Sennheiser IE 200 is one of two new, affordable audiophile headphones

Sennheiser IE 200 audiophile headphones
Sennheiser IE 200

At CES this week, popular premium consumer headphone brand Sennheiser announced two new products. One is the Sennheiser IE 200, aimed at introducing new people to the joys of audiophile headphones. Meanwhile, the other is to bridge the gap for people who don’t need hearing aids yet but do need a bit of help to hear conversations in crowded places, like restaurants.

Sennheiser IE 200: a gateway audiophile device

The most accessible of the new products is the Sennheiser IE 200. Priced at $239, the IE 200 is a kind of gateway drug for audiophile listening. Like the IE 300 before it, the IE 200 takes a lot of design cues from the premium IE 600 and IE 900, but at less than a quarter of the price of the IE 600.

The IE 200 has a 7mm transducer, a frequency response of 6Hz-20,000Hz, and aims for a neutral reproduction of music. Although the plastic housing lacks the metallic elegance of the IE 600 and IE 900, it still has the same versatility and shape, to allow users to decide whether to have the buds “upside down” with the cable going behind the ear, or worn more traditionally. This versatile style allows for a better fit, and thus a better seal.

New for the IE range is the braided cable, which has been designed to reduce cable noise. The spec sheet boasts that the in-ear headphones have nearly zero total harmonic distortion, which is unusual at this price point.

The Sennheiser IE 200 will be out by the end of the month, so keep checking the official website in the meantime.

Help your hearing with Conversation Clear Plus

Also aiming for clear sound that doesn’t mask details, but in a different way, is the Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus. They’re headphones that can stream music, but aren’t designed for it. Their primary purpose is to amplify conversations around the user in loud areas (like restaurants and city streets) so they can hear better. Basically, they’re hearing aids for people who aren’t yet ready for hearing aids (either because their hearing loss is on the cusp, or they’re not emotionally ready for that step).

Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus wireless earbuds
Small and subtle, the Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus

If that function sounds familiar, it might be because you’re thinking of one of the many models of these kinds of I Can’t Believe They’re Not Hearing Aids, or the Apple AirPods Live Listen feature. The difference with Live Listen is that it requires a separate device; using an iPhone as a microphone that can be put near the person the user wants to hear, and broadcast to a pair of AirPods.

The Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus uses a Sonova chip (Sonova is the company that recently purchased Sennheiser’s consumer division) to tune out background noise and focus on the conversation. Hopefully one day someone might adapt this technology and give it to whoever is mastering the audio tracks of Netflix shows.

The Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus functions like a pair of true wireless headphones, but with extra microphones, looking small and discrete in promotional pictures. The buds have 9 hours onboard battery, and the charging case bumps that battery life up to 27 hours before they need to be plugged into the call. The Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus will be available in stores in March and cost $1,399.95

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