Sennheiser is an empire. With over 70 years of innovation under their belt, they’ve earned a reputation as a company one can trust, and one with outstanding products. Well this week, I got a chance to try their newest release, the Sennheiser IE 80S BT. What’s so special about this little earphone, and does it keep in line with Sennheiser’s legacy of innovation? Let’s take a closer look with this Sennheiser IE 80S BT Review Review
Warm and Spacious – Sennheiser IE 80S BT Review
In the Box
-Sennheiser IE 80S BT earphones
-Proprietary detachable Bluetooth cable
-Eartips (silicone, two flange, and foam tips)
-Cleaning tool / bass adjustment tool
-USB C charging cable
-Semi-hard protective carrying case
Look and Feel
The Sennheiser IE 80S BT has a compact driver housing design, which gives it a sleek, modern look. Additionally, its dark grey matte finish, combined with its aluminum Sennheiser plate gives it a sense of maturity.
Comfort and Fit
Because of its ergonomic design, the Sennheiser IE 80S BT fits easily and comfortably in the ear. Its housings are small and lightweight, weighing about 30 g. As a result, when I fit them in the ear canal, they sit securely, and work nicely with gravity to stay in the ear. Additionally, built into the cable is a silicone ear hook. This earhook was just a little bit big for my relatively small ears, yet it still helped the earphones stay in my ears, and felt comfortable on my skin. Lastly, the cables hang down from the bottom of the earphones and attach to a silicone neck band. Usually, I don’t like neck band designs, but this one is lightweight and comfortable and let me forget it was there.
The Sennheiser IE 80S BT utilize dynamic drivers which use neodymium magnets. And, like the original IE 80S, these earphones have a bass adjustment pot. However, one special characteristic which sets these apart from their predecessors, is that a 5-band EQ is accessible via the Sennheiser Smart Control App. As a result, its sound is even more customizable for those with changing sound signature tastes.
The cable of the Sennheiser IE 80S BT connects to the driver housings via a proprietary two-pin connector. I was disappointed it wasn’t a standard connector type, which would have been nice for all of us nerds who are into variable cable designs, or even just in case it breaks over time. However, the cable was lightweight and super easy to manage. With short wires connecting to the neckband, the cable is able to stay out of the way. Additionally, the neckband has a built-in mic and remote for talking on the phone and controlling playback, including a button dedicated to voice commands via Siri and/or Google Assistant.
The Sennheiser IE 80S BT can connect wirelessly via Bluetooth 5 (AAC or SBC), aptX, aptX Low Latency, or LHDC. This commitment to supporting high-res wireless codecs means this is going to be a great option for the audiophiles out there who are interested in the best sounding wireless possibilities. However, the thing that is more impressive about it is that it converts via a dedicated AKM DAC. And while Sennheiser didn’t specify which DAC it actually uses, the fact that it has one dedicated to great sound gives me hope! Lastly, the earphones have a battery life of about 6 hours (a bit low in the world of wireless technology for 2019, but on-par with the rest of Sennheiser’s wireless lineup).
As I previously mentioned, the Sennheiser IE 80S BT has an adjustable bass frequency pot, which seems to boost the bass in the upper part of the bass. As a result, increasing its level increases thickness, but can also come across as a bit cloudy. For the sake of this review, I’ve put the bass pot to its lowest setting to try to give a more balanced image of what it sounds like.
The low frequencies of the Sennheiser IE 80S BT have a feeling of fullness and warmth. Additionally, it has a subtle sense of extension, however this extension has a little bit of vagueness overall, as opposed to tightness. A boost at 60 Hz provides energy and punch to kick drums, bass guitars, and low synths. I was quite impressed by the dynamic expression of the low end because it seemed to have significant groove compared to most wireless earphones. It definitely did a good job of mimicking the type of expression a wired set of earphones provides.
For example, when I was listening to the song I’m Callin’ by Tennis, the kick drum and bass guitar had an aesthetically pleasing sense of warmth and fullness. However, both also maintained punchiness which, combined with their dynamic response, provided groove. The kick had a subtle sense of extension, but its sustain felt a little bit vague.
The middle frequencies of the Sennheiser IE 80S BT have a sense of smoothness and tonal warmth. However, they also provide smack and clear energy to transient instruments like drums, horn stabs, and piano hammers. A boost around 200 Hz provides thickness to bass guitars, electric and acoustic guitars, synths, pianos, and strings. A cut at the base of the high-mids around what sounded like 2 kHz provided subtle separation between instruments with purely middle midrange information and those with more high-mid information. Additionally, a boost around 4-5 kHz provided much needed articulation, which helps emphasize the mouth and consonants of vocals. However, because of the middle midrange fullness, vocals also have emphasis in the chest.
For example, when I was listening to the song Thrash Unreal by Against Me, the bass guitar had a sense of heaviness which merged with the heaviness of the electric guitars. However, the texture of distortion in the electric guitars stepped forward a bit in the mix, providing note clarity. Additionally, the snare and toms had a solid feeling of attack with a good feeling of space around them. Lastly, the vocals, which had an emphasis on both the chest and the mouth, had a good sense of articulation and word clarity.
The high frequencies of the Sennheiser IE 80S BT have a great sense of texture and subtle lift. A boost in the upper treble around what sounded like 8 kHz provided a good sense of textural emphasis to percussion, cymbals, and strings. Additionally, a boost in the upper octave around what sounded like 12 kHz provided a feeling inaudible air, a subtle lift over mixes as a whole. However, with a cut in the lower treble between 6-7 kHz makes the high frequencies lean upward and away from the midrange, which gives them a quieter feel in the mix overall, and relaxed thickness.
For example, when I was listening to the song Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, the cymbals and horns have a good sense of texture and harmonic complexity in their sustains, but have a bit less thickness than usual. However, the trumpet has forwardness, which sometimes feels a bit sibilant. Additionally, the mix as a whole had a bit of a sense of lift, which gave it directionality and expressiveness.
The soundstage of the Sennheiser IE 80S BT was quite impressive, especially for a wireless earphone! The subtle high frequency and low frequency extension help to create a nice sense of tallness in the vertical domain. Additionally, because of the cleanliness of the AKM DAC, the left-to-right presentation feels active and exciting. Lastly, the sense of depth takes on the shape of the frequency response, providing contrast to intimate high-mid rich instruments and far off middle midrange information.
For example, when I was listening to the song Fever by Ray Charles featuring Natalie Cole, the lift of the cymbals, percussion, and vocals contrasted dramatically in height from the lowness of the upright bass. Additionally, the hand drum, which seems to be recorded in stereo was able to dance from right to left in a spacious and active way. Lastly, the intimacy of the vocals contrasted well from the far-off rhodes, strings, and electric guitars. Each instrument seemed to have its own sense of space, which really helped provide that feeling of three dimensionality in a way you don’t usually hear with wireless earphones.
The Sennheiser IE 80S BT has a warm and thick sound with a comfortable fit. Its dedicated wireless DAC provides spaciousness and activity, making it one of the best sounding audiophile Bluetooth earphones out there.
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