Sennheiser’s latest affordable true wireless buds make a solid impression in terms of feature set and design. The sound quality is pleasing, although rivals arguably have the edge here and noise cancellation isn’t the most powerful, either.
- Excellent comfort and fit
- Well-featured app and specification
- Warm, weighty sound
- ANC isn’t the most convincing
- Short on detail and clarity
- Bass BoostExtend low frequencies with bass EQ
- CustomisationCustomise touch controls through the Smart Control app
- ANCNoise cancelling and transparency modes supported
The CX Plus true wireless buds are the third entry in Sennheiser’s affordable CX range, earning the ‘Plus’ moniker for the addition of noise cancellation.
The earbuds that kicked off the range – the CX 400BT – were impressive, delivering great audio at a price with mass appeal. The follow-up CX True Wireless improved in some ways, but so had the competition, with their lack of noise cancellation making those buds a less compelling choice compared to close-price rivals.
But not long after the CX True Wireless’s arrival we have the CX Plus True Wireless, a model with virtually the same specs but boasted noise cancellation. The idea of launching buds with noise cancelling so soon afterwards looks odd, but it makes sense for Sennheiser to grab a foothold in an emerging area of the true wireless market.
- Same tried-and-trusted design
- Excellent fit and comfort
- Responsive touch panels
The CX Plus True Wireless look identical to the CX True Wireless, which looked identical to the CX 400BT. If you were to line up these earbuds in an identity parade, you’d be hard-pressed to tell one from the other.
But as I said about the CX True Wireless, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Sennheiser has found a design that bears fruit, the earbuds slotting into the ear via a twist and lock mechanism. The touch panels are superbly responsive, comfort remains excellent, and the earbuds’ seal consistently keeps the outside at bay.
For a better fit, Sennheiser supplies adapters (ear tips) in XS, S, M and L sizes, while the charging case is exactly as before, with an easily identifiable LED indicator that denotes the battery’s status. The choice over finishes comprises the usual Sennheiser staples: black or white.
- ANC doesn’t add much
- Well-featured app
- Solid battery life
The official price gap between the CX True Wireless and the CX Plus is £10, quite a small surcharge to pay for active noise cancellation. Since both earbuds have been on sale that gap as only widened – at the time of review, it’s as much as £45 in some places. This gives any potential customer a bit more to think about.
And the noise cancellation could be a deciding factor to sway between one or the other; but, truth be told, the CX Plus use of feed forward noise cancellation tech (which only blocks sound from coming in) is unemphatic. It builds on the excellent passive isolating characteristics of the Plus’ fit and seal, but doesn’t add much on top of it. Switching ANC on and off shows there’s little difference aside from a change in tone of the cancellation.
That said, the noise-isolating properties of the design are already so good that the noise cancellation doesn’t need to achieve much to clear out ambient noise. But then that may also make the CX True Wireless more appealing in light of their current price.
So think of the ANC as more of a sprinkle on top of the excellent passive noise-isolating cake. There is at least no discernible change in tone with ANC applied, and the Transparency mode is good, opening up for greater awareness of the surrounding environment. Here, too, the sound signature of the CX Plus is maintained.
Of all Sennheiser’s CX earbuds, the Plus are the most competitively stacked for features. They’re compliant with the latest Bluetooth standard in v5.2, and support audio streaming codecs all the way to aptX Adaptive. The strength of the CX Plus’ signal has been consistently good, and aside from a few stutters at the beginning of testing, it’s been an improvement over the CX True Wireless.
Battery life is eight hours per earbud and 24 in total, which is down on the previous model (9 and 27). While there’s no wireless charging support, a quick charge of 10 minutes provides another hour of playback. Compare it to similarly priced efforts from Beats and Cleer Audio, and these buds outlast the Beats by some distance, but lose to the Cleer in a similar fashion.
The Smart Control app provides a heap of features. Touch controls can be customised – the mapping for the controls differs from the CX True Wireless, but I’d say this layout is the most logical and best yet. There’s also room to customise the audio with Bass Boost, Podcast and Movie modes.
You can create new EQ presets, too, toggle the three-band equalizer setting, as well as update the firmware and toggle the auto pause, ANC and auto-accept call functions. The Sidetone slider allows for adjustment of how much of your own voice you can hear during calls. When I reviewed the CX 400BT, I mentioned the app didn’t have as many features as it could have; the same can’t be said now.
Other features include access to digital assistants (through the controls) and an IPX4 rating, which is good enough to guard against splashes of water and sweaty digits.
- Warm, bassy sound
- Not the most precise of listens
The CX Plus True Wireless pack the same 7mm TrueResponse transducer found in the CX True Wireless, and that’s as big a clue as any as to the Plus’ audio performance. In short it’s good, but these Sennheiser buds still lag behind their peers in some respects.
The Plus have a sound that’s warm and weighty, big and open; but not as crisp in tone or as detailed as the Beats Studio Buds. Take Abel Korzeniowski’s Mother of Evil from the Penny Dreadful soundtrack, and the Beats Studio Buds‘ playback is cleaner and sharper with high-frequency tones, with more detail and better separation between the various parts of the track. With the CX Plus, the edges of the string section of orchestra are coloured with a warm tone that diminishes their clarity and definition, where the Beats’ sharpness offers more precision.
In a nutshell, the Plus’ tuning still retains that smooth if rather diffuse and dense soundstage of the previous CX model and that means there’s not as much detail. That warmth also makes them languid in terms of any dynamic dexterity and rhythmic agility, which was most obvious in energetic tracks such as Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy.
Nevertheless, there’s a good time to be had in the CX Plus’ company. They treat vocals well: the dulcet tones of Nina Simone in Wild is the Wind are full of character, her soft and soothing voice reaching a whisper that the Sennheiser CX Plus communicate well.
And they have the edge on true wireless around this price, with their command over the lower end of the frequency spectrum. Bass is delivered with weight and depth, and plugging in the Bass Boost underpins that with more impact and a slightly wider soundstage, too. Timing is decent in a track such as Escape from Mad Max: Fury Road, the CX Plus stringing together the various elements neatly as the track slowly becomes more complex. It’s a sound that’s pleasant and aggregable, but in terms of precision they remain off the pace at this price.
Should you buy it?
You love that bass The CX Plus deliver plenty of weighty bass if that’s what you like…
You want a sound that’s more precise …but that bass does come at the cost of overall detail and clarity.
Despite the ‘Plus’ tag, it’s a case of business as usual for the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless. The noise cancellation brings small benefits in clearing environmental noise, but it isn’t as suppressive as other earbuds around this price. However, the feature set is one of the best for the money, the level of customisation on offer is excellent, and the sound quality is rich and pleasing – but their rivals offer more convincing precision.
So the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless are another solid entrant into the affordable ANC true wireless grab-bag, but no effort has reached out and taken the crown yet. A little more performance from the next earbuds could go a long way in this battle.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested over several weeks
Tested with real world use
Tested with music streaming services
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Eight hours per earbud and 24 hours in total with the charging case.
Yes, the CX Plus feature active noise cancellation technology and they’re the only models in the CX range to do so.