(Pocket-lint) - Sennheiser is one of the grand old dames of the audio world, but it's not been sitting on its hands in recent years - it's got options for listeners at a range of price points, and while the new CX True Wireless earbuds might not be truly "budget" they're still wallet-friendly in many ways.
However, they also slot right into a section of the market that's getting more and more competitive with every passing week: true wireless headphones. Yes, there are plenty of other options if you're looking to spend a roughly similar amount on some wireless earbuds, so how does Sennheiser stand out?
- Available in black or white finishes
- Weight: 6g per earbud; 37g case (49g in total)
Sennheiser's designs are rarely 'out there' - and these earbuds fit within those expectations, with a restrained and almost generic look. If that sounds disparaging, it really isn't - we don't tend to want our earbuds to scream for attention, to be honest.
The earbuds look subtle enough in the ear, especially in the black colourway we've been testing, and their plastic materials do make them impressively light, in turn making them pretty comfortable for longer listening sessions.
One drawback to their build, though, is that the earbuds are fairly chunky, and that might make them a less ideal fit for those with smaller ears. Ear tip options mean you'll be able to get a fit for your ear canal most likely, but whether they fit comfortably into your outer ear might be more variable.
The case is similarly pared-back and simple, and also built of lightweight plastic, although it's got just enough weight that you won't lose track of it easily, and it doesn't feel flimsy. We have noticed that the matte finish on the case is prone to scratching though, in regular use, so it might look a little scruffy over time.
The design is almost entirely unchanged from the older CX 400BT earbuds, so Sennheiser clearly knows there wasn't really anything broken with that model. If you want to stand out from the crowd, though, these might not be for you.
- 7mm dynamic driver
- 5Hz-21,000 Hz frequency response
- aptX compatible
Actually putting the CX True Wireless earbuds into your ears is where the real test lies, though, and once we found an impressively snug fit using the included eartips, we were suitably impressed by what is really solid sound for the price.
The first word that pops to mind when discussing Sennheiser in general for us is 'balance' - as that's certainly what's applicable here, the CX True Wireless won't overdo things in any direction, instead offering a nice and mellow soundstage that works great across all different types of music.
Funking to the newest release from Jungle or going for some angrier beats with vintage Queens of the Stone Age both produce impressive results.
If you want a bit more bass there's an easily enabled Bass Boost function to pump things up a little. We didn't find ourselves using it, though, which is a marker of the default setup's quality. Don't get us wrong, though - you're unlikely to be completely blown away by the sound here, even if you pair it with high-resolution audio, but for the price we think it's a very solid situation.
Connectivity is also solid, although not the widest-ranging we've had, and we did occasionally find that the earbuds took a little while to reconnect to our phone when we took them out for the first time in a day or two.
aptX is on board, if your phone or device supports it, too, so you can get less compressed sound as applicable, which is always welcome.
Features and battery life
- 9 hours of playtime per charge, 27 including case
- Customisation via Sennheiser Smart Control App
- No active noise cancellation
In terms of additional features, the CX True Wireless get by on something not far off the minimum, which isn't a huge problem. The headline, given how many models have started including it at this price, is that there's no active noise cancellation (ANC) here.
That means that if you're travelling a lot on trains or planes you won't find these the most isolating of listening companions, and while the seal we got was good enough to get us solid sound, that's still a shame in comparison to what the likes of Nothing are now managing at lower prices.
Elsewhere you get some tap controls on each earbud, laid out for you when you connect them to Sennheiser's app, and they work fine - although we'd really appreciate the ability to remap them to prioritise what we actually use, as always.
That same app does give you full equaliser (EQ) control, though, which is far from a given, and it's easy to switch between presets of your own making.
Battery life is also above what you'd expect, with nine hours of playtime streaking past some significantly more expensive options, and another couple of charges in the case for performance that should be more than enough to see most people through a few days or a week between recharges via USB Type-C.
The CX True Wireless aren't the most fully-featured earbuds we've ever tested, nor do they have the very best sound, but they do manage to hit a sweet spot between value and quality that isn't as easy as many rival manufacturers might want you to think.
For a fair price you're getting great, balanced sound and battery life that'll have you listening for ages. It's just a bit of a shame that these 'buds don't have that hard-to-pin-down feeling of quality in your hand, and that they aren't able to bring active noise-cancelling to the table to really seal the deal. Still, at this price, they represent a very solid option.
Nothing Ear 1
Nothing's first earbuds are demonstrating that you can cut costs without losing out on features and, in particular, they demonstrate that you can get solid ANC into an earbud without it driving the price up hugely.
Apple AirPods Pro
If you want reliable ANC and you're on an iPhone most of the time then splashing out a little more than the Sennheiser CX True Wireless could get you the AirPods Pro - which are so insanely easy to use and rewarding on a daily basis that they're an obvious pick.