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Review - Sennheiser's new Hi-Res Audio IE 600 In Ear Headphones

Sennheiser's latest offering ups the ante for audiophile ear buds for under $1000
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Last year Sennheiser dropped the IE 300, a fantastic in-ear headphone that delivered bright, colorful, balanced sound with the passionate music fan in mind. Following up on the IE 300, Sennheiser introduces the IE 600 targeted at the most demanding of all listeners, the audiophile. Keeping that target audience in mind, this does not mean you need to be an audiophile to appreciate the natural and detailed sound of the IE 600.

If you like your audio quality less colored and more natural, sharp, and detailed, the IE 600 is going to pique your interest. We always like to pair musical tastes with headphones, as the tuning of a headphone can help bring out the best in specific genres.

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Build Quality - These buds are similar in look and feel to 300s with a comfortable fit, lightweight and classic aesthetics. The IE 600s jump ahead in using ZR01 amorphous zirconium, an incredibly tough and premium material that is a metal with triple the bend resistance of high-performance steel. These are extremely tough 3D printed buds with precision craftsmanship that brings out a remarkable sound for the price point. The bottom line is that unless you take a blowtorch or high-powered laser to these things, they will look and sound great for years.

"At the audiophile development team, we intently listen to the feedback of our incredibly passionate customers. The IE 600 delivers a neutral reference tuning in combination with our industry-leading miniature transducer technology," says Jermo Köhnke, Product Manager for Sennheiser Audiophile. "The paradigm-shifting acoustic performance is appropriately clad in highest-performance amorphous zirconium. The IE 600 will be a reference for the most demanding mobile audio enthusiasts."

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The Sound

While the 300 has a bit more of a bright and punchy sound signature, the 600 is almost like a more mature older brother. The magic of the IE 600 is the details that come out of every nook and cranny of your music. Once you have found a good seal with the right tip, you can keep the volume lower and explore your music in a whole new way. These buds excel with intricate, subtle, detailed, and nuanced genres. We listened to three albums on various devices to see where we could extract the most detail.

Tested On:

Albums Listened To:

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane (FLAC / Vinyl / Lossless Stream)

Some Kind of Peace - Olafur Arnalds (Vinyl / Lossless Stream)

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The Hour of Bewilderbeast - Badly Drawn Boy (Vinyl / Lossless Stream / High-Quality MP3)

Depending on the medium you prefer, you could dissect the output on all the tested formats, but we will save you from that debate and dive into what we got from these new Sennheisers.

  1. Our favorite experience was with John Coltrane on Vinyl. The details and sound stage were incredible, and hearing these with an excellent headphone amp on a pure analog source just felt like you were going back in time.
  2. The bright and balanced sound of Olafur Arnalds' Some Kind of Peace was astounding; the details and intricacies revealed brought the music to life in a whole new way. The only other time we got this much clarity and detail was on a pair of open-back high-end headphones.
  3. The Badly Drawn Boy album also sounded fantastic, with its mix of folky, bright guitar, and crispy and sometimes noisy percussion. Where other headphones often get muddy in the cacophony of sounds, the IE 600s sounded clean and balanced.

Ultimately these headphones are for people that enjoy a more natural sound that is true to the original recording. The IE 600s present a satisfying balance between the highs, mids, and lows that brings out details in recordings that are frankly hard to hear with other headphones. Usually, to get this type of clarity, you are moving into open-back planar headphone territory, but Sennheiser has managed to compete with headphones that cost almost twice as much.

The TrueResponse transducer is the secret weapon here, which is a 7 mm driver that delivers a wide frequency range with almost no distortion. Even the deep bass tones on Olafur Arnalds "Loom (feat Bonobo)" punched through in a way that was satisfying without being dominant. The vocals of Badly Drawn Boy sparkle, the soundstage of A Love Supreme feels as intimate as sitting in a jazz club, these headphones were designed to extract the details, and they deliver almost flawlessly.

Summary - If you are a fan of electronic music, neo-classical, jazz, folk, indie rock, even classical - the IE 600 will take you to new places with your music at a price that is not all that out of reach.

Pros

- Two types of tips included allowing you to get the perfect fit and seal (silicone and memory foam)

- Incredible details

- Comfortable for extra-long sessions with almost no fatigue

Cons

  • For listeners that like a brighter, more colored sound with heavier bass, these might not be the best choice. The IE 300s would probably suit you better
  • The price might be a bit too high for some at 699 Euro / Approximately 780 USD

The IE 600s will be available this Spring/Summer

Features

  • Resilient AMLOY-ZR01 amorphous metal housing, 3D-printed in Germany
  • Direct, neutral tuning with fast, accurate bass
  • Select 7 mm TrueResponse transducers optimized to achieve the lowest possible distortion
  • Exceptionally neutral sound thanks to dual resonator chambers D2CA
  • Gold-plated Fidelity (+) MMCX connectors for reliable connections
  • Choice of para-aramid reinforced cables (3.5 mm, 4.4 mm)
  • Adjustable ear hooks and choice of ear tip adapters
  • Frequency response: 4 Hz – 46.5 kHz
  • 0.06% THD (1 kHz, 94 dB)
  • Impedance: 18 ohms

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