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Sennheiser IE 200
4g (per bud)
The Sennheiser IE 200 is a pint sized set of in-ear monitors (IEM) aimed at bridging the difference between “accurate” and consumer oriented sound reproduction. It distinguishes itself from other models in the IE line up by aiming at the everyday listeners with a spartan look and performance-focused execution. Should you grab a set, or choose a different Sennheiser IE model?
Editor’s note: this review was updated on September 13, 2023, to add the Moondrop Aria and Moondrop Aria SE to Alternatives.
For the person looking to listen to their music with a relatively subdued frequency response, the Sennheiser IE 200 presents as a viable alternative to much larger studio cans. Using the isolating memory foam ear tips will help isolate for musicians working with wireless audio receivers.
What’s it like to use Sennheiser IE 200?
The Sennheiser IE 200 ships with most of what you need, and pretty much nothing you don’t. Built with utilitarian plastic housings, it’s not a luxurious legacy product, but rather a purpose-built set of IEMs for everyday applications. However, you still get some of the upgrades, such as removable MMCX cables. Sennheiser also includes three pairs of silicone and three pairs of memory foam ear tips, alongside a carry pouch.
The cable is made of para-aramid (Kevlar) and looks rather like the Campfire Audio Honeydew cable. Unlike the next step up, Sennheiser IE 300, the IE 200 cable does not have an additional protective sheath of material around the cable. With that said, in no way does the cable feel delicate, and it lays flatter than the other higher tier Sennheiser IE models. The IE 200 cable has a memory wire so that you can easily pop the earbud in and wrap the cable over your ear to secure it in place.
When the box first arrived it felt so light, that I wondered if anything was inside. Each bud weighs merely 4 grams. Being made primarily of plastic, rather than something more exotic, the seams are pretty smooth, and don’t cause irritation. Especially small ears may find the housing puts pressure on the anti-helix, but the IE 200 ought to fit most ears well. The IE 200 is uncomplicated to use in the nicest way possible. It wears comfortably for over two hours and it’s lightweight from the buds to the cable.
How does the Sennheiser IE 200 connect?
Keeping things simple, the Sennheiser IE 200 is a wired only set of earbuds. The package includes a single 1.2m long cable terminating in a 3.5mm headphone jack. You can buy replacement MMCX compatible cables should the need arise, which ensures the IE 200 will outlast battery powered earbuds.
How well does the Sennheiser IE 200 block out noise?
With the included silicone ear tips the isolation of the Sennheiser IE 200 rates as pretty decent. You’ll get even more noise blocking from the memory foam ear tips. Unsurprisingly, the IE 200 attenuates mainly high pitched noises most effectively, leaving low end noises only slightly quieter than they otherwise would sound without the IE 200.
With the silicone ear tips in, sounds like a running faucet and keystrokes still come through. Still, if someone is in another room trying to get your attention, you could very well not hear. That 20dB reduction in noise at 1kHz is enough, in combination with music playing, to render quite a bit of your environment inaudible. It’s certainly not active noise canceling, but you don’t need batteries for this performance either.
How does the Sennheiser IE 200 sound?
Unless you’re seeking a set of “neutral” studio style IEMs, you may find the frequency response of the Sennheiser IE 200 can lack a little low end compared to most people’s everyday headphones. On the other hand, if you want quieter bass and mids for editing or monitoring audio, the IE 200 curve is still largely representative of your audio. This leaves you with a pretty nice sounding high mids and treble response that largely follows our headphone preference curve, except with a little less ear gain from 3-4kHz.
Lows, mids, highs
When listening to That’s Us/Wild Combination by Arthur Russell most parts come through without major issues. The vocals sound great, including the prominent echo effect. What is notable is the comparatively quiet bass parts, and electronic kick drum. You can still hear the electric piano, but it’s quiet compared to the two singers, whose voices sometimes nearly drown out the keys. Even the lower notes of the cello at the chorus play at a low volume. Meanwhile, the electronic cymbals and snares all sound good.
You may find yourself wanting to crank the volume in an effort to hear the bass and low mids better. Highlighting the importance of fit, you might find that sometimes the low end is really too quiet. In those cases, before whipping out the EQ, you can check how deeply set the IEMs are inserted in your ears, and try experimenting with a different ear tip size or material to improve the frequency response you hear.
Similar to how different ear tips impact isolation performance, the Sennheiser IE 200 will sound slightly different with the included memory foam ear tips. Most notably, it tames the exaggerated high frequency volume above 10kHz.
Should you buy the Sennheiser IE 200?
The Sennheiser IE 200 is a great set of IEMs for anyone interested in mixing, monitoring, or analyzing audio. While the low bass volume isn’t ideal for casual music fans, it’s easy to EQ, adding some flexibility to the otherwise somewhat niche frequency response. In addition, the separation of instruments during playback adds some dimension to your audio that a lot of headphones and earbuds with otherwise great frequency responses don’t always offer.
For the price the IE 200 performs quite well, and feels comfortable for hours at a time. Of course, bass heads need not apply here, but if you’re looking for a fairly affordable (on the scale of Sennheiser IE models) wired IEMs, the Sennheiser IE 200 could be your Goldilocks choice.
How does Sennheiser IE 200 compare to Sennheiser IE 600?
On the whole, the Sennheiser IE 600 and the IE 200 share the common thread of para-aramid cabling, six pairs of ear tips of the same size, and relatively similar shaped housings. The cabling wraps over the ear for both, but the sound, fit and feel remain distinct. Whereas the Sennheiser IE 200 is made of smooth plastic for the housings, the IE 600 uses a zirconium alloy that’s hand finished with a pitted texture. The IE 200 feels more like conventional earphones in this regard.
More distinctly, the IE 200 is tuned differently above 5kHz, and with silicone ear tips it boosts above 10kHz more than IE 600. The IE 600 boosts more at 9kHz, with some under-emphasis at 6kHz, where the IE 200 boosts. In addition, the IE 600 has more low end volume. Your case use will determine which fits your life better. Below you can see that when compared to our consumer target curve, the IE 200 under amplifies a bit of low end. They both follow similar tunings between 1kHz and 5kHz, where quite a lot of fundamentals play.
In addition the IE 600 comes with both a standard unbalanced 3.5mm cable, and a second balanced 4.4mm cable, alongside a zip case, lapel clip, and a certificate of inspection. Most folks won’t benefit from the balanced connection, so that second cable may be moot. Certainly, cost comes into play when making the choice too, with the IE 600 costing quite a lot more. Still, both are well constructed and sound good.
What should you get instead of the Sennheiser IE 200?
If you like the idea of the Sennheiser IE 200 and want something aimed more for casual enjoyment, try the Sennheiser IE 300. It sports more bass, with a similar shaped housing, that offers a similar amount of in-ear comfort. The IE 300 a bit pricier ($281 at Amazon), but it is also not brand new, so you may find it occasionally discounted.
On the other end, if you feel hampered by the possibility of a wired only connection, the Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless gives listeners both wired and Bluetooth compatibility. The Bluetooth module is slightly clunky on the IE 100 PRO Wireless, but it works with SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Low Latency Bluetooth codecs. It doesn’t quite block as much noise as the IE 200, and you lose out on the para-aramid cabling, but the value is compelling for $149 at Amazon.
Of course, if accuracy is your main aim, studio headphones already do that and many cost less money. Alternately, for the analytical listeners out there invested in getting a set of IEMs, the Etymotic ER2SE may please with the right EQ. Like the IE 200 it plays low frequencies too quietly at a pretty consistent volume. It boosts volume beginning around 1kHz. You’ll likely want to turn up the treble above 5kHz with the ER2SE when you equalize as well. With that said, these IEMs tend to sell for less money than the IE 200, so if you’re looking for a more “neutral” sound, and don’t mind using an equalizer, this is not a difficult set to dial in. Find the Etymotic ER2SE for $99 at Amazon.
Anyone who wants a good quality set of wired earbuds, and aren’t super concerned with perfect accuracy can always rely on the evergreen Shure SE215. It’s well priced ($99 at Amazon) and it simply works. You can replace the cable like the IE 200 if it fails, and the fit is pretty comfortable too.
For similar frequency responses the Moondrop Aria ($79 at Amazon) and Aria SE ($79 at Amazon) are solid alternatives to the IE 200. These cost less money, and are a bit chunkier than the IE 200, but the cables are removable and the cases are nicer.