Just like Bose, Sennheiser has an excellent brand recall when it comes to high-end audio gear. The latest in Sennheiser’s repertoire is the IE 80 S BT, a pair of neckband style Bluetooth earphones with supposedly ‘audiophile-grade’ sound. In fact, Sennheiser calls it the ‘first audiophile Bluetooth earphones.’ Now, I’m not so sure if we can define the audiophile sound in absolute terms, but I can definitely tell you if the IE 80 S BT sounds good or not.
Design and fit
The IE80 S BT has a simple, tried-and-tested neckband design that works primarily because it is fuss-free. You get a black rubber neckband that terminates at two plastic housings. Connected to the housings are two thin insulated wires that then connect to the ear-hooks. The neckband is really comfortable around the ears most because it is lightweight. Also, the fit is damn snug. I could wear it for 3-4 hours at a stretch without feeling the itch to take them off. This matters because most neckband style earphones don’t offer this level of comfort.
Additionally, I like the flat profile that you get when you insert the earphones in your ears. You can wear it inside a helmet or even sleep on your sides without it jutting out. To add to that, you also get multiple tips including Comply Foam ones inside the box, which is great. Although, I have one gripe with the design: Sennheiser hasn’t given you the option for the housings to connect magnetically and automatic pause/play as a result. You get this feature in wireless neckband-style earphones that are cost only a fraction of the price of the IE80 S BT.
As far as sturdiness is concerned, I feel these should easily last you for a while even with rough usage considering the quality of the materials used. That said, for the asking pricing, I would have liked it if Sennheiser had added a metal housing instead of plastic.
Sound signature and battery life
Sennheiser uses a couple of 9mm dynamic drivers inside the housings to deliver the so-called ‘audiophile-grade’ sound. After long listening sessions, all I can tell you is that the Sennheiser IE80 S BT has a warm doctored sound that is meant to make you feel comfortable, just like the fit. Yes, the treble has a nice shine to it but the bass is a little bloated for my taste. And, I’m sure audiophiles would want a low end that has a bit more bite, a bit more attack to it.
But yes, the mids are pretty good and vocals sound great. And, the one reason why the IE80 S BT sounds audiophile-grade is that it has pretty good imaging and you can distinguish between different instruments clearly. On the flip side, the tonality is not that great because of the slightly colored sound. Thankfully, you can tweak the sound using Sennheiser’s Smart Control app and it responds to equalizer settings very well. You can immediately tell the difference, which is great.
So, is this the best sounding pair of BT earphones? I think not. For example, even Sennheiser’s very own Ambeo sounds excellent plus you have earphones like the RHA MA750 wireless/T20 Wireless and the 1More Triple Driver BT that are much more affordable with a great sound signature. Additionally, at around the same price, you also have the Planar magnetic RHA CL2 Planar that sounds incredible. And, if you ask me, all these earphones are more audiophile-grade than the IE 80 S BT. The Sennheiser IE 80 S BT strictly works well for casual, laid-back listening which works well if you are on-the-go.
Now, there’s another issue. The battery life of the IE 80 S BT is low, pretty low. It lasted for 5 hours in my testing and that is not good when compared to its competition. For example, the CL2 Planar lasts 11 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge easily.
Should you buy the Sennheiser IE80 S BT?
So, the Sennheiser IE80 S BT priced at Rs 39,990. That’s super steep but that’s the price you pay for a quality sound signature. It is a crowd pleasing sound more than audiophile-grade if you ask me. And therefore, it could sell well.
Which, in turn, is good for Sennheiser. If you want a warm, comforting sound with a clear soundscape then the IE80 S BT is perfect for you. It helps that these are also very comfortable to wear for longer durations. But, is the high price tag justified? I am not so sure.