem, the case is pretty much nuke proof, and will keep your IE80s safe no matter what you throw at them.
------------------
Under rough usage:
------------------
After using it for a year without the case, and in sweaty jeans pants which hardy had room along with bike keys and mobile phone not to mention the music player; going the gym for five days a week, I have to say that I am impressed. Many a times the phone/player slipped from my hands and ended up bungee jumping with my ears as a support. At times I have closed the zip to my jacket without realizing that the player was still hooked to the IE80. After a good inspection, I can confirm that there are no major cuts or damage to the cables anywhere. There is no other IEM which has shown little to no change in these conditions. I used to ride in the rains of Mumbai every day with the headphone inside the helmet. The rains here last for about 4 months. These IEMs have lasted 2 monsoons, which is an amazing feat. The levels of humidity and stress which these IEMs have undergone are much more than my other IEMs because these are my primary IEMs. A couple of months ago, I felt a slight change in one of the channels, and it keeps varying between 1-4% difference in balance. Some times the imbalance was to the right and sometimes to the right. I guess something went wrong with the cables. So I got them to Sennheiser Service center, who promptly replaced them for me. I have no idea how they might perform under the cold climates, as I have only taken it to cold places once and I believe 0 degrees Celsius is by no means a difficult thing for the IE80. But in the heat and humidity department it has managed to exceed my expectations. As per my usage, the average time an IEM lasts is usually a couple of months, before something goes wrong big time. But they completed a year without a problem, and even the issue which arose after usage was probably because of cable failure as it is expected under these conditions.

In one line, THESE IEMs ARE TOUGH, and they are built to last a lifetime if used correctly.
------------------------------
Sennheiser Warranty & Service:
------------------------------
Please make sure to keep your bill safe. Even a soft copy will do. So its advisable to take a snapshot of the bill and save it on your computer just in case. On producing the bill, I was given a replacement for the IE80 in a week. This can vary depending on the stocks with them. I remember I had to wait 3-4 weeks for the CX550. Other ones like the CX180 will be replaced in a day or so. If you're really lucky, you might get an upgrade instead of a replacement. Damage caused by accidents are not covered under the warranty, but I guess it all depends on how you explain it to them. The main problem which can come on rough usage is the change in the balance of the sound where the right ear piece volume doesn't match the left. They never make a fuss about replacing the product unlike other companies which try their best to avoid a replacement with a stupid explanation. Anyways, it has always been a pleasure dealing with Sennheiser. They offered me tea when I was waiting with them. Good luck to you too.
-----------------
Value for money:
-----------------
Are they worth the price? Hell yeah they are. You can use them to your hearts content, plus you are also covered with a guarantee. Awesome sound quality under extreme conditions and good build quality etc, etc, so many good things going for one IEM. How can I say it ain't worth the price? Even if I used it for about 2 years only, the average comes to about 800 Rupees per month, or about $14 a month, which isn't much considering everything that Sennheiser offers, not to mention the tea they give me every time I visit the service center. I would gladly pay a little extra, that is how satisfied I am. All of this would be pointless if the sound quality could not back it up, but its on par with the best you can get in this range. Go for it by all means, you will not be disappointed. When you pay about 20k for a IEM, you expect a lot in return, and the IE80 delivers it in spades.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
As a final note, I would like to say that, Sennheiser is more than a brand, it makes you love the music you listen to. #Respect
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2 Comments:

thanks for this review. real helpful!
You're most welcome mate, cheers!  :)
Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › In-Ear › Sennheiser IE80 › Reviews › jnxr's Review