Just before the New Year came into session, my beloved Sennheiser MX660 earphones decided to snap off from one of the ear cups. I guess this seems to be a common fault when most ear phone owners ignore the kind advice not to wrap their headphones or earphones around their favourite audio player. The handy rubber pouch that came with my MX660's has already got lost over time, which would have made excellent hindsight if the pouch had continually been used to store the earphones when not in use. But then again, who really does that? Having to continually wrap headphones around a band and stored in a bag isn't my idea of storage when my iPod is used continuously. I badly needed replacement earphones and with the fact that the MX660 series were so good the first time, it was no surprise to find that they are no longer on sale. With that in mind, I knew I wanted Sennheiser again; the sound quality, clarity and simple design made the brand worth looking out for again - oddly something I find Sony can't excel at, with all three requirements equally considered. At John Lewis there were at least six different types of Sennheiser earphones on sale, making my decision harder but also knowing quite a few have been reviewed, here on Dooyoo. I plucked for the nearest packet promising "deep bass," and came home with the MX 371 series, not knowing that these are marketed online "for women with small ear canals," which I deeply resent - there is no wording like that to suggest on the small rectangular blister pack - and why Sennheiser can't just put that it is fit for smaller ear canals - would have been better here. Frankly I don't care if these are fit for hamster's ears, let alone ladies - but as such, it doesn't bode well when further researching these earphones when it comes to first use.
Luckily, an air of good familiarity is already established with the newer MX 371 earphones from Sennheiser, and in many ways mirrors my older MX660 ones from the design point of view and pricing. These earphones feel well made, from the longish 1.2 metre rubberized cord to the design points of the sweeping silver "tear drop" design of the backing cups and black contrasts - whilst the blister pack is just the same, easy to pull out and get at the headphones without fighting. On closer examination however, the quality starts to drop when the silver tear drop has obvious sealing edges that don't fit correctly but from a distance, you'd never notice it and doesn't impede general use. Like my older ones, the new MX371 earphones retain black brand lettering on each cup and with a handy node located on the top left hand earphone (handy to know you're putting the right earphone into the correct ear in darkened areas). Although this time, the single node is located on the inner part of the earphone where the cord sprouts out, and can be difficult to find. Granted my MX660's were reduced by £2 from £14-75 to £12-75 -but the MX 371's cost £16-95 which is quite hefty for a pair of in-ear ear phones and quality should be better. Usually priced between £15 and £20, the MX 371 could well be the replacement model for the older MX660 series, and as such I couldn't wait to try them.
Comfort and fit are surprisingly disappointing however. For in-ear phones, which have been supposedly designed to fit for "smaller ears," I find the MX371 earphones just sit in my ear canal rather than fit properly unless the only one pair of optional thin felt pads you get, are additionally fitted. When fitted, the ear phones feel far more comfortable and lend a grippy texture, but like my old gas permeable contact lenses, handling the pads have to be done gently, otherwise they'll tear apart too quickly and become useless to use. There's only one set in the pack, so if you break one ear pad, you're sunk!
The strange realization is however, the actual cup design has a strange reverse speaker on the part that goes into the ear canal and is actually the same size as my previous Sennheiser phones. So much for being designed "to be smaller." The earphone cups sit inside the canal as a tight fit with the pads fitted but the slightest pull on the cord brings the earphones out too quickly, as well as one or two of the pads coming off at the same time. Unlike my older MX 660's the MX371 lacks an in-line volume control too, so it isn't the best price here for 'top of the line' expected features like the older set. At least there's a cord slider that gives you some control on the amount of cord that sprouts between my desired audio equipment and the amount of "free cord" between my ears, even though it's just a small rubber band that has been put on. The MX 371 ear phones also has a right angled jack making it suitable for use with iPod or Mp3 players that allow for slightly more freedom, particularly if like me, you use your iPod and store it in a shirt pocket rather than trousers.
Likewise the sound quality, which is supposed to have a "smooth bass." Well, on non-bass settings on either HIFI, or iPod, the sound quality wasn't what I was expecting at all. A loudness reminding me of a mono radio came across here, almost as if Sennheiser have tried to decrease available tone and amp up bass with a lack of warmth. Not much in the way of warmth is expressed even though stereo imaging is displayed where songs are applicable. Then I tried to change the sound settings on my audio equipment to bass boost with the MX371 just failing miserably. Lots of bass yet still too bright at odd parts in pop or rock songs (almost as if Dolby noise cancelling is being used) whilst leaking sound outwards when audio equipment has been used with other earphone types that don't leak sound at the same level. Don't be taken in by the fact that the MX371 earphones have an increased limit of 118 decibels compared to the older ones. It doesn't mean better sound quality in this respect but rather, the tendency to ring out drum parts in songs you'd probably rather wish the public couldn't hear. For an earphone set that is supposed to be for iPod, mp3 players and telephones, I find this product to be below par and would probably set them aside with Apple's own awful default earphones you get free with many a different iPod.
There are other downsides too. Those tear drop earphone cups may well look good but they're too slippery to grab onto, especially when trying to store away. There are no additional adaptors either, such as 3.2mm sizing (which would have been so handy for my many electric home keyboards or drum machine), so you're stuck with the smaller 3.5mm and nothing else. For the price of nearly £17 Sennheiser are having a joke here! The storer pouch is quite large for a reason (measures 12cm by 7cm), has a lovely PVC leatherette quality to it (you decide whether its tacky or nice, I don't mind!) and an embossed signage of the name in the centre complete with a handy pull cord to seal the top up, but as there is no winder with the cord, you'll end up tangling the cord regardless, when trying to cram all of the cable and earphones into the pouch. This may however be alleviated if you have an iPod Nano, of which this pouch has been designed for and it also fits the iPod Classic but you'll need to remove any slim fit hard cases, as it is a tight fit with the Classic model. The MX660's came with a handy plastic slider and two cup holders to fit the whole product in with little tangling, not to mention a likewise half sized pouch and a handy snap shut top. It is a pity that Sennheiser didn't go to the bother of designing the pouch with clear acrylic to get access to the iPod, when in use because the iPod or mp3 player will continually have to be taken out in order to get to the controls - unless you have one where the buttons are on top near the headphone jack.
Sennheiser have been rather unwise to make great claims about the MX 371 in-ear ear phones, despite the soft pouch acting as a versatile freebie, the sound quality isn't great despite the promise of a smooth bass line. Vibrating on high, leaking sound externally and not much clarity with little richness, I was certainly pulled in by the brand name alone on this occasion. If these in ear ear phones are worth anything, they'll act as the ones I use for my Nintendo DS. Thanks to a recent search online however, I may still be able to get another set of cherished MX660 ear phones: now that is music to my ears! Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2011