Review Written by Chrono
The Sennheiser IE 300, which will become available for purchase at the price of $299.95 beginning in March, is the latest addition to Sennheiser’s line-up of in-ear headphones, and in fact, it’s the first audiophile-oriented IEM they’ve released in almost four years. The goal of the IE300 is to create a nuanced and accurate listening experience wherever you go–so, how does it perform?
Note: The IE300 was provided to me for review by Sennheiser.
Sources and Music Used in Listening Tests
All the listening for this review was done on the Astell & Kern SR25. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library as well as from Tidal Streaming Service (Master Quality).
Packaging and Accessories
The IE300’s blue and gray packaging matches that of other headphones in Sennheiser’s audiophile series of products.
Inside the box, you’ll find the IE300 alongside a sweet array of accessories. Included with the IE300 are 6 different sets of ear tips; three small, medium, large silicone tips, and three small, medium, large memory foam tips. The stock cable is using MMCX connectors on the headphone side, an angled 3.5mm jack on the source end, and it measures roughly 1.2m, which I find to be a very comfortable length for most use cases. Additionally, the IE300 includes a very nice, portable hardshell case; it’s low profile and easy-to-pocket, but it still has plenty of room to house the IEMs as well as the included eartips and cleaning tool.
Build and Comfort
The IE300’s build is a slight departure from that of other headphones in Sennheiser’s audiophile-oriented IEM line-up, instead more closely resembling the design of the headphones that comprise their Pro series. As a result of their Pro-audio-inspired design, the IE300’s chassis is very small and lightweight, which makes for an IEM that is durable, lightweight and easily portable.
For comfort, the memory foam tips are outstanding. They conform very nicely to the users ear canal, which I found made for significantly more comfortable listening sessions, they greatly enhanced the passive noise attenuation of the IEMs, and I felt as though I got the most sound out of them since the seal was just right.
On the other hand, though, I didn’t find the silicone tips to be all that amazing. Regardless of what size I used or how I positioned the headphone, I was never really able to get a comfortable fit or a good seal. I think that this is because the tips themselves are maybe a little too far on the flexible side, and I think that they could have benefitted from being a little stiffer and more uniform to create a more consistent fit and seal, which is crucial for getting an IEM to be both very comfortable and to sound its best. Of course, our ears are all different and you might not have the same issues, but I just wanted to share my experience with these sets of rubber tips.
One last note on comfort, is that thanks to their small size, I think that even for users with smaller ears, getting a good fit won’t be difficult with the IE300.
The IE300 is using a single dynamic driver set-up, and is equipped with a refined version of Sennheiser’s 7mm Extra Wide Band transducer. For the sound section of this review I’ll be sharing how the IE300 performed in my experience and every now and then I’ll draw some comparisons to Moondrop Blessing 2, which is my benchmark for tonality and technical performance around the $300 price range.
The IE300 is a headphone that I’d describe as having an “exciting” tonality to it, as its V-shaped sound signature makes for very present bass and energetic highs. Naturally, this means that the midrange doesn’t feel as rich as on other headphones I’ve tried, but it doesn’t feel neglected.
Of the V-shaped headphones I’ve listened to, I think that the IE300 is one of the few that actually executes it really well, although as we’ll discuss briefly, this kind of tuning does have some inherent effects on timbre.
The bass region on the IE300 has a pretty significant upshelf under 200hz. This emphasized mid to sub-bass region makes for a very warm-sounding bass response, which for my tastes and preferences made the bass come through as a little bit swollen at times.
Nonetheless, I found the bass here to be very enjoyable. At no point did it feel to me as though it was overbearing or intrusive of other frequency ranges, and I did find myself appreciating the roundness and fullness that the bass here provided to instruments’ lower registers. I personally would have preferred a tighter tuning, but I think that for many listeners this will make for a more “fun” bass region that adds a nice warmth and depth to the IE300’s sound.
Despite the boosted bass, the lower mids don’t feel at all overwhelmed from below. They retain a clean fundamental range in the 300hz-600hz region, and the overall response is a linear one, with an accurately depicted body and well-defined, but smooth upper-midrange presence.
As a headphone with a V-shaped sound signature, though, it should come as no surprise that the midrange on the IE300 doesn’t stand out like it does on other headphones, so for mid-centric listeners this would not be my number one recommendation.
The treble region is where, once again, the IE300 sees a fairly significant boost. As the upper midrange transitions into the lower treble the IE300 remains leveled, with no glare or hash that I noticed. Moving along to around the 7K-10K region in the mid-treble, though, there is a very noticeable rise in that section of the frequency response.
Now, this treble rise has a few different effects on the IE300’s overall sound as well as its timbre. Since it’s a broad elevation, it does make the headphone come through as being bright sounding, though I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s strident or piercing.
I think the most standout feature of the treble elevation here is that it can make the IE300 sound artificially brightened and vocals in particular gain this crystalline-like glisten up-top. There was also a slight stress on consonant sounds, so there was a little bit of mid-treble sibilance, but I think that it was pretty minor compared to the timbral effect of the unnaturally highlighted overtones and harmonics. Again, I don’t really feel as though the treble here was harsh (and I’m fairly treble-sensitive), I just feel as though it unfortunately does slightly compromise the headphone’s timbre.
The IE300 delivers performance that I think is appropriate for an IEM in this price bracket. Even through busy musical passages the IE300 properly reproduced all the different vocal and instrument tones, which created a well-defined and textured image of the music. Obviously, compared to some of the over-ear counterparts in this price range–like the HD 600–I felt as though the IE300 could sound a bit grainy, but its internal resolution competes squarely with the Blessing 2 3.
Soundstage, Imaging and Layering
The IE300’s spatial qualities are what surprised me the most about its technical performance. Of course, as an in-ear headphone its soundstage was still a very intimate one. However, its stereo imaging was really outstanding when compared to some of the other IEMs I’ve tried like the Blesing 2 or even the much higher-priced Campfire Audio 2020 Andromeda. The IE300 was really adept at delineating the positioning and directionality of sound, and when combined with its good sense of instrument separation and depth, it actually made for the most spacious listening experience I’ve had with an IEM thus far.
When it comes to its excursive capacity, I felt as though the IE300 was a bit lacking. There was a bit of kick behind the lows, but I feel as though this was mostly due to the boost in bass; and even then I wasn’t really getting a particularly satisfying sense of punch and slam. Still, the IE300 did bring a fair bit of snap and bite in the top-end, which helped in retaining some of the tactility behind instruments. Again, for comparisons, I think that in this regard the IE300 performs similarly to the Blessing 2.
The IE300 I think is a good return to form for Sennheiser and its line-up of audiophile-oriented IEMs. It’s portable, well-built, very comfortable, it delivers solid technical performance for the price, and it’s got a very enjoyable tonality.
Me personally, I would probably still gravitate towards the Blessing 2 at around the $300 mark, as its tonality more closely lines-up with my preference, though the IE300 is a great option and is sure to satisfy listeners looking for an in-ear solution with a more V-shaped but balanced sound signature.
Watch the video review here: