I had never heard of this brand before I was given them as a birthday gift. I had been needing some replacement ones for a while and was very excited to use these. I had originally asked for another brand, but was told by the person who gave me them that they were a better quality and lasted longer. Well, they were wrong.
The noise cancellation was shocking! Whilst sat in a car with my family on a long drive I was listening to some music to relax, but could still hear 80% of their conversations going on around me! The sound quality was very good though, with great bass and very clear sound. Although I must admit, my less than £10 skull candy headphones which I more recently bought were just as good for the sound.
The best thing about these headphones is their range of cushion pieces, so that you can use one of three different sizes, and have them sit actually inside of your ear, or just outside, whichever you find comfiest!
Besides this though, I didn't really think that they were anywhere near worth the price, particularly as I already stated, that skullcandy headphones are just as good for sound quality AND the cushion pieces, and their noise cancellation is much better!
A few months ago I replaced my on-ear headphones with the in-ear CX6 from Sennheiser, believing them to be an upgrade to my old Sennheiser PX200's. Whilst they are undoubtedly top quality, unfortunately they have a couple of significant problems...
Price and availability
The CX6 Travel retail for £100, and can be found online at Play and Amazon amongst others. If you wish to try them before you buy (which I would highly recommend) then they are also available from PC World and Curry's. I purchased mine from Play.com and got them for £50. This was a few months ago and I have now seen they are back up to £80, so it appears I got a bargain. They come with an array of accessories (which I'll discuss later) and are packaged really nicely with an easy to read user manual (in about 20 different languages!).
Sennheiser have a great reputation for providing top quality, yet affordable, headphones. I had a really good peruse of their website before choosing the CX6 and came away convinced I had made the right choice for uncompromised sound in my price range. I don't think I was wrong.
I'm not hugely technically minded so a lot of the specifications go over my head. But for those of you who understand these things, Sennheiser state 'Dynamic drivers with powerful neodymium magnets ensure clear and detailed audio reproduction'. Eek is this another language to anyone else?! For all the other techy details see:
What I can tell you is that they sound fantastic to me. When I first tried them out I was astounded by how great my music suddenly sounded. There is plenty of bass, which apparently can be lacking in ear-canal headphones. The detail of all the individual sounds is also completely clear. Both music and spoken word sound brilliant through the CX6. I can certainly hear the difference now between listening to audio on my quality DVD's and not-so-quality TV downloads. Overall these earphones get top marks on sound quality from me.
The Sennheiser website has a nifty feature which allows you to 'test' the earphones in different ambient noise situations. I'm dubious as to how realistic this is but it's fun to try! They promise 'up to' (- got to love such sweeping statements!) 90% ambient noise attenuation in travel situations such as trains and planes. I've tested these headphones out in most travel situations, although have yet to try them out on an airplane. In a train they sufficiently block out the noise of the train moving as well as nattering passengers and that person next to me who always has their music loudly blasting out of their headphones. As a passenger in a coach or car they also block out enough of the ambient noises to allow me to enjoy my music. I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying they block out 90% of ambient noise - but certainly a good 70% in my experience.
A strange and rather unwanted effect of this sealed in aspect of the earphones, is that sounds coming from within the body - such as swallowing, breathing and coughing sounding much louder than they do normally. Apparently this phenomenon is called the 'occlusion effect'. It's really odd and I often find myself taking out these headphones thinking there is someone clattering around in the house, when in fact it is just me breathing! Another aspect of this sees noises being transferred directly up the cable into your ears. So that slight rustling of the wire can actually sound like a small building site has appeared outside the house. Odd and rather disconcerting, but you do get used to it. I reckon this would make exercising whist wearing these a bit traumatic. But then I wouldn't know because these earphones don't stay in my ear if I'm doing anything vaguely active...
Comfort and fit
Both of the above points are extremely important with in-ear headphones. Unfortunately I've been really disappointed with these aspects in the CX6. I found the earphones uncomfortable to wear initially, although this has improved over time. The fit has always been completely unsuitable for me however, with the earphones constantly falling out of my ears.
The CX6 come with six different silicone tips, to ensure optimum fit in the ear according to Sennheiser. You can choose from either small, medium or large in either lamellar fit (double silicone skirts to fit within the ear canal) or standard fit (single silicone skirt to sit at the opening to the ear canal). The tips stretch over the plastic speaker and I've found them to stay in place until I choose to take them off. Getting them off is really fiddly, however. The silicone is fairly thin and so I worry they will break if I apply too much force or stretching. As a result it took me several minutes just to remove one, and when there are six options to try on each ear this can be too time consuming for someone with limited patience, such as myself!
The CX6 are designed to be worn with the cable running over the top of the ear. They come with 2 bendy, plastic cable runners. These are meant to fit onto the upper cable and be bent into place around your ear so they secure in place. They are very easy to fit on the cable and alter their position. However I gave up on these after a couple of days as they just didn't fit around my ear properly and made the earpieces even more prone to falling out. I now simply wrap the wire around my ear, although I do worry this may cause the cable to weaken over time.
After much trial and error I have found the standard tips in a small size to be the best fit for my ears. Having said that they really are only the best choice of a bad bunch. I was hoping that with 6 options, I'd have no problem finding one that fits well. I'm sure this is the case with many users, and no doubt Sennheiser tested these out in a variety of ears before deciding on these. But for me they just don't stay put in my ear. I've experimented with wedging them in firmly (not very comfortable) and sitting them just at the entrance to the ear (comfortable until they drop out) and neither seem satisfactory. The slightest movement results in these earphones just falling out of my ear. To say it's frustrating is an understatement. Right now I am wearing these at my computer, and every few minutes I have to poke them back in place. No I'm not dancing around; I'm simply sipping a cup of tea. Chewing, drinking or any movement of the jaw dislodges these from my ears. I can only imagine how annoying this would be in the airplane situation which these are ultimately designed for. If you're anything like me then a good portion of any flight is spent munching and sipping on the constant flow of food and drink served, interspersed with a good deal of fidgeting.
This brings me onto the second negative point to consider. If I wear these whilst resting my head against a pillow for a snooze (something I spend inordinate amounts of time doing on any flight, especially after all that feasting and fidgeting!) then the sound disappears completely in that ear. The silicone ear tip must cover the speaker when pressure is applied to it, blocking out the noise. This has the benefit of blocking out surrounding noise, but it's not really ideal now is it? - foam earplugs do this for a fraction of the price! One of the main reasons I purchased these was because my on-ear headphones get really uncomfortable when I'm resting that side of my head against anything. I like to listen to relaxing music as I attempt to doze off and so I hoped these would enable me to do that without getting a sore ear. Whilst they are perfectly comfortable to wear in that situation, they are a little useless when the speaker ceases to function.
Something worth noting is that I find that the proximity of the speaker to my left eardrum (which was damaged through diving some time ago, and has now healed), causes discomfort over prolonged periods, even at low volume. I would recommend anyone with a history of barotrauma or certainly a perforated eardrum, tests in ear headphones before buying as they may experience too much discomfort.
Suitability for travel
A really nice addition to the accessories you get when purchasing the CX6 is the mono jack adaptor. A small two pin plug which attaches to the socket in the armrest of an airplane. Personally I can't stand using the headphones you get given on flights and so this adaptor is a welcome addition.
Upon removing the silicone earbuds you'll find a small ridge running down the side of the plastic. Sennheiser do not explain the significance of this, however a suggestion from someone else had to do with equalisation. Basically the ridge allows for air to enter the ear canal, rather than sealing it off completely. This sounds like a very plausible explanation for the ridges, and would indeed allow for equalisation of the ears during flight. In my experience, Sennheiser think of everything when designing their products and so I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case. However, if anyone reading this has another explanation I'd love to know, as it is a bit of a mystery!
Until these earphones fall out, they fit snugly in my ear with a good seal. This means I can have the volume much lower on my Ipod than I would with my previous on-ear headphones. About half the volume in fact. This is fantastic for travelling as it means I only need to charge my Ipod half as often as normal.
The CX6 come with a really top quality, soft case. It's square, zipped, plush lined and has a plastic inner winder for the wire. If I were being really picky I would say the case could do with being a bit smaller. The actual case is 3 inches by 3 inches square and 1 inch deep. Really all I need to carry around are the headphones, mono-jack, cable clip and cleaning pick. Although there is ample room for the six silicone earbuds, I can't imagine anyone needing to carry around these once they have found the one suitable size. For a headphone designed for travel I'd prefer a more compact case, but I'm getting really fussy now.
The CX6 look and feel expensive and well made. The brushed aluminium on the outside is a really nice touch and adds a top quality finish. Each of the silicone tips is perfectly formed, and although thin, they have not torn with all the tugging around I've inflicted on them. The cable seems secure in all its fittings and there has been no fraying over the time I have owned these. The accessories are all top notch, and Sennheiser recommend using the cleaning pick on the speakers frequently to prevent build up of dust and dirt. In my experience, Sennheiser build their products to last a long time - and the CX6 are no exception. I was pleased to find that they come with a 2 year warranty, just in case.
Whilst these headphones are undoubtedly top quality, I would not pay any more than £50 for them. I've been quite disappointed to find so may issues with these, when they are meant to be top of the range. The fit is not suitable for everyone, myself included, and the hassle that entails from persevering with different tips is really off putting. You can purchase online custom made silicone ear tips for these (at around £100!) or simple foam tips (for around £5) which expand in the ear canal for a better fit. I've decided to try the latter option as these earphones are too expensive not to use just because they don't fit. Ultimately, I wish there had been some detailed reviews available on the CX6 when I purchased them, as I may have chosen something different. Three stars from me.
Thank you for reading and I hope this review was of use to you.
This review appears on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my username sbeach000.