At £250, the flagship IE 8 sound-isolating earphones from Sennheiser sit at the top of the price range even for high-end earphones, competing head-on with the Shure SE530s and Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10s.
With the potential to customise their sound in ways we've never seen before, we have to admit we were excited when these arrived. They're on sale now.
Like many high-end earphones, these are to be worn with the cable going up over the top of the ears. It gives a more secure fit, but the 'phones can be comfortably worn in the more traditional way quite comfortably, should you really want to.
They're extremely well-built, with cabling that easily detaches from the earphone enclosures for easy upgrade or replacement in the future. We found them to be comfortable from the word go, and easily enjoyable for several hours on end, depending on which tips you use.
A range of such tips are provided in the box, from traditional silicone plugs, to double-flanged silicone, to stiff foam. As with many things in life, experimentation here is key. Take some time to find the right fit for your ears, and ensure a good seal in the ear canal as this is critical for bass conduction.
One of the most interesting and unusual aspects of this earphone involves a small screw on each enclosure. Using the supplied screwdriver-cum-earwax remover (not a tool we get to write about often), you can turn the screw to increase or decrease bass intensity to your liking. We'll come to this again later.
Inside, and unlike the competing Shure SE530s and Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10s, the IE 8s use just a single dynamic speaker driver instead of the aforementioned models' use of three. Sennheiser believes such designs offer wider frequency response ranges, lower distortion at higher volume levels and a greater resistance to damage from knocks and bumps.
These drivers deliver a frequency response between 10Hz-20kHz, with a sensitivity of 125dB/mW and a low impedance of 16Ohms, making them suitable for all portable players. No extension cable or 6.3mm adaptor is included, which, considering the price and competition, is a bit poor (pun intended).
In our initial hands-on report for Crave, we mentioned how impressive these earphones were for dance music, thanks to their explosive, seismic bass performance. And our opinion hasn't changed. Not only does the driver respond to frequencies so low you can almost feel them instead of hear them, they're extraordinarily powerful to boot.
We've said this about Denon's fantastic AH-C751s -- another single driver earphone we've complimented the bass performance of -- but the IE 8s take this to a new level by offering a warmth to their sound that the Denons avoid. Combined with a rich, detailed mid-range, it makes vocals and most instruments sound wonderfully alive.