TL;DR: The 80S is a more refined and an improved version of the IE80. It is less warm in the bass, clearer in the midrange and brighter in the treble. But it still maintains the same stage.
The IE80 is warmer and looser in bass. It doesn’t have the definition and detail of the 80S. But the IE80’s bass has more authority. Once the IE80 is tape-modded, the bass quantity is reduced to the same level as the stock 80S. While the tape mod on the IE80 helps control the bass, it still doesn’t help get rid of the mushy and veiled mid-range. 80S is free of this mushiness and veil for the most part, as it is more resolving and transparent. Imagine taking IE80’s midrange and maintaining its laidback nature, but improving its clarity and resolution. That is exactly how the 80S sounds in the mid-range. So the vocals and the instruments in the mid-range sound clearer and have better presence. The treble is slightly brighter on the 80S, and it helps the IEM retrieve more details. 80S also has better treble extension which improves the overall technical capability of the IEM. In terms of staging, separation and imaging, both IEMs seem to have the same amount of space, but the 80S is a step forward in terms of background blackness, separation and imaging precision.
vs Simgot EN700 Pro:
Both these IEMs are very different in their tunings and so their use case would be quite different. 80S’ U shaped signature makes it a fun and laidback IEM, which is great for enjoying genres like; modern pop, electronic, psychedelic etc. The 700Pro has a more balanced tuning, that is more serious in nature, and will be better suited for classical, rock, blues etc. 700Pro is also the better one for critical listening or monitoring, as it is less colored and gets close to neutrality. For watching action, sci-fi and adventure movies, I’d pick the 80S. But for drama, or any genre where vocals are important, I’d go with the 700Pro.
Both the IEMs have an enhanced bass region. But 700Pro’s bass is not as enhanced as 80S’ bass. And so it is not as warm nor thick as the 80S. The midrange on the 80S is warm and relaxed in nature. It also sounds slightly veiled. 700Pro’s mid-range is more forward, sounds clearer and is better articulated. Actually, it is slightly bright due to the tilt towards the upper-mids. As a result, female vocals and instruments, come across more melodically on the 700Pro, while the male vocals have more body and authority on the 80S. The treble resolution is similar on both the IEMs. There is a bit of brightness in the treble region on both the IEMS that help with the articulation and details. But the 700Pro showcases better details as it is less warm and is more transparent in the mid-range and treble.
700Pro’s soundstage is very wide and is quite airy, but it lacks depth. The 80S provides a more holographic feel due to its 3D structure of the stage. The left-right instrument separation is better on the 700Pro. Not that the separation on the 80S is poorer, but it’s not as easy to perceive the separation due to the warmth from the bass and the recessed mid-range. But 80S has the advantage in the layering due to its better depth. In terms of imaging, both seem to have the same level of precision. But the 80S provides a more natural sense of imaging, in accordance to its 3D soundstage.
Critical Comments and Suggestions.
– In an attempt to improve the sense of clarity and detail retrieval, Sennheiser seems to have increased the 6kHz peak by a few dBs. While some might welcome this change, this peak is going to be bright for some listener.
– Sennheiser could have explored other tunings than simply revising IE80’s tuning. There are other versions of U shaped tuning that are more versatile.
– The IEM market has become highly competitive and many manufacturers have caught up to the competition in the recent years. A headphone giant like Sennheiser needs to start pushing boundaries, rather than just fixing the negatives or making incremental upgrades to the existing line-up.
Protect Yourself from Counterfeits.
One of the challenges that Sennheiser has been facing for many years with their high-end IEMs (IE8, IE80, IE800) is that, these models have been counterfeited and sold online for very tempting prices. If you find a price that looks too-good-to-be-true, then it most likely is a counterfeit. Protect yourself by buying the IE80S from Sennheiser or, authorized retailers of Sennheiser products.
Sennheiser IE80S is a clear improvement over its predecessor, as result of the controlled bass, more resolving mid-range and a slightly brighter treble, that helps with bringing more details to the presentation. It also retains the large stage that the IE80 is popular for, and improves the imaging precision further. You could say, it is an improved IE80 across the board. So yes, it looks like Sennheiser does listen to its customers. But, make no mistake, it is still an IE80 at core. So if you had a chance to try the IE80 sometime, and did not like its tuning at all, the 80S is probably not going to work either. On the other hand, if you are looking for an improved IE80 or, a very reliable and versatile IEM that has a warm and laidback sound, with a large soundstage, IE80S may be a great buy, as it also a very reliable IEM.