This year at the Consumer Electronics Show, Sennheiser unveiled a new line of headphones in a collaboration with the famous Adidas athletic company. The new sporty lineup consists of the CX 680 in-ear earphones, MX 680 earbuds, OMX 680 ear clips, and PMX 680 behind-the-head headphones, all of which are aimed at active users. These new models have many innovative features that I wish other ultra-portable headphones would offer. Sennheiser was gracious enough to give Skatter Tech a pair of the CX 680s, the most expensive set in their new lineup. So will the new CX 680s grab Rookie of the Year or be sent back to the farm leagues? Let’s take them to the field.
Packaging & Items
Purchasers of the new CX 680s are greeted with a clean-cut and professional looking packaging that conveys a confidence for their upcoming sporting activities. The Adidas logo prominently stands ready in the upper left hand corner of the packaging while a less conspicuous Sennheiser logo appears opposite the boxing ring in the lower right hand corner. Information on the packaging touts features such as water resistance, passive noise blocking, DuPont kevlar reinforced cables, and a vast multitude of accessories. The crisp sound of ripping open the perforated strip on the bottom gives you anticipation of the great match to come like watching one of Rocky’s montages.
Once you take the CX 680s out from their semi-complicated packaging, you’ll most definitely notice what Sennheiser-Adidas calls the “revolutionary” EarFin pieces, which are also featured on the MX 680s. These look like intimidating rubber hooks protruding from the top of the ear pieces. The EarFins are designed to lock into a fold of skin just above where you ear canal opens. This provides a secure fit to ensure that the CX and MX 680s stay put during extreme motion. This should allow you to concentrate solely on your activity instead of worrying whether or not your headphones will jettison themselves. Sennheiser-Adidas knows that not all athletes’ ears are the same and includes four sets of modular EarFin pieces. The sizes range from large EarFins to just a rubber sleeve with no EarFins at all. All the pieces are very comfortable and virtually unnoticeable while you’re wearing them. After hitting the gym, doing some running, and jumping around I have to agree with Sennheiser-Adidas: these EarFins are quite revolutionary.
The CX 680 unit consists of a durable plastic and grippy rubber casing with multiple modular components. Soft rubber canal tips, like the EarFins described above, are also included with sizes from small to large. One challenge of sport-oriented headphones is dirt and grime. Sennheiser-Adidas has implemented replaceable foam filters in the ear canal portion of each earpiece to combat this, and generously included an extra set of filters in the accessories. Another sport-oriented feature is water and sweat resistance. The CX 680’s neon yellow-green cable is very flexible, thin and lightweight. While it may seem semi-fragile at first, Sennheiser-Adidas ensures us it’ll stand the test of time with its DuPont kevlar reinforcement.
While at CES I mentioned to the friendly and sharp Sennheiser representative how it would be great if the CX 680’s cable would separate at the inline volume control unit for users who like to mount their audio player on their arm. As I was mentioning this I gave a slight tug at the area I was hoping it would come apart and to my surprise a crisp connector came out just like I had described. The Sennheiser representative gave me a confident smile and I knew they were one step ahead of me. In total, the cable with inline volume control unit comes in at 4 feet (1.2m) and is terminated in a right angle plug for a low profile. When separated, the cable is half the length at 2ft (.6m), and loses the right angle plug. Located between the Y-splitter and earpieces is a hard rubber plastic clip for cinching the earpieces together thus preventing tangle. This clip is partially open on one side so you can completely unclip it from one of the wires for convenience.
Other accessories included with the CX 680s are a tough hook and loop nylon carrying bag, handy canal cleaning tool, and cable clip. I was surprised at the high quality of the nylon bag and found it to be water-resistant. The hook and loop enclosure is secure and won’t let anything escape. Perforated in the side is a metal grommet so you can run a lanyard through it for easier carrying. All these rugged features and accessories are backed by a fantastic 2 year warranty.
Being familiar with Sennheiser’s high quality products I had an idea as to how the CX 680s would sound, but wasn’t sure whether or not the Adidas component would throw me a curveball. Listening to various music from country to hip-hop to jazz revealed some very interesting characteristics about these headphones which ended up being a pleasant difference from the great Sennheiser house sound.
One thing all great workout and sporting music has is that energizing beat to tune yourself to. Sennheiser-Adidas hit a home run in this regard. The bass impact was absolutely perfect for a sporting headphone with forceful impact while not too overwhelming. What impressed me more, however, was that Sennheiser-Adidas managed to leave in a fairly balanced bass sound as well. Most headphones with a strong bass impact tend to have a really strong bass as well, which overpowers the rest of the music terribly. Technically, the bass is decently articulate, although still has a fair amount of decay. Interestingly, the slower decay led to a more full sound overall and increased sound stage. The bass impact really outran the competition in hip-hop, club, and jazz music. In orchestral music the bass impact felt surprisingly balanced and gave that large auditorium feeling. Unfortunately the bass seemed too overpowering in rock music and drowned out the quick-moving guitars. In country music, the bass again was slightly overpowering and took emphasis away from the vocals.
Half-time break? Not for the CX 680s as they push on through the middle range of sound. If there’s one part of the sound that had the classic Sennheiser feel it was in the mids. Not too energetic, the mids seemed to flow smoothly like water. Its seamlessness contributed to a full sound without any gaps or harsh areas in it. A lot of the times I find earphones will get fairly harsh in areas, but not so with the CX 680s. Both male and female voices felt forward and clear. Horns in orchestral and jazz music were just right and had good emphasis. There wasn’t any coloring or extra texture added to the music giving a neutral and accurate sound here.
If the CX 680s drew a penalty anywhere it was in the highs. While not recessed, the highs felt much less prominent than they should have been. It’s as if the third baseman couldn’t quite throw the ball all the way to first base in time to make the out. Normally when the highs are less pronounced than they should be they also sound recessed and veiled. This should sound as if the music being played further away from you or there’s a heavy curtain/wall seperating you. The CX 680s had clarity to discount being recessed and veiled although the volume and impact wasn’t high enough.
Overall, the sound quality of the CX 680s dominates the first couple of quarters, gets a little tired in the second half, but still clenches the win. It’s not the absolute best player on the field, but it gives full effort and is still very enjoyable. There simply isn’t a better option in its tended market of athletes. Normal IEMs are too fragile and costly, cheap earbuds fall out too easily and sound like defeat, and regular headphones are just too bulky. All of the immense forethought that went into the CX 680s provides an eager, ready-to-go attitude out of the box. Even with a slightly high MSRP of $119.95, the CX 680s will prove their worth and functionality. I would provide you with a street price as normal, but seeing as the new Sennheiser-Adidas line isn’t for sale yet anywhere those figures aren’t available. All we can do is now wait, and eagerly I might add!