We tested the Sennheiser IE 900 in several different scenarios. On an Audioquest Dragonfly RED, paired with the phone and with a Sony PHA-3AC usb dac. This allows us to assess how the in-ear behaves on the go and to a more serious amplifier, as that too is going to occur. We play on the phone with apps from Tidal and Qobuz (lossless setting) and on the PC via Foobar which goes to the Sony via wasapi. Again, a lossless signal path.
Detail and tranquility
The Sennheiser IE 900 shows after just a few notes that the focus is on detail, calmness and neutrality. The soundstage is incredibly well balanced. No exaggerated bass, up-front or compressed midrange or an over-fresh or soft treble. Just balance. What comes in, goes out.
That sounds logical, but it’s not. In the hi-fi world, there is always tuning. Every manufacturer has a certain signature. And so does Sennheiser, of course, but with the IE 900 the goal has been to put as little as possible between the source and the listener. And that’s a noble goal, because for many enthusiasts it can take getting used to hearing a neutral sound. Almost everything is now tuned to be round an warm, and then a bump in the treble area to still offer ‘freshness’. It sounds nice. The downside is that everything starts to sound the same….
Now, with the Sennheiser IE 900, it’s crucial that you put it in the ear properly and grab the right earbuds. Otherwise the bass pressure will immediately drop and you will get the idea that this in-ear can’t deliver any punch and grunt. That is absolutely not the case (and our measurements show it: the IE 900 plays linear to 20 Hz (and deeper)), but you must place the in-ears correctly. The foam plugs usually fit a bit better in our experience.
If it’s a good fit, we hear a wonderfully complete picture. Clint Eastwood of Gorillaz grunts away nicely. And with Ill Wind by Radiohead, we also hear the sub-bass at the bottom, which is difficult to reproduce for many speakers. That’s the beauty of Personal Audio: for 1300 euros you simply have an ultra-precise, full range in-ear. For this money you will never buy a set of speakers that reaches this level.
Headphones and in-ears that don’t distort and sound good can be turned up louder than you are used to. Or good for you. In other words: be careful not to play too long and too loud. We don’t want you to have to enjoy music with a permanent squeak in your ear a few years from now.