Price (RRP): $799.95
Whoah! The first surprise when I unpacked the Sennheiser IE 80S BT wireless earphones was: is that a real, near-headphone-sized carry case in there with them? For a set of wireless earphones? Indeed, it was. The second surprise? I searched through my email for the relevant press release and found that Sennheiser launched them at the Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show in August. Why “High End”? Because these are genuine audiophile in-ear earphones: they’re a Bluetooth version of Sennheiser’s wired IE 80S “ear-canal headphones”.
Sennheiser IE 80S BT Features
But … Audiophile? Bluetooth? Same sentence?
Well, there is yet to be a perfect Bluetooth audio codec, but the Sennheiser IE 80S BT earphones do the next best thing: they support Qualcomm aptX HD codec, plus aptX Low Latency, plus AAC. That last provides better quality with iPhones.
As we’ll see, I never actually experienced aptX HD with these earphones, but something so unexpected, I had to look it up.
The Sennheiser IE 80S BT earphones are wired together through a curved, flexible neck band. The buds are attached to ear loops. I guess it’s a small point, but I love it: a red collar near one earbud makes identifying the right and left sides instantaneous, instead of having to peer closely for “L” and “R” markings.
The whole thing, neckband, buds and ear loops, weighs 31.5 grams. On each end of the neck collar are pods, into which the batteries are packed. The control buttons and microphones for hands-free use are on the left-hand pod. That’s also where the USB Type-C charge port resides under a silicone cap. Because the pod is fixed to the flexible neckband, it doesn’t twist. Once you get used to it, your fingers can find the pod-face with the buttons with little fiddling.
Inside the semi-hard case were seven plastic packets. One contained the manual, another the USB Type-C charge cable. Another contained five pairs of silicone tips. Along with the ones already on the earbuds, there were three sizes each of single- and double-layer tips. Prefer memory foam? Three more packets contained three sizes of Comply tips.
Actually, on its website Sennheiser says that the three kinds of tips are Comply, silicone and … “lamellar”. I guess that’s the third kind. They look like they have two layers of silicone rather than one. According to Google, lamellar has something to do with small plates.
Anyway, thank you Sennheiser. In-ear transducers are perhaps the most intimate pieces of entertainment gear on the market. In providing many options for the best possible fit and comfort, Sennheiser is clearly recognising this.
That makes six packets. The seventh? Well, I stopped my exploration to write this bit of the review because, at the moment, the seventh item is a mystery. It’s 50mm long plastic rod with what looks like to be a small, flat screwdriver tip on one end, and a loop made from very thin steel protruding from the other.
The quick start guide solved the mystery: the loop is for cleaning ear-gunk out of the earphones. I take steps to ensure ear-cleanliness so that’s not a problem I have, but I suppose it could be useful.
And the screwdriver end? It turns out – surprisingly in these days of digital control and digital signal processing – that each earbud has a small grub screw which can be turned to adjust the level of bass.
Sennheiser Smart Control
The Sennheiser Smart Control app allows some adjustments to be made to the earphones. It connects to them and shows their battery level on its front page. You can switch the language of the prompts or set them to tones rather than spoken words. One panel shows the codec the phone and earphones are using.
And there’s a five-band equaliser. Except that the EQ would not work for me. I turned the three upper bands (1kHz, 4kHz and 16kHz) all the way down to -12dB and the two lower bands (62.5Hz and 250Hz) all the way up to +6dB. No effect.
By the way, when you switch the EQ on, even though it has no apparent effect the voice prompt announced, “Effect mode director”. When I switched it off, the voice announced, “Effect mode off”.