Earbud shootout: Sennheiser MX 170/365/585

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nanZor

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Because in-ear earbuds, (as opposed to in-ear-canal IEM's) are kind of hard to find in quality these days, I thought I'd do a shootout of the 3 different pairs I own.

They may not be available depending on what part of the world you live in, and may have to be imported, like I did for my 585's.

I used my favorite transparent source of audio with no eq, and a dsp circuit quiet enough not to get in the way: C.Crane Skywave radio. Set wide open to "music", not voice.

Rules:
1) Foam-surrounds are ON.

To get the sound as designed at the factory, the foam-surrounds are not an option! Put them on. Just like you don't wear heavier over-the-ear phones without actually using the cups or foam spacers, with your ears jammed up directly against the drivers, you don't do this here either. It is not just a comfort thing, but an audio-reproduction thing.

2) Proper wear:
With foam surrounds on, gently place them into your ear, and give them a *tiny* nudge downwards. Done.
Do NOT jam, corkscrew, fold, spindle, or mutilate your ears trying to get them directly over your ear-canal. Yes, they might fall out when jogging. Choose a different pair for that.

CABLING / LOOKS Yes, they are basically lighweight cables, which vary a little bit. If something like that is going to ruin your marriage, stop now. Or, if you were expecting SOLID gold, instead of gold-plated connectors, stop. :) For looks, I'll let you look them up if that's your main objective.

SOUND: (with foam-pads on!)

MX-170 - In-your-face midrange. Generic sound, even though the drivers are actually ok. More musical than vocally-tuned - but still. If an fm station has already EQ'ed their sound for a marketing demographic that wants high and sparkly, then this will push these over the top. Overall, "OK" - better than dimestore buds, but you might hit the wall sonically if your needs are more than talk radio.

MX-365 - a good all-rounder. Did I mention the pads have to be on? :)
Good bass without being a bass-head banger. Controlled midrange and high end without being muddy or shrill. Useful for all genres. My day-to-day goto.

MX-585 - the most detailed and pleasant midrange and highs, but at the expense of a *little* bass compared to the 365.
If you want the smokestack-freightrain of tympani's coming at you from way down the track, these may not be for you. Or a deep-cello note earthquake. The bass is *there*, but it is not as prominant as the 365.

The detail is incredible. Woodwinds, brass, flutes, etc all impeccably detailed. Don't read that as shrill ! Put it this way - you can easily hear differences in slight changes in triangle strike force, and the ring lasts longer than the 365. Yeah, I'm listening at that level. The 170's on triangles? just crashy clank.

Warning: these are pretty feminine to the western-eye. Pearlescent white, silver cabling, frilly knot on the bag etc. An alternate outlook may see them as something naturally refined, and a thing of beauty - like a pearl is. I'm only interested in the sound, but I won't be making a statement out anywhere about it.

So really, between the 365 and 585, it depends on what you want to emphasize. I'd call the 365's a more playful west-coast sound, and the 585's the more refined and detailed.

This is why I don't own just ONE pair of headphones / earbuds like my world depended on it. I get bored listening to the same sound over and over.

Even if you aren't using Sennheisers - for goodness' sake put the pads on, or at least generic replacements, wear them *lightly*, and try again.

I guess I missed the boat on the MX series, and now have to import stuff if I really want it that badly.
 
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nanZor

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Not a Sennheiser shill .. :)

I pretty much gag at the marketing buzzword jungle they use to describe their products.

In many cases, it actually does their products a DIS-service, turning some away from what actually might be a good fit for them.

If I started my own company, you'd never see this from ME:

"You are as individual as your dipole antenna impedance. Finally a system where major-notes and micro-henries collaborate! Whether a simple un-un, or link-coupled transmatch, you'll always feel in total control of your ionospheric head-space."

I really like Sennheiser, but had to make it clear I'm not a shill. :)
 

nanZor

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Looks like the 365's are the best bet.

Although the 585's are more detailed in the mids and highs, the slight lack of bass compared to the 365's always left me searching for just a few more db down low. Especially when listening to my blues station. I suppose a touch of my own eq could tweak that up a little, but to keep my shootout fair, I don't eq.

Worse yet, is more a commentary on the sad state of radio marketing EQ and digital compression / aliasing / robotic echo on many stations.

Because of that, the 585's grew tiresome on anything but classical KUSC, NPR, or my non-commercial KHUG local LPFM blues station - all of which have exemplary audio.

In the end, switching back to the more sonically balanced, yet slightly less detailed response of the MX 365's proves to be the best long-term, high-quality listening solution for all stations.
 
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prcguy

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Hertz, there is a big hi-fi show in So Cal every year and usually in Newport Beach. There you can sample all the high end earbuds and headphones that will put a smile on your face and empty your wallet. I pay more attention to big speakers at shows these days but I am due for some new earbuds. Thanks for the report.
 

bharvey2

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Hertz, there is a big hi-fi show in So Cal every year and usually in Newport Beach. There you can sample all the high end earbuds and headphones that will put a smile on your face and empty your wallet. I pay more attention to big speakers at shows these days but I am due for some new earbuds. Thanks for the report.
Oh the hi-fi shows! A friend of mine and I used to go to those in the old days here in the SF Bay Area. At the time, I too was drawn more to large speakers rather than headphones. I recall being particularly smitten with Magnepan planar speakers. These days, I don't even own any speakers (technically speaking, I have some custom made ones but they're at my sons' house) Other than while in the car or maybe on the computer, I don't have time to sit and listen to music like I used to. (Something is really wrong with this picture)
 

prcguy

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Except for using noise canceling earbuds on airplane flights, I mostly used headphones and higher end earbuds for recording/mixing and occasional broadcast stuff at work, but I'm retired now. At home most of my stereos are modern tube types from Manley Labs and VTL. I have various speakers like KEF 105.2, Gale GS401s (which I just finished completely rebuilding and tweaking), Tannoy System 1000, etc. When I was single I probably spent 3-4 hrs a day listening to high quality music but now other stuff gets in the way.


Oh the hi-fi shows! A friend of mine and I used to go to those in the old days here in the SF Bay Area. At the time, I too was drawn more to large speakers rather than headphones. I recall being particularly smitten with Magnepan planar speakers. These days, I don't even own any speakers (technically speaking, I have some custom made ones but they're at my sons' house) Other than while in the car or maybe on the computer, I don't have time to sit and listen to music like I used to. (Something is really wrong with this picture)
 

nanZor

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Heh, I'm with you guys too - I miss my old vertical 19" rack with smoked glass, holding all my higher end Sansui gear, driving Klipsch corner reflectors.

In my prog-rock days, those babies would just melt the walls away when the mellotrons came alive. Drug-free to boot.

But these days, I don't have time or space for that, so I delight in finding lower-cost alternatives like Ccrane radio's and some quality old-school earbuds so I can pop around the house (when I actually have time) and multitask. There is so much junk out there, it's hard to find a winning combination for me, so when that came - bingo.

I didn't even really like classical music, but the audio quality dragged me into it. But I still can't hang with long piano concertos. Just doesn't do it for me.

At least it brings a little happiness when the geomagnetic storms shut down my hf dx'ing fun. :)
 
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bharvey2

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Except for using noise canceling earbuds on airplane flights, I mostly used headphones and higher end earbuds for recording/mixing and occasional broadcast stuff at work, but I'm retired now. At home most of my stereos are modern tube types from Manley Labs and VTL. I have various speakers like KEF 105.2, Gale GS401s (which I just finished completely rebuilding and tweaking), Tannoy System 1000, etc. When I was single I probably spent 3-4 hrs a day listening to high quality music but now other stuff gets in the way.
I don't see any mention of SounDesign in your list of equipment :) (Tongue inserted fully in cheek) That only comes mind because this past weekend we were cleaning out the attic of my Dad's house and found a partially intact SounDesign compact stereo with integrated receiver, 8-track player and turntable (the turntable was missing) I recall that my Dad bought it to replace his aging stereo setup sometime in the early to mid 70's. The old was was comprised of two Heath amplifiers (tube type of course and I'd love to get my hands on a set now) a Heath FM tuner and a "record changer" whose brand I don't recall. If memory serves me right, the speakers were 12" Electro-Voice. Everything was enclosed in cabinetry of his construction. - Just a bit of family nostalgia.
 

nanZor

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NO WAY! I had the SounDesign you described! albeit with it's own speakers. It was my first upgrade from the 9v transistor radio. I guess my parents noticed that I was always hanging around the "stereo section" of what would have been similar to wal-mart today.

Even though it had a turntable and 8-track, it had actual VU meters for recording! I was in heaven.

I quickly turned into studio-guy. The LP "masters", would be played through at least once while I was watching the VU meters. Then, I transferred the masters to the 8-track with the proper recording levels. BUT, I also had to do this a few times so that I would stop and start the recording before the 8-track changed tracks with the infamous "clunk". So timing was important. Oh, and of course the masters were properly cleaned with a DiscWasher AND statically discharged with the piezo gun.

I was in my prog-rock stage at that time, and *begged* and received a pair of Sennheiser 414 yellow-foam cans. But, living in Las Vegas at the time, and not Los Angeles, music that a kid could find was kind of scarce. All the popular LP's were just always gone from the racks. So I listened to a lot of stuff that was 5-10 years out of date. :) However, I got my first taste of the Outlaw's Green Grass and High Tides through that, that stays with me to this day.

And then one day, early Roxy Music with both Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry showed up. That was part of my EMS VCS3 synthesizer introduction when all I knew was Mellotrons. Well, I did know about Moog since I had Wendy Carlos' "Switched On Bach", but was not overly impressed. Keith Emerson and I had the same album, but he took it to another level ! :)

Moogs, Mellotrons, and EMS VCS3's - oh man, I was hooked.

I could go on - but thanks for the memories. My gosh, I haven't thought about my SounDesign, which for me was "high end". I has so much fun playing like I was some cool studio engineer - making do with what I got....
 
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prcguy

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One of my first real stereos when I was about 15yrs old was a Dynaco PAS series tube preamp feeding a Fisher SA-100 stereo amp into some small acoustic suspension speakers of unknown mfr. It sounded great. Then I around 1974 I "upgraded" to a brand new Nikko 6010 solid state receiver and wondered what happened to my music. That old Fisher SA-100 is worth a small fortune in good working condition today and I never should have traded it off.

Can't say I've had any SounDesign stuff but I did have a Morse Electrophonic stereo with 8 track and turntable in the late 60s. It wasn't all that bad and the speakers were 10" with horn mid and phenolic ring tweeter.

I still have some vintage stuff I fire up occasionally like a Marantz 10B tuner and Marantz 7T preamp but it feeds a modern amp and speakers. The 1960 vintage Stephens Tru-Sonic P52A speakers that came with that system didn't sound to my liking and went on Ebay where they fetched $2,007 for the pair of just raw speakers, no cabinets. I nearly crapped myself. Now the early 1960s vintage speaker cabinets house Tannoy System 1000s and it sounds real nice.


I don't see any mention of SounDesign in your list of equipment :) (Tongue inserted fully in cheek) That only comes mind because this past weekend we were cleaning out the attic of my Dad's house and found a partially intact SounDesign compact stereo with integrated receiver, 8-track player and turntable (the turntable was missing) I recall that my Dad bought it to replace his aging stereo setup sometime in the early to mid 70's. The old was was comprised of two Heath amplifiers (tube type of course and I'd love to get my hands on a set now) a Heath FM tuner and a "record changer" whose brand I don't recall. If memory serves me right, the speakers were 12" Electro-Voice. Everything was enclosed in cabinetry of his construction. - Just a bit of family nostalgia.
 

nanZor

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I would say the Morse and SounDesign were probably made in the same factory maybe. :)

Oh man, the stuff you had was pure un-obtanium for me, but truly wanted someday ... eventually got the Klipsch reflectors about 15 years later when I had a real job, but that still hurt. Lots of ramen-noodle dinners to save up. Sadly had to sell those, but enough of that...

Check this out - unless you went with the "quad" system, there was a funky way for a kid like me to fake surround with a rear-channel speaker. Take a length of speaker cable and split it long enough so that you can attach one lead to the left-positive, and one lead to the right-positive of the existing speaker system. Or just connect to the back of the amp that way. Run that out to your rear area to a speaker.

Not much drive, and I didn't have an amp to drive it further, so I attached a cheap burglar-alarm horn speaker as my rear channel. Now that was FUNKY surround! Had a lot of fun listening to the out of phase coming from stereo sources.

bharvey2 - you're killing me man with this. :) I'm trying to go to sleep, and all this stuff is coming back. When I did this, I had just started trying to get into jazz with Chick Corea's "Return to Forever". Fond memories of holding the back channel burglar alarm horn speaker in my lap listening to that.....

*** WARNING ***
This didn't blow up my 70's vintage low-end SounDesign 8 track / LP box. Unless you are sure, do not blow up your rare vintage precious stereo with experiment !
*****

One can still do something like this today of course with an old stereo and a spare speaker (more efficient / separate amp is best). Loads of fun.
 
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bharvey2

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SounDesign was on the low end of the quality spectrum. It was marketed to less discerning audio consumers. If it was still around, it would probably show up at Walmart or Target. And yes the memories are coming back. I recall the Sennheiser 414s. They were my first pair of "open ear" headphones. I like them more than many of Sennheiser's current offerings, some of which I find less flat and too bass heavy for my liking. Oh and the Dynacos! I had one mono power amp and man did I wish I had a pair. They were heavy as all get out but i liked the sound they reproduced. Since I was starting to play the electric guitar at the time I had one, I used it for that. Not pretty but it worked. I Frankenstein'd a lot of stuff in my younger days.
 

nanZor

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Yep - maybe my folks got it a K-mart in Vegas around '74 or so. Sounds about right.

My memory is a little hazy on this, but you made me dust off some more memories and now things are starting to make sense about the 414's...

Since neither I nor my parents knew anything about headphone impedance, the 414's were quite possibly 600 ohm. My first impression was of course a bit of a lack of bass, not being overly loud enough, and having to really crank up the volume maybe due to the SounDesign headphone output being 8 ohm or so??

Kind of fuzzy on that memory. Still didn't prevent me from totally enjoying Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick" and "Passion Play" on that system. Friends just looked at me strangely. :)
 

nanZor

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Sennheiser MX-365 - an AKG 702 in disguise?

Guess I'm hooked on that type of sound - picked up my 3rd pair of 365's today - one for the office drawer...

Most online reviews of these headphones totally suck, since many obsess about the cabling, or comment on how the audio sounds out when jogging when jammed into their ears without the driver foam pads on!

BUT, a short review of the 365's from some dude over on Reddit which also loves his AKG 702's, says they sound VERY similar - but like most people, only put the pads on for additional comfort not realizing how much they affect the frequency response!

He ran some sweeps on it anyway with in-ear-canal microphones and confirmed his suspicions.

I don't own AKG 702's (supposedly better bass and some other things nicer than the older 701's), but from the descriptions of how AKG 702's sound elsewhere, this is totally plausible.

Everybody's ears are different of course, but I may have to put a little Schitt headphone amp between the C.Crane Skywave and some AKG 702's in the near future to see how that plays out.

OR better yet: I totally forgot that the larger CCRadio 2E has LINE OUTPUTS! Those SiLabs chips and surrounding ccrane circuitry don't know what's about to hit them .... sorry - the fm tuner performance and audio transparency make me an unabashed fan.

In a hat tip to CCrane enginering, spending $365 for phones and amp, to go with a $90 or so radio sounds like something only a crazy propeller head would do. That's me I guess. :)
 
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nanZor

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Gone over the deep end. Maybe

Lurkers - don't just whip out the plastic 'cuz I'm going nutso. Take your time.

Some of the things about the 702 and other differences are ticking "my* sonic boxes in this overall review:

https://homestudiobasics.com/akg-k701-vs-akg-k702-the-difference/

Now read the Schiit Audio book. The last time I thought about tubes and things like IM, even/odd harmonic sounding good or distorted was when my buddies were making VOX guitar amps go to eleven!

ARRGHH. Gonna' be a sleepless night for me bharvey and prcguy. :)

Or do I have the courage to just be content with my MX-365 earbuds? Ah, the agony...
 

nanZor

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Cooling my jets trying to decide if I'm just falling for a mere technical exercise, or if I *really* want to go this far. Hopefully my Grado loaners will come tomorrow.

In the meantime, how about the most understated, laid back, and boring official Sennheiser 365 intro video from 7 years ago. Take the hint about using the pads!!

When I first got these I was taking them to the trash after listening without the pads. I only put the covers on because I paid money for them, and thought I'd just see what the supposed comfort difference was. Oh, what the heck lets see what happens when I listen to them - not expecting ANY difference. Wait - what ???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gaoos3pKYtQ

Yawn. A little more salesmanship would have gone a long way. :)
 
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nanZor

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I agree - with the pads on.

The funny thing is that their marketing tried to emphasize the "Bass Driven!" sound, and while natural, are not going to satisfy the true bass-heads out there! :)

But instead, it is pretty natural especially for an in-ear type. I almost passed on trying them because of the marketing of bass and glad I didn't!

The Grado loaners fell through, so instead of jumping directly on AKG 702 / 712's, I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 55 ohm version of the K240's to compare with the buds .. we'll see!
 

nanZor

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Apples and Oranges - the 365's are my *critical* listening pair, and now I know why!

I have them in all colors now - not that it really matters. Enough to put into my nostrils for the sub-bass. :)

Break-in: I can *hear* it happening. When new, no matter the model, once in a blue moon you may hear what sounds like a wet "spit" coming from either side at times. This is distinctly different from a static snap - it has a unique wet sound to it. Those spits become less frequent the longer you play them - after a day or so they basically disappear. Some notes might distort, and then the next time the note is played it is smooth.

Unless one is a dx'er, this probably would go unnoticed. It was that wetness of the snap that caught my attention and directed it towards the buds, not the radio itself or the fm station.

The detail, clarity, speed, soundstage and all that audiophile yadda yadda adjectives beat my studio monitors, be they the AKG's, or the big Sennheiser 280 cans. Something else is going on that I'm nailing down for yet another earth-shattering revelation. Stay tuned....
 
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prcguy

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I just ordered some 365s along with replacement noise canceling Audio Technica versions for airplane travel.

Apples and Oranges - the 365's are my *critical* listening pair, and now I know why!

I have them in all colors now - not that it really matters. Enough to put into my nostrils for the sub-bass. :)

Break-in: I can *hear* it happening. When new, no matter the model, once in a blue moon you may hear what sounds like a wet "spit" coming from either side at times. This is distinctly different from a static snap - it has a unique wet sound to it. Those spits become less frequent the longer you play them - after a day or so they basically disappear. Some notes might distort, and then the next time the note is played it is smooth.

Unless one is a dx'er, this probably would go unnoticed. It was that wetness of the snap that caught my attention and directed it towards the buds, not the radio itself or the fm station.

The detail, clarity, speed, soundstage and all that audiophile yadda yadda adjectives beat my studio monitors, be they the AKG's, or the big Sennheiser 280 cans. Something else is going on that I'm nailing down for yet another earth-shattering revelation. Stay tuned....
 
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