It would seem that wireless headphones in the form factor of a neckband should gradually lose popularity and leave the stage, because the growth in popularity of True Wireless models has been traced for a long time – I screwed a pair of separate headphones into my ears and forward to the bright future of modern technologies. But, as it turned out, that was not the case. For no apparent reason, Sennheiser has delighted its fans with another novelty in the form of neckband headphones, presenting the public with the latest IE 80 S BT model.
To be honest, the first look at the new Sennheiser IE 80 S BT leaves no strong impression. There are no outwardly noticeable signs of an expensive product. A simple but generally pleasant design with no frills or a hint of pathos. For this reason, you should not expect that everyone passing by you will gaze at your ears with open envy, because in appearance there is nothing exceptional in the headphones. Well, we make a hasty conclusion that since there is nothing supernatural outwardly, then, most likely, the talents of the new product can hardly exceed expectations. Then we look at the cost of the new item and understand that something does not add up and, apparently, there is some catch. Mediocre headphones cannot have such an impressive cost, and, therefore, it must be justified by something. Since the external design and expensive materials cannot justify the cost, then the essence is in the technology and sound of the product. Anyway, let’s not look ahead and start in order.
Let’s go back to the neckband form factor. Why exactly he, because this form is no longer surprising, and most of the listeners, striving to keep up with the trends, are switching to completely wireless True Wireless models. Why take this seemingly incomprehensible step back? There are many similar questions that appear by themselves in thoughts, but it is worth thinking a little and it becomes clear that there are grounds for such a decision and they are very logical.
Firstly, “headband” headphones are convenient from the point of view of safety. You will not be able to lose one earbud, since both earbuds are connected and even when removed they hang around your neck. Of course, True Wireless supporters will argue that the application allows you to find where the earphone has rolled, but it is completely useless if you lose it in some unknown place at a great distance from your current location. Secondly, developers have additional room for creativity to create a more uncompromising sound, since the space inside the bezel allows you to place a little more circuit elements (including the use of higher quality components) compared to the microscopic size of the same place inside the True Wireless headphones. Thirdly, you can install a larger battery in the earbuds and thereby extend their battery life. Of course, these are all lyrics and guesses, but they have a place to be. As the matter is in reality, we will try to understand in this review.
How are Sennheiser IE 80 S BT packaged and made of ?
Sennheiser IE 80 S BT are packed in a rigid cardboard box. Given the very significant cost inside the mentioned box, you expect to find a rich set of all kinds of accessories, but in practice, the entire filling of the package consists of the headphones themselves, neatly laid out in a soft foam cradle, a very large case for carrying and storing the headphones, a scattering of nozzles for all possible sizes of the ear canal (like silicone and Comply ™ Memory Foam), charging cable and bass adjustment tool, which will be discussed later. What else do you need?
Sennheiser IE 80 S BT
The Sennheiser IE 80 S BT are the most pleasant and high-quality to the touch. The outer part of the thickened parts of the bezel is made of tough and durable plastic. All other parts of the bezel are soft and rubberized to the touch. The material resembles a cross between rubber and rubber, which makes the structure as flexible and easy to use as possible. If necessary, the bezel can be tied even in a knot and absolutely nothing will happen to it. The rim easily adapts to fit under any collar and on any neck. The body of the headphones themselves is made of durable plastic and does not shine with an exquisite design. The parotid brace, which is tucked behind the ear, feels like the same “rubberized” material as the flexible part of the rim.
Functionality and control of Sennheiser IE 80 S BT headphones
Sennheiser positions its new product as audiophile wireless headphones, and therefore the developers of the IE 80 S BT model preferred to “clean” it from all unnecessary and interfering with maximizing sound quality. In particular, here you will find neither touch controls, nor active noise cancellation, nor pause playback when you remove one of the headphones from your ear. The only thing left besides listening to music itself is the headset function with the ability to control phone calls and access the voice assistant of your smartphone. By the way, noise cancellation is still available (there are microphones with noise canceling function), but not to isolate the listener from the environment, but to protect your interlocutor during a telephone conversation from extraneous noise such as wind noise, etc.
All headphone control is concentrated on the left thickened part of the bezel, where 4 buttons, a multi-function LED indicator and a microphone are located in close proximity. A freestanding button is responsible for calling the voice assistant, and the other three buttons clustered nearby are responsible for everything else. In particular, the side keys regulate the volume, while the center button is multifunctional. Depending on the number of clicks, their duration and the moment when they are made, the headphones turn on and off, start pairing mode with a new device, answer and end a call, select the next or previous track, pause or resume playback.
Sennheiser IE 80 S BT
Convenience of control through the mentioned buttons is not felt immediately and requires habit. First, you need to learn the combinations of pressing the multifunctional button that are responsible for certain actions. Secondly, you have to perk up by touch to unmistakably find this button among the adjacent buttons that control the playback volume. When you hold the bezel in front of your eyes, it seems that there is nothing complicated here, but as soon as you put it around your neck, it becomes more difficult to find that cherished key by touch. Three adjacent buttons are felt as one relief array and it is not always possible to accurately determine before pressing where one button ends and the second begins, and then the third. Perhaps these are my personal difficulties, but if they have arisen for me, it is possible that someone else may encounter them. After some time of unsuccessful attempts to sharpen the feel of the borders of the buttons with the pads of my fingers, I realized that it is much more efficient and faster to do this with the tip of the nail. After this discovery, everything fell into place and the problem disappeared by itself.
As another unusual function from the point of view of implementation, it is possible to single out the regulation of low frequencies. Perhaps you will try to argue that the majority of Sennheiser wireless models have the ability to adjust the bass through the proprietary application and even agree with this, but there is one significant “but”. The fact is that the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT lows are regulated not only by software (via the application), but also mechanically by turning the knob on each of the headphones, made in the form of a feint with a slotted head.
Sennheiser IE 80 S BT
A few words about the technologies used in the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT
When describing a new product, Sennheiser tries not to focus too much on any technical tricks and special technologies used in the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT. Instead, the company refers interested individuals to the Sennheiser IE 80 S wired model, from which the wireless version of the headphones was created. Rubbing our hands, we go to the product page, where we were redirected, but even there there is no additional information in the set of used technical solutions and proprietary technologies. There is only repeated mention that the model refers to a more professional assortment than an amateur one, and, therefore, should provide a much more interesting and true sounding. However, what difference does it make what and how it is arranged inside, the main sound, we will judge the product by it.
In fact, the developers decided not to reinvent the wheel and simply replaced the detachable cable for the Sennheiser IE 80 S model with a wireless adapter in the form of a neckband, into which they inserted a tenacious battery, a high-quality (according to the company) digital-to-analog converter AKM and the ability to perceive and reproduce formats high resolution. The result is our today’s novelty Sennheiser IE 80 S BT. We repeat separately that the headphones themselves have not undergone any additional changes.
From all the information available on the company’s website, it was possible to extract that dynamic emitters with powerful neodymium magnets are used in the headphones. Supported Bluetooth version 5.0 and SBC, aptX®, aptX® LL, aptX® HD, AAC, LHDC codecs. A full charge cycle is 1.5 hours, after which the headphones can be listened to for up to 6 hours.
Sennheiser Smart Control App
Where without a proprietary application, it follows like a shadow all the new wireless headphones of the brand. As before, the application should not be expected to be extremely useful to the listener. The headphones do quite well without it. Unlike the previously tested models, where the application functionality was already not very wide, in the case of the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT it became even more modest.
From the useful in the application you can find the setting to automatically turn off the power of the headphones after a certain period of time in the absence of an input signal. You can also enable or disable the function of automatically receiving an incoming call. You can play with the equalizer to try and improve the sound. It is worth noting that the equalizer has become better, now it is a hard five-band. He no longer distorts the sound so much, but without his participation the headphones still sound much better. From the inconvenient, the ability to change the language of voice messages (about the charge level, etc.) has disappeared, you have to listen to one of the foreign languages to choose from. Perhaps this will be fixed in future updates, but at the moment the problem is relevant.
Is the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT comfortable fit ?
When it comes to in-ear headphones, the issue of convenience and comfort is especially acute for me personally. Not being a fan of screwing foreign objects into my ears, I cannot call myself a supporter of in-ear headphones. Most of the models personally give me discomfort when wearing, especially in the case when it is impossible to choose the appropriate small size attachments from those that come with a particular product. To my surprise, the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT was just right for my ears.
The Sennheiser IE 80 S BT fits perfectly in my ears the first time, and the comfortable eartips to fit my ear canal did not cause any discomfort. The small size of the headphone case is completely unnoticeable to the ear. No, I did not become a sudden fan of in-ear headphones, but I have to admit that the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT turned out to be one of the most convenient in-ear headphones that I was able to deal with.
Additional comfort of wearing is provided by the presence of a bracket tucked behind the auricle, and contributing to an additional more reliable attachment of the headphones in the ears. It is especially pleasant that the aforementioned bracket is not made of hard plastic, but of a soft flexible material, which feels like the same one that the flexible part of the neckband is made of. Soft, but at the same time retaining its shape, it always takes its place correctly behind the ear and does not give absolutely any unpleasant sensations. However, there is one significant exception to this rule, which concerns listeners who wear glasses. As a friend of mine who tried on a Sennheiser IE 80 S BT and then put on his glasses said, “everything is perfect until you put on the glasses”. It is understandable, because it is quite logical that the soft bracket and the glasses of the glasses are at the same time cramped in one place.
It took me 10 minutes to get used to the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT inserted into my ears, and after another 10-15 minutes I no longer felt the headphones at all.
How does the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT sound ?
To be honest, you always want to include something new and feel incredible surprise from the first notes, but this does not always work out. As for the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT, these headphones are no exception to the rule. The model does not open immediately and you can appreciate the earphones after a while. The first fleeting inclusion and quick listening to one track as an express test of the sound while standing at a store counter will most likely not bring the desired result. The sound of the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT does not rush into the ears and does not overwhelm the listener from the first notes, and this is a very good sign, indicating that the sound is balanced and there is no pronounced sound signature combining all the tracks with the same brush.
When you turn on the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT for the first time, delight does not come immediately, so I urge you not to rush to conclusions and drive the headphones along different tracks, styles and genres. The logical question, for what such money, will be in my thoughts for some time, but over time it will fade into the background, and then completely disappear. The developers decided to take a risk and not to stuff the listeners with artificial “colors and sweeteners”, allowing them to appreciate the pure and neutral sound.
Of course, from a commercial point of view, it would be more profitable to endow the headphones with something outstanding, for example, hypertrophied bloated bass, protruding mids or defiant highs so that, upon first acquaintance, the sound seemed much more full and expressive, which would inevitably increase spontaneous purchases. At the risk of scaring away an unintelligible listener, Sennheiser relied on sophisticated music lovers who, nevertheless, would like to get rid of the wires.
Supporters of sweeping and powerful bass will shrug their shoulders and step aside. Sennheiser IE 80 S BT do not try to impress the listener with the lower register, or rather, its redundancy. The lower classes are worthy, correct, melodic, there are just so many of them, so much is necessary, but nothing more. It is worth noting that there is a low frequency regulator on the headphone cases, but long-term experiments have shown that even when turned to maximum values, it does not contribute to the dominance of the lower register. The bass becomes a little more, but this change is not all-encompassing, the tonal balance changes only partially, significant changes are noticeable only on some tracks.
It was interesting to note that the bass is always different. Somewhere it is a little echoing, somewhere on the contrary it is accurate and a little dry, it happens that in its sound you can notice the presence of softness and warmth. All this can be traced on different tracks and speaks of Sennheiser IE 80 S BT’s attempts to present itself to the listener as an accurate and neutral instrument for listening to quality recordings. Separately, I would like to focus on the reproduction of drums, which sound very relaxed, voluminous and juicy, sometimes it even seems that instead of small earplugs, full-size full-size headphones are worn. The big bass kick is worked out very well.
Despite the fact that the specifications of the model indicate a very wide frequency range towards high frequencies, at times it seemed that they were a little lacking. The tops sound a little smoothed and softened, there is a pleasant velvety in them. Nevertheless, sometimes I wanted to feel a little coolness and a little more detail in them. One way or another, the soft, smoothed highs play into the hands of a more solid vocal reproduction, since some of their softness inevitably affects the mid-range.
Sennheiser IE 80 S BT perform well with volume. If a volumetric scene is present in the recording, then the headphones will try to reproduce it as accurately as possible, but at the same time, flat recordings remain the same flat. While doing a good job of reproducing classics, the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT still do not seek to separate instruments, preferring to convey the melody as a single canvas without the ability to analyze the sound of individual instruments of large orchestras. At this point, I would like to return to the positioning of headphones as professional, and partially refute this statement. There is no pedantry, increased detail and coolness in the sound, therefore, on the contrary, they are more likely, on the contrary, more inclined to music mania than to audiophilia with all the characteristics inherent in this term.
Continuing to listen to Sennheiser IE 80 S BT for several days in a row, you catch yourself thinking that the sound is devoid of aggression even where it may well be acceptable. They seem to be trying to sound a little more “analog” without harshness and synthetic simulated expressiveness. This has the best effect on the reproduction of vocals, rock, both classical and heavy, jazz and all kinds of instrumental music – in general, in my personal opinion, the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT have no expressed genre preferences.
I hate to overstate the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT, but we have to admit that this is one of the most comfortable in-ear headphones in terms of in-ear fit. Being quite neutral performers, the Sennheiser IE 80 S BT still have their own slightly noticeable sound features in the form of smoothed highs, softened mids and a little less detail than you might expect from professional (according to the manufacturer) headphones. The model showed itself from a very good side, but in order to give it such a high assessment, you have to be patient and feel the sound on different music tracks.