Mini-review: Sennheiser MX75

I got a pair of these for Xmas and I’ve used them quite a lot, so it’s well past time for a review.

First, why Senn MX75s? Well, I know earbuds aren’t really the best choice in terms of sound quality, but I find that the convenience factor is sometimes too much to overcome. So, for couple years, every time I headed to the gym or out do do work in the yard, I had my Sony E888s in my ears. The E888s are excellent earbuds (you know, for earbuds), but my pair were literally falling apart. Not the foamies—I have a small stockpile of replacement foamies—but the actual housings are starting to come apart. I don’t think they’re designed to handle sweat.

The MX75s are “sport” earbuds and are supposedly designed explicitly to handle this kind of thing. So how are they?

Comfort
The differences between different ear buds are not, in my experience, as big as the differences in comfort between different full-size headphones. That said, there are differences. The MX75s have this interesting thing they call “twist-and-fit;” basically, there’s an extension above where the bud goes in your ear canal. This seems weird at first, but it’s actually great—it really does hold the bud in place, which is particularly important when doing something active. The MX75s come with different size outer rings on the buds as well as two different sizes for the twist-and-fit pads, so these should work well for a range of ear sizes.

Convenience
The cable is extra sturdy and somewhat stiff. It comes with a little rubberish semi-rigid plastic pouch for storage. Frankly, I’d much prefer a winder like the one that came with the older MX400s.

Sound Quality
This is, of course, the main concern, and I’ll admit that I was a actually a bit surprised here. I didn’t expect much from these; basically, I was expecting these to be sweat-proof MX400s. Happily, they’re better than that. They have both more and clearer bass than the MX400s. Now, they’re still earbuds, so there’s a limit to bass, but these have pretty decent bass performance for earbuds on that score. The highs are also cleaner than the MX400s. Mids are also improved; definitely less murky than the MX400s. That is, the MX75s are better across-the-board than the MX400s. That’s as it should be, since these are more expensive.

So, how do they stack up against my long-time earbuds of choice, the E888s? Here, they’re not quite as good—but they’re closer than I expected. The E888s have a small advantage on the highs—a bit more sparkle, as it were—and the bass is better-defined on the E888s. The mids on the two are very comparable. Again, I’d give the edge to the E888s, but again, the margin is smaller than I would have guessed beforehand. The E888s are better—noticeably—but the MX75s are at least playing in, well, certainly not the same ballpark, but at least one that’s vaguely nearby.

If nothing else, the MX75s are certainly good workout earbuds for $35 (that’s the current U.S. price on Amazon).

Yes, I miss the improved sound quality of the E888s, but I have to say, in the gym, I miss it less than I might have thought. I guess that may be in part because I watch more movies now (hooray for video out on the iPod) and spend less time just listening to music. That is, I don’t listen to these buds under the most demanding conditions—which is really the whole point of earbuds in the first place. If I’m listening critically in a quiet environment, I’m going to be listening to speakers or full-sized cans anyway. For sweat-heavy on-the-go places for under $40, the MX75s certainly fit the bill for me.

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