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Sennheiser IE 200 review: Uncutting the cord
I've been using true wireless earbuds as my daily drivers since the first generation of AirPods in late 2016, and various types of other Bluetooth headphones for far longer. In fact, the only time I used headphones with a cord anymore is for my electronic drum kit. Everything other audio experience in my life is entirely wireless these days, and that’s mostly due to convenience.
This is important context, as the Sennheiser IE 200s mark the first time I've plugged wired earbuds into a phone in a very long time and it's been quite the adjustment.
The IE 200s are the cheapest products in Sennheiser's mobile "audiophile" range, retailing for $239.95. Other earbuds in this category can cost as much as $2,400 if you're really looking to splash out.
The audience for the high-end is as clear as you'd hope the sound quality of said earbuds is; music lovers who are going to appreciate the subtle difference in sound quality (and also have the appropriate hardware to get the most out of them).
On the other hand, the IE 200s present an interesting choice. At $239, they're more affordable than the likes of flagship consumer earbuds like the AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000 XM4s, or even Sennheiser's Momentum range. You're theoretically looking at better sound quality for less money - as long as you can handle wires.
How much do Sennheiser IE 200s cost in Australia?
Sennheiser IE 200 design
Wired and wireless earbuds each have their own sets of conveniences. No matter which you pick, there are trade-offs.
To start, wired earbuds like the IE 200s still need to plug into an actual 3.5mm headphone jack. These days, you'll rarely find those on a phone, and they're steadily disappearing from tablets too. The large majority of us will need a dongle to use the IE 200s, and it would have been nice if Sennheiser included one in the box.
I've also found the IE 200s require a surprising amount of fiddling to actually put in your ear. You have to rotate the bud into the right position, navigate it, and then readjust the hook. It's something I've gotten better at with practice, but it feels unwieldy compared to just popping in an AirPod or Galaxy Bud. (The IE 200s are stable and very comfortable after you've managed to get them in, however.)
There's also the reality of wires. While the IE 200s aren't exercise earbuds (there's no IP rating), using them at the gym just wouldn't be feasible for me. I typically rest my phone on the treadmill or stairmaster display, which this cord isn't long enough to safely support.
I've also gotten into the habit of walking away from my desk while I've got earbuds in, which is something I've actively needed to stop myself from doing while wearing the IE 200s.
On the other hand, the IE 200s have their own set of conveniences. You never have to charge them. You're never going to lose a single bud or the battery case. They're not suddenly going to drop out and you're not going to have pairing issues.
As reliable as wireless earbuds have become, there are still times my AirPods don't connect to my iPhone the first time I pull them out of the case. I have to pop them back in and try again. It's a minor annoyance, but it is something a cord solves entirely.
Sennheiser IE 200s sound quality
Cable conundrums aside, the IE 200s are some of the best sounding earbuds we've reviewed. They all but aced our audio testing playlist, with two minor dings thanks to their sweetened treble.
The high-end emphasis could sometimes overpower midrange frequencies. I found Nina Simone's vocals fighting against the synths in "Feeling Good", rather than shining through, for example. This wasn't so dramatic that it took away from the song, but more so highlights the tuning choices Sennheiser have made with the IE 200s.
Otherwise, the sound quality of the IE 200s far exceeded my expectations for the price tag. The $239 earbuds performed better than alternatives like the Sony WF-1000 XM4s and the Bose QC Earbuds II which can cost over $400.
The IE 200s really shine when it comes to sound stage. While stereo sound can feel crammed into a narrow space with earbuds, the IE 200s give tracks like Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" the amount of breathing room they need to envelope you.
As good old-fashioned wired earbuds, the IE 200s don't have a companion app or anything of that ilk. You can however reduce the amount of bass they output by repositioning their ears tips. These can be mounted in a high or low position. Low is the out of the box option and gives you more bass, while the higher position reduces the amount of low-end.
In the same vein, you don't get features like noise-cancelling or even a microphone on the IE 200s. While the in-ear design blocks a good amount of sound anyway, the lack of a microphone did trip me up a few times when I answered phone calls while listening to music.
Are the Sennheiser IE 200s worth buying?
Whether the IE 200s are right for you is fundamentally a philosophical questions. They offer outstanding audio quality for the money, but do you want a pair of wired headphones In 2023?
For me, the IE 200s don't fit into life as well as wire-free earbuds do, but that experience may be completely different for you. It comes down to what you value most in a pair of earbuds. If you can never remember to keep your earbud battery topped up, for example, maybe wired buds like the IE 200s are worth a punt.
At the very least, the sound, comfort, and value on offer here certainly make uncutting the cord an interesting alternative.