Sennheiser mm50ip review

UPDATE July 2009

The headphone Jack on these broke about 2 or 3 months ago, thus these didn’t last even a year.  While some blame must go to apple for requiring a smaller plug to fit the 1st gen iPhone, its still disappointing.  Since then I have upgraded to the new Apple In-Ear’s (4 outta 5) which have a much more balance sound, which I prefer.  Also there is a lot more competition in the iphone headphone market now, so I would suggest people look at the ultimate ears, or apples offerings etc before the mm50IPs, unless you can pick these up at a hugely reduced price.  So in summary I think that 3 outta 5 is a much more realistic rating now.

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I was hanging out for a iphone compatible headset to replace my aging Sennheiser cx300 cans that I got way back in 2006…. I think, it was so long ago I can’t quite remember.  And that was the persuading reason of getting the mm50ip‘s. The build quality on the cx300 was great, and they lasted, so I hope the same is true for the mm50ip’s.  I had previously tried out some Sony ex51’s, which lasted about 6 months before the plastic coating on the wire wore out and they broke.  I then got some Etymotic  ER•6i Isolator buds.  These sounded nice and well balanced, although a little lacking in the bass for me, but the real killer was that they were difficult to fit, and uncomfortable after prolonged periods.  Also I need to constantly remove my earplugs to talk to people at work, and this was a killer problem with the ER 6i ‘s.  So along came the cx300’s.  I got them off ebay for a cheap price and I was pleased with the sound quality and more importantly the fit.

So when I upgraded to an iphone 2G in Feb 08, I was forced to either use the apple buds or buy an adaptor so that I could still use the cx300’s.  There weren’t any real all in one solutions available at that time, so I got the Griffin SmartTalk.  It worked well, but the combined cable length was a pain, with the headphones constantly getting caught on things as you walk by.  But the real killer was the build quality,  The point just above the jack was poorly designed and as a result after only 3 months the sound started cutting out in one ear due to i suspect a small internal breakage in the cable.  Other issues include the slightly heavy microphone clip, which if you don’t have somewhere to clip it, can put quite a strain on your ears.

So finally July arrives and I start looking for a replacement.  To my delight there are now more than a few possible all in one solutions for the iphone.  That is something with a microphone and more importantly a button that allows you to play, pause and skip forward songs.  This is a must have feature as its not possible to do this with your iphone in your pocket.

My Short list:

Sennheiser mm50ip  ~ 74 euro

V Moda Vibe duo   ~ 90 euro

Ultimate Ears 4vi  ~130 euro

This is by no means the most extensive list and there are some good reviews on the other two on the web (eg

I was very tempted to get the ultimate ears, but the price and my previous ho hum experience with the Etymotic’s swung me away for those.  The Vibe duo’s have been hammered by users claiming poor built quality, with issues similar to what I had with the smartTalk.  And thus in the end it was down to the mm50ip’s.  There were no reviews to speak of on the web, so i just hoped that they were as good, or better than the cx300’s.

And they are !

The Review:

In fact they sound significantly better, that I’m starting to wonder if I really did have real cx300’s.  I did buy them off ebay, and there are reports of large quantities of fakes running around. Anyway the sound first off the bat, was richer across the spectrum with the mm50ip’s.  Cleaner bass, more defined vocals and mid section, and the highs were much much cleaner, albeit a bit softer.  If anything the vocals and mid’s were slightly more noticeable then either the lows or highs.  In contrast the “cx300’s” were often cracking and not producing a clean sound in some parts.  I had put this down to the compression to MP3.  But now its clear that it was the cx300’s.  Overall the sound is a step up from my possible fake, or just plain old cx300’s.  Its not as balanced and ‘fair’ as the Etymotic’s, but I prefer it !  The best description I can give it is “FUN”.  The bass is prominent but not over powering, and there is enough definition in the mid and higher ranges to give the music depth.  It may not suit the audiophiles but I enjoy it, and for the price its excellent and a huge improvement over the stock ipod.

The only other thing of note is the fit.  I really like the in-ear silicon buds, they give good sound isolation, meaning lower listening volumes, and are very comfortable.  The mm50ip’s have 3 sizes of buds to choose from, and I need the big ones to get a good seal.  Its important to note that the bass and overall sound quality is dependent on getting a good seal, so before you “hate” these try some different size buds. The only other thing to note is the ear piece’s themselves.  They are a bit thicker and matte compared to my old sony ex51’s which I had preferred to the ones that came with the cx300’s.  But these new ones seem to slip in and out of the ear a bit nicer, so I will add that to the plus category for the mm50’s.

I love the shorter cord length, its is perfect for putting the iphone in your pant pocket, but for those who like putting it in a back pack might find it a bit short.

The play/pause/call button is the only issue I have.  It is flush with the casing, and hard to find by feel.  The speaker is concave and my fingers find this easily, but so far I am struggling to quickly find the button.  A small rib would be ideal… or they could move it to be in-line with the mic, is sits a a few ‘mm’ south on the opposite side which make it feel a bit un-natural.  When I do find the button, it is easy to press, and double press, so that is at least nice.  Also the other great thing is that I don’t even notice the small amount of extra weight that it adds… its very light and so far has yet to annoy me.  Super !

UPDATE: Ok so after about a week of use, I can notice the slight extra weight from the call/button thingo when walking around.  The result is there is more pull on the lighter right ear piece which can slightly pull it out of position leading to a poorer seal and reduction in sound quality.  As a result I have taken to over compensating with the cord on the right side which off sets this problem.  On the upside I seem to have got the hang of finding the button by touch without to much issue.

Call quality according to my wife is great.  I find simply removing the right ear bud prevents the strange ‘sound in you head’ feeling you get when you speak with both ear pieces in.

So in Summary:  4.5 outta 5 !

I am really happy with the headphones.  Apart from the minor problem of the call button, so far these seem like a real winner.

They are a little bit hard to find online at the moment, and the price is a bit on the high side.  But now that the 3G iphone is out, I can only imagine the demand for for these to increase, and in turn the price will drop.

So if your looking for a decent upgrade to the stock apple buds, that isn’t going break the bank the mm50ip’s should be at the top of your list.

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About Andrew Burgess

Head of the Cell Division Lab and Manager of the Microscope and Flow Facility at the ANZAC Research Institute.

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