Think BMW is all about cars and nothing more? Think again. The BMW Group's DesignworksUSA has been a force behind the design of several of BMW's classic cars, but it has also teamed-up with Sennheiser to produce the CX 980, MX 980 and OMX 980 earphones. The Sennheiser CX 980i are the standard In-Ear Monitor (IEM) models of the trio, and sell for around £199. We're not in pocket money territory any more.
The easiest way to make an earphone seem high-class, without necessarily making it sound like a million dollars, is to make it out of metal. Although they have an eye on this kind of strategy, with a more style-driven design than Sennheiser's top-end IE8 earphones, the CX980i are not made entirely out of the shiny stuff.
The arms are lightly textured metal, but the upper speaker housing is more traditional black plastic. Meeting the other end of the metal stem is a similarly traditional flexible rubber sheath.
It's an understated design that matches a familiar look with elements of elegance and beauty. The metal stems have a hint of the dangly earring to them - but in a wholeheartedly positive way that needn't cause any male buyers to resort to chest thumping or telling sexist jokes in order to reaffirm their masculinity. The Sennheiser CX 980i are not flamboyant as such, they just have the air of having been carefully considered - sophisticated, if you will.
The jack gets more than a sip of this creative juice too. It's is made of metal too but uses a sliding mechanism so that it can be switched from a straight jack to a 90-degree angled one with a quick twist. Not having had the opportunity to use the CX 980i as our day-to-day earphones for six months, we can't comment conclusively on the durability of this mechanism, but it certainly feels sturdy enough. We imagine most of you will settle into using one configuration or the other anyway, rather than switching between them regularly.
It's only the mid-cable remote control and handsfree housing that arguably doesn't quite keep up the same standard. It bears the team colour, metallic silver, but as it's variously made of metal and plastic in order to keep the weight down, there are a few seams running across it to clutter - if not quite spoil - the look. And yes, we're being extra picky here because of the set's style pretensions.
A little silver cable snug detaches from this control block, letting you keep any slack cable between it and the buds in check. Both the cables leading to the left and right sides are the same length.
Sennheiser is generally viewed as a safe pair of hands as a headphone maker, but could this new leaning towards more conspicuously styled sets mark a dip in sound quality?