For £80 the Sennheiser Style CX 550 are great value, with great audio and build quality
Billed as a high-performance noise-isolating earphone, the Sennheiser CX 550 Style II in-ear headphones are designed for the mid-range listener, who doesn’t want the average audio quality found at the cheaper end of the market, but can’t stretch to the eye-wateringly expensive prices at the high end.
So at about £80, the CX 550 fit the bill, in price terms at least.
For those who like facts and figures, the CX550s have a frequency response of 17Hz to 22.5GHZ, a sound pressure level of 114dB and total harmonic distortion of less than 0.2%. They weigh about 12g and have a 60cm cable, this is extended to 140cm with a supplied adaptor. The headphones come with a selection of three ear adapting extenders and a rather snazzy case. Also included is a clip to enable you to keep the cable from getting in the way too much.
Made from hybrid metal/composite materials, the CX550s are clearly well put together. There’s a reassuring toughness to them, which you don’t get with all in-ear headphones. The fit and feel of in-ear headphones is totally unique, but we found these comfortable enough. The way the arms of the speakers are tilted means that the wires stick out a bit, but it does mean they don’t touch your outer ear.
There’s no arguing with the superior quality of the audio from the CX550s. There’s plenty of meat to the sound, and they’re a clear step up from the Apple supplied white headphones. We tested with a range of audio such as podcasts, movies, audio books and, naturally, music. The CX 550s were particularly good with bass lines, though that didn’t overpower the rest of the music.
One of the advantages of earphones that you stuff in you ear canal is that they cut out ambient noise. The Sennheisers are particularly good, but there is one drawback to the in-ear design in that you can hear your body’s internal audio. Listening to quieter pieces like classical music, you can hear yourself breathe, which is a little unnerving and unwelcome. Also, if you’re sat still everything is fine, but when walking, especially with the cable extender plugged in you can hear your footsteps, and as the cable moves, you can hear that through the earphones. Perhaps we have heavy footsteps, but if the audio isn’t turned up it’s a bit annoying. Using the short cable does negate this somewhat, but then you’ll need to keep your iPod quite close to your ears. The clip helps to keep the cable from swaying about too much, but it’s not a foolproof solution.
This quibble aside, the CX 550s provide excellent audio quality for the price. It might seem a bit much to pay extra for iPod headphones, but really they do add to the overall audio you’ll get from your device. The package is reassuringly well put together and the headphones are well worth the money. You can easily impair your hearing without the audio distorting, so if loud is what you’re after, the Sennheisers are a great choice.