The starting prices of earbuds and in-ear monitors (IEMs) these days are so low that you don’t need to spend much to get a pair of reasonable quality.
So how does the Sennheiser IE 200 fare in a world awash with affordable options? The German audio giant’s entry-level IEM (RRP SGD219) can be had for as low as SGD179, which is reasonable for a pair of earbuds from a reputable manufacturer.
Good portents then, that the IE 200 comes in a relatively sparse package–just a pouch, spare ear tips in varying sizes–which means that you’re only paying for what you need. That philosophy extends to the earbuds themselves: the IE 200 sports the austere appearance of a conventional pair of universal IEMs. Encased in a modest plastic housing, these monitors are pretty lightweight as well.
There’s one downside to this budget-conscious approach. The cable that comes stock with the IE 200 is pretty average, so it’s susceptible to cable noise. It’s probably the first thing you’ll upgrade when you feel you want to commit more money to this endeavour. Sennheiser uses a standard MMCX connector so have the luxury of third-party options. However, you have to buy those that explicitly support Sennheiser’s implementation of this standard, otherwise, you might need to modify the cables slightly to get them to work (YMMV, so do your homework).
A serious pair of IEMs
That aside, the stock package is tolerable because when the music is good, you’ll get lost in auditory bliss. The IE 200 uses the same 7mm TrueResponse transducers found in more expensive models and even in the single driver configuration, Sennheiser’s tech is capable of delivering a rich palette of sounds. There’s a caveat–while these may be budget, entry-level IEMs, it doesn’t mean you can use it pretty much on any player willy-nilly.
While the IE 200 is decent enough when you run it off your smartphone–if you have one with a 3.5mm jack–or off your laptop, you will want a dedicated DAC or DAP to get the most out of these IEMs. That’s because a proper, if modest, setup gives you added richness to the sound; it will spring to life. For those dipping their toes into the world of portable Hi-Fi, this is the kind of output that will affirm the money spent. It may not outperform the fancier tech (like planar drivers), but there’s a cultured sense of balance and refinement that is harder to attain; it’s tasteful, for certain.
The IE 200 also has an additional trick up its sleeve: you can adjust the porting slightly by shifting the position of the earbuds. Effectively, you have a choice between a bassy sound or an airy sound; I tend to lean towards the bassy sound signature so I often left it at that position, but you can always tweak around to find a sweet spot for the rig that you run, which is an added bonus if you are trying to figure out your preferences.
The way I see it, you have to be committed to owning a dedicated player or DAC to make this a worthwhile purchase, which adds to the cost if you don’t already have the equipment to begin with. The IE 200 offers a generous soundstage for an entry-level IEM, coupled with a decent level of detail and it sounds rather pleasant on the higher frequencies. You can more or less run any kind of music on them and I think the IE 200 does well with high-energy tracks as well and captures the immediacy and the impact of the music.
On paper, the IE 200 may be pricey in this day and age of cheap options–Chi-Fi (Chinese Hi-Fi) offers more compelling candidates with desirable features like planar drivers for less money but the versatility and refinement of these entry-level IEMs will stand the test of time and dare I say it, changing tastes.
- Sennheiser IE 200 - 7.5/107.5/10
Sennheiser IE 200
Price SGD 219/MYR849 (Can be as low as SGD179)
Design & Build Quality
You can buy cheaper options to start off and sell on as you progress, but the IE 200 is a keeper. Well worth the extra cash.