If the Sennheiser IE 7 and flagship IE 8 earphones are just too costly for your ears and wallets to stretch to, maybe consider the entry-level model -- the Sennheiser IE 6. These earphones, at around £100, aim to deliver a well-defined sound, with enhanced bass and superior sound-isolation.
They're on sale now and, since their IE 8 siblings recently won our epic Editors' Choice award in November, you've every reason to wonder what the more affordable versions are like.
Hailing from Sennheiser's professional in-ear monitoring systems, the entry-level IE 6s are intended to be worn like the pros -- up and over the ear. They can be comfortably worn the more conventional way, however, and, for the three weeks we spent with them, were unquestionably snug.
The symmetrical cabling appears to be identical to that of the £250 IE 8s, and that's no bad thing. It's lightweight, with a 3.5mm plug that's compatible with the first-generation iPhone. The enclosures themselves are the smallest and most compact in the IE series, and feel really well constructed, while remaining lightweight.
Sennheiser does, however, offer a two-year warranty just in case these enclosures dissolve or something, but their excellent designs are features in themselves. Inside are single drivers, backed by neodymium magnets, responding to frequencies between 10Hz and 18kHz, with a sensitivity of 115dB/mW.
As sound isolators, they're on a par with the competition, but a range of silicone and foam tips come in the box to ensure the best fit and the best isolation. We've been testing with the Comply T-400 tips as well, and strongly recommend these as an upgrade for even better fit, isolation and comfort.
Within moments of our first hour listening through the IE 6s, we knew we were hearing the entry-level version of the IE 8s -- the same sound signature of generally balanced performance with a strong low-end bass emphasis rang through, with a similarly subdued treble.
In their own right, they're admirable all-rounders for the price, with a voice suitable for pretty much anything, from rock and metal to dance and pop, folk and country to soul and jazz. It's a warm sound, thanks in part to the deep bass, with decent clarity and definition across the board for 'phones at this price point.
In this league and at this price point, the IE 6s square up to Shure's SE310s, which are quite similar in terms of performance. The Sennheisers have a richer bass and perhaps a warmer sound, which we're fond of. But, if you're considering a switch from one to the other, there's not enough of a difference, in our opinion, to recommend the move. Both are admirable performers.
What we will note is that a comparable pair -- the Denon AH-C751s -- strip away the warmth that the IE 6s offer, and instead offer ludicrously deep bass and a glistening treble, bursting with detail. If you're a fan primarily of dance and electronic music, and crave even richer bass, consider the Denons for a few quid extra over this model.
Without question, the IE 6s -- the final pair in the series of three IE models we reviewed -- are a cracking pair of earphones, particularly as they can be picked up for under £100.
Consider Etymotic's ER-6is if you want to spend a little less cash, settle for a more delicate bass and gain a more detailed sound; and do check out the Denon AH-C751s if dance music is your favourite alternative to sex, drugs and alcohol.
Edited by Nick Hide