[Cliffnotes] Sennheiser’s New Lineup: Big Name, Small Sound

Welcome to my Cliffnotes, a series where I push out rapid fire opinions of some of the IEMs I’ve heard while I was back in Singapore during the month of July. Thus I won’t get too in-depth,  nor will I be too formal and technical. Less analysis, more… from-the-heart if you will.

Alright, so you’ve been spoilt by the title already but hear me out.

I don’t have any personal vendetta against Sennheiser (or any other brand for that matter), though it may seem that way when companies keep churning out mediocre and/or disappointing products. I myself have owned many Sennheiser products both in the past and in the current present, and have had lukewarm opinions towards their flagship IE800 series. Though, I still maintain that it doesn’t quite belong in the category of “one of the best DD IEMs in the world”.

The Momentum On-Ear was arguably an inferior version of their acclaimed HD25-1 II (which I’ve owned in the past); the Momentum In-Ear was just an average piece of gear in a vast sea of sub-$100 IEMs; the Momentum True Wireless was just a slightly modified version of the In-Ear except in a much more overpriced package… and god, don’t even get me started on the HD820.

It seems that when an audiophile company such as Sennheiser breaks into the mainstream, a lot of odd tuning decisions start to break the surface mostly in the pursuit of appealing to the lowest common denominator. So when Sennheiser announced their new lineup of IEMs in the form of the IE40, IE400 and IE500 (all with the added suffix of Pro because I guess that’s what mainstream companies do), I think “skeptical” would be a justified initial reaction from my end. I went in with low expectations, probably contrary to most other people in my position.

Let us start from the bottom rung.

(I forgot to take pictures so in lieu of eyecandy, I’ll just plaster the graphs so the article doesn’t look so dreary.)

Sennheiser IE40 Pro

Product page: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/ie40pro

MSRP: $100

Driver configuration: single DD

I would say that the IE40 Pro suffers from the same issues as the Momentum In-Ear, except in a slightly different way. Where the Momentum In-Ear stumbles in its attempt at a V-shaped signature, the IE40 Pro seems to be missing some vital pieces of the puzzle when it comes to its portrayal of neutrality.

As with most things in its rank, it doesn’t sound wrong but there is certainly a lot to be desired in terms of tonality. Of course it lacks excitement as most neutral IEMs tend to do, but the way it which it lacks energy is more akin to compressed dynamics than a function of its frequency response, which makes me feel like the IE40 Pro is a subpar IEM in terms of technical performance which is not something you’d want to hear out of a neutral monitor.

As an entire, cohesive package, the IE40 Pro simply cannot keep up with the competition. It is average at best, though in my opinion it is slightly less so.

Grade:

Sennheiser IE400 Pro

Product page: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/ie-400-pro

MSRP: $350

Driver configuration: single DD

What is this? An actually decent Sennheiser dynamic that doesn’t totally break the bank? Colour me surprised.

The IE400 Pro is easily my favourite of the trio, doing away with the low dynamism issues of the IE40 Pro and also comes with a tonality reminiscent of the IE800 variants. In fact, I daresay that the IE400 Pro is actually superior in terms of tonal accuracy, though maybe a little bit too trigger-happy with the bass response for my own tastes.

It actually kind of reminds me of the Xelento a little bit; a lower resolution, smoother Xelento but a Xelento nonetheless. If that’s the kind of sound that appeals to your senses then the IE400 Pro would be one of the prime candidates for a great bassy dynamic. Not bad at all.

Grade:

Sennheiser IE500 Pro

Product page: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/ie-500-pro

MSRP: $600

Driver configuration: single DD

Here’s when things roller-coaster back into the trash heap. The IE500 Pro has a dark, downsloping signature, though that’s not enough for it to be considered any kind of bad. Rather, it consists of a combination of bad qualities that make it hard to justify its purchase at any price point.

Tonality-wise, the harmonics are undoubtedly focused towards the lower-order side of things. There is not a lot of bite or energy in the midrange, and instruments sound unnecessarily bodied and thick when it shouldn’t be. Then you get that weird hump in the mids that emphasises a section of the harmonics that really shouldn’t be emphasised, resulting in a tone that’s honky and almost nasally. Much like the Campfire IO, except not quite as bad.

The technicalities are where the proverbial house of cards topples over. The IE500 Pro lacks any sort of definition worthy of its price tag, instead evoking feelings of cheap, barely-put-together DD earphones that you get off a dark corner of Taobao. “A wall of sound” is a pretty good description of the IE500, with its imaging suffering greatly from compression and congestion and makes things sound almost mono at times.

The only redeeming quality I can see the IE500 having is that it is “non-fatiguing”. But c’mon, we all know that that’s more of a backhanded compliment.

GRADE: D

My usual thanks to all my supporters on Patreon. And of course shoutouts to my big money boys: “McMadface”, Denis, Nicholas, “caravan” and Justin. 

1 thought on “[Cliffnotes] Sennheiser’s New Lineup: Big Name, Small Sound”

  1. Disturbing! I had already contacted Sennheiser over the IE 500 PRO’s sound and pricing a while ago. Your cliffnotes re-opened that dialogue. The rest of the community (delusional or shills?) gave me flak over my analysis of the 500s…now I feel vindicated. Whenever I put them into my ears, there is a instantly a substantial part of the frequency spectrum missing: no upper midrange at all….missing in action. Have tried unsuccessfully so far to return them to Sennheiser.

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