The Sennheiser IE 300 is announced on the first day of CES 2021 (12 Jan 2021 SG Time), and we are privileged to receive a unit on the launch day for review. It retails for S$449 in Singapore, available from 19 Jan. The IE 300 offers detailed music with impressive sound imaging, outstanding treble clarity and responsive bass. It uses a refined version of the Extra Wide Band 7mm driver made in Germany. More than a dozen components in the chamber create the sound signature.
Unboxing and Design
Included in the package is a hard case, 6 pairs of ear tips with both silicone and foam variants, and a cleaning tool. The ear tips are purposefully designed to deliver the desired sound – grille pattern with a layer of foam pad inside.
The IE 300 uses Fidelity+ MMCX cable connectors that are more recessed. This means compatibility issues with most MMCX cables. Interestingly, the Shure AONIC 3/4/5 MMCX cables snap with the IE 300, but I did not have the same luck with the Shure TW1 true-wireless adapter. I find the IE 300 detaches easier than the AONIC series, but not that loose that made me feel insecure.
The para-aramid reinforced cable feels a little sticky and generates microphonics (cable rub sounds) towards the ears. There is also no in-line microphone or playback controls, which the AONIC offers. Granted, the IE 300 is an audiophile-grade IEM, but any serious owner would be promptly swapping the cables with higher-grade ones.
The actual earbuds are lightweight, decorated with silver and blue star dusts. They sit within the ears and do not protrude out. Sennheiser has meticulously designed the acoustic chamber – a miniature room-within-a-room that helps manage the flow of air. The direction and overall volume of air is controlled with precision as it travels through and exits the acoustical system. A frequency absorbing resonator chamber is applied to overcome masking effects that often occurs in the ear canal and buries some nuanced audio details.
The Senneheiser IE 300 is distinctively a “high-fidelity” IEM, with outstanding treble response and responsive bass that extends downwards to the sub-range. What strikes me when I listened to it for the first time is the intentional forward sound staging. While it’s not completely out-of-the-head like Creative Super X-Fi or Audeze Mobius, it achieves better instrumental separation and layering which benefits the next feature.
Sparkling highs! Many earphones have tried to make their treble sound bright to give the impression of resolution and details, but the IE 300 sounds very polished without harshness and fatigue. It’s like they created a glossy shine on a piece of music without blinding the listener. The percussion is so precise that you can even discern the varying tonality performed by the drummer on virtuosic passages that I would normally not be able to determine. I believe the trick is in spreading the instruments over a wider plane so that it does not sound too intense. In a good way, the IE 300 is delivering the same treble details that made me enjoy the HD 800 S, but the HD 800 S is still unbeatable in terms of sound staging.
The bass appears to play a role in balancing the glistening treble, as it fills the musical cavities to establish a foundation to control the sizzles. The lows do not bloom towards the midrange, so you get a clean calculated boom, so defined that I could hear differences of the bass resonance with different notes.
Due to this character, some songs may appear not to have full and forceful lows (Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”), while other tracks offer generously (Billie Eilish “Bad Guy”). On Eagles “Hotel California (Live)”, the bass guitar resonates politely while the kick bass delivers more oomph that rattles the ear drums a little more than usual. The vocals sing at a comfortable distance while the percussions plays prominently closer to the listener.
The sound signature of the IE 300 is very easy to enjoy. Who doesn’t want super clear sounds and deep bass? When sampling Hiromi’s “Alive” album, the drum lines have never been so prominent, while the bass lines are equally distinct. Ironically, the piano relegates to the background which is incorrectly balanced. In that aspect, I find the Shure AONIC 5 offers a more musical experience. The AONIC 5 have a wider more enclosed staging that places instruments around the listener. Though the drum is less sparkling, the piano takes its rightful place of prominence while the bass produces a fuller blended resonance reaching towards the midrange. The overall mix is a little warmer, more analogue.
While the IE 300 high-fidelity tuning is highly enjoyable, it compromises the authenticity of the mix. In all honesty, I enjoy casual listening to the IE 300 more than the AONIC 5. I have always been open about my preference for clarity and details but not at the expense of listening comfort. The IE 300 seems to deliver what I yearn for, albeit a compromise on the warmth.
Comparing to Creative Aurvana Trio, the IE 300 is way much more brighter and clearer. The percussion like the hi-hat is a lot more sharper, more forward-sounding. The bass is also more fast and clean. Aurvana Trio has a fuller sound with more midrange, percussion is more mixed in, stands out less. IE 300 offers the clarity while keeping the harshness and sibilance well-checked. If you yearn for a lot more high details without listening fatigue, then the IE 300 will be a splendid upgrade over the Aurvana Trio.
The IE 300 has similar tuning as the Momentum True Wireless 2 (MTW2), but with boomier bass, less wide staging, and the treble is less sweet. It’s a trade-off for true-wireless convenience which I am happy to accept, until I find a true wireless MMCX adapter that I can plug to the IE 300.
The Sennheiser IE 300 made me listen my music collection in a different perspective, because it brings out quite a handful of musical details that often get masked by prominent instruments and their resonances. Casual audio lovers must audition the IE 300 to experience your favourite music in uncanny clarity which reveals a lot more instrumental timbre that normal earphones could not unveil. S$449 is a reasonable spend in return for tangible listening elation.