REVIEW - Sennheiser CX500, CX300, Sony MDR-EX35, V-Moda Bass Freq, Creative EP830
UPDATED! - RHA MA350s
So for the review scroll to the bottom, the rest are other IEM's I've used.
Just to note, i've been using all pairs with a Sony E-series Walkman as well as with my computer.
Sennheiser CX300 - £17.99 Amazon
When i first got these buds i was pleasantly surprised at their sleek design and discreteness. The buds them selves are comfortable yet sturdy, which is nice compared to some other very flimsy buds. The buds come in the three sizes and i'm sure will fit anybody's ear. These earphones have the right bud longer than the left, to go around the neck, i personally like this merely due to the fact that when i wrap the wires around my player, the longer one goes round another time holding it all in place
I do have to note a couple gripes however, the one longer side does mean all the weight of the 'phones (the little that there is) is supported upon the left wire, which means especially when walking, the left side gets dragged down.
One other thing, mine stopped working! The left side lost nearly all volume compared to the right and wouldn't work with any device, so reliability doesn't seem too strong.
I have to say, after reading reviews on these with people raving about the bass, i was slightly disappointed. Even if the seal of the buds is just right, there isn't a huge amount of bass, however, with a little fix with the players EQ, you can get some reasonable bass levels, and the bass that is there is very tight and not 'muddy' at all. One thing i have to say is that in a car or train, the bass totally disappears, something to note if thats what you'll need the 'phones for.
On a brighter note, the mids and highs are fantastic, especially with some tweaks in the EQ, you can get good clarity, and the highs really bring out things like cymbals and voice well, but can be a bit harsh.
I'd say these 'phones can prove for a very pleasurable listening experience if in a quite environment, especially for the price.
Pro's - Nice build quality, design and size
- Very nice mids
- Bass is tight
Con's - Not as much bass as some would like
- Bass is not audible in trains/cars
- Sometimes harsh
- Reliability issues
V-Moda bass freq - £19.99 Amazon
When opening the package for these i was also pleasantly surprised at their size, seeing as they looked much bulkier in the picture. However in terms of design i'm not too sure about the silvery bits as they make them look a bit cheap.
The buds them selves are very similar to the CX-300's, comfortable yet sturdy and come in 3 sizes. Another nice feature is that the jack is gold so it will provide a better connection, although i'd much prefer a right angled jack as they tend to last longer. The wires on these don't seem as well made as the CX-300's, but no problems yet. With the moda's, both buds have the same length wires, but its up to you if thats a good thing or not. These also come with the 'modawrap', which is apparently for wrapping up the wires so they don't get tangled, but it doesn't seem much use to me really, as wrapping them round my player works just as well.
Well, 'It does what it says on the tin' in essence, there is much more bass with these than the CX'300's, but again the bass is quite tight. The bass survives better than the 'heisers in the car or train, i think due to the fact that there is simply more of it, and that the seal of the silicon buds is slightly more effective at noise reduction. So overall, a very pleasing bass experience.
However, where i was a bit disappointed was where the CX-300's were best, the mids and highs aren't so great. On flat EQ the highs and high-mids just aren't clear enough and don't bring out voice and cymbals nicely like the CX-300's do. With some EQ tweaks you can improve this, but the highs need boosting quite a lot. With the Moda's, the different parts of the audio seems to jumble up together unlike the CX-300's which is a shame, but saying that, its not bad at delivering the highs, i just wish it was as good as the Sennheisers, because with that coupled with its amazing bass, these would really be excellent all round earphones. It seems as though V-Moda just got all over excited about their bass and forgot about the rest!
Pros - Great bass
- Small and light
- Works well in noisy environments
Cons - Highs and high-mids could do with refining
- Build and design seems a bit cheap
Skullcandy Smokin Buds - £16.99 - Amazon.co.uk
The neat little package arrived this morning and i was pleasantly suprised at the ease of opening it was, compared to other plastic packaging (just a note to people who may want to return the product in-tact).
The phones come with 3 sizes of rubber buds like the other two. I have to say however i feel these are LESS comfortable than the CX300's and the V-moda's, the rubber them selves have embossed logo's on which make it slightly uncomfortable, and the plastic housing of the bud itself is slightly too intrusive. However, still comfortable, and they sit in the ear pretty well too.
The wire's on these are longer than the V-moda's or CX300's, about half a foot longer, and both leads are the same length. What is good about them however is there is virtually no noise from the wires hitting your clothes which is great, and was a big draw back of especially the CX300's.
The jack is gold and plastics seem of good quality. The general feel of these buds are sleek and stylish, and a bit more discrete than the V-moda's. Overall, Skullcandy did well with the deisgn of this.
Now, onto more important matters, SOUND.
I've been trying to use these buds to test with many types of audio scenarios. I've tested with big bass hip-hop, electronica, alternative/rock, bassy metal, thrashy metal, classical, male vocals, female vocals and acoustic guitar.
Bass was pretty good with these, although there isnt a whole amount of bass with these (compared with the very bass heavy V-moda's) the bass is well defined and stays solid, (big amounts of bass can be found from using bass boost if your player has it) I tested this by listening to Metallica's black album to see how the bass drum cut through the mix.
The mids and highs however seem to 'smush' together a bit though, therefore the clarity and presense suffers. Vocals and hi-hats just dont seem to seem so alive or present through these 'phones, certainly not as well as the CX300's. Due to the lack of highs and mid/high definition, there seems some quality lacking on that front.
Male vocals sound pretty good though, but female vocals just dont sound as crisp as they could.
Overall i feel the sound leaves an impression that the dynamic and frequency range seems a little narrow, and doesnt give the feel of true high quality sound. However despite this, the sound is by no means bad, it's certainly plenty good enough to enjoy any type of music on and does most songs justice, especially the more complex bass in songs.
- Decent, well defined bass
- Good design and quality
- Sits in ears well and no cable noise
- Lack of highmids/highs cuts presence and overall audio quality
- Life span, these only lasted me a few months, disappointing.
Creative EP-830 - £15.50 - Amazon.co.uk
I'll start out by saying i wasn't expecting much from these buds, not sure why, but seeing as I've got a creative player, and these are creative, i think i felt as though these were stock type buds, i ventured on anyway to see how they performed.
The box and packaging was a good start, no need to cut open anything or break any seals, worth a mention in-case you would want to return them!
First impressions where that the wires feel nice. Unlike the plastic used on the Vmodas and Skull's, these have the same rubbery and high quality feel as the Senn's. However, i wasn't so impressed with the physical design of the buds themselves, they are pretty plastic'y and don't feel high quality at all. They have equal length leads, which i think is best, and the gold plated jack is straight, which is best for me too. I'd say these are the least discrete of the 4, they are quite large and sit in your ear in such a way that they stick out quite a bit. Despite this the rubber buds feel comfortable, and they sit in the ear very well, i'd say these provide the best noise isolation of the 4. These perform very well in wind i found, the Skull's were almost impossible to hear when walking in a breeze, these are fine though. The wires don't make much noise as they touch your clothes either, which is a problem the Senn's suffered from.
Overall, very comfortable and good noise canceling, good for walking/running. Some work on the aesthetics would be good though.
Okay, sound. I had read that the creatives didn't have a lot of bass, but i have to say, especially with some EQ tweaks, there is quite a bit of it (especially with bass'y EQ), and its good! I'd say there's a similar amount of bass to the Vmoda's, but i find it quite a bit tighter, listening to songs with powerful drums and fast double bass drumming for example show how defined the bass on these is. I was impressed.
However, the first thing i noticed was a big mid-cut, and this makes some music sound quite 'closed-in', i guess i mean they don't sound very open. Thankfully, some tweaks with your EQ will greatly improve this, a slight boost of mids really brings everything out, and the sound spectrum feels more open.
High's are good with these, less high-boost is required with these than with the Skullz or Vmoda's, female voice and cymbals sound crisp but not harsh.
Overall, i have to say i was pleasantly surprised with how these sound, they don't really suffer in any area. Strangely, i'm pretty sure that these are louder than the other pair's, by quite a bit, i have to listen to music at 15 when walking with the other pairs, but on these level 9 was plenty, not sure why. All in all they give a very 'pleasant' sound, and they give a good balance, just good quality sound.
OVERALL i really like these, great value.
They are almost the most comfortable along with Sony, best at noise isolation, feel good quality and i'm pretty sure they sound the best overall.
I'd recommend these over the Skullcandy's any day, and i'd be happy to recommend these over the more expensive CX300's and Vmoda's without hesitation. Overall probably not quite as good as the Sony's, due to their size/comfort.
- Comfortable and good noise cancellation
- Overall capable of great sound
- Not very discrete and a bit chunky.
- Out of the box not enough mid's.
Sony MDREx35Lpb - £12.17 Amazon.co.uk
Name quite a mouthful... but I was quite keen to try these out, as I've always liked Sony's products. So got a good price off amazon.
Arrived in a easy to open box, with three bud sizes as normal. What nice is they are colour coded making pairing/spotting them easy.
First thing I noticed is they are very compact, much smaller than the creatives, and hardly protrude out the ear at all. They seem relatively solid, although their small size makes them feel a bit delicate.
The cable (both same length) is similar to the Vmoda plastic, not the nice rubbery kind you find on the Senn's or Creatives.
The buds fit in the ear very well indeed, I'd say these are the most comfortable and noticeable yet, I have these In about 6 hours every day and never get any ache or itch.
Low cable and wind noise which is good for walking in. However, buyers must remember these AREN'T noise canceling, and aren't supposed to be. So you hear quite a lot of outside noise compared to the rest of the NC buds I've reviewed, up to you whether you like it. Saying that they are quiet enough to enjoy your music at a safe volume.
I was kinda expecting nothing special from these due to their price, but they do sound very good.
The Sony's are probably best where all the others lack, which is the high-end definition and clarity. You'll hear a lot more detailed sound from these, with well balanced highs without being harsh, which provide a nice HQ sound that is pleasant.
Not a whole lot of bass with these, similar to the Senn's I guess, but as with most earphones some EQ fixing can help. These were the only pair I've had where I felt activating the Bassboost on my ZEN was required. But saying that, with it on they do sound very nice indeed, not muddy at all.
I actually have it set to disco with bass boost on funnily enough!
An area where these earphones are great is gaming, the clear and defined sound means sound on games like Call Of Duty, where all sorts of different sounds are going off simultaneously, it all stays intact and sounds great. An explosion going off, with guns firing, you can still hear that bullet swipe past your head.. and you just don't get that clarity when listening on standard TV/Computer speakers.
Bass does drop quite a bit in noisy environments unfortunately, which I guess is due to the less comprehensive sealing. However you still have the nice clarity in all environments, so I can't complain.
Overall the sound is great for earphones this price, I tried a more expensive pair from Sony, and I much prefer these, more clarity and MUCH more comfortable. I'm trying to decide If I prefer these over the creatives in terms of sound, but I'd probably say creative have the edge.
Roundup... I really like these, mainly because of their size and comfort, they stay in the ear very well with no side-affects. Sound is very good, a well balanced range, and makes listen for long periods of time (like me, I often listen to many albums one after the other non stop) painless and enjoyable.
Are they better than my previous favorites the creatives? Tricky question, they probably don't sound quite as full, but their much slimmer size, and better ability to sit in the ear might just push them ahead, making them my favorite.
If I don't find something that takes my eye, I'll buy these again, and I rarely do that.
Great overall sound
Slightly cheap quality
Not noise canceling
Not much bass
Sennheiser CX-500 - Amazon, £10!
So seeing as these buds are a great price now I picked some up from Amazon.
First impressions; The buds come in typical Sennheiser impossible-to-open packaging, but was pleased to find inside a nice pouch for the earphones, a little clip and LOADS of extra ear-pieces.
The build quality seems decent. The wires feel nice and are quite thick, they have a proper separator for the L/R wires and a very discrete volume control. The buds themselves are really small and are very comfortable, although a bit more difficult to get in. Wires are equal length, and there's a right-angle jack with a plastic reinforcement to (hopefully) help the cables last longer.
The noice-cancelling on these are quite good, about right i'd say. Enough so you can listen to your music comfortably at low volume but not so much you feel totally isolated. Overall, I like the design, it comes with plenty of accessories and features and they're comfy!
Sound; Within the first few seconds of hearing these through my Walkman my first thought was 'wow those Sony buds were really good!'. On flat EQ these CX500's are nowhere near as detailed and clear as the Sony's. There is a distinct lack of high-end leaving all types of music sounding quite muddy and undefined. To prevent me from being frustrated when listening to music I had to be rather aggressive with the EQ on my player, boosting highs considerably and reducing the low-end. Obviously this isn't what I want to do as I'm disrupting the mix that was carefully mastered.
With the tweaks in EQ the CX500's do sound rather nice, especially as I have no qualms with the low-end. The bass is tight and there's plenty of it (maybe too much?), however you'll never be in a situation where you're wanting more, for example on a bus/train.
However the awkward thing about having to EQ earphones is that when I want to use them on my computer they go back to sounding muddy. I don't want to re-EQ my media-player as my speakers sound great as they are, so I'm left with an irritating situation where I keep having to adjust the EQ of my mediaplayers to suit these buds!
Overall I'm left with mixed feelings on the CX500's, for £10 the build quality and features are excellent, much better than the other (more expensive) buds I've tried. They're comfy the the noise cancelling is a perfect amount for everyday use.
However the fact that they are naturally muddy sounding makes using these buds awkward. Also it's hard for me to say they sound 'bad', because on my Walkman they actually sound pretty darn good now, a nice rich sound.
But due to the fact that they are supposed to be better than the Sony's and Creatives, I can't rate these as high. I put then below the 300's because I expect more from them compared to the 300's.
Would I recommend you to buy them? No, but only because you should get the EP830's or MDRE35's instead.
-Build quality and features
-Muddy out of the box
RHA MA-350 - £29 at Amazon.co.uk
So my CX500s packed up and I bought these RHAs as a compact alternative to my AKG cans.
They looked good on paper and was intrigued to sample the goods from my neighbouring city, Glasgow;UK, where these are designed!
Inside the nicely styled packaging are a pair of very nicely designed/built earphones. They're great design for £100 let alone £30.
The buds are relatively compact and made out of a high quality aluminium shell, no plastic here! The cables, although not thick, are made of a tactile fabric lining that feel substantial. The jack is a stiff right-angled one with gold connection. They come with the usual 3 sets of buds, also nicely made. So overall for designed, RHA have done very well!
Put the earphones in and however and a couple issues arise. Firstly, the noise isolation is very effective on the MA-350s, so are great if you want to be totally cut off/are travelling. However the isolation is so effective when using the correct sized buds, there is some level of discomfort caused likely due to the pressure difference caused inside the ear canal. The tight seal means each thud of bass feels as though the earphones are trying to suck your brain out your ears! This may be unique to me, but I thought it is to be mindful of with isolating earphones.
The second, more serious issue, is that of cable noise. Annoyingly the nice fabric cables do pick up every slight touch and quite loudly too. The noise can be distracting even whilst sat still, so I wouldn't recommend these for running/sport.
If you can ignore the cable noise and listen the sound from the RHAs, you'll have good reason to forgive them.
The sound out of the box is clear, full and well balanced. There's no alarming bias in the frequency range, apart from perhaps a slight excess of scooped mids. However the bass is strong and doesn't disturb the rest of the mix. The highs, although not especially pronounced or sparkly are smooth and clear.
The RHAs aren't remarkably detailed, but are probably some of the most balanced and pleasant sounding buds I've tried. I can't really think of type of music they wouldn't be good for, and hold together well in noisy environments.
Overall, the RHA MA-350s stand up very well to the crowded competition, and I think £30 is rather good value for earphones of this quality. I'd happily recommend these for the non-sporty type. Compared with the other earphones i've reviewed, despite impressive sound and build quality, the comfort/noise issues prevent these from being #1.
1) Sony MDREx35lpb
2) RHA MA-350
3) Creative EP830
4) Sennheiser CX300
5) Sennheiser CX500
6) V-Moda Bass Freq
7) Skullcandy Smokin' Buds
Hope this helps you decide your next purchase, If you have any questions post it here, I'll try answer ASAP.
Thanks for reading, Ben
Nokia Lumia 800
Sony NWZ-E445 16GB | Creative Zen Vision:M 30GB Sennheiser CX500, Sony MDREx35lpb, Creative EP-830, Sennheiser CX300, V-Moda Bass Freq, Skullcandy Smokin' Buds
The Budget IEM Shoot-out!
Last edited by benesotor; 05-31-2013 at 01:24 PM.
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