Sennheiser IE 80 S BT

Wireless in-ear headphones are growing more popular as conventional 3.5mm jack sockets disappear from portable equipment such as smartphones. Rather than build a new model from scratch, Sennheiser has taken the scissors to its IE 80 S wired in-ear (HFC 431) and the result is the IE 80 S BT. The wired version continues to be on sale at £300 alongside the new wireless model, which – should you wish – you can attach a cable to (available separately).

The driver and enclosure section of the BT version is unchanged from the original and the IE 80 S BT uses the same single 10mm dynamic driver. The bass response can be adjusted via a tiny rotary control on the side to augment the already competent level of noise isolation, while a selection of ear tips is supplied.

The cable has been altered into a yoke arrangement with two housings. One contains the amplification and battery and the other the control interface. Sennheiser’s Bluetooth 5.0 implementation supports aptX HD and Low Latency as well as AAC codecs. Decoding is via an unspecified AKM DAC so any sample rate Bluetooth can send should be well handled.

The IE 80 S BT uses the same voice prompts as found on the Momentum Wireless on-ear (HFC 455), which are delivered with clarity, ensuring you know the status of the headphone from the moment you power it up.

Everything is finished to a high standard with the cable loops arranged for around-the-ear fitment and the IE 80 S BT is comfortable to wear even during extended listening.

Sound quality
Pairing the IE 80 S BT with my aptX HD-capable Essential PH-1 Android phone is straightforward and successfully re-pairs each time I turn on the in-ears. The wireless range is good too, and I am able to move around several metres away from the handset without breakup or interference. With all the basics covered, the considerable talents of the wired IE 80 S are still very much apparent. The vast soundscape of Tool’s Fear Inoculum is a stiff test for any design, but the Sennheiser does a fine job of pushing information into a convincing arc around the head from the single-driver configuration. There are almost certainly multiple driver arrangements found in rival models that have greater bass extension, but the IE 80 S BT offers beautiful integration and speed across the critical part of the audio spectrum.

Bjørn Berge’s guitar in his frenetic live performance of Trains is easy to follow as a flurry of individual notes rather than a single blurred sound. His vocals are distinct and placed in a believable fashion to the guitar and the result is sufficiently convincing that you quickly stop judging the headphone and simply enjoy the performance for what it is.

Meanwhile Emily King’s Forgiveness, is rich and vibrant and thanks to the detail and clarity on offer, the nuances in her delivery are beautifully apparent. Even when you play something absolutely huge in scale like Fink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s Berlin Sunrise, the Sennheiser is able to capture the individual instruments in the orchestra and render them together as a convincing and cohesive whole. There are times where I would like an extra notch or two of gain, but it is otherwise extremely convincing and the impressive levels of isolation mean that you get the most out of the available volume on offer.

The IE 80 S BT successfully takes everything that impressed me about its wired sibling and turns it into a very capable wireless design. It costs £140 more than the wired version, but the combination of excellent performance, comprehensive Bluetooth implementation and Sennheiser’s attention to comfort and build makes this an exceptionally talented wireless in-ear design that is likely to win over many converts. ES    

Product: Sennheiser IE 80 S BT
Price: £440
Origin: Germany/China
Type: Wireless in-ear headphone
Weight: 30g

● 10mm dynamic driver
● Bluetooth 5.0 with support for aptX HD; LL and AAC
● Adjustable bass output
● Carry case

Read the full review in December 2019 issue 456

Sennheiser UK
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