When Sennheiser launched the IE 300, it offered brilliant high-fidelity sound at a reasonable mass-market price at S$449 (currently offering at S$379). Then when the flagship IE 900 was announced, it went to the moon with a retail price of S$2,199 but justifiably so with further articulated the audio response that delighted high-fidelity audiophiles. Now with the launch of IE 600 at S$1,099, we are quite clear on Sennheiser’s product line strategy: the IE 300 offers an entry-level flavour of the sound signature, the IE 900 is the current pinnacle of Sennheiser’s IEM R&D, while the IE 600 is a balance between the two. So, how “balanced” is the IE 600?
If you are already following the progress of IE 300 and IE 900, the IE 600 is similar in the retail package, cable and ear tip accessories. The IE 900 comes with three cables – 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm, while the IE 600 comes with two – 3.5mm and 4.4mm.
The other major difference is the driver housing design and material. The IE300 is plastic, the IE600 is zirconium alloy, and the IE900 is anodized aluminium. Inside the housing, there are precision-cut chamber to achieve the sound that characterises each of the model. The IE 300 features a single chamber, the IE 600 has a dual resonator chamber absorbers (D2CA), and the IE 900 contains triple resonator absorbers (X3R). Sennheiser also mentions that while all the models uses the same-diameter 7mm transducer, the quality of the transducers for all three models are different, as you might expect. One example is that the higher-end models have more voice coil winding for improved signal sensitivity.
The most important difference is the sound presentation. I will make it simple for you: the IE 300 offers a consumer-friendly easy-to-accept sound tuning, with prominent bass and sharp pushy treble that manages to keep it from sounding too harsh. The IE 900 delivers better spatial feel, instrumental separation, more precise treble execution without the marginal harshness, while the bass is less pompous.
With the IE 600, the tuning sits right in the middle. The treble is not as forward and brilliant as IE 900 but it remains precise and controlled unlike IE 300 which sound relatively the thinnest. The sound staging is more intimate compared to IE 900 but not as packed as IE 300 which often bloats the presentation with its bass. For midrange, IE 900 is the clearest, followed by IE 600, then last IE 300.
Overall, the IE 600 is indeed the most neutral IEM among the three compared. But if you ask me, I find the IE 900 has a more special sound that impresses me more. It might not be neutral, but Sennheiser signature sound is about treble brilliance, which has its share of fans.
My take among these three: the IE 300 is an excellent IEM that showcases Sennheiser signature sound for a great value price. The IE 900 is the pinnacle of Sennheiser IEM development with outstanding treble execution. The IE 600 is the crowd-favourite darling designed to reach out to the textbook-reference audiophiles. While the EQ can be tuned for each of the IEM, the instrumental separation, the imaging, the resolution, they cannot be tweaked. With that, the IE 900 remains my favourite among the three, the IE 300 is a great-value compromise, and the IE 600 is a showcase of a balanced tuning without excessive bass nor exaggerated treble.
As always, it is best to test it yourself to decide which tuning works for you. Don’t let the price and perceived quality affect your decision. If you are satisfied with the IE 300, go for it. There is no need to buy a higher end model just because it is better quality.