Product Type: Sennheiser headphones
Newest Review: ... to protect them from damage, this feels soft smooth & well made embossed with Sennheiser branding, an earbud holder - a far handier alt... more
The Art of Senn
Sennheiser CX-400 II
Member Name: Hishyeness
Sennheiser CX-400 II
Advantages: Rich audio, great noise isolation and excellent value (at sale price)
Disadvantages: In-ear format may not be everyone's cup of tea. Rustling from cable.
A SENN-SIBLE INVESTMENT?
I have been happily and contentedly using a pair of Sennheiser CX300 headphones for the best part of two years now, so when I recently acquired a Samsung Netbook, I decided to relegate them to my laptop bag and invest in some new, upgraded headphones for my iPod. I toyed with the idea of getting a like for like replacement (the CX300 has been upgraded to the CX300 II) but when I found that the next pair up on the product ladder were available for just a few pounds more, I opted for the CX400 II instead.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
The CX400 II comes in the sort of heat sealed plastic packaging that requires steely determination, surgical implements, sheer bloody-mindedness - or a combination of all three - to get into. Once you do manage to get it open, you will find the headphones themselves, a "cable winder", six pairs of soft rubber inserts of varying size and style, a discreet Sennheiser-badged cable clip and a small leather-effect pouch for storing the headphones.
FORM & STYLE
These in-ear headphones isolate noise and deliver their sound by creating a soft rubber seal in your inner ear. As such, to work at their best, you will need to ensure that you insert the right size rubber insert onto the headphones. This will, of course, vary from person to person, but with six different choices, you are bound to find a decent fit. It's all a matter of trial and error, but fortunately, the inserts push onto and off the small ear buds quite easily.
The matt black cable is approximately three feet long from the L-shaped 3.5mm jack to the ear buds. The buds themselves are small, glossy black numbers with a chrome effect trim and Sennheiser branding. There is a discreet "L" and "R" on each of the ear buds, although in reality, there seems little practical difference which ear you plug them into.
Unlike their antecedents (my CX300's) the CX400 has the added bonus of an in-line volume slider which sits a couple of inches below the V-splitter for the individual right and left ear buds. When I read the product description on Amazon, I was intrigued by the promise of a cable winder. However the widget provided was not at all what I expected. It's a rectangular piece of soft, foamy rubber with two deep dimples at one end, set in series which hold the ear buds - and a notch at the other end that holds the wires taut. You then wrap the remainder of the wire around it. The idea is that the cable doesn't get tangled, and although it works surprisingly well, I find it too much of a hassle and end up winding the cord around my iPod instead.
Provided you have chosen your ear bud inserts wisely, you will be rewarded with a rich aural experience. The rubber seal blocks out a surprising amount of extraneous noise, which means your music (or spoken word) does not have to compete with outside sounds. The bass is deep and resonant, adding real depth to music and reproducing the booming SFX in shows like 24 and The Pacific quite realistically. The treble tones are pronounced without being shrill or tinny, but distinct enough not to be swallowed up by the bass. In short, these are excellent all round performers from a technical standpoint.
There are, however, one or two caveats. Firstly, blocking the ear canal means that sounds you do not normally hear - like swallowing, chewing, and even walking are greatly amplified and become noticeable with these earphones plugged in. Secondly, the cable itself will conduct noise as it rubs against clothing, which again, reproduced an audible rustling.
As such, these buds are patently unsuitable for sustained physical activity, not least because as they have a habit of slowly popping out if your ears get too sweaty. That said, I regularly use them during my daily commute to work, during which I spend at least forty minutes walking.
The rustling becomes less of an issue if you shorten the cable and make sure it doesn't swing back and forth (the adjustable cable clip which is provided makes a significant difference) and a slightly higher volume makes footfall much less audible. To be frank, just like any kind of background noise, your ears tend to tune them out as you get used to it.
One of the reasons I opted for these CX400's instead of the improved CX300 II was the in-line volume control. If you download MP3's from online sources and upload CD's to iTunes, you will know that the default volume settings of tracks can vary greatly (I find stuff from the Eighties is generally lower in volume). It can be irritating to pull out your iPod to adjust sound levels, so having a quickly accessible slider is a bonus.
However, whilst the idea of having it is welcome, it is let down somewhat in the execution. The slider is quite stiff, making it very difficult to adjust in small increments. When it does slide, it's too easy to push it to maximum volume. I have also noticed that there is little variance in volume from minimum to about 90% of the way up the slider, then all of a sudden, it gets quite loud. Given the size of the slider, this represents not much more than the thickness of a thumbnail.
I bought my pair from Amazon for £18 (its currently fluctuating around the £20 mark) and was astonished that the advertised RRP is £59.99. Although these earphones are very good replacements for standard white iPod headphones, they certainly do not justify the full asking price. The price paid represents much fairer value and I could only happily recommend them if you manage to get hold of them at under £20.
© Hishyeness 2010
Summary: Great replacement for standard iPod ear buds, but only for under £20.
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