I could go on waxing lyrical about how good these headphones are, but probably the best way of summing them up is to say that they’re extremely easy to listen to. With other headphones, such as Ultimate Ears’ Super.fi 4’s or iSkin’s Cerulean X1’s, for instance, you have to sacrifice one attribute for another; bass goes in favour of diamond detail, or you lose a little clarity in favour of visceral, gut-rumbling low notes. These Sennheisers, however, have that most difficult of things to achieve – balance. Pin-sharp detail at the top end is coupled with thunderous bass; atmospherics are achieved at the same time as a warmth and smoothness of delivery that means they sound good no matter which source you use.
They’re not perfect, of course – I wouldn’t expect a pair of sub-£100 headphones to match a pair costing in excess of £200 for instance, and they don’t compare with my Grado SR35is or the incredible neutrality offered by the top end Shure in-ear headphones. And there are small areas of weakness. Sometimes with live recordings you don’t quite feel as in-the-room as you’d like, occasionally instrument separation isn’t all it could be, and sometimes there’s a touch of over-emphasis on sibilant sounds such as cymbals and snare drums. But these are tiny, teeny complaints in the overall scheme of things.
Even the not-so-deep-in-my-ears design works well – at least as well as my now ageing Shure E2c’s – at blocking out extraneous noises. In the raucous surroundings of the London tube network I never found I had to turn the volume up, even to listen to quiet classical music. And while walking down the street I only became aware of a council worker wielding a chain saw when I passed within two metres of him.
In simple terms, Sennheiser’s CX 95 Styles are the best headphones I’ve listened to for under £100 by quite some distance. Ignore the slightly cheesy name and flimsy cabling, concentrate on the sound quality and you have a pair of headphones that offers incredible value for money.
These CX 95s pull off a difficult trick, balancing crisp detail with warm mids and thunderous bass in a way I haven’t heard from any headphones approaching this price tag. If I had £100 to spend on a pair of headphones, these are the headphones I’d buy – I can’t think of any better recommendation than that.
Score in detail