Sennheiser In-Ears Under $100: Momentum, CX 5.00i & CX 2.00i
Sennheiser is one of the most recognized names in the world of headphone audio. Here in 2014, we are once again bearing witness to the launch of a new set of exciting products from Sennheiser, and many of them are updates.
At Headphone.Guru, we were given the chance to play around with the new Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear, CX 5.00i, and the CX 2.00i (priced at: $99.95, $89.95, and $54.95). They represent the new generation of Sennheiser. The Momentum line IEMs (later being referred to as either Momentum or Momentum IEM) being the newest addition to Sennheiser’s well-received headphone and the CX 5.00i and 2.00i being updated variants of the CX 500 and CX 200, respectively.
Sennheiser has seen been seen as a resurgent giant in the industry as of late. Audiophiles and consumers alike are noticing the renewed efforts at mass marketing, and cross-market targeting with their products. It has gotten some audiophiles teary-eyed that ‘their brand’ is coming back, and the newcomers confused at just seeing Sennheiser being a player in the sub $300 market. And for good reason to, as for a while now on Head-Fi, Sennheiser was pushed to the post $300 market with the HD-600/650/700/800 line of products in terms of recommendations for serious audio listeners. Their budget products barely had any rhyme or reason to be mentioned on the site for the more conservative spenders (sorry for all your wallets by the way). But once again, I’d like to say that Sennheiser is back. They’ve dropped themselves into the sub $100 IEM market with these newest units and I think that we’ve got a real treat for budget buyers from now on.
Momentum In Ear
The designs of the CX5.00i and CX2.00i are fairly standard while the Momentum In-Ear tries to shoot it out of the park. All three units use an almost boomerang insertion shape to get into your ear. This allows for easy placement and comfort, and what do you know, it actually works. The design of this ‘boomerang’ shape actually starts off with a very aggressive and noticeable almost TF10 looking unit on the Momentum In-Ear. It’s quite noticeable that this shape is unique. On the CX5.00i however, it gets much less noticeable from the casual on-looker that it’s some sort of transforming Autobot. It’s a lot more ‘soft’ in its curves and cable termination than the Momentum In-Ears. On the CX2.00i however, it’s practically a round earbud that would be almost indistinguishable from the onlooker that it used the same general principal of curved insertion as its older siblings. But alas, the trickery goes away once you’re the owner and get a good look at it. The round shape includes all the ‘curves’ in it as it molds around your natural ear shape. I’m quite in favor of how Sennheiser is going about with these curvature-inserted earbuds. It’s not new, but it works quite well for me. The only problem may be that people may mistake the left and right channel buds as the curved nature generally – and often times wrongly – make the brain thinks that it actually goes in the other way; those that read this review will know better.
The only design that was truly different from the norm was the Momentum IEM and so I’ll go over this one in specific. I found it to be rather a hindrance to daily usage, than an aid. I used the unit daily in weather ranging from 65F to 13F walking across open landscape to class, and on public transportation. For the most part, it was fine, but getting it to initially work took a bit of preparation. The side ported cable terminator on it gives a bit of pressure on the unit when it is hanging straight down. It was to the point where walking would put strain on the unit and cause it to change position and thus the audio. To rectify this, I used a third party (not included) clip to hold onto my jacket to relieve that stress. Well thanks to the side ported cable, I now look like I’m wearing a goofy stethoscope with the wires leading from my heading looking like this: < o > (imagine the o is my head and the brackets being the cables). The setup worked, but it’s way too dorky looking.
The build on the CX5.00i and CX2.00i are more on the hard plastic side while the Momentum In Ear brings in the better quality weaponry. The mass majority of the CX units I got had the typical budget earbud feel to it; the plastic wasn’t free flowing and it was extremely lightweight. They were but lanky pieces of plastic with the general bells and whistles that you would expect to come with such a headphone. The Momentum In-Ears on the other hand had a very fluid cable that was smoother than the CX series. This is surprising as the CX 5.00i and Momentum In-Ear differ MSRP by only $10. The Momentum In-Ear also comes with some extremely fancy double colored cables, a metal jack terminator, rear metal Sennheiser shield, and a side ported cable terminator (so it doesn’t go straight down). It’s hands down that the winner of the build goes to the Momentum IEMs; the CX series can’t even touch them there.
The technical data of the units are quite close together, but there are some interesting things to note. The Momentum IEM sports 18-ohm impedance, 118dB spl, and a 1.3m cable length with a weight of 16g. The CX5.00i has 18-ohm impedance, 118dB spl, 1.2m cable length, and a weight of 16g. The CX2.00i however, has 28-ohm impedance, 119dB spl, 1.2m cable length, and a weight of 15g. This is interesting as this shows that the CX5.00i and CX2.00i have different drivers, which blew my mind, especially considering how they both sound, but more on this later.
The sound of the CX 2.00i is very fluid, tonally balanced except with a slightly recessed mid, and a dark base. I found the CX 2.00i to be honestly one of the best all-in one units I have heard in the $50 price range. Listening to “Time” from Claris’s new album PARTY TIME proved to be a thrilling experience on my ears and heart. It was the thick bass line, and smoothed over vocals –something evil to high-end audio – that took my heart for a spin. It was the hush and delicate vocals that the co lead singer Alice gave as she turned up the ante. The CX 2.00i responded with a swift increase in bass, and best of all, it was balanced. There weren’t the bright spots, heated highs, or slump bass that I was used to expecting. It was pretty much all there. That isn’t to say that the CX 2.00i did all of them perfectly as a reference unit would, but it did them without offense and within the guidelines of how much it can be smooth and mellow at without going over the threshold into the world of mushy sound.
Like with many pop albums, they are designed to be heard on speakers and headphones that can’t expose its faults; I’m looking at you Q701. Throw out ¾ the list of headphones you know, and the rest are the ones that work with modern songs. The CX 2.00i, to a modern listener like me was essentially akin to my first time listening to summit-fi headphones. In all honesty,
Whereas other ‘audiophile marketed’ units have better transparency, vocals, clarity, you name it. The CX 2.00i is a hell of a package that packs a consumer oriented sound that doesn’t offend, and flows well with a lot of music. Beware neutral audiophiles looking for clarity though, this isn’t for you, but this is exactly the kind of product many budget new Hi-Fi’ers of the modern age are looking for.
Getting onto the sound of the CX 5.00i, I gotta say, I dig that spatial change! The 5.00i has nice layering of the instruments, a wider than normal soundstage, and all the goodies of a fun earphone. The first thing I noticed about the CX5.00i was the bass section. On the song “A/Z” from the album Aldnoah Zero OST and artist Sawano Hiroyuki[nZk], I was thoroughly surprised as the bass jumped out at me with a wave like frequency. Everything I listened to before that had no appreciable bass (as the song didn’t require it), so I figured there wasn’t any. Gosh I was wrong, the CX5.00i has bass, and it has the best kind of all; obviously it’s the textured kind! I rarely get the treat of hearing texture in the lower end section of budget IEMs, so this was certainly a treat as my test track “A/Z” gave the hypnotizing bass lines I was deprived of for too long.
The CX 5.00i is pretty much tonally balanced whereas the 2.00i was only close in the general sound signature. I need to say it right now, I love tonally balanced units; especially if they got a nice shapely bottom. The vocals on the 5.00i are similar to those on the 2.00i (they are slightly pulled back) but with a slight increase in ability to project and an added clarity this time. They didn’t have the smoothing effect that the 2.00i’s had (which made them great for passive listening) and so here we have an active listening IEM from Sennheiser! Many audiophiles know Sennheiser for their extremely clear HD800s. There better be a clear sounding IEM sub-$100 for the budget Senny buyers, and here we have it.
Momentum In Ear
The Momentum IEM’s sound sonically thick, bass heavy, and rich in pretty much every field. Just like the Momentum headphone, the lively and rich sound is a stable good that you can expect also from the IEM. In the case of the earphone version, you get a taste for the richness by the timbre of the mids and vocals with the added thick bass. In the album Love Song by Alan, the song “Window (窗外)”, had a very sweet and ‘full’ sounding vocal range. This is characterized by the ability to reproduce the general ‘girth’ and weight that the human voice has. While the tonal balance of the Momentum IEM isn’t balanced, it has the ability to specialize in certain sonic areas (such as bass and full vocals) that allow it to be a tremendous help in certain genres.
One of those genres being EDM of course! Just think about it, full sounding vocals with a slight recession, spatial separation, and a thick bass. So let’s drop the bass on this and say that if you like EDM and want a sub $100 IEM for it that has swagger like design, this is it. In the album The Crystal Method, the lead song “Emulator” is something of a treat really. The thick background of the Momentum In-Ears is something of note with the song. It precisely matches what the song sounds like on party speakers – since this song will be played on those – and so it’s like a party in your head! The goose-stepping beat of the first drop and instrumental shenanigans pairs well with the candy red style of these Momentums. As the name implies, it gives that song a true sense of mass and velocity; it just keeps on going straight ahead without stopping!
The overall comparison of the units would be that when compared to the CX 5.00i and Momentum In-Ears, the 2.00i smaller spatial area to stand in, a more recessed vocal range, and more bass. The 2.00i also isn’t as layered as the 5.00i in separation of the sonic range that also will lead to a lesser degree in its transparency. The 2.00i has the type of cohesion that the Momentum has, but the layering (or lack thereof) is something that was left out from the baby brother of the bunch.
When compared to the Momentum IEM, the 2.00i is pretty much the little bro of it. The 2.00i is less thick, less bass, and not as recessed. The Momentum IEM is pretty much a jacked up sounding version of the 2.00i but with more spatial and layering qualities that the CX5.00i has.
When I stacked the 5.00i and Momentum In-Ear against each other, I noticed something interesting. While other companies have different sounding products –even within the same lineups- its like Sennheiser is ‘building’ up their lines. Effectively, each and every single one of the units I have with me and especially the 5.00i and the Momentum In-Ear sound like a highly deliberate case of taking qualities from one and putting them in another while keeping a general tone. The 5.00i has the spatial qualities and some really fine and clear mid range moments, but the Momentum takes a card from the 2.00i and gives it this nice and juicy thick beat to everything. But here’s the catch, the Momentums then also take things from the 5.00i in where they too, also have a wide soundstage, full vocal, and a non-offense range.
The Sennheiser family of IEMs is in essence, a real family. It’s a generation of product design built off one another and improved as you go up the ladder. This is the interesting moment I mentioned in the beginning that baffled me when I learned of the technical specs of the three units, they were inherently different in driver specifications. I’ve been too long used to companies having products of different drivers with different sounds because it’s easy to just take a driver and drop it in a product. Nope, not this time, Sennheiser tuned this stuff and designed it meticulously. The tonal balance and sound signature between all three is no fluke, they are the fruits of Sennheiser’s labor.
In conclusion, the new Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear, CX 5.00i, and 2.00i are a deliberate set of earphones that pack a lot of performance in an all-in-one package. Their cohesive sound is a result of Sennheiser’s legendary promise of quality, and we got it with all three of these units. I’m happy to say that whatever you choose, you’ll be getting a unit that isn’t gimped on any level; the entire range is tuned.
Bowei Zhao is an aspiring audio Guru who spends his time studying Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, fighting wraiths on his PC in the deepest dungeons, and finding out what the newest tech products are on the landscape so he can get his hands on them.