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Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
September 14, 2021
Original: $179 USD
Case: 5 x 3.5 x 4 cm
Earbud: 3 x 2.5 x 2 cm
Sennheiser’s been moving in a more reasonably priced direction with its CX True Wireless line for a bit, but its newest entry is a little more expensive. The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless is almost identical to the Sennheiser CX True Wireless, only now it offers active noise cancelling (ANC).
Is that enough to justify an upgrade? We spent two weeks with the CX Plus True Wireless to find out.
Editor’s note: this review of the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless was updated on September 30, 2022, to update the formatting and add the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) as an alternative.
Commuters who want something reliable and straightforward with ANC should buy these earbuds. Active people looking for something sweatproof with good sound for their workouts will appreciate the buds’ IPX4 rating. Anyone who just wants a versatile pair of wireless earbuds for a less-than-Apple price will save a lot with the CX Plus True Wireless.
What’s it like to use the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless?
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless doesn’t take a lot of getting used to. It has the same boxy aesthetic as many of Sennheiser’s recent wireless devices, and it works just like most worthwhile wireless earbuds. These buds sport a new glossy surface, but are otherwise visually identical to the Sennheiser CX True Wireless earbuds, as is the charging case. Basically, if you’re familiar with the older buds, a lot of this section is going to sound pretty similar.
Past the aesthetic considerations, these also work in basically the same way as the previous generation earbuds, which isn’t a bad thing. The CX Plus earbuds are lightweight, and come with four different-sized sets of ear tips (extra small, small, medium, and large), so you should be able to find the right fit. Getting a secure seal in the ear canal is pretty important for sound quality, but it’s especially important here since there’s no extra stabilizer like a fin or hook to keep the buds in.
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless case is pretty much the same as its predecessor. It’s a little bulkier than, say, the case of the Apple AirPods Pro, but still fits into the average pocket. The case charges via USB-C, and features a light on the front to indicate charge level (red for low, green for high). It’s made of plastic, and the hinge feels a little flimsy but otherwise, the case feels pretty well constructed—the earbuds fit nicely into their niches, secured by magnets and pegs with a satisfying click.
Like the CX TW, the CX Plus has an IPX4 rating for protection from sweat and water splashes. This means you shouldn’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain if you’re out on a walk, and if you’re in the market for a pair of workout earbuds, this is totally viable option. In fact, the addition of noise cancelling means the CX Plus could be a big step up for people who dislike the music selection (or the sounds of other people grunting) at their local gym.
For shoppers who like the CX Plus True Wireless design but want something a bit sportier, get the Sennheiser Sport True Wireless earbuds. These include two different kinds of ear tips labeled as “closed” and “open,” the latter of which is meant to make it easier to hear your surroundings. In practice, the difference between the two ear tip types is nominal. Still, we like the wing tips that Sennheiser provides with the Sport True Wireless, and the lanyard loop on the case is a nice touch too. Sonically, the Sport True Wireless is similar to the CX Plus, but its bass response more closely follows our house curve.
How do you control the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless?
Using the earbuds is pretty straightforward. The CX Plus features capacitive touch panels (the glossy Sennheiser logo) and you can control playback and calling with a single tap, twice, or three times, or tapping and holding on either ear. This time around Sennheiser added both ANC and a transparency mode, which filters sound from your surroundings into your ears using the microphones. Here’s a breakdown of what controls what:
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Should you download the Sennheiser Smart Control app?
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless uses the same app as the CX True Wireless to offer pretty much all the same features, with a couple of additions. Sennheiser Smart Control is well laid out, and easy to connect to your earbuds once they’re paired to your mobile device (it’s available on both Android and iOS). Just like with the CX, Smart Control lets you remap the controls governed by taps on the CX Plus—volume is still locked to tapping and holding on the right or left bud. You can also adjust your earbuds’ EQ, with either a three-band equalizer or a more dynamic visualizer interface where you can raise or lower a frequency line—you can save different presets to swap back to later.
Additionally, the app lets you adjust the level of sidetone, so you can hear how you sound over phone calls, and set whether you want virtual assistants to be able to hear your voice prompts. Unlike the Sony WH-CH510, the sidetone actually works as it should. Sennheiser Smart Control is also where you get firmware updates for both the charging case and earbuds, so it’s pretty important to install.
How does the CX Plus True Wireless connect?
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless connects to your device of choice using Bluetooth 5.2, which is really nice to see, given that 5.2 is the cutoff for the new incoming lower latency LC3 audio codec. LC3 isn’t available yet, but you’ve still got a decent stable of old favorites to rely on until that time—the CX Plus supports the default SBC codec, as well as AAC and aptX. This means there’s a high-quality option for you regardless of whether you’re an Android or Apple user.
There’s no support for Google Fast Pair, or any other kind of feature streamlining Bluetooth connections. Whether you favor iOS or Android, you’ll still need to tap and hold both earbuds for three seconds to initiate pairing mode.
How long does the battery last on the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless?
Sennheiser claims the CX Plus True Wireless can last up to 8 hours on a single charge, but our testing reveals that the battery life falls well short of that. With ANC turned off, the left earbud of the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless lasts 5 hours, 44 minutes at a consistent output peaking at 75dB(SPL), while the right earbud makes it just a bit longer at 5 hours, 47 minutes. This lands pretty squarely in average territory, though it’s definitely more consistent between the two earbuds compared to the previous CX buds, where one outperformed the other by more than two hours.
Sennheiser also claims that the CX Plus charging case holds 16 hours of charging capacity, and we haven’t experienced anything to challenge that. Over the weeklong testing period, the case has only needed charging twice. It doesn’t feature any fast charging or wireless charging perks, but it’s reliable nonetheless. However, the constant charge cycle of wireless earbuds means that these earbuds won’t last forever, regardless of the battery capacity.
Does the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless have good noise cancelling?
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless features rather good ANC performance for a pair of wireless earbuds—it doesn’t attenuate sound to the same degree as something like the Sony WF-1000XM4, but it compares very favorably to devices like the Apple AirPods Pro or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
For starters, these earbuds have very good passive isolation, which will help with incidental noises that occupy the high range—think car horns or the clatter of dishware. Past that, the CX Plus’ ANC feature renders sounds from 100-300Hz around one-quarter as loud as usual, and sounds below that up to half as loud. This means the persistent rumble of a bus engine or the buzz of a light bulb should be greatly reduced, sometimes to the point of being inaudible.
How does the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless sound?
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless sounds pretty accurate. Bass is emphasized, but not overly much, and midrange notes also get a bump. High-range sound, particularly between 1-5kHz, is a little under-emphasized compared to our consumer target curve (pink), but it still gets get a little boost.
Lows, mids, and highs
Music of all kinds should sound quite nice coming through the CX Plus. In the Scary Pockets cover of Just the Two of Us, Lizzy McAlpine’s vocals and Swatkin’s talkbox singing come through really clearly. The bass guitar has a nice level of oomph, but doesn’t drown out the more subtle guitar picking that runs throughout the song. When Swatkin’s talkbox starts to mingle with the keyboard around (1:47), the keys get a little masked, but not so much that you can’t pick it out with a little focus.
Can you use the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless for phone calls?
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless microphone sounds as you’d expect for a product like this. It sounds a little muffled, and it struggles with low-end sound and background noise, but not in a terribly egregious way. This is fine for a phone call, but don’t expect to record any podcasts with it.
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless microphone demo (Non-Standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Hold up! Something’s different:
We’ve made a big improvement to how we demonstrate the microphone performance of products we review. We now use a standardized test setup that plays back pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber, either with or without simulated background noises, simulated reverberant spaces, or artificial wind. This means that samples from every product can be directly compared, which makes it far easier to make meaningful comparisons between products in terms of the raw speech quality or the product’s ability to reject noise.
It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved microphone demos. These will be made obvious in each new sample which begins with the phrase, “This is a SoundGuys standardized microphone demonstration …”
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
Should you buy the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless?
If you’re on the hunt for a reliable pair of noise cancelling true wireless earbuds for under $200 USD, the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless should definitely be in the running.
There’s nothing best-in-class about the CX Plus, but it checks so many boxes, and checks them well, that it’s hard to nock it. These wireless earbuds sound very good and offer very good noise cancelling for the price range. The app experience is a little sparse, but it’s easy to use and lets you set your own EQ profile without any fuss. The IPX4 rating and the many different ear tip sizes make this a stable and reliable workout option. The battery life is pretty average, but it’s more than enough to get you through a commute or two, and the charging case mitigates that issue.
Basically, if you’re mulling over a pair of Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), or you’re an Android user and you know that’s not a good option, the CX Plus is a real contender.
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless SE earbuds feature a new brushed matte finish on the touch panels for a more sophisticated look. Sonically and technically, however, the CX Plus True Wireless SE is identical to the CX Plus True Wireless. What makes the CX Plus True Wireless Special Edition, well, special is that it will go on sale for Amazon Prime Day (July 12 and July 13). In the US market, it will drop 45% its original cost and in the Canadian market, it will drop 48% its original cost. In other words, you’ll be able to purchase the CX Plus SE for less than $100 USD on these two days.
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless vs Sennheiser CX True Wireless: which should you buy?
There are only a few features to really differentiate the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless from the CX True Wireless, so it’s worth thinking about which one is worth your money. These pairs of true wireless earbuds sound almost identical, with slightly more emphasized bass and mids, and less emphasized highs than we typically see from consumer-focused earbuds. They also sport very similar isolation performance, physical design, IP ratings, and controls.
Basically it all comes down to features and price. The Sennheiser CX True Wireless lacks both the active noise cancelling and transparency mode features of the CX Plus, but it’s also $50 USD cheaper. That’s assuming it’s not on sale, which, given it’s now a generation old, may start happening more often.
What should you get instead of the CX Plus?
If you’re an Apple user and want a more integrated experience, it might still be worth springing for the Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation). You can grab this for just $179 USD now that the second-gen AirPods Pro is out. The H1 chip makes pairing and controlling the earbuds a breeze, and the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless doesn’t have any sort of fast-pairing ability. Plus, you get quite a few goodies when you use the AirPods Pro with an iPhone like Spatial Audio, automatic device switching, and more.
If excellent noise cancelling is your priority, you may want to dish out for something pricey like the Sony WF-1000XM4. These wireless earbuds have better ANC than anything else in the wireless space, and they’re also otherwise spectacular—but again, they’re over $100 USD more expensive.
Of course, as I mentioned above, the Sennheiser CX True Wireless is a great option for considerably less money too, if ANC doesn’t matter much to you.
Frequently asked questions about the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 is quite a bit more expensive than the CX Plus True Wireless and costs $249 USD. With that, however, you get significantly better ANC, a more ergonomic design, and the option to attach wing tips for a more stabilized fit.
The Sennheiser MTW 3 has a more louder sub-bass response but quieter midrange and high-end response than the CXC Plus True Wireless. Both respond well to EQ. If you don’t need the best ANC Sennheiser earbuds offer, you can get a lot of value from the cheaper CX Plus series.
The Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW is a perfectly fine set of earphones for listeners who don’t want to play around with a mobile app, or pay for extra features like ANC. With the SQ1TW, you get a good frequency response, decent isolation, and IPX4-rated buds—that’s it.
Most people will prefer the fit and finish of the CX Plus True Wireless, along with its noise cancelling capabilities. Interestingly, the ATH-SQ1TW has a clearer microphone system, making it a better headset for work.