I usually don’t like in ear headphones, as I don’t like sticking something inside my ears and don’t like their unnatural congested sound. However I was curious about Sennheiser’s new flagship in this category, as I have only heard good things about it.
I was lucky to receive a pair of IE800 from soundnews.ro. With them, I also received a pair of Audiotehnica CKS90, Sennheiser IE80 and the guys from jack-fi lent me a pair of Martin Logan Mikros 70.
So it was the perfect time for a IEM shootout.
I started the comparison on a few songs:
Pink Floyd – Time
The ringing from the beginning was hot and all the bells blended in a single layer. The details and mids were nice on this song. The bass did not have a good control, lacked extension and the overall sound congested.
STOP THE RINGING…Ouch…The beginning of the song was quite painful. The bass had better extension than with the IE80, but the mids were recessed. IE80 had a lot more details. The sound was congested and the instruments blended in the same layer. The voice lacked texture.
Ah…at last the ringing at the beginning of the song was enjoyable. The treble had the necessary sparkle but wasn’t too hot. The sound opened up A LOT. The IE800 surprises me everytime and I forget i listen to IEMs or even closed headphones. The sound is multi-layered with very good instrument separation, amazing details and very well balanced throughout the spectrum.
Martin Logan Mikros 70
Their sound was very relaxing as it was recessed on the whole spectrum. It lacked details and the voice was kind of fade. The bells at the beginning and overall all the instruments had a better spatial positioning and the sound was bit more multi-layered than with the CKS90 and IE80
ACDC – Beating Around the Bush
The bass was ok on this song, but overall, I found them to be too bright and congested. Also the mids sounded recessed lacking details.
I liked their presentation more that of the CKS90. The sens have a better midrange, more details, the sound is less congested. However, the bass was not as deep and impactful as with the ATH. The treble was overall to bright for my tastes.
The sound opened up a lot. The voice had a lot more texture and overall the details were much better. The instruments did not blend in in one layer as with the others. The treble was not at all too bright and the sound was very well balanced. They are in another class completely
Martin Logan Mikros 70
Again the sound was recessed. The bass lacked impact and extension, the mids & treble were somewhere in the back. The voice & guitars were missing texture and presence. The sound was again a little more multi-layered with a wider scene than the CKS90 and IE80. However I liked this song more with the Mikros compared to those two, because it was relaxed and did not pierce my ears.
Tiamat – Sixshooter
The bass was very punchy but it was too much in my opinion and it got over the mids . The voice was warm and natural and well textured. The overall mids were good, but I felt the bass interfered with the rest of the spectrum
The bass was deeper and more detailed and did not invade the mids like IE80 .
The mids were a little recessed again and the voice lacked texture compared to the senns, but overall it was more enjoyable with the CKS90.
The soundstage is huge compared to the other three. The bass is excellent: deep, impact-full and tight. The voice had excellent texture and was quite natural. The instrument separation was much better and the overall sound again more balanced.
Martin Logan Mikros 70
The bass lacked extension and punch but I preferred it over the IE80 that were too much in this department and I had to lower the volume a lot to finish the song. The sound was again lacking details but it had a larger scene with better positioning.
Amandine Beyer & Gli Incogniti : The Four Seasons – ‘L’ inverno ‘ Allegro
This is truly amazing. I really did not feel I was listening to a pair of IEMS, or even closed headphones for that matter. The separation of instruments was excellent, the details amazing, making every violin sound very well textured giving you goosebumps. The soundstage was wide and all the instruments were very well placed and easy to extract from the sound. One word…amazing!
The V shaped sound was felt here too. The instruments lack presence and the treble was a little piercing. Their presentation was also congested.
The sound was more detailed than CKS90 and the instruments had more presence. However the treble was too piercing and the overall sound congested.
Martin Logan Mikros 70
This was a nice surprise. I really felt the scene was wider and the positioning was better than with the CKS90 and IE80. Even if the sound was recessed and lacked details it did not pierce my ears and was more enjoyable, however still not enough for classical music.
Infected Mushroom – Drum n’ Bassa
Again the IE800 amazes me, like it did every time. The sound very very detailed with a wide soundstage. The bass is deep, impactful and fast, but not invading other parts of the spectrum. The PRAT is excellent and the overall experience toe-tapping.
The bass was very punchy and sometimes too much but good for bass heads I think. The treble and mids are fine and detailed, but the sound is congested, single layered, and a liitle invaded by the bass. Also the treble is on the edge of being hot.
The bass was clearly deeper and more extended but not as punchy as IE80. Again the mids were kind of recessed and lacking detail. The treble was a little hot too.
Martin Logan Mikros 70
Listening to them is like having a veil over your ears. The bass lacked extension and a little punch. All the sound is recessed. These are not headphones for someone who likes bass, this is clear to me.
The IE800 was a surprise for me and is miles and miles ahead of the other three . I forgot I listened to in-ear headphones. They have a huge soundstage for IEMS. Their sound is very well balanced throughout the spectrum making them a good headphones for every genre. They know hot to rock very well and the classical music sounds amazing on them.
Their bass is well extended, tight and punchy without being a typically annoying IEM bass. The details on these babies are amazing, and gives you goosebumps. The treble is also very well extended and not at all hot. The sound is multi -layered and has a very good instrument separation. These are the best IEMS I have ever listened to. They are truly flagship material and could beat a lot of normal size high-end headphones if you put them side by side.
The other three are way…way behind the IE800 which clearly won the shootout:
I am not sure which I liked better between the CKS90, IE80 or the Mikros. Actually i didn’t like any of them.
IE80 has a punchier bass but sometimes it invades the mids. It is clearly more detailed and has a better midrange presentation. The treble is too hot for me and very tiring.
The CKS90 has a better bass, with a better extension and not as invasive, but their sound is V shaped, the mids are recessed and the treble a little too hot.
Both CKS90 and IE80 has a very congested, single layered sound and they are both awful with classical music, especially the CKS90.
The Martin Logan Mikros is a very weird IEM. My phone doesn’t get along with them. The weirdest thing happened when plugging them in. I use a Samsung Galaxy S with Voodoo Sound. The volume is very small and when I tried to increase the volume, the Voodoo application crashed and the sound started to distort bigtime. I tried them to plug them into other normal headphones outputs, but the sound seemed to lack amplification and volume. Also, I think there might be a problem with their jack as I had to find a good position for them to sound properly.
Only the Burson Conductor seemed not to have problems with them. I may have received a faulted pair, or these headphones need serious amplification. Actually I almost hit 12 o’clock at low gain settings with Conductor.
Their sound is recessed on all the spectrum. It is like having a veil on your ears. The bass is lacking extension and control and the only thing good about it is that is not as annoying as other IEM which tend to be overdoing it at the bass section. The mids and treble are very recessed and the sound lacks details. Their sound is flat and lifeless.
The only thing I liked about them is the fact that their presentation was less congested with a wider scene and better positioning.
So, they may be good for someone who likes a very very relaxed, flat sound and doesn’t care so much about the bass or details. Also if you consider them, be sure to test them with your portable device first to see if it can drive them well.
When I had to give them back, I was only sorry for Sennheiser IE800 which I truly loved.
The IE800 are so good that I will reserve my next article just for them.
The Amazing Sennheiser IE800