A couple of years back, Sennheiser finally dipped its beautifully engineered toes in the wireless game by releasing the Momentum True Wireless earbuds. They were largely well-received, the major drawback being the slightly ridiculous pricepoint — at nearly $400, they weren’t really accessible to the average punter on the street.
There were also some small style and tech issues, which were mostly fixed when the updated True Wireless 2 came along a little while later. Now, the German company has unveiled its next earbud offering: the CX 400BT True Wireless.
Essentially, the CX 400BT’s can be seen as a more affordable version of the Momentum’s — the new earbuds will only (only) set you back $299.95, which puts them smack bang in the middle of the other popular buds on the market at the moment; Airpods Pro will scrape $400 out of your wallet, while the normal version will take $250.
CX 400BT’s have all the standard bits and bobs: Siri and Google Assistant connection, easy Bluetooth pairing, customisable touch controls, ambient noise reduction on calls. They don’t have active noise cancellation, which puts them at a disadvantage against buds like the Airpods Pro, but the fit is so snug that you might not even notice its absence. As for the battery life, they can run happily for up to seven hours — which increases to 20 with the charging case. The charging case is a USB-C connection, and is a little bigger than an Airpods Pro case, but not bulky by any means.
The touch controls are quite sensitive — before I fully figured them out, I found myself in a constant loop of accidentally pausing and skipping and going back and pausing and playing. If you’re used to hard-tapping, you’ll need to adjust your finger strength.
As mentioned before, the fit is very, very snug. The CX 400BT relies on just an eartip — no stems or earfins here, thank you very much — and with a little twist you’ll find it fits quite deeply in your ear canal. This is fine if your ears are roomy, but clearly I have quite small ears as after about 45 minutes of wear I found the familiar ear ache begin to creep in. (Thankfully, Sennheiser offers a few different eartip sizes, so it’s probably just a case of me finding the one that suits my tiny, tiny ears). It also means that outside noise is greatly reduced, and the listening experience is a lot more immersive than your standard earbud.
There’s no IP rating — protection from the elements — on these bad boys, so don’t go running in the rain or diving into a pool while wearing them. Or do, you have free will — just know you’ll fuck your earbuds if you do.
Okay, But How Do They Sound?
Fantastic, in a word. Sennhesier has rightly earned a reputation for delivering incredible, balanced audio for years, and the CX 400BT is no exception. The bass is strong but doesn’t muddle the mix, the mids are clear and warm, the treble (always the real litmus test for earbuds) is also restrained and rounded. The CX 400BT’s are powered by the same 7mm drivers that feature in the Momentum True Wireless 2, so you’re essentially getting the same quality of sound for a lot less money.
I took them through my standard song text: First up was ‘Mr. Saxobeat’, then Lady Gaga’s ‘Aura’, then The Jezabels’ ‘Prisoner’ and finally some Phoenix and Cardi B. All sounded excellent — honestly, they’re just a cut above most other headphones out there, the sound is just that much richer.
Of course, if you’re an audio nerd, you can get the Sennheiser Smart Control app and mess about with the mix yourself. It’s easy enough to raise and lower the lows, mids, and highs — and it’s even aesthetically pleasing: you glide your finger along a blue wave-like line to shift the mix. You can also mess about with those touch controls in the app as well, so if you get monumentally confused, as I did, you can edit and assign all commands to whatever you feel like.
So far, the reviews of the CX 400BT’s have been wildly positive — put simply, they’re probably the best earbuds at the price point out there. If you’re an audiophile, you’ll get a kick out of the engineering, and if you just want to listen to ‘Mr. Saxobeat’ on repeat while commuting, you’re also covered.
Jules LeFevre is the small-eared editor of Music Junkee. She is on Twitter.