Top row, left to right: MX400RC, MX500, MX360. Bottom row: MX460, MX660, MX760. Special thanks to Eric Palonen for the MX400RC and the lovely brochure.
Hello Head-Fi! If you have accidentally clicked on this thread, the exit is to your left. For those who are staying, welcome to my first (and perhaps final) review ever on an Internet forum! As the name of the thread partially implies, this review will cover select entries of Sennheiser's MX*60 range of traditional earbuds, namely the ones I own: the MX360, MX460, MX660, and MX760.
So why did I decide to write this review? Firstly, people have started threads for less worthy reasons. Secondly, there isn't a whole lot of information on these earbuds on this forum, so I thought this review could act as a starting point for discussion.
Before I begin, I should state that the perception of an earbud's sound quality is highly dependent on fit, which in turn relies on ear size and shape, the use of foams, and other variables unique to the user. Perhaps more so than with full-sized headphones and IEMs, your mileage may vary.
MX360 (left) and MX500: More in common than meets the eye
First off is the MX360. As can be seen from the pic above, the MX360 sports a much different design than the classic MX500. The asymmetrical shape of the housing proves to be far more ergonomic and therefore comfortable, but I'm not really crazy for the "chrome triangle" accent on the front. The glossy black finish however is quite nice, and the lack of gaping seams or protrusions also adds to the comfortability factor. I'll go as far to say this MX360 is the most comfortable of the MX*60 series currently in my possession.
The sound of the MX360 is perhaps far more interesting, not because of its quality but rather of its uncanny resemblance to the MX400 and MX500. Indeed, I can probably say with some degree of confidence that this new Sennheiser probably uses the same exact driver or a very similar derivative. The MX360 does have more bass and warmth, which seems to make it sound slightly more muddy when comparing to the MX500 when both earphones are "naked." But with the addition of foams, the MX360 better retains its clarity, and the soundstage also bests the older Sennheiser, though the added midbass, which can be overly bloated at times, is not always welcome.
Overall, despite the improvements/changes made to the classic design, I have a hard time recommending this earphone for two reasons. First, it is expensive in my opinion; while UKers may be able to purchase these for under a tenner (a fair price to me), the price for the MX360 on Amazon.com can be as high as $25, which is enough to buy the MX660 (or at least the MX460 or 560). Earbuds like the JVC F130 Gumy or AKG's K312 are on par (former) or outperform (latter) the Senns for less money. Secondly, the package only comes with three pairs of foams and no pouch or winder, although that may not bother some people.
Unless the nostalgia runs strong or you find these for a great price, skip these and go up the range.
The MX460 in white
The MX460 represents a decidedly different direction within the Sennhieser earbud lineup, and acts as the entry model to the company's higher-end earbud offerings. The design, while still incorporating an asymmetrical housing and asymmetrical cable, is much more refined, although some may find this "boring." When it comes to accessories, don't expect a lot for the price, since the MX460 only comes with one pair of foams instead of the MX360's three, and no pouch is included. I also find the white to look a little cheap, but it isn't to the point where it's offensive, and we are talking about a $20 earbud.
Outside of the design, the sound is also quite different. The MX460 is much more "clean," perhaps due to the slight de-emphasis of midbass (some warmth is still retained), and increased speed compared to the MX360 makes the MX460 far more "fun" and engaging. The bass sounds tighter, and even has a little impact. Midrange is also slightly more detailed, but there are times that it seems a bit brittle and lacks that last bit of smoothness and refinement. The treble is passable but ultimately needs more clarity. Soundstage is average for an earbud.
Verdict: Not quite there yet. While I feel the MX460 is a solid replacement/cure for measly stock earbuds and are worth the $15-20 entry fee, they still sound like earbuds, although I don't mean that in a completely negative way. It's just that the next two offerings sound much better.
NOTE: I have noticed that some reviews state that the MX560 is the same as the MX460 except the former has a symmetrical cable, cable winder, and pouch. Oh, and let's not forget that chrome accent.
MX660 in black
Black MX760 with cable winder, pouch, and 1.0 meter extension cable
MX660 and MX760
The MX660 and MX760 are the range toppers of the MX*60 series. On top of the MX560, the MX660 adds an inline volume controller, while the MX760 comes with a two-piece modular cable design. Although the specs of these two Sennheisers are nearly identical, there a notable differences in their sound, with one ultimately being quite a bit better in overall sound quality.
First off, the similarities. After listening to the MX460, the first thing that is immediately noticeable with the MX660 and 760 is the bass. It is surprisingly full, with pretty good extension and impact as well. Its airy nature probably won't win over hardcore bassheads, but for most people it should be fine or perhaps even slightly overabundant. They're definitely warm earphones. The other attribute that is grabs attention is the soundstage. The soundstage of both of these earbuds is hard to describe, because in theory, the stage shouldn't be large at all. However, every time I listen to either of them, I find that the earbuds really do present a sense of space, and instrument separation within that space is actually quite good. I am always pleasantly surprised by their ability to produce a convincing stage, although admittedly I have not had much experience with full-size phones that specialize in soundstage.
The largest difference between the MX660 and MX760 lies in the midrange. Comparatively, the 660's mids are somewhat recessed, and, combined with the very airy nature of these two earphones, makes vocals a bit distant. The upper range is also much less detailed than the MX760, although even the MX660 is quite the improvement overall compared to the MX460, easily worth the $25 asking price. However, these two "weaknesses" make the MX760 the overall better phone, allowing it to be far more articulate, detailed, and resolving. It's really quite the difference considering the MX660 and MX760 were only $5 apart in retail price.
I'm not exactly sure what the culprit is that makes the difference, but I'm willing to believe that the volume pod could be part of the issue. If you take a look at the following pic, you may notice that the male jack on the MX760 (top) and the volume controller on the MX660 are the exact same distance from their respective earpieces.
It may very well be the case that both models use the exact same drivers, but the volume controller on the MX660 recesses the midrange, kills some of the treble detail, and reduces the overall sound quality.
It should be no surprise that I would choose the MX760 over the MX660 concerning sound quality. However, when it comes to usability, the MX760 has some issues. Taking a look at the MX760 pic above, you may notice the bulkiness of both the plug on the MX760 cable and the female jack on the extension cord. This undeniably adds significant weight, enough to tug the earbuds out of the ears. This can be remedied by a simple shirt clip, but curiously, the MX760 doesn't come with one, despite what is shown in Sennheiser's PR photos.
MX760 PR pic with large arrow pointing to the
shirt clip that's desperately needed.
Another issue is the unfortunate fact that Sennheiser no longer sells the MX760 here in the US. A quick look at Sennheiser USA's website shows the that MX760 is no longer in the lineup, mysterious absent from the MX series description page. The model showed up on the site up until its redesign last month.
It's really too bad, considering that the MX760 is probably my favorite $30 portable headphone of any type. As great as the KSC75 is, the MX760 has superior portability, leaks less sound, and, to my ears, has more natural tonality and soundstage. For now, my black buds and two white backups should last, but I may have to try de-podding an MX660 to see if that changes anything.
I'm actually quite impressed overall with the Sennheiser MX660 and MX760. Those two models' impressive soundstage, and the latter's above-average detailing really forced me to rethink the capabilities of entry-level earbuds, and both have provided me with great listening pleasure. The MX760, even with its cable issues, is a solid product worthy of consideration. It's too bad the MX760's product life was cut short here in the States.
Garfield and I would like to thank you for reading / pretending to read / not reading this review. Have a great day, and happy listening!