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The MX 560's are also very comfortable in the ear. I usually don't get on with earbuds - I find that they pull uncomfortably on my ears and make them ache after a while - but these felt fine the entire time I was listening to them. They don't have the slightly soft rubber trim around the edge that iPod headphones do, but that doesn't seem to matter. You'll be able to wear these for hours on end if you want, without having to pull them out, grimacing in pain after half an hour or so. I also like the way the tails are long and slightly curved, which helps to keep them firmly and snugly in place.
More importantly than all this, however, is that, unlike the headphones they'll be replacing (or all those sheep-like iPod owners), the MX 560's are far from woolly. They have a full, rich sound that belies the low price tag. Sennheiser makes great play over the MX 560s' 'Basswind' system, claiming thumping yet clean bass. And they're certainly a lot better than a pair of iPod headphones in this respect - for the purposes of this review, I performed back-to-back analysis with a third generation iPod nano and its bundled white earbuds and there's simply no comparison.
A blast of Hiromi from her outlandish album Hiromi's Sonicbloom bore this out. Its electric bass guitar bottom end is a good way to gauge not only bass quality, but also bass weight. It's more defined, and more juicy-sounding with the MX 560's than with the iPod headphones. Although the MX 560's don't produce what I'd call thumping bass - if you want that, buy a pair of Koss SportaPros or PortaPros - for the money they still sound very impressive.
Moving on to something gentler, like a touch of jazz courtesy of the wonderful Diana Krall, and the MX 560's start to reveal their true colours. The full sound you get out of these when compared to the iPod headphones has more presence, more immediacy and more depth of sound. They're altogether richer, and you can pick a surprising amount of detail out of a track if your surroundings aren't too noisy. The iPod headphones, however, sound as if you're listening with an Aran sweater wrapped around your head.
Where the MX 560's don't fare so well is big sounding metal or guitar rock. They have an extremely clean sound, but can sound a little dry when fed with more complex material. Metallica's classic Nothing Else Matters, for example, lacks a little drive, warmth and richness when compared to the similar priced over-the-ear SportaPros. But they're still miles better than the Apple phones.
The MX 560's are not the perfect headphones then, but if you're looking for a pair to replace your knackered white earbuds, they're a pretty good deal. You get a decent range of accessories with them, sound quality is excellent for most types and they're very comfy to wear. My favourite budget headphones are still the venerable Koss SportaPros for pure sound quality, but if you buy a pair of these you won't be disappointed.
Scores In Detail
- Sound Quality