Presented in a padded black box and glinting like a pair of diamond earrings, the new Sennheiser IE 900 wired earbuds set expectations high — very high. As days of auditioning proved, they manage to deliver on the promise, and then some.
Touted as earphones for audiophiles, the IE 900 earbuds are priced accordingly at just under $1,300. The wired in-ear speakers eliminate the compression and dropout issues of wireless earbuds and convey uninterrupted high-resolution sound without any noticeable depreciation of dynamic range. A solid aluminum housing is milled to accommodate Sennheiser’s 7mm X3R transducer, which contains three resonator chambers.
The most pronounced difference between the IE 900 and previous generations of audiophile earphones is that these ’buds possess clarity and precision in reproducing sound, particularly in the high end, but never sound harsh. With a beyond-human-hearing-rated frequency response of 5 to 48,000 Hz (-10 dB), the IE 900 earbuds would seemingly produce high notes with excessive sibilance and listener fatigue. On the contrary: String instruments are taut without ever becoming unnaturally sharp, while vocals have a limpidness that can make you feel as though you’re sitting next to the singer. Simultaneously, bass notes are appropriately resonant without losing any definition.
For improved comfort, the IE 900’s detachable cords have malleable stretches near the connectors to act as ear hooks and take some of the weight off of the ear inserts (foam and silicone pieces are included). While over-the-ear cans may still be preferable for many listeners, the in-ear IE 900 earbuds can be worn for hours without discomfort.
Compared to ported models and other past attempts to make in-ear models faithfully reproduce music, the IE 900 earbuds are the best that Sennheiser has produced so far. We just hope that with the sale of the consumer electronics division to Sonova, this isn’t Sennheiser’s last hurrah.
Here’s a video on the making of Sennheiser’s last pair of audiophile earbuds as an independent company.