We like music. We like it even more when it is beamed to our ear-holes via super high end headphones. Until recently our set of Atomic Floyd SuperDarts have remained our go to kit for music listening. Sennheiser thinks they can replace them with the IE80s, the company’s top end set of in-ear audiophile headphones.
Before we even get started on the IE80 review a crucial point needs to be made. When we first stuck these headphones in our ears, they just didn’t sound that great. This is because, as we discovered, they need about 3 or 4 hours play to properly "burn in" and get themselves sounding juicy. So don’t worry yourself if they sound dodgy out of the box, this will change very quickly.
Packed to perfection
Talking about the box, what exactly do you get with a set of headphones that costs more than £200? Quite a bit as it happens. A veritable buffet of possible earbuds is laid out for you, on opening the IE80’s box. Also there's an extremely swish, brushed aluminium, carrying case. All this accessorising can overshadow one of the nicest bits of kit included with the headphones. Sat on the other end of the included earwax cleaning skewer is a small screw driver.
What does this screwdriver do exactly? Well it lets you tune the amount of bass the IE80s will pour into your music. The theory is that you can adjust the headphones to sound just right for each specific genre, adding bass for dance music and taking it away for acoustic stuff. While the adjustment is fairly subtle, it works brilliantly.
In terms of build quality, the IE80s also do a pretty decent job. They have replaceable cabling, which is something we have wanted to see in headphones for ages. It just saves any worries you have of the extremely expensive pieces kit getting damaged and being irreparable.
The actual in-ear element of the headphones actually feels slightly flimsy and lightweight. The only real let-down in what is a pretty impressive audio package, they just don’t feel weighty enough. Things appear slightly too breakable, although without actually accidentally breaking them, this is a point we can’t really prove.
We normally test headphones using three different albums: Radiohead’s Ok Computer; The XX's self-titled album and then some Nick Drake. Trimming the bass levels for each album accordingly revealed levels of detail we just simply hadn't heard before.
So the audio quality is there as are the accessories and most of the hardware package. Is it enough for the IE80s to justify the £200 plus price tag? In a word: yes. The sound quality is most definitely what you could call audiophile. It is customisable to your liking via the tunable earpieces and offers more detail than nearly any other set of headphones we have used.
What we will say is that the quality jump might not be worth the price increase above the Atomic Floyd SuperDarts for those on a budget. If you want a hardy set of headphones that sound great, the the AFs are still our favourites. However if you have money to spend, then the extra cash needed for the IE80s most definitely makes them worth it.
£200 is a lot to spend on headphones, but these come with decent accessories, sound terrific and have customisation potential most headphones can only dream of.
In short, we like them, a great deal.