Sennheiser IE900 IEM Measurements and Review

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by purr1n, Jun 1, 2021.

  1. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    I'm actually going to listen to the tracks suggested by Marv for the treble issues. I'm actually not using the stock tips since they are a loaner. I am currently using the Final audio tips that Campfire includes with the Andromeda. I've notice that insertion depth does change things for me personally. I seem to enjoy them the most with a deeper fit - pushed deep past my first bend - more like an etymotic.
     
  2. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    While there is a treble peak - I find it way less bothersome than the Campfire Atlas that you have on most of your "top" lists. This is more like a what a mature Campfire Atlas / Vega should probably sound more like in my opinion. It is a "fun" option with solid technical abilities. It's not going to knock-off the Solaris if you already like that, but I think Sennheiser made what they intended here.
     
  3. M3NTAL

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    Tom Petty - Don't Do Me Like That, The Hi-Hat and Snare have more bite than they need, but honestly - there are other tonal issues going on here that Marv has mentioned already.

    On the Alanis Unplugged album - the bass guitar is a bit too thick with a sharpness in her voice and acoustic guitar highlighted by the tonal balance.

    I honestly have put some thought into buying a set, they are a pretty solid little product, just a touch too pricey currently for my blood.
     
  4. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    Well to be fair the Atlas has been at the bottom of all such lists of mine for a couple years haha...and its deal breakers for me were peaky/metallic treble and mid-bass bloom. I've been sensitive to such peaks before...it's not a deal breaker or anything for me with the Senny but it is something I'll be aware of going in.
     
  5. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Atlas was very U-shaped. The mids were decent. The extremes were pumped up. I have them somewhere but never got around to doing a review. I will put them into the queue. The IE900 were difficult, but at least I could "Loki" them into a decent FR.
     
  6. Tchoupitoulas

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    Loaner Sennheiser IE 900 Impressions
    Thank you SBAF for letting me participate in this loaner tour. Because I’m more familiar with higher-end BA or hybrid IEMs than their DD counterparts, I’d wanted to hear the IE 900 to get a sense of what a good, well-tuned DD IEM could sound like.

    Preferences and Caveats
    • I typically favor neutral/bright tunings. I have the HD 600, HD 800 SDR and Focal Clear as my main headphones. I’d assumed the IE 900 would suit me nicely.
    • I also have the darker Andromeda 2020 and love it; it’s out on loan at the moment so I can’t offer direct comparisons.
    • Since I’m in my mid-40s and have suffered some hearing loss, I can’t speak all that well to the quality of the IE 900’s treble extension.

    Gear

    • Sony NW-ZX2: not powerful enough, macrodynamics were too feeble, and the sound was a bit too muddy.
    • MacBook Air -> Qobuz-> Bifrost 2-> THX 789 / IEMagni: the IE 900’s sound opened up with both these amps, by which I mean that they became better balanced, bassier, and more dynamic and lively.
    • I didn’t use the Sennheiser tips; I tried a variety of others and settled on the Azla Sedna Regular and Light Earfit tips. I didn’t use foam tips, which in retrospect was a mistake (they might have tamed the treble peak somewhat).

    Subjective Stuff
    • I very, very rarely have fit issues but these IEMs were painful after about 30 minutes of use. The shells aren’t quite as small as they look, and they put pressure on my ears’ tragus and antitragus. For this reason alone I wouldn’t get a pair.
    • the cable has an unpleasant, almost tacky texture to it; there’s too much friction to it. It’s not free from tangling, either, although I’ve encountered plenty worse.
    • a more significant concern is that the cable’s adjustable ear hooks are important for getting a good fit: if you don’t mold the ear hooks carefully, so that they wrap snugly around the back of the ear, the cable can work against keeping the monitors properly seated in the ear; this matters because the tight wrap of the hooks around the ears gets in the way if you wear glasses.

    Tuning
    The IE 900 have a slight bass and treble emphasis, enough to make them sound u-shaped. The emphasis or peak in the lower- or mid-treble makes the overall signature tilt bright. They’re not sun-glinting-on-snow bright. But, after listening for half an hour, the brightness becomes a defining characteristic. It becomes too fatiguing. Apart from the peak, the treble seems reasonably well extended but I can’t really say if it’s clear or free of graininess. Cymbals do sound good, and trumpets can be slightly piercing, although not overly so (and much like in real life). There isn’t the lovely sparkle of the original Andromeda or the Soranik Bastille Signature, which means the experience of listening to the IE 900 is too much like getting the pain without the pleasure.

    The bass is very good. I’d say it’s close in quality (but not the quantity) of the bass of the dynamic drivers in the Vega 2020 and the Dorado 2020. It extends deeply. The sub-bass is strong but not emphasized over the mid-bass. The bass comes across as rich and nicely textured but not especially fast. It isn’t the most open-sounding or airy, either. Rather, it’s quite compact, thick, and dense. You get plenty of rumble but not much boom.

    I’m not very good at evaluating the mid-range. I’m more likely to notice when something’s off. Little sounded wrong to me with the IE 900; they seem nice and cohesive. Male vocals are quite forward, at times, and female vocals can have a bit of an edge to them on some recordings.

    The one outstanding quality of the IE 900 is the timbre of acoustic instruments. Strings, and especially cellos, sound really good, with a nice strong resonance to them. (It’s too bad the poor layering lets down the presentation when listening to string quartets). Brass instruments also sound especially good, with a lovely strong blare to them. Pianos also sound pretty good, although I’m not a good judge of this.

    On the occasional recording the overall sound comes across as oddly muddy and bright. I’m not sure why this is.


    Technicalities
    Resolution is decent, perhaps even very good (and not necessarily because of the treble emphasis). Macrodynamics are decent without being a strong suit of the IE 900.

    Where things go wrong are in the IE 900’s staging. I played around with insertion depth, which could make a difference, but not enough to save these IEMs from sounding too closed in, which is something that seems to bother me more than most people. Even so, layering is mediocre. Separation is poor. There’s no sense of air around or space between instruments. The staging is also flat, without much depth and even less width. There’s a very finite and limited headstage, even for IEMs, one that reaches as far as the ears but not really any further, and music sounds as though it’s on a single plane between the ears.

    Because of all this, instruments, at times, sound as though they’re piling up on top of each other. Listening to these IEMs is like playing pong with paddles that are too close together or, to exaggerate a bit more, it’s like listening to music in the Death Star’s ever-contracting trash compactor. Ultimately, with a lack of air and space, the sound of these IEMs ends up being quite congested, although I suppose some would call it “intimate.”

    I’m afraid I can’t offer any direct comparisons of the IE 900 to similarly priced IEMs. But, from memory, and just to give a sense of where I’m coming from, I’d say that
    • the IE 900 is less bright or piercing than the Dunu Zen
    • It has a similar tuning to the Final Audio A8000, but with less brightness and treble extension and possibly better bass
      • the A8000 was far superior at technicalities (resolution, slam, macrodynamics) and well as staging, and it sounded nice and open and spacious
    • I preferred the Solaris 2020 in every way except its timbre and brightness, which was worse than the IE 900’s (for me)
      • The Solaris 2020 is much cleaner, crisper, faster, and open sounding

    Conclusion
    Timbre aside, I hear little in these IEMs that makes them particularly appealing. At their price, they’re unattractive. The bass is nice. The mids are fine. The treble’s not the brightest but it’s enough to put me off. The dealbreaker is the odd, congested headstage.
     
  7. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    I am still thinking about my time with them. You make a good point in the Solaris vs. IE900 comparison. I've only heard the OG Solaris and it did everything very well, minus the timbre and brightness as you put it. That alone is the grace of the IE900 I think. I haven't heard an IEM that has balanced the technical ability and timbre so well that you can get over the tuning.

    I think the tuning is good for rich folks to walk the dog with. Plus they look the part. Sennheiser knows their market LOL
     
  8. M3NTAL

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    IE900 Loaner Review:

    Thank you all again for the opportunity to hear Sennheiser latest and greatest in ear monitor.
    For the period of time I had them, I used them on the following setups.

    J River 28 -> AMB y2 -> IEMagni
    J River 28 -> PSA Digital Link 3 mod -> PSA GCHA mod
    Pi2AES -> SF SFD-1 MK2 mod -> Krell KSA5 Klone
    Pi2AES -> SF SFD-1 MK2 mod -> ECP T3 mod

    Aesthetics:

    The box is very professional and maybe a little understated, but par for the course of Sennheiser. The included tips look nice, but I did not try them out.

    The cable is bothersome to me. It has a tackiness to it that I usually associate with cables that deteriorate quickly while being annoying while wearing. Basically something that I would try to swap out. The ear hooks also weren't my favorite, but if I owned them, I would have probably bent them up to conform to my ears better.

    The build of the IE900 is very nice and worthy of a flagship. I'm not a fan of metal in my ears, but the shape was fine for me. It allowed me to experiment with placement and depth.

    They don't isolate very well in my experience, but it didn't seem to affect the low-end response as long as they were inserted correctly.

    Aesthetic Conclusion: I want this same thing in a different material with a different cable

    Sound Stuff:

    I unfortunately haven't heard a wide range of single dynamic driver IEM's, but this one is at the top of my list for DYNAMIC drivers. I do have the Audeze LCD-i4 and the MEE x Drop Planamic as other single driver in ear monitors that I consider impressive technically. I know the Planamic gets doo-doo'd on everywhere, but that thing is clean, can move some air and takes very well to EQ. The i4 requires EQ to be OK and finally the IE900 that is probably the most correct out of the box of the three, but still needs a touch of EQ.

    What I feel is "timbre" is where I feel the IE900 shines. The attack / decay and overall weight seems respectable for an IEM this size. They are smoother than say a Solaris or probably most other high-tech balanced armatures of late, but not so smooth that they lack what I feel is a really good balance of speed and dynamics. The Utopia or other electrostats are examples of things that I think have a wonky balance of speed and dynamics which to me gives a "hyper real" presentation that just isn't natural to me.

    The tonality leans towards a fun club sound. It can sometimes work really well with my music, and it can sometimes totally not work. What I think of as upper mid-bass is too exaggerated and the lul in between gives a large cavernous sound at the price of being too thick for tonally accurate sounding instruments. For the treble, I guess I was prepared for ice-picks, but it was way better than things like the Periodic BE or the Campfire Atlas for me. Way better to me means - the THD profile is polite on the peak - it is a peak and not pure pain. I did find it being something that is not my personal preference, but at the same time, it is pretty solid technically, so - it's more of a feature than a flaw in my opinion.

    Overall Conclusion:

    Did I enjoy it? Yes
    Would I recommend it? I already did in this thread
    Would I buy it? No

    Why not? Because I'm not the target audience for this thing, but the people who spend that kind of money on IEM's - it is totally worth adding to your collection.
     
  9. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Packaging of the IE900 is great. The tips were fine (I prefer the marshmallow tips), the IEMs are smallish but fits great in my ears, and the IEM cables reminded me of the cables that came with the Sony IER-M9.

    Let me get this out of the way: The hollowness of the upper mids/lower treble on top of this concert hall sound make me hate the IE900 within a few minutes. I know some were saying the bass were solid here...which I have to disagree since it seems there more emp on subbass than I would like on a $1,300 IEM. The mids as stated earlier is fucked up to my liking and the treble.....well on my setup which aims for a darker sound it isn't bad at all. Maybe on more netural setups upper treble could be an issue for some. Honestly...I think the treble here is damn average. Staging is ok but this concert hall sound makes it strange since it seems like the mids/vocals have this surround effect. Resolution is ok but it isn't no CA Ara for the same price (but then again, one is DD and another is multildriver BA IEMs). This doesn't impress me at all for its MSRP.

    So at the end, WTF Sennheiser? You can make good quality looking products but with the sound of my anus. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww....
     
  10. M3NTAL

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    They are VERY concert hall effect. I almost thought I had some kind of EQ or DSP profile turned on. The more I listened to them the more I got on with what was going on. I thought the same thing about the bass until I listened some more also. The tuning is wrong, but technically - they are just showing you a boosted region that most BA's don't know how to handle. It's a double down effect IMO. Doesn't mean its OK or anything - just how I was breaking it down in my head when I was listening them them.
     
  11. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Everyone is different. Honestly I'll take a good BA setup over the poop that is the IE900, and this is coming from a guy/nutjob who prefers the DD sound over BA.

    My biggest flaw on discussing anything is if a flaw is too great of an issue (like the tone of the IE900), then it is hard for me to appreciate its other good traits.

    Also I'm typing this post when I had three cups of wine.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  12. StandUp713

    StandUp713 Friend

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    My IE 900 impressions in bullet format

    -Used my Pixel 4a/ THX Onyx Dongle(don't judge me)

    -Was expecting ho hum with a dash of meh experience with these- was presently surprised

    -Fit was nice due to small size, tips needed fiddling with at first, but paid off

    -Thought the wires were a bit thick, aftermarket would be a needed fix

    -Sounded OK with most of my test tracks, classical music was bad, but man did these own when I put in some metal... the the double horns came out

    -Agree with others that the frequency response is far from flat, but it seams like Satan said.... "These IEMs are for my music"

    -Double base blast beats were a treat and complemented demonic guitar chugging

    -I had all but given up on metal with high end audio gear, but these little IEMs had some black magic

    -I did enjoy the instrument separation and detail, the treble was rather smooth to my ears

    -The MSRP is a bit high for these, but a well priced, gentle used pair would have my interest

    - 666 out of 10
     
  13. Precogvision

    Precogvision MOT: Reviewer at Headphones.com

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    Just thought I'd plug some of my thoughts on the IE900. I really liked what I heard when I demoed it at the Sennheiser SF store, and I just couldn't get it out of my mind, so I ended up purchasing my own. Don't care to cover the build or the accessories here. I'll leave it at saying that while I appreciate having three separate cables (and they feel great), memory wire was not the way to go haha.

    So about the actual sound...

    Here is my personal unit graphed:

    [​IMG]
    https://precog.squig.link/?share=Sennheiser_IE900_S2

    There's not much that I haven't already said elsewhere about the bass response of the IE900, but just to ram the notion home, it is nothing short of excellent. I see a lot of talk about "dynamics" when it comes to bass, but the reality is that the vast majority of IEMs that I hear do not have good dynamics. That's neither in the bass, nor much less as a whole. Dynamics are indicative of gradations in volume, and within the context of bass, a bass response should present itself with a sort of "bounciness" (at least to my ears) if a transducer is replicating them properly. Of course, this depends on the music you're listening to too. But simply put, the IE900 has some of the best bass dynamics that I have heard. Other intangible metrics of bass, from texture to decay, are also right where they should be for a world-class bass response. The tonality of the bass shelf itself is largely sub-bass oriented with a hint of mid-bass to inject an extra kick of fun that's right up my alley. It's hard to believe that a 7mm dynamic driver is pulling off a bass response this good; regardless, it would not be an understatement to say that the IE900 might have one of the best bass responses in portable audio.

    The midrange is where the IE900 stumbles: It has no pinna compensation. Well, that's not quite accurate. It has inadequate pinna compensation and then opts to recess all of the upper-midrange. This results in a decidedly U-shaped presentation, wherein a lot of stringed instruments - for example, guitars - sound soft, slightly muted, and lack initial sharpness of pluck. Piano also gives me the impression that the keys are being pushed into a mushy pit of tar. If there's a saving grace to this midrange, it's that 1) I actually like a slightly recessed (read: but not this recessed) upper-midrange, and 2) it aptly kills any sibilance or harshness that might otherwise be present. Still, while I know it's an intentional tuning decision (as all the other Sennheiser IEMs have it), frankly, this just needs work. The egregious recession from 2-5kHz also lends to a disconcerting center image with which it's difficult to pinpoint, positionally, where vocalists that usually token the center come from.

    Criticism of the midrange aside, I don't think I gave the treble response of the IE900 enough credit in my original impressions. I personally found it somewhat "spicy" when I demoed it; perhaps that was due to listening at louder volumes than normal at the storefront. Anyways, the IE900's treble response is characterized by a plateau from 7-9kHz in the mid-treble which lends to copious amounts of sparkle. It is remarkably controlled tonally, sloping into and off of this plateau without any egregious peaks or valleys (I have verified this with sine sweeps; however, your mileage might vary pending fit). Thus, while you definitely have a brighter treble response, it is by no means harsh or sibilant to my ears. Extension is superb, extending well into the 15kHz+ regions with sufficient presence. Attack is well-defined and sharp, and honestly, I find little fault with this treble response on second listen. This might not hold true for everyone, and the tips you're using will also affect the treble response (perhaps due to insertion depth, I find the size medium tips to give me less treble than the size small tips). But consider me a happy camper.

    In general, the IE900 is also one of the most technically competent DDs I've heard, comfortably playing within the realm of even many full-BA and hybrid setups in its price range. Obviously it's not playing with the top dogs of this price range for technicalities, but hey, that's not too shabby. There is a good sense of vividness to transient attack and note definition is within flagship parameters. Dynamics on the IE900 are also solid; it certainly doesn't sound compressed. But it's clearly not world-class for this more latent intangible. The IE900 mostly captures crescendo/decrescendo swings (take for example a steady rise in volume as an ensemble picks up the pace and more instruments enter), but it can get "caught off guard," so to speak, when it comes to more abrupt, explosive swings into loudness. This is mostly just me being a picky asshole. A broader concern would probably be the IE900's imaging chops. As I alluded to earlier, the center image is just...not really there, so there is a lack of perceived soundstage depth. Staging also doesn't extend much further laterally or horizontally; the IE900 is a good way off holographic in my opinion.

    My thoughts right now

    Overall, the IE900 is clearly not perfect. But I could say the same for anything else in portable audio; you inevitably have to make trade-offs in this game. It's also important to consider context; after all, this is a single-DD IEM. That in mind, as far as I'm concerned, this is the best single-DD IEM that I've had the pleasure of hearing so far. I can usually tell pretty quick if an IEM is going to make the cut in my collection (benefits of hearing so many IEMs and being an absolute nitpick), and I get the feeling that the IE900 should have my single-DD itch scratched for a good while.
     
  14. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Some thoughts on the IE900 loaner:

    It seems like Sennheiser doesn’t do anything very quickly. It’s been a while since they released a TOTL IEM. And it seems they don’t really learn anything from history. Enter the IE900…

    Aesthetically the IE900 looks really nice. The housings small size fits great and the Sennheiser S looks right at home on the face. As nice as the houses are with their milled lines, the cable and tips are steps in the opposite direction. The cable is clunky and reminds me of what the on Vsonic GR07 had nearly a decade ago: gummy and cheap looking. Oh god, these ear hooks suck. At least it’s a proper MMCX removable cable that you can easily replace this time around. I couldn’t get a seal with the stock tips- the material is thin and just too floppy. The ends of the tips have some kind of silicon grid across the opening. Perhaps they would aid in holding some foam or swab in the tip for modding the frequency response… cause its gonna need it.

    Sennheiser's site for the IE900 reads like a marketing wet dream. At the end of the day its a 7mm dynamic with elaborate back-volume acoustic chamber. Lots of words about eliminating resonances but I gotta say, the treble on this thing be effin’ ringin’. I get peaks (with a tone generator) at ~5.5k, 7k and 10k. It’s sharp but not necessary piercing. The treble peaks are narrow band enough, so it somehow doesn’t come across as blatantly bright but it’s certainly omni-present. Treble decay strikes me as exaggerated and echoey. It’s just very hard to get along with.

    Live footage of me listening to the IE900 treble:
    [​IMG]


    The midrange seems to be improvement from what I remember of the IE800. While the midrange still takes a bit of backseat to the bass and treble, it's not as far behind as the previous models. For the most part it sounds clean, yet far from a beacon of transparency. Vocals lack nuance that Etymotic or Moondrop display in spades. While being a bit on the reserved side, the IE900 does tend to push sibilants forward.

    Bass is sub bass tilted. It’s a very generous boost but it’s clean and controlled and well textured. It’s dense and very solid; no slop here. I suppose this is the back chamber at work. I found it surprising how easily I adapted to the extra boost here. That being said, it doesn’t have the effortlessness of some of the larger dynamic drivers I’ve had ears on.

    At the end of the day, I didn’t bother trying to do any reversible mods. The stock signature of the IE900 is pretty forgettable. Meh.
     
  15. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    I'm not sure if this is the right thread for this, but has anyone tried the CX True Wirless? https://en-us.sennheiser.com/cx-true-wireless

    I 'think' it uses a very similar driver to the IE900 + it is wireless + you can tune it with the app. Might be a way to get close to the IE900, minus some of the special tricks the IE900 uses in its enclosure design.
     
  16. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    Hey, maybe Senn is listening. (They announced the ie600) - Looks to basically hit on everything I mentioned in my review. The cable still looks like the one from the ie900 that I wasn't that crazy about though. But, the 3D printed shells seem pretty cool for us true techies. Seems like most of the magic is in a sealed system within the shell though. CNC'd resonator on the ie900 while the ie600 looks to be 3d printed and one less resonator. They seemed to seek a tuning that puts a little more midrange into what I called the "feature" zone in the ie900.

    Count me in if anyone gets ahold of a loaner ie600. The ie900 loaner left a missing place in my heart that I have a feeling only that little 7mm driver can fill. I think it had a real pleasant pairing with my ear. Hope they are a tiny bit lighter - I assume they are.
     
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  17. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    I've had the IE 600 for a few weeks now and feel comfortable talking a little about them. If your sole issue with the IE 900 was the mid-dip that gave them the unique sound, than you might like these. If the spicy treble and elevated subbass bother you, than you wont like these. If the HD560S tuning bothers you - I think these will also. The mid's really shine on these though. They really disappear in your ear and leave with just your music in a slightly fun colored way.

    To me, they are a great everyday 'fun' carry. I have been reaching for them more than anything else lately. They are very low on fatigue + exciting at the same time. Very tough balancing act IMO.

    The included foam tips relaxes the treble and bass, but gives a slightly softer sound overall. Depends on your mood if you want silicone or foam.

    From a technicalities point - I do think the IE 900 brings a little more out of the driver, but not 200% more as the cost indicates.

    For comparison sake - I still need to hear the Luna or Zen Pro since many people seem to believe those are the other top running single dynamic drivers. I purchased the ER2XR not too long ago and also the $40 H2O things that were recommended here on SBAF. Like the IE 900 - the IE 600 is just at another level than those products in all-ways. Fit/Finish/Accessories/Technicalities. The ER2XR is the most vanilla tuning with some bass boost. The H2O's remind me of a PX100 a little. It's just music at a little less fidelity.

    I already mentioned in my IE 900 review that I didn't like the cable - and that still stands. Same cable, I'm not too upset about it, I just don't like the ear hooks. I think some people prefer it. It is actually very functional, but just a hassle everytime you put them in your ear and you need to reshape the hooks.

    Last thoughts- I still think there is a place for both the IE 900 and IE 600. I think pricing the IE 600 lower was the right call instead of pricing it closer to the IE 900. I would tell you to audition both and decide. If you can afford both, I wouldn't question anyone wanting to own both. I still kind of miss the IE 900 and the dip. It gave my music a new presentation that isn't very traditional of IEM's. The IE 600 is more grounded with what people typically expect from an IEM's presentation, but with the liveliness of the TruResponse driver or whatever it is called. I think that thing is the star of the show. Sennheiser knows how to produce great dynamic drivers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2022

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