At about half the price of Sennheiser’s IE 80, the Sennheiser IE 60 was released as its discounted counterpart that still delivers considerable performance for middle range audio. Most go for the well-known big brother, but could the IE 60 be a hidden gem?
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Design and Comfort
The angular contours of the IE 60 get a lot of flak, but there’s frankly nothing ugly about the design. Granted, the gold trimmings on the housing seem a little tacky – silver would have been a much better choice – but the unobtrusive lines would definitely appeal to those looking for something minimalist. Sennheiser’s headphones are not known for their artistry, but no one can say that they’re too shabby. Parts most prone to wear and tear – the 3.5mm right-angle jack, cable junction and where the cable enters the bud – have also been reinforced with plastic.
Visual appeal aside, the overall design has fewer complaints. The ear tips are angled to suit the ergonomics of the ear and the sleeves are lined in rubber across their outer curve for a firmer fit. Fiddling is required for that magic seal, but if the current pair of sleeves is not your ears’ true fit, there are always three others (in S, M and L) in the box that you could try out.
It’s arguable that Sennheiser has always intended the IE 60 to be worn over-the-ear rather than in the conventional cable down manner. Even though it’s relatively easy to get the sleeves to fit in your ears, keeping them in is another matter entirely. They were meant to be inserted shallowly, but it takes little to make them pop out again. Hence, cable-down wear is not really an option.
For wearing them over-the-ear, Sennheiser has included a pair of earhooks that is very easy to use. Made of rubber, they shouldn’t draw any objections in terms of comfort. However, if you’re wearing sunglasses or spectacles, that space behind your ear cartilage might be a little crowded. The set also comes with a cable clip and cleaning tool which can be stored in a very nifty case. It slides out to reveal a set up where you can wind the cable and plug the spare ear sleeves in. One of the best protective cases for earphones yet.
There are significant shortcomings that could make you think twice before purchasing the IE 60. For one, the cable is not removable from the housings. Coupled with the fact that it is disconcertingly thin, you could end up buying a new pair of earphones should anything happen to it. The Shure SE215 is a clearer favorite here; besides being substantially cheaper, the cable is both removable and reinforced with Kevlar.
Additionally, the most notable absentee is the handsfree kit. It’s fairly common for high-end IEMs to not come with an in-line remote and microphone, but for a middle range pair of earphones they are must-have features. There are numerous earphones in the market which cost less but still have handsfree kits. Sennheiser should have at least made this option available.
Isolation-wise, the IE 60 does a decent job of blocking out the whistles and honks, but does not come out on top. Better isolation can be had with Shure’s deeper-delving olive tips. It has also been listed to be compatible with MP3, CD players, iPad, iPod, iPhone and mobile phones; whilst not something particularly unique or noteworthy, it’s still nice to know for sure.
At $250, the IE 60 rests on the upper tier of middle range earphones. Comparison to residents in the top range is inevitable. The good news is the IE 60 delivers the powerful bass and mid-range that the best Sennheiser earphones are known for. It’s also a good choice for low-volume listening as music still sounds strong and steady.
You would have to deal with some compromises, though. Thickness to the upper-mids and low-bass give the earphones warmth, but can also render more complex arrangements or those with a particular emphasis on this part of the spectrum rather muddy. Nonetheless, vocals are pushed right to the front, sounding clear instead of drowned in bass. They seem to be very fluid on top of a structured instrumental track.
Trebles seem to be missing a few steps here. Though not overly thin and reedy, they could have been more polished. Competitors like Phonak Audeo PFE 112 and Nocs NS400 have that extra refinement, and cost about the same or less. Soundstage, on the other hand, gets no complaints as everything sounds nicely positioned.
The Sennheiser IE 60 does a commendable job in sound with a solid mid-range and potent bass that even audiophiles could appreciate. Nonetheless, absence of important features such as a microphone and remote and some let-downs in the construction, particularly with the fit, make for a convincing argument that the $250 could be better spent elsewhere.