Sennheiser CX300 II Review

Greetings everybody! As you should’ve known, I’m a headphones lover, and have also reviewed the HyperX Cloud II before. However, truth be told, I’ve never liked gaming headsets that much, so this time, I’m gonna review yet another pair of headphones, but a musical one from the same brand as my personal pair, even though it’s an in-ear. The Sennheiser CX300 II is a pretty popular pair of earphones for music lovers on a tight budget (costing below 40 USD as of present), but with its “enhanced bass”, it seems it’d be more fit for more modern kinds of music like EDM or hard rock. I’m not one for long introductions, so let’s find out ourselves…

Aesthetics, Build Quality, Fit and Comfort


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Nothing too special here, just your usual plastic-housing-with-aluminium-base earbuds, but they do look pretty noble and seem to be of pretty high quality. As I only have a weekend to review these, I can’t say much about their durability or build quality, but since there have been some comments online stating how they can easily get dirtied and eventually obsolete after a few months of use, I guess I can’t give them a perfect score on this aspect. They do look and feel solid though, so they won’t get a low score either.

As for comfort, they fit into my ears quite easily, simply plug-and-play, even though I’m a sucker when it comes to in-ear headphones. For most other earbuds I’ve tried, counting those $150 Bose in-ears that my friends have, the phones always fall off my ears after like 20 seconds, and for that Bose pair, even though they looked like they were meant to mold into quite some ears, I could hardly ever plug them right (by the way, that plastic… thing… felt very cheap). Despite its banal appearance and low cost, the CX300 II fits perfectly (for a normal in-ear monitor) and does nothing of the sort, so definitely a hit on that.

After a long period of use, well, these are not the most comfortable pair (I can definitely feel their presence and they do feel like they’re pushing my earlobes sometimes), but they are not acrimoniously painful either.

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The CX300 II uses an L-shaped gold-plated (I’m not very sure about this part, though, the plating on my friend’s pair has pretty much worn off since it was quite old), which is normally a good thing.

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This is normally where the volume control / microphone module will go, but since this is a purist pair of earphones, there’s only a cable splitter with the model name imprinted on it.

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The carrying pouch. My friend’s is a bit torn, but it works.

Ok, next, let’s go to the main part, the audio tests! Since this is a musical pair, you can expect this torture to be more rigorous than with the Cloud II…

Music Tests


As with last time, the CX300 II will face off with my modified Sennheiser HD 238 for these tests! This time, I merely borrowed the earphones without trading my own headphones in return, so I have something to act as reference! Yaaaaaaay~… *nonchalant clapping*

On another note, I’ll execute all of their tests with the earphones plugged into my sound card.

Serenity Test: Thu Vàng (10% of Score)


Ok, since I haven’t been able to find the album art for this song (if one existed at all…), here’s a link to the MP3 I’ll use (note: since I wasn’t able to find the album, that also means I don’t have the lossless version of this ong and thus will use the MP3 version for testing. However, since this is just a sub-$40 pair, I don’t think it’d affect the final rating much):

http://mp3.zing.vn/bai-hat/Thu-Vang-Hong-Nhung/ZWZCC76O.html

By the time I use something from my country, teehee… Although I generally don’t like where my country (Vietnam) is going, I can’t deny that we have some exemplary music, with Thu Vàng (Golden Autumn) from legendary musician Trịnh Công Sơn (presented here by songstress Hồng Nhung) being one of my favorite compositions. It’s a pre-war romantic song, and as thus is very light and will only contribute to 10% of the music tests score (since the pair is advertised as basshead earphones). Ok, let’s start the test…

Hmm…

The flutes at the start sound… weird. They are kinda dry, tinny and harsh, even though they can still be identified as flutes. The weirder thing, though, is that the violins and strings also sound pretty similar to them, huh?

Then the vocals and drums kick in. Ugh, the snares sound metallic… but the vocals are pretty decent, if somewhat sibilant. There are not as much expressiveness in the vocals as in the HD 238, but they are not completely soulless either. However, there are these weird hiss sounds that appear whenever the snares and the vocals collide… hmmm…

Overall, I’d say that the vocals and separation are acceptable, but the highs are still very tinny and harsh, and the song in general sounded pretty dry…

Ok, onto the next!

Light Music Test: Nawatobi (10% of Score)


Cover
You can click the album art for a MP3 version of the song!

Reused song for Level 2 test, yaaaaaaaay~!

Well, I’ve used this song in my first testing songs set for the Cloud II, and I’ll use it again here, since I just like it that much. Pardon me while I copy-paste some info here, in case you haven’t read the Cloud II review. This song, Nawatobi (Rope Jumping) is a character song of Koizumi Hanayo (CV: Kubo Yurika) from “Love Live!“, and it’s a light, relaxing, and long song that makes great use of soft vocals and airy instruments such as crystal pads or chimes.

Wow, that’s actually a great start! The crystal pad at the beginning was clear and the intro stirred up my emotions a bit, something I definitely didn’t expect from cheap earphones. Then Hanayo’s voice came, which was actually pretty soft like supposed to be and…

GAH! It’s that hiss sound again!!!

Way to ruin everything, you little…

Hmm… going onwards, the separation is really good and everything sounds clear enough, but the vocals sound a bit distorted later on and the chimes are pretty harsh.

Wow, the pizza carto strings at the bridge are good!

Overall, I’d say this pair really shined on this song. While still not up to my personal standards, it certainly exceeded my original expectations. Chimes are clear, there are actually some soundstage, vocals were decent, and the strings (especially the pizza carto part) were well-executed. The hiss sounds kinda ruined things, though. For a basshead pair, these earbuds actually did quite well on this composition for their price. Maybe it was just the lack of snares, I don’t know, but these are sold as Sennheiser phones for a reason!

Light Instrumental Test: Fàng Shou (10% of Score)


VK The 3rd Movement Cover
Again, click on the picture if you want a lossy version!

For the 3rd test, I’d like to try Fang Shou (放手 – Letting Go) from the album The 3rd Movement by Taiwanese pianist V.K克 (V.K. Hak, also known simply as V.K.). It’s mostly a tranquil piano composition, but in classic V.K. style, there are also some strings and flutes at places, to create a traditional “Chinese” atmosphere.

Wow, the piano sounds pretty natural! Calm, not too harsh, not as thick as my HD 238 but not too thin, and expressive. Almost as good as my pair, even. It loses a bit of its expressiveness at fast movements, though, just a bit.

The strings sound surprisingly good on this one, too.

Here comes the flute in the background, on the far back, in the left… sounding pretty nice…

Hmm…. once the piano and the strings started working together, I felt like it got a bit muddy… but still good enough.

Well, the ending wasn’t as detailed as on my pair. It ended on a silent note, with the subtle xylophones and the last hit completely inaudible, and the last chimes could barely be heard.

Still, this track worked surprisingly well! I don’t have any major qualms on this one, not at all.

Heavy Instrumental Test: Duel (15% of Score)


Explosive the Best of Bond

For Level 4, I thought the composition “Duel” by famous string quartet Bond would be appropriate. While this song is not very “heavy” per se, it makes heavy use of the bass drum and the cello, as well as some synths, making it a pretty… atypical song for a string quartet. Since it’s more “bassy” than the aforementioned songs, it’s also of more importance to these advertised-as-bassy pairs, thus being worth 15% of the total sound quality score. Let us start.

Huh? The intro sounded flat and quiet… definitely not as involving as I’d hoped…

The synth sounded nice, though a little bit congested…

Violins sound decent, if a bit harsh, but nothing too interesting to note. I can hear the position of the violins pretty well though, so kudos for that.

You know what? Although I can feel the drum’s presence, for a basshead pair of earbuds I’m really thinking there’s not enough bass. Its quality is not that good, either, since it sounds somewhat tinny and distorted…

Hmmm… in the more crowded sections, things start to get a bit muddy, but still clearer than, say, most gaming headsets.

The “I A I A”? Pretty laid-back and bland, to be honest. Not quite “bad”, but still…

The ending roll sounded quite interesting! Definitely the apex of this test…

Hmm… what can I say? Things sounded… mediocre here. It wasn’t ear-destroying, but it wasn’t too exciting either. The clarity and soundstage, as well as the good finish, were the strong points in this one. But aside from that, the earbuds made every exciting part sound pretty oatmeal. Well, guess I’ll go with a bland score, too.

*sigh* Next…

Electric Test: WAVE (20% of Score)


WAVE

Welcome to one of the two tests that count, each contributing to 20% of the total sound quality score! The first one, WAVE by niki (made for Vocaloid Kagamine Rin), is an EDM kind of song that uses a lot of layered synths and electric sound effects to simulate smoothly flowing electric “sound waves”. A pretty interesting concept for a really catchy song, there. The song is included in the Vocalofuture album by EXIT TUNES PRESENTS, but I didn’t put the album art here because I thought it wasn’t representative enough to the particular song.

Press the play button, and we are off to a good start. The effects at the start sounded clear, though a bit… gameboyish? Once the main synth started kicking in, I felt pretty hyped up already. However, I still felt like it sounded distorted somehow.That hissing sound…

Then comes the bass drum, which… sounded pretty tinny too, even though it had good speed and tightness. Bummer.

Rin’s voice sounds pretty dulcet here, though it wasn’t as airily pleasant as I’m used to with my pair.

The bridge… that’s a good bridge, actually! Tight, deep, and involving with clear synths, make you feel absolutely ready for the finale…

…Which wasn’t that interesting, unfortunately. Again, as with the strings in Duel, layered synths made things sound pretty muddy and therefore pretty ear-grating and bland. Add that tinny snare to the disaster…

The ending sounded pretty good though. I really didn’t expect this pair to flawlessly execute the double-layered synths at the end, but it did pretty well. Found out it had pretty good speed, too. I could hear every note in that move, though it was not at the very best quality.

Overall, a pretty good presentation but with many flaws concerning distortion and harshness. The execution of electric synths was beyond expectations (though to be honest, my expectations after the pre-testing for songs like this weren’t very high in the first place…), and it had a good start and finish, but it couldn’t become a very exciting sound waves experience.

Velocity Test: Cutie Panther (15% of Overall Score)


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Level 6… Another reused song from Love Live! This is where the really dreadful songs come in, but this one doesn’t particularly focus on the bass, so it’s only worth 15%. Cutie Panther by BiBi here is a song with extremely fast synth movements, as well as daring, somewhat naughty and alluring vocals all ready for testing!

*Mouse click*

Well, as expected, the pair couldn’t survive the quick intro. Things sounded like a mute, bland wave here.

Welps, what’s with the HAAAAAARRRRSSSHHH background vocals?! :S

Main vocals… hmmm…. lost all of their sweetness, thus becoming quite flat and… silent?! Wut?! Also, The fact that the tinny snares just won’t shut up here makes things a little hard to listen, too.

Wait, was that the bridge?! Darn, I nearly missed it, since it sounded like every other part of the song. I remember it to have more silence and suspense in the background than this… Synths in this part were decent, though.

Know what? The snares are really starting to tire my ears…

Approaching the ending… Why are the background synths so small?! They are what creates the whole playful atmosphere for these parts, you know!

Since it couldn’t survive the beginning synth move, I didn’t expect it to survive the ending movement either, and it didn’t. :/ The harsh blasts from the foreground synth totally ruined the ascending background synth waves, which the pair wasn’t fast enough to do justice in the first place.

Ugh… out of all the tests so far this was the worst… It was way too metallic, and lost all its selling points like the suspenseful bridge, the quick synth movements, the alluring vocals, etc. Still, I could detect most of the instruments, so at least it wasn’t a total fiasco.

Well, onto the last test, hope things will get better…

Adrenaline Test: Blood Sugar (20% of Score)


Blood-Sugar-Single-cover

The last and arguably most important test I’ve chosen would be Blood Sugar by Pendulum, in particular the live version performed at Brixton Academy (which I found to be much more impactful than the “regular” version). A little note before we start: As with the first song, I also don’t have a lossless version of this song, and thus will also use the MP3 version to review. This one is simply one of the best Drum and Bass songs in existence in my opinion, so I wouldn’t be too circuitous here.

Here we go…

Well, first, the applause at the beginning… actually sounded pretty good! The voice from the introduction sounded pretty flat, but otherwise that part was…

Nevermind, the artist’s talking parts were quiet through and through. It sounded pretty natural though, so it’s got that going for it.

Why does the rhythm guitar sound like… some constipated instrument in the first part?! Bizarre… The backing synth sounded like someone desperately trying to wind up a broken music box or something at times, too. :/

Hm, this song actually sounded pretty decent otherwise! Although the snares were still very clearly tinny, they somehow didn’t give that ear-grating feeling, instead still managed to excite me somewhat! Good!

The toms really stand out here! They were clear and tight, definitely a deviation from the usual tinny snares.

Main guitar sounded nice. Nothing too interesting, though.

Here comes the bridge… Good suspense, not as much as I would’ve wanted it, but good. The “gothic”-styled guitar movement in this part… mystic!

Surprisingly enough, I’m now tapping my feet along with the song… Not something I do everytime when reviewing a cheap pair of headphones, you know… I don’t know, while it definitely sounds harsh, there’s just… something that saved the song from being a complete aural torture.

Overall nice experience. Although it still retained most of the faults found in Duel and Cutie Panther (tinny, harsh snares, flat, washed-out vocals, etc.), this song somehow still became quite exciting despite its obvious flaws. Maybe it’s just Pendulum, I don’t know, but… well, there’s just SOMETHING here, guys. >.< Perhaps it was the crowd applause, perhaps it was the tight drums, perhaps it was the bridge. Nevertheless, the CX300 II’s representation of this song somehow managed to overcome itself.

Aaaand… That concluded my tests for these earphones! I won’t do gaming and movie audio tests here, because this pair was made mainly with mobile music in mind, and I wanted this review to be brief. I get tired too, you know. Anyway, next up is a summary…

Closing Thoughts


The earphones offered good fit and comfort, as well as soundstage and separation for its price. Most instruments could be easily identified, and there was a sense of space in the first tests. Surprisingly enough, although it was advertised as having enhanced bass, it worked much better with light and serene songs, while the bassy, heavy songs were too tinny for my taste. While the lighter songs sounded pretty great for the price, in the heavier songs, sometimes I can’t even hear what’s going on because of the harshness of the drums. Mids are somewhat recessed, leading to flat vocals, but are decently detailed. Highs can be pretty clear if there’s not much else going on, but otherwise they get pretty rolled off and quiet. Most noticably, once the snares start kicking, the highs can get quite harsh. As for the bass… it had decent speed and tightness, but couldn’t go deep enough, leading to flat bass drums instead of thumping, exciting bass. Combined with harsh highs, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Scoring


Build Quality (10% of Overall Score): 7.5/10 (heard reviews that they are not very durable, but they looked solid to me personally

Comfort (15% of Overall Score): 8.5/10 (not perfect, but better than many pairs more expensive than itself)

Sound Quality (75% of Overall Score):

  • Thu Vàng (10% of Sound Quality Score): 6.5/10
  • Nawatobi (10% of Sound Quality Score): 8.5/10
  • Fàng Shou (10% of Sound Quality Score): 9/10
  • Duel (15% of Sound Quality Score): 6/10
  • WAVE (20% of Sound Quality Score): 7/10
  • Cutie Panther (15% of Sound Quality Score): 4/10
  • Blood Sugar (20% of Sound Quality Score): 7.5/10
  • Overall: 6.8/10

Overall Score: 7.1/10 (Good for the price)

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