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In my hands is a small audiophile exclusive. These are the new IE 900 headphones from the legendary German company Sennheiser . The model took the place of the flagship in the line of wired in-channel monitors of the brand, large-scale sales are planned closer to autumn, but one copy came to me for the test right now. Let’s take a close look at it. The premium segment of the IEM is both my love and my specialty, so I begin this review with genuine interest.
Sennheiser is undoubtedly one of the most renowned audio equipment manufacturers on the market, and is well known in audiophile circles, audio professionals and the general public. The company has vast experience, a long history and a close-knit horde of fans. Many models of headphones from Zenhov become hits for decades, and the brand is especially serious about creating its flagships. It’s time to find out how benchmark the IE 900 really is.
Before us is a small cardboard box with the headphone image, designed in the Sennheiser corporate style. Another sturdier cover is waiting under the top cover, and only then can the main part of the box be pulled out by the ribbon.
The set of accessories for the flagship IE 900 is quite generous: three interchangeable cables, which I will talk about later, a case with a snake, 3 pairs of silicone tips, 3 pairs of foams, clothespin, cleaning tool and microfiber polishing cloth. The stock ear pads, as expected, did not impress me, I recommend that you definitely try third-party options.
But the case is very convenient and compact, it will fit perfectly for transportation. By the way, it has a metal plate with a unique serial number for each pair, as well as an indication that the model is “Made in Germany”. Here it is, an important advantage of the Sennheiser IE 900 – it is handmade, the headphones are assembled in Germany at the main production plant of the brand, each copy goes through many stages of testing, and the emitters are individually selected for it. A dream come true for those who despise Chi-Fi.
Personally, I do not belong to this category of audiophiles, but I am always unambiguously pleased with such a serious approach of developers to issues of quality and durability. Still, the owner gets a real premium for his money.
The cases of the model are very small and light, they weigh only 4 g. Well, there is only one speaker inside, the creators could afford it. However, the headphones are made of solid anodized aluminum, processed by the method of precision milling, they do not look cheap at all. The beautiful silvery surface of the shells has a neat relief; the company emblems are on the faceplates. The shape of the cases is recognizable from other representatives of the line. The sound guides are, perhaps, too short, but the nozzles on them are held absolutely securely thanks to the protrusions. In general, the design is discreet, but it seemed to me rather pleasant to me, I do not like deliberate showiness in expensive equipment.
But the wearing comfort here is really excellent and ultimate. When I put on the headphones, they just melted in my ears, dissolved there, seemed completely weightless. This is what I call anatomical fit. For long listening sessions, for stage work, for walks, for meditation, for sleep, this is an extremely tempting option. Unless the sound insulation due to the short sound guides turned out to be not ideal, even with the most successful third-party nozzles, I would call it average, but this was only in my case, this is a very individual question.
About complete wires
We have three para-aramid-reinforced cables made of oxygen-free OFC copper. One of them is standard, with a 3.5 plug, the other two are balanced, for 2.5 and 4.4 connectors. Why hasn’t the company adopted the interchangeable plug system, which has long been present in many hi-fi headphone manufacturers?and not only the top ones, I don’t know. In my opinion, this is strange. Well, the presence of this snake ball at least allows you to use a balanced connection out of the box, if you have the appropriate source.
The wires themselves are obedient, in soft rubber insulation, reinforced with para-aramid gives an additional guarantee of strength. In terms of acoustic transparency, they are, of course, a compromise, but the need to upgrade the cable is already obvious for most models from the top segment, the owner will not hurt to think about it. I will not even criticize the memory-effect behind-the-ear, this is also a controversial decision, I would prefer not to have them, although they are small and, in practice, more or less convenient. Fidelity + MMCX connectors are universal and of high quality, that’s great.
Features and compatibility
• Frequency range: from 5 Hz to 48 kHz;
• Sensitivity: 123 dB;
• Resistance: 16 ohms.
In terms of frequency, we have classic Hi-Res, even with a margin. There is no background noise at all, despite the high sensitivity. The model is also not picky about amplification for buildup, although the device should still have a certain power potential.
The Sennheiser IE 900 features XWB’s proprietary 7mm diaphragm small full-range speakers, which have been refined specifically for this model. Yes, exactly, we pay 1300 euros for 7 mm, I, as always, remind you that the point is not in the number of drivers, but in the ability to make an adult sound. In the next section, we will just evaluate the result. Also, the X3R three-chamber damping system is used here, as well as a special sound guide design, which has received the poetic name “acoustic vortex”. All technologies, of course, are aimed at reducing resonances and distortion.
The Sennheiser IE 900’s musical signature is soft, bouncy and engaging, yet calm and intelligent. It has small accents that add melody and drive to the picture, but I would not call it frankly tasteful when compared with other competitors. Comfort occupies one of the key positions here. This is something I expected from a conservative brand – a flagship with a pleasant, versatile sound that will appeal to most of the audience. These headphones did not become a revelation for me, like the same HD 800 at one time, but were much more interesting for long listening than other internal channels of the company.
I note that the sound of the new IE 900 turned out to be very transparent, with high readability, excellent control is also present, there is neither thick viscosity nor extended overhangs. With a fairly medium detail, the separation of instruments is literally exemplary, so the model is also suitable for monitoring, when it is important for you to listen to some quiet part in the very depths of the stage. Another feature is the large-scale, holographic panorama and clarity, combined with a perfect fit and no background noise, makes you feel like you’re not wearing headphones at all. The sound picture is built competently both in terms of the volume of space and in terms of positioning accuracy, the melodic pattern freely and clearly stands out against a dark background.
The genre model is omnivorous, surprisingly, it is absolutely not picky about the quality of the recording, but the level of the source will play a role here.
The bass is tight, punchy, deep and contoured. The only complaint about them is the lack of a variety of textures. Otherwise, everything is fine – the power of the blow, the recoil of the sub, the delicious velvety and fullness of the mid, the three-dimensionality and solidity of the low-frequency layers. The control allows the bass, despite the accent, not to creep into the middle, even on congested tracks. The range will be especially appreciated by lovers of the correct growling bass.
Mid frequencies weighty, harmonious, they, as already mentioned, have good transparency and excellent division of parties. Much attention is paid to macrodynamics, and the presentation feels smooth and fun. The speed is excellent, the timbre is neutral, slightly muffled, not too bright. Female vocals sound natural and juicy, male vocals are slightly harsh, but they are also expressive and elaborate. On the downside, I expected more resolution and detail. Well, lovers of enhanced brilliance, daring emotionality, various audiophile showiness or, conversely, radical crystal analyticity may not be enough, the handwriting of the model is distinguished by soft, comfortable restraint.
Treble clear and slightly accentuated, but not overly voiced. They are rather dry, here I would also prefer more resolution, naturalness and length, to which I managed to get used to with different combinations of fittings and electrets. But with live compositions, the headphones cope adequately. At the same time, HF-phobes may not be afraid for their nervous system, the model turned out to be not aggressive.
It’s time to talk about your competitors. A battle of top-end headphones with dynamic drivers awaits you, and at the end there is another bonus.
Obviously, the previous flagship Sennheiser IE 800 S is leaving the race, because it belongs to a lower price class, it has its own, completely different rivals there.
The Beyerdynamic Xelento remote headphones , in principle, are also inferior in level to our hero, but the significant difference in the presentation of these two models still deserves attention. Xelento have a characteristic honey, warm, melodious handwriting, they are more V-shaped and energetic, with a pronounced emotionality and richness. Compared to them, the IE 900 is stricter, cooler and more restrained, presenting a completely different brand color. So this would be a purely gustatory choice.
The sound of the famous DITA Dream XLS, on the contrary, is even, analytical, extremely honest. Their timbres are natural, slightly lightened, but juicy. The bass is relief and dense, the middle is natural, detailed and clean, the treble has excellent plasticity and separation. However, in terms of resolution, this model is already much more top-end, as well as in terms of cost, and it is also extremely critical to the quality of the recording and to the source.
Other audiophile flagship dynamos are the Dunu Luna. High-speed, timbre bright, dryish, very detailed, but lively, driving headphones with a whipping neutral mids, punchy bass and extended high frequencies. Definitely, this is not an option for HF-phobes, the model is not as comfortable as the IE 900, sometimes it almost lacks the weight and scale of the scene, and you will have to tinker with the landing first, but I think these in-channels are really interesting. If you value transparency and control but want more brightness, you might like them.
Well, moving away from the topic of dynamic headphones, as a bonus I will mention the extremely popular Campfire Audio Solaris hybrids , where without them. In my opinion, the Solars will suit the fastidious and sophisticated audiophiles. The sound of this model has already become a legend – a colorful, rich timbre palette, drums, sweeping and massive basses, reinforcing mid frequencies with accentuation of micronoints, beautiful iridescent highs, a holographic stage. But their temper is not close to everyone, many people would rather give preference to a less violent flurry of emotions, for some there is also too much high frequency here.
With its new flagship IE 900, Sennheiser has brought together the core ideas that form the basis of its long experience. The price tag here, of course, is serious, it could be lower, but in the case of a top from a German brand, this is natural, you know. My expectations from these headphones were largely confirmed, fans of the brand will receive a device of exactly the breed that they love. But you should definitely listen to the headphones live and determine how close its sound is to you.