gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Sennheiser CX550 Style II In-Ear Earphones

Review by Rob Farley

The Sennheiser CX550 Style II earphones are your typical, in-ear, noise blocking affair. These noise blocking, sound producing earplugs are loved by as many as they are hated and their form factor is as close as you can get to the Marmite of ‘phones.

Most of the “hate it” camp, however, could be safely assumed to be comprised of people who have never tried in-ear headphones, or simply tried a cheap pair without an adaptor suitable to their ear size. There’s absolutely no doubt that good quality in-ear phones consistently sound better and fit better than regular earphones.

Retailing at about £50-£60, and produced by the enormously popular and successful Sennheiser the CX550 are much more than just noise making earplugs and are certainly not cheap, especially when the excellent MX560 earphones, and many other entry-level ‘phones retail at under £20.

So, are the CX550 Style II Earphones worth the extra mulah?

Upon prying open the usual elaborate, magnetic clasping, mid-to-high-end Sennheiser packaging you are rewarded with a set of ear-canal earphones with a surprisingly and unusually short cable, a cable extension lead to go with it, a cable clip, a generous selection of different sized adaptors (to best fit your ears) and a great little leather pouch for storing the earphones.

I don’t know if Sennheiser have actually been reading any of my previous reviews, but they’ve either been listening to their customers intently or simply suddenly covered off a lot of the features I look for in earphones by chance.

The short cable is, perhaps the most important. It’s a huge plus for anyone who uses an inline remote control, hands free microphone or bluetooth amplifier with their phone. I’ve had to cut cables down and re-solder connectors to shorten them before, but a short cable from the get-go makes for a tidy and comfortable setup out of the box. The downside is that, if you don’t use inline controls, then there’s the slight additional weight from the inline connectors on the extension lead. Frankly, though, these connectors are very lightweight and don’t cause concern. On top of this you get a clip, which are always handy if you need to keep your cable attached to your clothing so that it doesn’t tug on your ears.

There are a total of six ear-adaptors included so you should get a great fit no matter what your ear size happens to be. I found the “default”, medium sized buds fit my ears perfectly. Unlike other ear canal ‘phones I found these to be very comfortable, maybe it’s the additional size of the “arm” that makes them feel less like you’re jamming them into your ears and more like they’re supposed to stop at a pre-defined point.

They really are the first pair of ear canal phones that I really like the fit of. Furthermore, with my simple patented (not really) “bouncing up and down” test, they don’t fall out of my ears, either!

The build quality, as is always the case with Sennheiser, is excellent. I can’t fault it. Everything feels sturdy. Perhaps the inline connectors are a little small and fiddly, but, as I’ve mentioned, this keeps their weight and bulk down. Unless you’re constantly plugging and unplugging the connectors, it’s not going to cause a problem.

I’m sure you want to know what they sound like. Absolutely amazing, really… no, I mean it… Stunning. Rich warm bass, sharp top end, and all the detail in-between. I can safely say that these are the best in-ear phones I have ever heard. They don’t, of course, approach in-ear monitor perfection, but if you’re on a budget and can’t afford the Sennheiser IE6/7 or 8 then they’re a brilliant compromise.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of in-ear phones, the ear-bud design, like an ear plug, attenuates outside noise and draws your attention to the details of the music, which with the Sennheiser CX550 Style II earphones is reproduced impeccably.

So. Are they worth £60? … If you like your music, Hell yes!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009, iPhone, Personal Audio.