Sennheiser ie800S Review – Exercise in Restraint

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Pros – 

Terrific end to end extension, Engaging yet coherent tuning, Flawless comfort

Cons – 

Still unstable with silicone tips, shorter, semi-removable cable, Not especially linear

Verdict – 

The ie800S is a fine update that executes its incredibly crisp, clear tuning with great refinement and remarkable technical aptitude.


Introduction –

At its time of release, the ie800 was considered by many to be the pinnacle of portable audio. In its time, 4-digit in-ears were an absurd proposition, making the ie800 and competing SE846 from Shure immediate talking points. Years later, this is no longer the case. One can expect to pay upwards of $1000 for a midrange IEM and several times more for a flagship. Still, though it may no longer represent a TOTL model in price or driver configuration, many still consider the ie800 to be a very capable dynamic driver in-ear. Of course, the ie800 was not an earphone without its quirks with an especially polarising design. Additionally, their sound, though undoubtedly clear and resolving, also suffered from a lack of linearity, especially with regards to treble.

These are all areas where modern flagship earphones pull ahead, providing similar resolution with greater realism and within a more practical form factor. In accordance, Sennheiser unleashed the all-new ie800S; boasting a retuned driver, improved cable and more extensive connectivity. Much remains the same, retaining an identical design and the same $999 USD asking price as the original at its time of release (now discounted to $800). However, with such extensive competition, one can’t help but wonder whether the ie800S still has a place within the modern market. You can read all about the ie800S here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Heather from Sennheiser very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the ie800S for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

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The ie800S is packaged similarly to the original however the renders are no longer printed onto the hard box, but an external sleeve. Inside, the unboxing experience is very much the same.

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Removing the lid reveals the earphones within laser cut foam and a genuine leather carry case below. The case is nicely textured and engraved with the specific earphone’s serial number. However, it’s also bulky with questionable portability.

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Underneath, buyers are greeted by a new second row of accessories. Senneiser now include an altered ear tip selection, swapping the oval tips of the original for Comply foam tips that conform to the individual’s ear. They offer greater isolation and a smoother high-end. In my experience, they should also greatly aid users that struggled with fit in the past.

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Sennheiser provide 3 cables in the box, a regular 3.5mm cable as on the original in addition to 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced cables. They all attach via a female 2.5mm port at the y-split of the ie800S.

 

Design –

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The ie800S very much resembles Sennheiser’s preceding flagship in-ear with an identical earpiece design. Some may be disappointed, but like the ie800, the S is stunningly compact and formed in an ergonomic fashion. They assume a traditional cable down design that will be familiar to every user and have a comfortable, albeit shallow fit. The housings are sculpted from a ceramic alloy that’s incredibly hard; for reference, my original ie800’s have remained pristine even after years of daily use.

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The S does differ in finish, assuming a svelte matte black colour scheme over the Giger-esque grey of the original. Sennheiser has also added colour coded strain reliefs for easier orientation. Besides the aesthetic changes, the ie800S provides an identical ergonomic experience to its predecessor. Its minute housings disappear in the ear, delivering faultless long-term comfort matched by few competitors.

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As they’re shallow-fitting and vented, fit stability heavily relies on individual ear anatomy, though in general, they’re best suited for stationary use. With a shirt clip, they suffice for commute during which they offer adequate isolation. The newly included foam ear tips appreciably bolster both noise attenuation and fit stability, a simple but effective remedy. I also noted reduced wind noise compared to the original that was practically unlistenable outdoors. Somehow, the ie800S produces barely any noise at all.

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The cable on the original ie800 further compounded upon its unstable fit, garnering complaints of hardening and excessive microphonics. Luckily, the cable on the ie800S is hugely improved. Not only is it immediately softer and more compliant, it’s slightly thicker and sturdier while retaining the same smooth texture of the original. It’s also noticeably less microphonic, though cable noise is still present by nature of their cable-down fit.

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As before, the cable is fixed to the earpieces with a 2.5mm connector enabling replacement from the y-split down. The length of the cable remains the same as the original which can make the portion above the y-split a little short for inverted over-ear wear. Sennheiser now includes 2 additional balanced cables in the box to take advantage of balanced sources. All terminations and connectors are also slightly beefier than the originals.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

2 Comments

  1. CL on

    well done! a heroic effort in comparing the ie800s with such a wide variety of iems!

    • Ryan Soo on

      Thanks CL, my pleasure 🙂

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