Review on Sennheiser IE 900 cabled earphones
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The Review on Sennheiser IE 900 cabled earphones
The Sennheiser IE 900 are audiophile quality earphones. So we don’t even have to whisper that they cost $2099, and they rely on old-fashioned German audiophile engineering – no psycho-acoustic tricks and app EQ to deliver beautiful sound.
And beautiful sound it is. I mustn’t forget to thank Thomas Bartlett (our former in-house audiophile) for passing the baton to me – an amateur buff – who is a quick learner. Entering the audiophile world is like identifying the grape, vineyard, year and slope it was grown on – in wine terms, anyway. Well, I’m trying.
For me, every audiophile experience gets better. Hi-res DACs, headphones, earphones, music and a better understanding of why my Bluetooth headphones and earphones (while sounding good) are inferior. And to a certain extent, I understand that less is more, especially in the cost department.
If $2099 is a little more than your budget/partner will allow, Sennheiser has an IE 300 for $479.95 (GadgetGuy review here 9.4/10) and the IE 800 S for $1599.95, both of which are at least the subtle ‘S’ logo in your ears.
$2,099 for two small aluminum ‘buttons’. I haven’t felt this intimidated since someone threw me the keys to a million dollar Lamborghini to take it for a ride – and no, I wasn’t a car valet! And yes, I did – it’s a brilliant beast that takes my breath away.
There is a huge responsibility here – audiophiles can be so picky. So if you want to respond, please do, and we can both learn from it.
Once you have unpacked the small earplugs, choose a small, medium and large ear made of silicone or Visco memory foam tips. The latter provides the best sound insulation, but you feel them more in your ears. I chose silicone for comfort.
Then you can choose from three stereo jack connectors to MMCX connectors. These are reinforced with para-aramid for excellent stability, even after thousands of bending cycles. And at the MMXC end have flexible sections that you can bend over your ears. The 1.25 m cables include:
2.5mm balanced signal, 4-pin 3.5mm unbalanced signal 3-pin 4.4mm balanced signal 5-pin
Fit and comfort
They fit in your outer ear with just the cable running over the ear. If the cable wasn’t so short (1.25m), you could probably wear it to bed.
I wore them for a total of 10 hours (8 hours plus 2 x 1 hour walking), and there was no discomfort. I preface that by saying the silicone ear tips are more comfortable at the expense of some soundproofing. Sennheiser claims -26dB sound insulation – our tests agree. To DAC or not to DAC
I can’t tell you to buy a headphone DAC, but I can tell you there is a world of difference using the Astell&Kern USB-C DAC (review 9/10) to play hi-res music* on both a Surface Pro 7 and a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The DAC has a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz at .0004THD and supports up to 32-bit/384kHz, so it won’t hold back the IE 900. Three things stood out most about the DAC
The volume is excellent on the Surface Pro 3.5mm jack, but much louder with the DAC. There were sounds I’d never heard before, even in Sennheiser’s best Momentum 3 BT headphones. The wide soundstage and left/right separation is incredible
* Hi-res originally came from YouTube Music in AAC 256 kbps, but we moved to Amazon in FLAC 24-bit/192 kHz. Tidal seems to have a better catalog and offers MQA, AAX, ALAC and FLAC in 24-bit/192khz. Other sources include QoBuz, Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer.
When playing CD-quality MP3, the DAC bought the best from the rip. Since the IE 900 has no EQ or app, what you put in is what you get out. How does the Sennheiser IE 900 sound?
Across the board, it brings out sounds and nuances you’ve never heard with BT headphones. It doesn’t add to or take away from the music, although the detail it reveals in Spotify is palpable in standard definition. It’s like playing music on a smart speaker and casting it to a real Sonos or Bose speaker. You can never go back.
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