Earbud shootout: Sennheiser MX 170/365/585

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nanZor

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Great - I would love getting more opinions just to make sure I'm not going insane.

The sub $20 price seems to jump around depending on color sometimes, so beware I've seen them at nearly double - I wasn't making any fashion statement with these fortunately so I got what was available at the time.

As always, go reputable to avoid possible counterfeits, like SunHouser's. :)

Or just as bad - somebody else's return / virtual online-rental. Missing pads, poorly wrapped cords, or evidence of tampering with what appears to be a tamper-resistant see-through box. Don't use a box-knife and end up cutting the pads etc. You know this, but just want to point this out for lurkers.

Pads may appear to be small coffee-beans instead of round. :) Gently massage back into a circle prior to fitting them on. Once on, a little further massaging all around to get them nicely even, and not stretched out to one side is ideal.

Maybe listen without the pads to get a reference for the amazing difference first .....
 
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prcguy

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Sennheiser 365s arrived today and sound very good for $14.95 shipped. The first thing I played was a 24bit 48k sample rate AAIF of Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day album through an AudioQuest Dragon red ADC/headphone amp. I had just heard the album through a high end system with speakers and it was fresh in my brain.

These 365s easily play in the $50 to $75 range with a very balanced frequency response and lots of detail. I don't hear anything that's not supposed to be there and don't detect anything missing in any music I've played through them yet.
 

nanZor

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Doubled-Up on the pads - MAJOR difference

Well, thank you for trying these things and confirming that I'm not going insane. They're no Orpheus or HE1, but at least they are decent enough for those of us who dig the "conch" sound / open environment.

And thanks for using a good audio chain - I was worried that maybe something really nice would just blow them out of the water and expose some hidden evils. :)

DOUBLE-PAD MODS!

Well, took the 585's which I thought had a very bright high end and very minimal lows (pads on of course), then looked at the 170's which are too utilitarian sounding to even use, so I nabbed the pads from those 170's and double-up the pads on the 585's.

BAM - much more low end, and the high ends is tamed. I thought the socks from the 170's were going to tear trying to put a foam cover over a foam cover, but a little patience and I got the job done. Massaged a bit to make it nice all around.

I'm going to listen to this doubled-up sock mod for the 585's for a few days before attempting it on the 365's. So far, it's an entirely different earbud. To be honest, this double-up mod may have taken it too far, or maybe it's just the new signature I'm hearing.

The buds are comically huge - but since I'm just resting them on the ledge of my conch, and just a small amount of pad friction keeps them in place!

But zheesh - anyone who wants to play around tuning their old-school earbuds, grab a bunch of pad replacements, and double-up on them and see where it takes you!
 
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nanZor

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Well, that took all of 10 minutes - the double-up pads are on my 365's now!

I knew I was going in the right direction initially with the 585's, but meh. An extreme fix.

WOW! I liked the 365's before, but man the doubled-up pads just seem to fine tune it, and not "fix" any issues. Got a satisfying little oomph to the bass, and the mids and highs seem a bit flatter. Being even further from my ears gives me more of a feeling that I'm listening to bookshelf speakers, rather than having something in my ear, without it being hollow.

Time to get a lab dummy-head and start mesuring to see if I'm doing the placebo / fooling myself routine, or if this is really beneficial. Seems like it so far! I'll have to go a few more days and see how I feel....
 

nanZor

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Sennheiser 365's with doubled-up pads - studio monitors now.

Compared to headphones: It is like going from a pair of Sony MDR-7506 with their bright signature (minus the sibilance!) to their name-sake - a pair of Sennheiser MD-280 Pro's.

Some of the "excitement" is gone. That delicious sense of artificial separation that comes with earbuds in general seems more natural. The bass has more presence, and the mids and highs seem flatter. I'm sure there are some weird responses overall with this double-up technique, but not everything revolves around frequency response. I'm not saying they are dull and lifeless - they just seem a bit more "tame" now.

The offset stem of the 365 makes the doubled-up pad technique stay comfortable in the conch. Unlike the 585's straight stem where one is quickly reaching the limits.

If I were a manufacturer, I'd put screw-threads around the driver, and have the end user screw on pads that had different thicknesses, materials, and so forth to accommodate the sound they like - bright and exciting, warm and studio-monitorish and so on. Make it *mandatory* that in order to work, the pads have to be on in some way.

Update: tried "dampening" the plastic enclosure by wrapping heavy electrical tape around the stems. I know there are probably some weird peaks and valleys and wanted to see if I could move something around. Can't A/B them fast enough to detect major differences. I did note that the most major change was a sticky-gummy mess. Cleaned them up and will probably just leave it at this for now. :)

I'm pretty pleased with this thicker pad technique, but would love to see some pairs actually designed for that.
 
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nanZor

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Darn - too much of a bite out of the top end when doubled up on pads. Overall a tamer sound, but my cymbals and triangles are just dead.

Back to the single-pads as a compromise. I think I've rung out as much as I could and took one step back.
 

prcguy

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With the Sennheiser 365s I got replacement Audio Technica ATH-ANC23 noise canceling earbuds for airplane travel cuz they were cheap. In a brief comparison with the ATs, the 365s are lacking in the very deep bass where the ATs excel, but the 365s are cleaner and and have less distortion in the mids and highs.

Listening to a 24/96 copy of Buddy Holly "true love ways" made in the late 50s on tube gear, his voice is very lifelike with massive dynamic range on the 365s as he close works the mic and violins and harp sound very natural, where the ATs almost have an IMD problem with the violins and harp adding sounds I don't think should be there.

Switching to the Buddy Holly song "well all right" which has the bell of a ride cymbal going through most of the song, the cymbal sounds very realistic and clean on the 365s where the ATs are kind of clanky and annoying. Some high quality music recorded in the 50s can be very revealing as it was recorded with some of the best German large capsule condenser mics on tube gear with no compression or other intentional distortions.

In addition to airplane travel I like to use active noise canceling earbuds for live recording to keep the main blast of the performance out of my ears so I can hear what my Zoom digital recorder or Groove Tubes large capsule variable pattern tube mics into a Milennia Media HV-3B and Alesis Masterlink is laying down.

I should probably upgrade from these AT active earbuds, but the top of the line Bose are around $300 and I can't convince myself to go there yet.

Edit:
I found some other high bitrate stuff on this laptop and gave both earbuds some Charles Mingus. The 365s are picking up more breath noises from all the horns and when a brother way back in the audience yells out "ohh yeaaaaaa" you can just about see when he shaved last where that just gets lost on the ATs. These Sennheiser 365s are really not bad.
 
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nanZor

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The 365's kind of grow on you right - litle details like that seem to come out when you put them to a more critical test. But yep, at some point you hit a performance wall. Amazing for the price, although that wasn't my main concern.

I think I missed the boat back when Sennheiser was offering things like the MX890 and MX990 advanced lines of these types of earbuds. I'll bet more than 99% of the reviews never put the pads on those either like they were supposed to.

But back to the 365's - I was just real surprised. Wish manufacturer's would reconsider putting this style out again - even as a high-end, special-order niche product for us willing to pay for this format.

NoIsE cancellation: Ah man, I wish I had kept my old Lightspeed Zulu aviation headsets for you to try out. Now THATS cancellation! I wasn't doing critical music listening back then, but it was possible via wire or bluetooth with just AA's too. Bose A20's also come to mind, but this is mostly impractical unless you feel like selling a car to get them. :)

I'll keep my eye out for realistically affordable, yet still good quality cancellation / audiophile cans and report back if I see anything worthwhile...
 
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nanZor

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Beanie-mod: this might be worthwhile!

So doubling up with two pads on each driver showed much promise, with a perceived lower response, and a mellower mid and high end, but it ultimately deadened my cymbals and triangles. And it was a pita to put a cover over a cover.

How about a 1.5 pad covering over each ear? Enter the beanie-mod!

Even easier to implement - just fold your extra covers over the top of the original pads like you were putting a small hat / beanie on the top of the driver so that one side covers about 1/2 of the original pad face, and the back of the drivers is covered by the back half of the beanie.

Much easier! Still take your time to make sure that all the material is unfurled completely, otherwise it is going to want to curl itself back off.

My current setup is that the "beanie" now covers the original pad by about 3/4 of the way starting at the top, leaving some thinner material at the bottom - this seems to leave enough material for the highs to still sparkle up top, and fortunately they are closer to my ear canal, so having just a few holes with the thinner original pad material like that seems workable.

So I've still got a bit of perceived improved bass, and the mids and highs are a *tad* warmer. The larger amount of material in the conch makes them stay put. Comfortably too, but that is my *secondary* concern.

This beanie will also make it easier for me to tuck up some deadening material underneath the back if I want to play with that variable.

Again - a manufacturer could easily make a custom pad that is tuned for the driver with say a varying thickness at the top and a thinner one at the bottom - like I'm doing with this quirky field-tune mod.

So far so good - will report back if I cave and take them off again.

UPDATE !! OMG. I think that did the trick - I have enough bass that I can feel it tickling the top of my spine and very occasionally in my shoulder bones. Without covering up the rest of the spectrum with mud!

Gonna' spend the night with KHUG's night-time blues format tonight that's for sure. I'd love to put this combo on a dummy measurement head to really see what's going on, but this did the trick for me. NOW they sound like Sennheiser's should!
 
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nanZor

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Too good to be true?

This "beanie" mod over an existing pad is making me "feel" the bass. But I've never felt this specific sensation before being so localized.

Switching to classic KUSC, when a bow is drawn across something like a string bass, I can hear it, but it is not localized in the center of my brain. It actually feels down low, moving across my shoulders.

I have *never* felt bass localized like that before, so I'm a bit freaked out. It makes me shiver since I'm only used to loud bass hitting my whole body, or perhaps my whole head inside a large headphone.

It can't be this simple. Earbuds that sit in the conch are not supposed to do this. Maybe the cavity in my head, and the fact that the whole driver is covered in material is contributing to this?

Whatever it is, this can't be real. What a difference. Especially if you are kicking back and concentrating.

Best $20 I ever spent on music gear now with the mod.
 

nanZor

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Deeper bass than an AKG K240 Studio can

Surprisingly, as much as I love the funky studio sound of the over-the-head AKG K240's, (reviewed in another thread), the beanie-modified pair of Sennheiser earbuds has a lower reach than the AKG's believe it or not.

(Although this might simply be the need to push my 55 ohm K240's with a little more power from an external amp..)

Same source material and gear - no eq - CCrane Pocket or Skywave on FM Stereo with good stations. The best sounding 1/2 watt I've heard from a SiLabs 4734 chip tuner ....

Although the AKG is a purposely-built set of studio cans with a punchy mid bass, and the very low bass rolled off (so you don't drown out your vocals during the initial recording cuts with hyped bass of your own) , they don't shake my shoulder bones like the 365 modded buds do.

Although the beanie-modded 365's are probably putting out mostly a mid-bass punch like the AKG's, there does seem to be some sort of additional coupling to my melon-head in a way that over ear cups of the AKG's aren't doing. It may be a matter of perception, but I get more shoulder shivers once in awhile moreso than with the studio cans.

Got a pair of supposedly higher-end Audio Technica earbuds coming my way via import. We'll see how they stack up!
 
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nanZor

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Sennheiser MX-365 vs Audio-Technica ATH-CM707 "Earsuit"

First - my thanks to Audio-Technica for bringing out classic upscale earbuds in today's world.

The Audio-Technica ATH-CM707 earbuds came in today. Look, feel, boxing, and so forth are a definite upscale from the 365's, but unfortunately, the AT's are no longer in my ears.

No bass, despite the "Resonance Duct" feature. Fit needs to be much more exacting than the Sennheisers - at about a 45 degree forward angle to get much. This might be the "earsuit" design to get them close to your head so that a wetsuit covering won't be uncomfortable - so I understand that.

No amount of modding seems to fill out the missing low end. And the mids and highs seem to have some definite peaking going on, make it hard to go through any clarinet, oboe, or flute solos.

The most interesting aspect is that due to the peaks in the AT earbuds, the IBOC-CORRUPTED / HD hybrid stations that just trash their analog FM component are ear-bleedingly bad, whereas the Sennheisers do their best to cope with that garbage.

Not that I listen to iboc-corrupted FM stations, but it was interesting that it only took a matter of seconds with the the AT's to make me want to call a paramedic, whereas with the 365's, it was just a matter of total disgust.

The AT's are a really nice attempt at the classic earbud design, with some very classy build, but the most important part - the drivers, just aren't up to the task.

If those drivers were tuned for a more balanced sound, and the peaks tamed a bit, the AT's would be awesome.

Still, at the end of the day, the Sennheiser 365's, *with just the supplied pads on*, have a more natural full-range sound than the AT's do.

I appreciate Audio Technica's attempt. If they would consider retuning the drivers for a more exacting fidelity sound, I'd buy them again - even at import pricing!
 

prcguy

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So why not punch a hole in the middle of the second pad where the high freqs come out so you would get the bass benefit of two pads without the second pad rolling off the highs?


So doubling up with two pads on each driver showed much promise, with a perceived lower response, and a mellower mid and high end, but it ultimately deadened my cymbals and triangles. And it was a pita to put a cover over a cover.

How about a 1.5 pad covering over each ear? Enter the beanie-mod!

Even easier to implement - just fold your extra covers over the top of the original pads like you were putting a small hat / beanie on the top of the driver so that one side covers about 1/2 of the original pad face, and the back of the drivers is covered by the back half of the beanie.

Much easier! Still take your time to make sure that all the material is unfurled completely, otherwise it is going to want to curl itself back off.

My current setup is that the "beanie" now covers the original pad by about 3/4 of the way starting at the top, leaving some thinner material at the bottom - this seems to leave enough material for the highs to still sparkle up top, and fortunately they are closer to my ear canal, so having just a few holes with the thinner original pad material like that seems workable.

So I've still got a bit of perceived improved bass, and the mids and highs are a *tad* warmer. The larger amount of material in the conch makes them stay put. Comfortably too, but that is my *secondary* concern.

This beanie will also make it easier for me to tuck up some deadening material underneath the back if I want to play with that variable.

Again - a manufacturer could easily make a custom pad that is tuned for the driver with say a varying thickness at the top and a thinner one at the bottom - like I'm doing with this quirky field-tune mod.

So far so good - will report back if I cave and take them off again.

UPDATE !! OMG. I think that did the trick - I have enough bass that I can feel it tickling the top of my spine and very occasionally in my shoulder bones. Without covering up the rest of the spectrum with mud!

Gonna' spend the night with KHUG's night-time blues format tonight that's for sure. I'd love to put this combo on a dummy measurement head to really see what's going on, but this did the trick for me. NOW they sound like Sennheiser's should!
 

nanZor

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That's a GREAT question - and the answer is that with the AT's, there is no benefit to modifying them with the original pads or doing any doubling or beanie-hat additions. No bass extension or benefit to really be noticed. And the high end didn't change much either.

The double-padding (cover over cover with a hole cut in the middle of the outer one) is worth looking into. I've got plenty of spares to try, but man it is a real pita to put those on over the existing. Far easier to just slip a sock / beanie over the top.

So - I think the additional fidelity is not a universal answer, but is highly dependent on make and model and would have to be tested! Because I proved that padding does not *always* make any difference, I could see how engineers and the world could view it solely as a "comfort" item, and not do any further testing with additional foam coverings.

My best *guess*, is that the bass ports on the back of the Sennheiser 365's driver, when surrounded by additional padding, ala the top down "beanie" method, may be providing a limited "foam enclosure" and reinforcing the bass. Seems tight and not sloppy to my ears too.

I haven't tried this with anything but the 365's, 585's, and now the Audio Technicas - and only the Sennheisers seem responsive to this treatment. Maybe other models of AT would respond - dunno! I guess it all depends.

You got my interest piqued - I'll do the beanie thing (along with the original padding) to the lesser fidelity 170's and see what happens.

Update: did the beanie thing on the 170's - and here come the shoulder shakes, although not as deep as the 365's, and a generic purpose sounding mid and high. Still, it was a slight improvement that was noticeable. If one already has a pair, it is a simple mod until you get hold of 365's.

Note too that I am no longer finding it necessary to be so picky about the amount of additional padding - just stretching a pad over the top so that it covers half the face of the original pad, and half of the driver (including the stem exension) in the back is fine.

Marketing - the major problem is how do you market this mind-blowing discovery to the world when they look like you have two fat Milk-Dud candies in your ear? I don't care - sound first, comfort second, and style last.
 
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