The Sennheiser IE 900 is the leading in ear headphones, replacing the IE 800S, which has been around for four years. Priced at $1,299.95, the IE 900 audiophile in ear monitor is considerably more expensive than much of the budget audiophile headphones that we’ve tested, but promise an experience that will capitalize on the benefits of high-resolution audio streaming. Is this the best mainstream pair of in-ear monitors you can buy right now? Find out in this Sennheiser IE 900 review.
Sennheiser IE 900 design and specs
You’d expect nothing less than premium design and build quality from a $1,299.95 pair of in ear earphones, and the Sennheiser IE900 does not disappoint. It is the first in ear headphones that Sennheiser uses monolithic aluminum to form the outer shell. Each side of the headset is very carefully, and sharply CNC machined from each independent aluminum block.
This shell is anodized, so it has a sturdy surface that won’t rust when exposed to sweat. These lines are not uncomfortable when worn in the ear, Sennheiser IE 900 feels very comfortable to wear due to the weight of only 4g (without the cable). The use of aluminum as the shell material is a way for the internal driver system to control resonance as well as anti-vibration.
In the structure of the Sennheiser IE 900 in ear headphones, the sound emanating from the driver will be controlled and reinforced by 3 Helmholtz resonators and a Vortex-designed sound outlet. You can also see air vents on both sides of the housing. The earpieces are slim and angled inwards for a secure fit, with the ear hooks on the included detachable cable offering stability.
According to Sennheiser, the use of this Helmholtz resonator is to avoid the phenomenon of “masking effect”. What is the masking effect? Some sounds may no longer be perceived when combined with an additional sound: this effect is called masking. The masking effect will cause an imbalance in the details of the bass-mid-treble at low and medium volumes. There are headphones you have to open loud enough to hear the 3 bands clearly and feel all the details of the headset because when you open it small and medium, the bass is flickering, but the high mid and treble are nowhere to be found.
The phonogram also has its story. This soundhole, when combined with the other 3 resonance chambers, will produce a vortex of air, helping to adjust the phase of the sound to get the sound quality that Sennheiser wants. Thus, in the design of the Sennheiser IE 900, the engineering team used a housing tuning method and passive acoustics measures without using components such as capacitors and resistors for stratification, so it would not be affected by the characteristics, individual acoustics of each component.
The included cable is detachable, using standard MMCX connectors to link with the earpieces, and has a 3.5mm plug for the incoming audio signal. The sales package includes a total of six pairs of ear tips – three pairs of silicone ear tips and three pairs of foam ear tips, each in small, medium, and large sizes.
The cable set includes one 3.5mm, one 2.5mm balanced, and one 4.4mm balanced cord, suitable for all music players and DAC/amplifiers currently on the market. It is an audiophile-grade pair of earphones, and the cable doesn’t have an in-line remote or microphone. The accessory set comes with a sturdy, modern fabric-covered case to store the headset.
Powering the Sennheiser IE 900 are the company’s 7mm XWB (extra wide band) TrueResponse dynamic drivers, which are said to be German-made and promise a natural and balanced sound. The frequency response ranges from 5-48,000Hz. The in ear headphones have an impedance rating of 18Ohms, and can therefore be driven easily by even the most basic source devices including smartphones, laptops, and basic DAC amplifiers.
Comfortable to wear
The IE 900 is very light, we don’t feel any earache or discomfort when using it for a long time, but its cable is tightly wrapped behind the ear that might become a problem for some people. The silicone ear tips that come with the IE 900 offer great sound but are a bit tricky to fit.
This IE ear tips have two wear styles, but actually, we put the ear tips closer to the nozzle, because it’s not very strong. Generally, for in-ears, the ear tips of the M sizer fit all. But only IE 900 and IE 300 should use the smallest size S ear tip so that it can fit tightly and deeply in the ear, at this time the wearing feeling is extremely comfortable and very light.
Sennheiser IE 900 performance
The sound of IE 900 has nothing to do with IE 800/800s or IE 300. Nor can it be said that it is the sum total of the sound quality of the Sennheiser in-ear headphones as far as some conjecture. We’ve used it for over 300 hours since we opened the box (it takes a long time to hear, but it’s super-fast, plugging into a DAC/amp for about three weeks, we’ve tried to hear all kinds of songs.) As we’ve filed, the IE 900’s sound quality has changed in a more positive direction, with bass getting clearer, stronger, and deeper. When we opened the box, we found the IE 900 to have a bass that isn’t tight and strong, overflowing. But after using it for quite a long time, we now feel that the bass and treble are stronger, brighter, and even sharp.
We used several devices to beat the IE 900: iFi Zen Signature, Hip DAC, Fiio Q3, Topping A30 Pro, DDhifi TC4.4B, Moon 430HA, and Fiio M11 Plus LTD (using AKM DAC version). There are 2 devices for the best sound output in our opinion is the DDhifi TC4.4B and Fiio M11 Plus LTD. Or here it means they make the IE 900 shine, not adding a lot of bass nor softening the treble, but showing off good dynamics and the ability to peel away the headset’s instrument layer.
The list of which songs we listened to is as follows: Liquid Spirit (Gregory Porter), Morning Phase (Beck), Out to Lunch (Eric Dolphy), Solstice/Sound and Shadows (Ralph Towner), Shostakovich: Jazz Suites No. 1-2, A New Conception (Sam Rivers), and there are many more because we have listened to it for more than two months, in general, it is mixed, the albums mentioned here are the ones that we liked the most.
The three tonal bands of the IE 900 are highly coherent, extremely interconnected, making them difficult to separate and evaluate separately. However, in this Sennheiser IE 900 review, we will try to describe it so that you can understand how our experience was.
The IE 900’s bass is strong, loud, round, very smooth, the upper bass and sub-bass force is strong, explosive with good dynamics, sounds very lively. Bass goes very deep, it’s always deep, not a gentle groan when it comes to sub-bass. You’ll probably only find this type of bass in IE 900.
We say that because we have the Aura, Valkyrie, Hero, and a few other high-end IEM in ear headphones to test over and over again, we think the IE900’s upper bass isn’t as tight and powerful as a Campfire Ara. The sub-bass is not as powerful and bold as Hero, the bass speed is quite better than Valkyrie, especially for IE 800/800S to breathe smoke in terms of speed and detail of each bass note.
The IE 900’s mid sound isn’t thick, not thin, it’s on the most balanced range, a bit forward, and has good bounce, in our opinion. The wind or guitar sound is rich in emotional nuance, especially when you listen to a lot of dense harmony albums like Tenor Saxophones, Out to Lunch by Eric Dolphy, Sound, and Shadows by Ralph Towner.
The way the IE 900 reproduces male and female vocals is also utterly reassuring, the two voices we’re most convinced are Beck’s Morning Phase or Gregory Porter in Liquid Spirit: the midrange is reproduced firmly, strong and seamless. You would love to listen to it for a long time, there is no tiredness in the ear, in fact, we can listen to music on IE 900 continuously for 6 hours without taking it out. (Yeah, it’s not only because it sounds nice and comfortable that we will be able to listen to it for a long time, but also because of the compact and lightweight).
The IE 900’s mid-range will be thicker, more advanced, and smoother than the Ara, the brightness and clarity we think are both equal. The Ara will give a V-shaped midrange, the lower mid will be thinner than the IE 900, and the high-mid will be stretched slightly, overall the Ara midrange will be a bit behind. That doesn’t mean the Ara has a lower mids than the IE900, these two sound patterns are so different, we’re only stating the difference between these two in ear headphones.
The treble isn’t sharp, doesn’t go into such a stretch, it’s more detailed and subtle, and doesn’t tire the ear, it seems Sennheiser wants this treble not to be different from the other two bands, and also don’t stress it as much as mid-range to keep the overall sound quality for the recording most harmonious. The albums that best demonstrate this are Sam Rivers’ A New Conception and The El Camino’ Black Keys. Maybe that’s why you should listen to 6 hours of all genres.
Sennheiser IE 900 has a medium soundstage, we don’t know if you’ve heard of Empire Ears Valkyrie or AKG K3003, Valkyrie may not be owned by many, but K3003 is famous for so long, this year the price is also quite low, so many of you can also buy it. The IE 900 has a soundstage that isn’t quite as wide as the K3003, the width is slightly better.
That’s when we perceive, but if we listen to classical, to be honest, we still rate the IE 900 higher than the K3003, because the soundstage doesn’t do it all, K3003 plays concerto for clear and deep bass range but still lacks power level, not highlighting the cello and bass clarinet, bassoon, and drum, while the IE 900 fought well even though the depth was only slightly inferior. You can listen to Dmitri Shostakovich: Waltz No. 2 to visualize what we’re talking about.
The Sennheiser IE 900 is a very good pair of in ear headphones, with solid build quality and design, and impressive sound quality. It’s easy to drive and use with even basic audiophile equipment and source devices, and performs well even when plugged directly into a basic source device – that is, without any additional amplification or advanced digital-to-analog conversion. This is a fun, detailed, and refined pair of in ear monitors that almost brings out the best in high-quality audio tracks.
IE 900 has a very high musicality, whenever we listen to it we feel that we are in love with the music and immersed in the melody. Sennheiser’s solidity and tenacity, coupled with dynamic driver design and advanced acoustics, also make the IE 900 more enjoyable than ever. Highly recommend!
Sennheiser IE 900 price and availability
Sennheiser IE 900 has been priced at $1,299.95 and can be purchased via the Bhphotovideo.com website.