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Sennheiser IE8i review

Andrew Williams

By
Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Sennheiser IE8i 7

Summary

Our Score

9/10

User Score

Pros

  • Deep, punchy bass
  • Customisable bass level
  • Removable cable

Cons

  • Kinda ugly design

Review Price £199.98

Key Features: Customisable bass dial; Optional over-the-ear clips ; 10 – 20,000 Hz frequency response

Manufacturer: Sennheiser

Sennheiser's low-end earphones and headphones grab plenty of attention. The CX300 IEMs are some of the most popular budget headphones around and the PX100 are headphone demigods. But its expensive offerings are all-too often overshadowed by earphone leviathans like the chunky Shure SE535. The IE8i need stay in the shadows no longer.

At £200, the Sennheiser IE8i are direct competitors for some of the best non-custom earphones in the world, including the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 Pro, Klipsch X10i and Etymotic ER4P. That's like being at a dinner party with Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and Stephen Fry and trying to rob them of the conversational limelight (granted, Wilde would probably turn Fry into a stuttering mess).

Sennheiser IE8i 2

Unlike almost all IEM earphones at this price, the Sennheiser IE8i use dynamic drivers instead of balanced armature drivers. Other than supplying this set with a rather different sound from rivals, it gives the earpieces relatively large apertures - the bit where the sound comes out. This may make the earphones less than comfy for those with tiny ear canals, but for the rest it'll pose no problem.

Sennheiser IE8i 6

The earphones come packaged in a near-indestructible plastic case, inside which the earphones are protected further with more plastic and foam. It took us a while to free the IE8i from their foamy tomb, but that's an indictment of our intelligence rather than the packaging. We'd still say it borders on the excessive though.

Inside are the earphones, a cleaning tool, a rigid plastic case and an admirably generous 10 pairs of foam and rubber tips. There are standard rubber tips, standard foamies and two types of dual-flanged rubber doo-dads. One type features rubber bits that fold backwards as normal. In the other, they stick out straight. Each comes in the standard variety of small, medium and large sizes. Sennheiser IE8i

We found the most comfy fit with the standard rubber tips (a point of personal preference and nothing more), but also found that they would behave rather oddly when removed from the ears. Sennheiser tips are less thick than Shure's olive tips or Ultimate Ears's rubber bungs, and this often leads to them inverting when pulled out - due to the pressure created by a good seal with your ear.

Sennheiser IE8i 5

It's a small point to make, and one that shouldn't compare with sound quality concerns at this price, but we found it annoying nevertheless. The Sennheiser IE8i can either be worn over-the-ears or as standard, with the cables dangling freely down from your ears. To make this convertible design work, two semi-flexible ear loops are included. The earphone cable slots into a ridge on each loop, keeping it in place. The cables will inevitably work their way loose after a while - which they don't in the integrated solutions offered in the Shure SE535 and Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 - but the grip is far more secure than in the similar Phonak PFE 012. That flexibility is a bonus too, as some folk can't stand wearing earphones over their lugs.

Sennheiser IE8i 7

Like the Phonak pair though, with the loops attached these aren't the best-looking earphones around. Even without the loops, the IE8i can't compete with the comparatively sleek CX 980 or non-Sennheiser rivals such as the Klipsch X10i, Etymotic HF3 or even the bulbous Shure SE425/535. Anyone looking for earphones this pricey should care more about sound than looks though.

There's one design element we love here though - the removable cable. It has taken a while for some high-end earphone manufacturers to cotton onto how important including a removable cable is, but it's slowly becoming the norm. A replacement cable with the microphone housing costs £40, while the standard IE8 edition (without the remote/hands-free) costs £25-30.

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ffrankmccaffery

July 8, 2011, 4:19 pm

Painful to read as an IE7 owner - even though I got those cheap.

Andrew_TR

July 8, 2011, 4:27 pm

Are you not impressed with your IE7s then?

ffrankmccaffery

July 8, 2011, 7:29 pm

I most definitely am but contentment isn't a virtue common amongst AV enthusiasts.

simon jackson

July 8, 2011, 8:12 pm

I currently own the ultimate ears super fi 5 pros (twin driver precursors to the triple fi 10s). I enjoy their sound signature, but that said im not generally overly fussy in that department - i think you get used to the sound signature of whatever cans you use regularly, whether that be flat, bass heavy or overly trebbly. I've been considering upgrading to the 10s for a while, but i'm a bit suspicious of the multi driver trend of late. Feels a bit like the megapixel race in digital cameras. I've read a few articles espousing the virtues of a single, high quality driver over several lower quality ones. So naturally this review has piqued my interest. I listen to a really broad range of stuff, from classical to dub-step and everything in between, so it'd definitely be nice to have some 'phones that can kick out some decent bass for music that suits it. Would these be a sensible upgrade from the 5 pros?

Andrew_TR

July 8, 2011, 8:15 pm

Hi Simon,
I've owned both the Super Fi 5 pros and the Triple.Fi 10s (and I reviewed the IE8i here). The Triple.Fi 10s are a big step up from the Super.Fi 5 Pros, much as I loved the 5s at the time. I personally prefer the Triple Fi to the IE8i, but they're both fantastic. The Sennheisers have more bass though, if that's a concern.

simon jackson

July 8, 2011, 8:42 pm

Ahhh I do love the 5 pros, so looks like it might be swinging back in the Triple fi 10s favour again ;) Many thanks for the insight!

Godxyon

November 14, 2011, 6:56 pm

Had the ie8 for a few years changing across from Klipsch X10's which kept failing. Very Pro feeling, well made with great carry case. Bass knob is a bit of a gimmick I feel as this just muddies the sound for me. And bass is well high enough even at lowest setting (..so who'd want more anyway?) Definately a bit weak in the treble though, so I feel that clarity is a bit of an issue with me. So I need to use the EQ setting in my player to 'brighten up' a bit
Makes my ears hurt after a few hours with the large size also. Over the ear design is a bit of a pain. The stirrups dont work so well juts being plain annoying. I am for ever fiddling with them if I move around a lot (walking for the bus etc) to keep them in place. Sit still at a desk and all is fine though.

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