Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors

Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors review: wired for sound

Sticking with cables in the age of wireless, the old-school Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors are for music lovers who want to take their listening to the next level.

Everyone loves to enjoy music on the move, but some of us care more about sound quality than others. Like all audiovisual gear, you can spend pocket change on dirt-cheap earbuds which will do the job, or you can drop an absolute bundle on audiophile-grade gear which will transport you to another world.

Most of us draw a line somewhere in between, although that line might slowly move over time depending on your budget and your appreciation for the finer things. The $239.95 Sennheiser IE 200 – which are actually the budget model of their category – offer a step up if you’ve got an ear for detail and you’re ready to venture into audiophile territory.

The Sennheiser IE 200 are not “earbuds” but “In-Ear Monitors”. It’s more than just semantics to justify a higher price tag, there are a few key differences.

The first is that IEMs sit deep in your ear canals, whereas earbuds simply rest on the outer ear. This lets IEMs offer better noise isolation, basically passive noise cancellation by blocking more sound from the outside world. The tighter fit also helps them offer a richer sound with deeper bass.

Once you get into IEMs territory, you also tend to get a wider soundstage with better balance and clarity, so the audio is less murky and you can pick out more of the individual instruments. It’s most appealing if you tend to listen to nuanced music, like classical and jazz, but all types of music get a boost.

Review: Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors

Australian websiteSennheiser
Price$239.95 RRP
Warranty2 years
Other More GadgetGuy sound reviews

Features

The most important thing to appreciate is that these aren’t wireless. The Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors rely on a good old 3.5 mm audio jack to connect to your favourite music player. This means you might need to invest in a Lightning or USB-C to 3.5 mm adapter to connect them to your phone, if not a more expensive standalone DAC (which converts digital sound to analogue).

Forgoing wireless means you escape the limitations of Bluetooth when it comes to listening to Hi-Res Lossless audio. But there are a lot of trade-offs in return, compared to high-end Bluetooth offerings like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 or Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). They’re often described as “earbuds”, but “earphones” is perhaps a better term because they sit in your ear canals like IEMs.

With the Sennheiser IE 200 there is no built-in mic for hands-free calls or talking to your smart assistant. Nor is there active noise-cancellation, spatial audio, a tuning app or fancy “conversation boost” mode to combat pub deafness. You don’t even get the convenience of inline volume controls. The Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors are for listening to music, pure and simple.

Each earpiece has an adjustable ear hook, which curves around your ear. The flexible hook helps you get the perfect fit, and to hold them in place. The downside is that they’re awkward to take on and off quickly – once again, a trade-off of convenience against quality.

They come with a choice of silicon and foam eartips, each in three sizes to help you get the best fit – which is important when it comes to sound quality. The audio cable is also braided to reduce tangle and as well as reduce noise when the cable rubs against things. They also come with a soft pouch to keep them safe in your pocket or bag.

Being the budget model of the range, the Sennheiser IE 200 rely on a plastic housing that doesn’t look as elegant as the metallic housing of the more expensive models.

Sennheiser IE 200 pack shot
The Sennheiser IE 200 In Ear Monitors rely on a braided cable with a 3.5 mm audio jack.

Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors specs

Transducer 7 mm XWB (extra wide band) driver
Transducer principleDynamic
Acoustic principleClosed
Jack plug3.5 mm angled
Cable length1.2 m
Frequency response6 – 20,000Hz
Impedance18 Ω
Sound pressure level119dB (1kHz, 1Vrms)
Total harmonic distortion < 0.08 %
Weight4 gm

Quality

The fact the Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors aren’t relying on Bluetooth gives them an advantage over wireless earbuds/earphones, especially when listening to high-quality audio from the likes of Tidal or Apple Music, but you can hear their strengths even when listening to ordinary compressed music from Spotify. 

Listening to Spotify on an iPhone, the Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors connected via a 3.5 mm to Lightning adaptor sound crisper and cleaner than Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 relying on Bluetooth. The Sennheisers also sound richer and more vibrant, although the highs can be a little brash for some tastes.

That’s not so much the differences between Bluetooth versus cables, it’s more the design of the In-Ear Monitors which produce more engaging sound. They offer nearly zero total harmonic distortion and the drivers rely on Extra Wide Band (XWB) transducers to ensure a well-balanced sound. The result is an impressive soundstage with clarity between the instruments, especially in the low end, leaving the AirPods Pro 2 sounding a little two-dimensional in comparison.

Sennhesier IE 200 close up
The flexible earhooks help with the perfect fit but make them a bit awkward to take on and off.

Hi-Res and Lossless audio

Stepping up to the world of Hi-Res and Lossless audio gets complicated, but the Sennheisers still prove their worth. To be fair, Apple’s Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter is limited to supporting 24-bit/48kHz, whereas some 24-bit audio can go as high as 96kHz or even 192kHz. If you’re worried about that, a standalone DAC might be the answer.

Offering true Lossless Audio over Bluetooth is a rare trick, the Nura True Pro is one of the first to master it, but only with a select few Android handsets. While Apple Music offers Lossless Audio, you’re not getting it when you’re listening via the Bluetooth-dependent AirPods Pro 2.

Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me is a favourite of lossless audio fans. Listening on Apple Music via the Sennheisers, the music is clearer and richer than the AirPods Pros 2, especially in the bass.

Of course, with the Sennheisers you miss out on the benefit of spatial audio which you get from the AirPods Pro 2. It really opens up the soundstage to deliver more realistic sound. The two both improve the audio in different ways, so it comes down to personal taste, but don’t write off spatial audio as a novelty if you haven’t experienced it – it really does add something to the listening experience.

When it comes to Hi-Res Lossless on Apple Music, we’re getting well into territory where Bluetooth gets left behind. To make the most of it on the iPhone, you need to enable it in Apple Music’s advanced settings.

Listening to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army in Hi-Res Lossless from Apple Music, the Sennheisers sound stunning and the improvement on the Bluetooth-dependent AirPods Pro 2 is clear.

The Sennheisers offer amazing depth and clarity to create really engaging music which you both hear and feel. The AirPods Pro 2 sounds pretty good, but the Sennheisers make the most of Hi-Res Lossless to really bring the music to life. The same goes with listening to more nuanced music like Miles Davis’ So What

GadgetGuy’s take

If you’re ready to step up from cheap earbuds and you want to avoid the limitations of Bluetooth wireless connections, the Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors offer an impressive gateway to the world of high-end audio on the move. They provide a taste of what you’ve been missing out on, although keep in mind they’re still the entry-level model and old-school audio purists might argue that you should set your sights higher.

Keep in mind that you’re sacrificing a lot in terms of convenience and advanced features compared to a pair of Bluetooth earphones. 

Would I buy the Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors?

Maybe, if I was primarily focused on sound quality and wanted to venture into IEMs and high-end audio without breaking the bank.

Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors
The Sennheiser IE 200 In-Ear Monitors offer an impressive gateway to the world of high-end audio on the move.
Features
7
Value for money
8.5
Performance
9
Ease of use
8
Design
9
Positives
Impressive sound quality
Avoids limitations of Bluetooth
Negatives
Need to deal with cables (and maybe an adapter)
Lacks advanced features
8.3