Details: Latest addition to Sennheiser’s long-running CX in-ear earphone line
MSRP: $69.95 (manufacturer’s page) (discontinued)
Current Price: $50 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 120 dB | Freq: 19-20.5k Hz | Cable: 3.9’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down
Accessories (2.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and leather carrying pouch
Build Quality (4/5) – At first glance, the CX280 is an enlarged version of the older CX150/200/250 housing but it isn’t quite so – the construction consists of two types of plastic and feels a bit sturdier overall. Cabling is average in thickness, well-relieved at either end, and terminated with a sturdy 3.5mm L-plug
Isolation (3/5) – About average for conventional in-ears due to large vent slit
Microphonics (3/5) – Somewhat bothersome when worn cord-down, good when worn over-the-ear
Comfort (4/5) – The housings are larger than those of the older CX250 but rounded at the front for an agreeable fit. The earphones are quite lightweight and the stock tips work well with the medium insertion depth
Sound (5.8/10) – As with many of the other CX-series Sennheisers, the 280 is claimed to have ‘bass-driven sound’. Quite often a phrase like that would scare me but having heard the CX250 and CX300 in the past, I had a decent idea of what to expect. The CX280 does appear to be a step in the right direction from the CX250, which itself was a more enjoyable earphone than the ever-popular CX300. The bass of the CX280 falls between the CX250 and CX300 – there is a bit of mid-bass emphasis but not much bloat. Compared to the Meelec M9 the CX280 seriously lacks sub-bass weight and sounds slightly tamer overall. The low end of the CX280 is not thin by any means but it just doesn’t have the same well-rounded fullness as the rumbly and visceral bass of the M9.
The mids are smooth and in good balance with the bass and treble. As with the older CX-series earphones, the CX280 is a bit laid-back in the midrange. Clarity and detail are good though on the whole the CX280 lags behind the Meelec M9 on both counts. There is a bit of unevenness towards the upper midrange and the CX280 has much more prominent treble than the CX300 and slightly more sparkle and detail than the CX250 (though still not as much as the M9). At higher volumes the treble can be a bit fatiguing but during normal listening I found it perfectly pleasant – less harsh than that of the M9 but not rolled-off as with the CX300.
In terms of presentation, the CX280 is quite wide-sounding and airy. Depth is average in comparison to the width, resulting in a sound that’s well-distanced but relatively flat in the soundstage. Positioning is good and the CX280 has a somewhat harder time portraying intimacy than distance, though its soundstage has clear outer limits as well, not unlike that of the far-pricier IE7. Those who like a more intimate sound would probably find a better match with the similarly-priced CX281, which doesn’t sound as big as the CX280 does but is also more cohesive in its intimacy. Nearly everyone else will be impressed by the spacious presentation.
Value (7/10) – Sennheiser’s latest foray into the ranks of entry-level in-ears takes us one step further from the bloated and boomy sound of low-end Sennheisers of years past. The sound is fairly balanced and competent all-around. I don’t expect the CX280 to be as polarizing as the Meelec M9 – it lacks the amazing detail and clarity of the Meelecs but doesn’t sound as harsh or boomy, either. With good comfort and isolation as well as build quality that, while not as impressive as that of the CX281, puts the old CX300 to shame, the CX280 is a very agreeable earphone that manages to appeal both to the consumer and the (budget-minded) audiophile. Though the retail price is, as usual, excessive, the street value fluctuates quite a bit and any dips below $30 have the potential to make the CX280 a very competitive earphone.
Pros: Comfortable, rather wide-sounding and all-around competent
Cons: Can be microphonic