In with a New!
Pros: An Improved IE80, Soundstage, Warm & Smooth Signature, Comfort, Build Quality, Reliability, Carry Case
Cons: Modified but the same tuning as IE80, Recessed Mids & Vocals, Bright 6kHz peak
Today I would like to share our first guest review by Vishnu, who is well known on Head-fi as EagleWings. He has a lot of experience with the original IE80 and has contributed immensely in its thread on HF. After my IE800S review and the follow up comparison to IE800, I felt that IE80S review will benefit greatly written by someone who has more experience with the original IEM since I’m sure many will be interested in the comparison. Vishnu was simply a better man for the job, and I hope to see him contribute more in the future! Also, with an exception of two of my pictures with a signature granite countertop background, all the shots were taken by Vishnu.
The product was provided free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for an honest opinion.
Sennheiser hardly needs an introduction in the headphone community. Although, they may be best known for their over-ear headphones, their portfolio is not limited to just headphones. Sennheiser has a line-up of IEMs and earbuds in various price ranges, suitable for different use cases and budget. Among the IEM collection, the models from the IE line-up seem to be made for the audiophile market. Until Q3, 2017, the IE line-up consisted of IE60, IE8i, IE80 and IE800. In Q4, 2017, Sennheiser added 2 new models, namely the IE80S and IE800S, which are updates to the IE80 and IE800.
The original IE80 that was released back in 2011, has been a popular IEM among audiophiles, preferring a warm and smooth sound. But the main attraction of the IE80 was its large soundstage. To this day, many manufacturers are still playing catch up to match its soundstage. But like any product, it wasn’t perfect. The biggest and the most common complaint however was with regards to its enhanced upper-bass, which cast a veil on its mid-range. After 8 years, Sennheiser has finally released an update to the IE80. An update that many of us have been eagerly waiting for. An update that will tell us if Sennheiser listens to its customers’ complaints. Let’s find out.
Going forth into the review, I will be referring to the IE80S as 80S.
Packaging and Accessories.
The 80S comes with an adequate set of accessories, such as a carry case, selection of ear-tips and cleaning tool. When Sennheiser announced the 80S, I was anxious to find out if they repeated the mistake of including the same case that came with the IE80. That case was an anti-thesis of practicality. I was relieved when I found out that the 80S comes with a semi-hard zipper case. This zipper case, does a fine job of fitting the IEM and seems quite capable of protecting the internal contents. But you should know that, this is not a small zipper case that you could easily fit in your denim pocket. The case actually measures 6” x 4” x 1.5”. Yes that is a large case. But it does more than holding just the IEM. It can comfortably fit a DAP, or a portable DAC/Amp on one side, and hold the 80S on the other. This case makes a lot of sense especially if you carry a DAP. But it won’t hold your 4” screen smartphones. While this case may not be ideal for someone who prefers a small case, you could at least put this case to use at home to store audiophile accessories.
As for ear-tips, you get 3 x pairs of each type: silicone, dual flanges and Comply foam. Foams give you a smoother, warmer and woolly sound. Silicone tips make the sound a little open, brighter and less thick. I could never get a good seal with the dual flange tips. One of the most preferred after-market ear-tips for the IE80 is the Spiral dots. And I can confidently say, it works great for the 80S too. You also get a cleaning tool, which has a flat wedge on the other end, to adjust the bass dial on the IEM. The last item is a set of pre-shaped ear-hooks, which helps the cable stay in place over your ears, during workouts.
Build Quality, Fit, Comfort and Isolation.
If you thought that the IE80S looks good in pictures, it looks even better in person. That is due to the quality of BOM used on the IEM, as well as the perfect finish. I have been quite appreciative of the build quality of my IE80. But 80S takes it up a notch. The cable on the 80S is thicker and has a matte finish, compared to IE80’s cable. There aren’t any micro-phonics, when the cable is worn over-ear. The stress relief on right connector of the cable is red in color, to let you easily distinguish between left and right. It is also terminated with a straight 3.5mm connector that is thin. So if your phone case has a narrow cutout for the 3.5mm port, you wouldn’t have to worry.
As the overall shape and size of the 80S is, no different than the IE80, the fit, comfort and isolation is the same. It has a short nozzle with a flange at the tip that helps to hold the ear-tip in place. The fit is fairly shallow. As a result, the isolation is less than average. Being small in size and light in weight, this is a very comfortable IEM. It sits sufficiently flush in your ears, that you shouldn’t have a problem if you fell asleep with the 80S.