We're always glad to shine our reviews spotlight on a new set of Sennheiser earphones. The OCX 880s are an inner-ear set that attach themselves to your lugholes via a flexible ear loop. They can be yours for around £80.
Sound stays crunchy
Listening to the Manic Street Preachers' Kevin Carter, we were impressed by the 880s' high-end fidelity with crash cymbals and hi-hats. They stayed crystal-clear even when overdriven electric guitars were making the mix much crunchier.
Reel Big Fish's A little doubt goes a long way features a prominent walking bass line. The 880s did a great job of reproducing the bass with a satisfying thump, but without ballooning out of control and overpowering the mid-tones. We often find that inner-ear models try to compensate for their diminutive size by ramping the bass up to headache-inducing proportions, so we're glad to see that's not the case with the 880s.
Sennheiser may know its stuff when it comes to creating excellent sound, but, in the past, the company's been rather experimental when it comes to design and form factor. The HD 595s, for example, sounded ace but looked a tad nasty. Does the same apply to the 880s?
These earphones sport a coating with a brushed-aluminium effect that also extends to a volume control halfway down the cable. There's no actual metal -- it's all textured, painted plastic. Sadly, the result is that the 880s look slightly plasticky, especially the mid-cable remote, which feels light and cheap.
The plastic nature of the mid-cable remote has a practical downside too. The only function the remote serves is to house a volume dial. Being of a plasticky bent, the dial is pretty loose, and has a nasty habit of rotating while the earphones are stowed in your pockets. Consequently, we sometimes started up our music only to find the volume set to full blast. That's a pretty unpleasant way to start your commute.
Mechanical volume buttons would solve the problem. Although we like the broader spectrum of volumes that a dial offers, this particular implementation isn't ideal.
There are also pros and cons to the ear-loop design. On the one hand, the 880s are pretty tricky to actually get on your ears, and the rubbery coating on the loops tends to pull on your hair as you're putting them on (at least if you have long, leonine hair like us). On the other hand, they're more secure once they're fitted. We also found it possible to pop the buds out of our lugholes without taking the loops off our ears, if we needed to talk to someone.
The Sennheiser OCX 880s sound ace. Some other earphones offer more bass, but you'd be hard-pressed to find sound reproduction this clear for under £100 elsewhere. Whether or not you go for the 880s will probably depend on whether you reckon the ear-loop form factor will get on your nerves. We got used to it after a day or two, but we'd recommend you try a pair of these earphones on for yourself before you buy them.
If you like the Sennheiser sound, but not the form factor of the 880s, check out the Sennheiser CX 500s instead. They're cheaper and slightly bassier, but still a great set of earphones.
Edited by Charles Kloet