I have recently gotten my hands on a pair of Sennheiser IE7 which is a real treat for me. These were supposed to be my first pair of good earphones a couple years ago but things never worked out unfortunately but I have finally gotten to hear these. Also I do realize that these have been out in the market for a long time but something that intrigued me was that the IE7 is typically overlooked by it's bigger brother in the IE8 and there really is not that much information out on them compared to other models except for one long appreciation thread (but then again who goes through an entire appreciation thread of that length) and not much reviews out there.
One thing I don't like is audio jargon but that's inevitable here. There are times when I have some issues trying to explain what I am hearing as that is not easy to do imo so hopefully you will all understand me. I know some of you may be new and don't understand some of the terms so this link should make it easier for you and imo is the best audiophile dictionary I have seen.
As with the rest of my reviews my background is an important thing to know of so you know my personal biases and what I am familiar with. My signature is up to date and consists of my current gear. My previous gear is in my profile listed by order of ownership or to the best of my memory it is. My personal preference goes along the line of what I like to call neutrality. For reference some of my favorite earphones have been the Audio Technica CK10 and Hifiman RE0.
My musical preferences in no particular order are pop, rock, trance, country, jazz and asian pop.
Also as a disclaimer for my review everything here is IMO so YMMV. Please do not flame me if you disagree. I also make no attempt to try to write this from a neutral point of view since I do not believe that's possible. I will write it from my experiences and how I enjoy listening to an earphone which means certain preference biases which have already been pointed out.
Source: Cowon J3, Audinst HUD-MX1
Phones: Sennheiser IE7
Bitrate: A mix of mp3 to FLAC
Frequency Range: 10-19000 Hz
Impedance: 16 Ω
Sensitivity: 100 dB/mW
Connector: 3.5mm L plug
Cable: 1.2 m, symmetrical (earphone to separator: 0.4 m; separator to plug: 0.8 m)
Packaging and Included Accessories
I usually have something here but since this is a loaner I received the earphones and a pair of tips only.
The IE7 is a well built earphone. There are proper strain reliefs in all the necessary areas which are the 3.5mm plug, Y split and the area where the cable connects to the housing. There is also a chin slider which is very useful for wearing over the ears as well as wrapping it up. The housing is pretty well built as well and on the bottom of the housing near the cable entry looks like 2 vent holes. On the nozzle is a little mark to keep the tips from falling off which is nice. Also on the nozzle are metal filters which are much more sturdy than cheap paper ones. There is a R and L marking to differentiate from the left and right although the housings are not symmetric so after a while you should be able to tell by the feel of them. The cable is soft, flexible and does not retain much memory of how they are stored.
My only real complaint with the IE7 is the lack of a shirt clip and that the drivers do suffer from a mild case of driver flex.
3.5mm right angle plug
chin slider and Y split
housing and strain relief area
back of the housing
Microphonics and Isolation
Microphonics should not be a concern if you wear them over the ear. There will be some when you wear them straight down but not too much.
Isolation is a bit below average. These are not closed earphones but open so isolation will not be that great. Add the fact that they sound better with shallow insertion and isolation will not be a strong suit for these.
Fit and Comfort
I have no issues with fit or comfort. They are pretty simple to put on and pretty comfortable. They don't disappear like some other earphones but are not so uncomfortable to the point where it is just maddening.
A bit of a caveat however. Those with tiny ears *might* not find them comfortable as the housing does have a pointy side to it and those with small ears may find that pointy area touching their ears and might not be comfortable for them. I have average sized ears so I find that to be a non issue.
Note: These were well burned in before I received them so no worries from those of you who advocate burn in.
Starting out with the bass the IE7 has a pretty impressive bass response. It has pretty good extension and packs a pretty powerful punch and even offers a nice rumble to those who crave the rumble that come from dynamics. It is north of neutral but not quite at the level of a bass monster. It offers a slightly more powerful punch than what I hear out of my HJE900 but not by much. There is a slight mid bass hump which gives the IE7 it's warmth but it is not overly warm. In terms of speed it isn't as fast as a lot of BA drivers or even my HJE900 but it isn't too far off. I find decay to be quite nice as it isn't lightning fast as some BA based earphones can be. It usually is about right although it could be a bit on the slow side especially in complex passages. Bass as a whole is well controlled and doesn't get in the way of enjoying the music. It's also well defined but as you reach the lowest of lows it does lack some definition.
There is a bit of warmth from the bass in the midrange but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I find it to be pretty enjoyable actually. I find the midrange to be where the focus of this earphone is and it was done quite well. It is a bit forward in its presentation but definitely was a pleasure to listen to. The IE7 has a smooth and lush midrange. It also has a good amount of detail however it does lack the small nuances that more detailed earphones can offer but those earphones are among the best universals out there.
As we move up to the treble I can finally see why no one regards them as one of the best universals that money can buy. The treble while it isn't bad it does not offer the type of detail and resolution that an earphone at the MSRP the IE7 goes for should have. That does however also mean that they are quite forgiving to those (especially the younger ones here) who have poor quality music files. That being said there is some positives about the treble. There are certain treble focused earphones that tend to border line between sparkle and sibilance and the IE7 is an earphone that does not suffer this same fate. This is not an earphone with a harsh treble presentation or one that will highlight sibilance.
The sound stage of the IE7 is quite impressive. It is one of the larger sound stages I have heard in an earphone and it has good depth and width. Due to this large sound stage I find that it does a good job in terms of imaging. Instrument separation is pretty decent as well but is nothing to brag about.
Lastly we have timbre. I find that dynamics typically have better timbre than it's BA counterparts and I consider the IE7 to continue that trend.
I find the IE7 to be a very odd earphone. It does many things well but nothing exceptional. It doesn't engage you like other earphones but at the same time it is not boring. I find it to be a pleasant and laid back sound but it isn't all that engaging to me. I would rather have an earphone that does something exceptional rather than everything well but nothing great.
I don't know the current price of these but I'd say anything at $150 or less would make these a good buy as long as you don't need top notch isolation. I would consider these as an earphone to wear at work or when you are at home (and don't have headphones) and don't want to be totally isolated from others.
Thanks for reading! If you see any errors or have any questions please let me know.