The Sennheiser driver/control app talks properly with Android, so my phone showed a battery icon for the earphones in its notification bar at the top of the screen. Both the app and the Bluetooth connection screen showed the codec.
I expected it to be aptX HD, which my phone supports, but it wasn’t. The Sennheiser Smart Control app reported it as “LHDC”. The Bluetooth panel said “HWA”. And I’d heard of neither. Apparently they are the same thing: “HWA” stands for “Hi-Res Wireless Audio” and “LHDC” stands for “low latency and high definition audio codec”. It seems that it uses a relatively wide 900kbps channel to transmit audio, supporting up to 24-bit/96kHz signals. It’s still compressed, and Wikipedia says that various bitrates of 400, 560 and 900kbps are supported. Note, uncompressed 16-bit/44.1kHz audio runs at 1,411kbps.
Anyway, it’s better than SBC.
I found the sound conformed with Sennheiser standards. It’s a bit brighter than neutral, in my opinion, with a forward upper midrange, sometimes leading to emphasised “esses”. But it’s nicely dynamic and well-defined. Listening to The Teskey Brothers debut album Half Mile Harvest on Spotify, the white hiss and low mains hum of the equipment in their home studio was audible, something I’d not previously noticed. But also audible was a lovely, full bass performance.
I did not fiddle with the grub screws controlling bass level because I think Sennheiser had it pretty much spot on. It was powerful and accurate, and not in the slightest overblown. Go on, turn it up if you want more, but I liked it just the way it was.
With quality classical and jazz recordings, the earphones were delightful. With harsher stuff, such as Elvis Costello’s album This Year’s Model, streaming at CD-level quality from TIDAL, none of the harshness was papered over.
If you’re after just a pleasant listening experience, the Sennheiser IE 80S BT may be a bit too revealing for you.
Sennheiser IE 80S BT reliability
The connection with my phone was very reliable when the phone was on my person. Wireless earphones which have the two buds physically wired together are generally better in this way than true wireless models. I figure it’s because of physically larger antennae.
The range was okay – just short of twenty metres in my usual measuring place, beyond which the Sennheiser IE 80S BT earphones dropped out very sharply.
The battery life is rated at six hours, but that’s with music playback using the SBC codec. I didn’t have that option because, as I mentioned, the phone and earphones decided between themselves to use the LDHC codec. Charge time is rated at 1.5 hours.
Anyway, the earphones implement a slightly confusing warning system. The same pleasant, English-accented lady’s voice tells you the rough battery level whenever your switch them on. “At least eighty per cent”, she says when you first switch them on … after you have fully charged them. The battery reporting is in 20% steps.
Here are a few timings I checked on as I mostly ran podcasts and music, although I did have one phone call in the middle of it: 80% battery remaining reported after 90 minutes; 60% at two and a quarter hours; 40% after three hours. Then at three hours and quarter hours, she politely asked me to “Recharge headset”. That seemed odd, especially as the Sennheiser Smart Control app reported 40% battery remaining.
Initially I though that might have been a bug, or a crook battery, but on reflection I think Sennheiser is just getting in early. Most Buetooth earphones I’ve used which give you a recharge warning do so just a couple of minutes before the battery runs out. Which is irritating when you’re away from power.
I had to switch off the earphones for half an hour soon after that. When I switched them back on, I got the “Recharge” message again. A battery level of 20% showed on the app, but it switched over to 40% after a couple of seconds, although status icon remained low and red.
When I checked again around four hours in, the level was down to 20%. Then, at 4:32, with no further warning, the voice in my ears announced, “Power off”, the music stopped and that was it.