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CES 2015, The Personal Audio Perspective: New Sennheisers

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by Warren Chi

If personal audio was a religion (and believe me there are those who act as if it is), then one of the faith’s most enduring prophecies is that the mighty Orpheus shall rise again, perhaps heralded by the prophet HD 900.

Lulz.

Every year, as CES draws near, adherents like to trot out this prophecy, somehow forgetful of the fact that they’ve been wrong every single time previous. In fact, the faithful want so much for this to be true, that they are willing to accept all manner of false prophets, speculating that the Audeze EL-8 and HiFiMAN HE1000 were electrostatic models before they were revealed to be planar magnetics.

In the case of the Audeze EL-8, all it took was an “EL” prefix in the name to stir up such fervor. For the HiFiMAN HE1000, just being pictured with a Sennheiser Orpheus was enough to get people speaking in tongues.

Srsly?

Without getting into the details of why Sennheiser has no compelling reason to even consider a new Orpheus, or even an HD 900, I’ll simply say that those models were not at CES 2015.

Instead, we were treated to ergonomic and wireless updates of several bestsellers, as well as revamps of their sports and wireless lines.

Momentum 2.0 and Momentum On-Ear 2.0

Fresh for 2015, Sennheiser is introducing slightly updated versions of their Momentum and Momentum On-Ear headphones, based on extensive customer feedback received from users of the previous models.

The Momentum 2.0 (a.k.a. M2 AEi) features a subtly re-designed headband for improved fit and comfort, folding ear cups for better portability, and larger/deeper ear pads for those who had a hard time getting into the original Momentum. The new Momentum On-Ear 2.0 (a.k.a. M2 OEi) features the same re-designed headband and folding ear cups as the new over-ear, but eschews any pad changes as the original pads should be able to sit on your ears regardless of how ginormous they are.

Both new models are available now at $349.95 for the over-ear and $229.95 for the on-ear.

Momentum Wireless and Momentum On-Ear Wireless

Based upon the updated Momentum 2.0 models above, Sennheiser has also released two new wireless versions with impressive feature sets. Both the Momentum Wireless and Momentum On-Ear Wireless feature connection via Bluetooth 4.0, optional pairing via NFC, lossless Apt-X codec, and up to 22 hours of battery life.

But what truly sets them apart from most other Bluetooth models is Sennheiser’s use of NoiseGard™ active noise cancellation, which gathers ambient noise data from four different microphones situated around the two ear cups, as shown below.

Impressive … most impressive. Personally, that is the greatest number of discrete noise cancellation mics I’ve seen in a headphone to date.

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Urbanite XL Wireless

As for the new Urbanite XL wireless headphone, it also features connection via Bluetooth 4.0, optional pairing via NFC, and lossless Apt-X codec, but it lasts up to 25 hours on a single charge. There’s no active noise cancellation available, but it does come with two microphones that continuously monitor ambient noise to dynamically cancel out external interference for improved voice quality during phone calls.

However, the best thing about the Urbanite XL Wireless is the touch control panel on the right ear cup. You can adjust the volume and skip to the next track simply by sliding a finger across the panel or tapping it. You can also use the touch controls to receive and make calls when connected to a phone. And best of all, the touch controls are accompanied by voice prompts that communicate to you the current status of the headphones.

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Sennheiser Sport IEMs/Earphones

Let me be clear here, I need exercise headphones like I need a hole in the head … which is to say that the chances of me working out, vigorously enough as to require specialized audio gear, are exceedingly slim. You’ll understand what I mean if you ever meet my fat ass at a show or a meet.

Because of this, I tend to shy away from exercise headphones and IEMs, as they usually have very bright colors (too bright for me) and sound excessively bassy (probably to make up for the sounds of hearts beating rapidly, fleet footsteps, heavy breathing, or other physical activity). But, for those who conscientiously take care of themselves, Sennheiser has released an entirely new line of exercise ear buds and IEMs.

The MX 686 SPORTS (far left) and PMX 686 SPORTS (center-left) are “ear bud” models that feature open acoustics, which can help alert you to buses, trucks, or even evil bike messengers. The CX 686 SPORTS (center-right) and OCX 686 SPORTS (far right) are universal-fit IEM models that should offer better isolation than their open counterparts. All four models are water-resistant.

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Sennheiser Wireless Headphones

I’ll admit, I’ve never heard any of Sennheiser’s wireless headphones. I can understand how wireless headphones would be useful outside of the house, in a high-mobility environment. But when I’m at home, I’m usually at my desk, and prefer to listen via a passive cable connection. However, on multiple occasions, my friend Jude Mansilla has made it clear to me, in no uncertain terms, that Sennheiser’s wireless headphones are better than most – with the RS 220 being particularly good.

That said, I might be convinced to try or review them if any of you are interested. The newly announced RS 165 (far left) and RS 175 (center-left) are closed-back models with a bass boost option, which leads me to believe that they have more of a consumer sound signature. The top-of-the-line and closed-back RS 195 (far right) seems like it would be overkill for the average listener, as it supports all kinds of listening modes that improve speech intelligibility, increase dynamic range, etc. But it’s the open-backed RS 185 (center-right) that seems like it might be the optimal choice for personal audiophiles, and indeed Sennheiser describes it as being “dedicated to an optimal hi-fi listening experience.”

If you’d like us to cover any of Sennheiser’s new models above in greater detail (except for the exercisey stuff) and especially if you’d like us to compare the new Momentum models to the previous generation, please leave us a note in the comments below. For more information about the products that Sennheiser announced at CES, please visit http://en-us.sennheiser.com/ces-2015.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.

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