Sennheiser MM 70 iP Earphones: The Featherweight [Review, $100 IEM Week]

Sennheiser MM 70 iP Earphones: The Featherweight [Review, $100 IEM Week]

So you’ve got your new iPhone 4S, and now you want to talk to Siri (and maybe friends) and enjoy some tuneage. Step one: Donate those pathetic white buds that came with your iPhone to your favorite charity, if they’ll take ‘em. Step two: Get yourself a snazzy pair of microphone-equipped canalphones — earphones that fit snugly in your ear. Why? Because a good set of canalphones are the best accessory ever made for an iPhone; they’ll create a seal that will block out ambient noise while enhancing sound coming from the earphones, especially bass — which means better conversations with friends (or Siri), and better music.

Around $100 seems to be the point at which there’s a big jump in quality; also, most in that range are now equipped with inline volume controls (in addition to the play/pause and track-skip controls like the ones on Apple’s stock buds).

We’ve assembled an Apple Store’s worth of canalphones at that level, and we’ll be reviewing them over the next several days. Up first is Sennheiser’s MM 70 iP earphones ($100).

Sometimes earphones like the MM 70s are “canalbuds,” a cross between earbuds — like the ones that came with your iPhone you tried to give away to charity — and true canalphones, which are generally inserted more deeply into the ear canal. However, since there’s great variation in feel and use even between true canalphones, here at this site we tend to lump anything that even thinks about venturing into the ear canal in the canalphone category. Also, note that while Sennheiser’s website lists an MSRP of $130, they can be had at the Apple Store and pretty much everywhere else for $100 or less.

The Good:

They’re really, really light. The set is among (or the) lightest IEMs we’ve tested. Pair this with their asymmetrical cable — the cable leading to the left earpiece is significantly shorter than the right — and the result is a set that feels almost like they’re not there, especially for active pursuits like running, or with the set is run up behind the head.

Because the MM 70s sit shallowly in the ear canal, they’re probably a good choice for those who are a little more squeamish about shoving foreign objects deep into their ears.

The set comes with several differently sized silicone eartips in two distinct types: standard and flanged. Both were relatively comfy, and created a decent seal. The flanged tips are about as minimally flanged as tips get, and I’m not entirely sure there was much difference between the two types.

The Bad:

The materials used, though light, seemed conspicuously cheap and plasticky for a set at this price. The control interface, especially, felt chintzy. They’re also fairly bland aesthetically — though this may or may not be a bad thing, depending on your tastes.

The earpieces are pretty small and stunted — so small that getting them in and out of my ears was tricky, and the curved surface didn’t help matters.

Here’s the crux, though: Although the set works well as a device for communication, listening to music was simply not a pleasurable experience. Bass was often absent; when it did appear, distortion crept in at a comparatively low threshold. Mids were jumbled and muted. Only in the high end did the MM 70s shine somewhat, with clarity that was decent, if uninspiring.

Verdict:

They’re light as a feather, and they may be one of the only options for sensitive-ear types who still want the canalphone experience — but the Sennheiser MM 70 iPs get completely outshined by their contemporaries where it counts.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sennheiser MM 70 iP Earphones: The Featherweight [Review, $100 IEM Week]

The set comes with a faux leather case and a rubber gizmo for keeping the set tidy. Note the two different eartip choices.

  • imajoebob

    How long did you use them?

  • elimilchman

    About a week and a half.

  • Mayank Arora

    I bought these and returned them the very next day. I was surprised how awful the performance was. I settled on Denon.

  • prof_peabody

    I haven’t tried these but they look fairly ugly.  My biggest complaint about earphones in general (and why I use the less than perfect Apple ones instead of something like this), is style.  

    Why does no one make anything the could be considered attractive to anyone who isn’t a teenaged boy? (or a teenaged boy at heart).  

    Why no white ones?  Why the silly chrome ring around the things?  Why the giant boxy volume control with the ugly icons on it?

  • Eric

    I’ve been using the Apple in-ear (canal) buds. Way better than the ones that come with the phone. Puts a nice seal, enhances the sound, and works great with SIRI. Its $80. Comes with different sized silicon buds as well. They are comfortable to wear too. They are durable, have had mine for over a year, with no visible wear and tear. My only issue with them, is that you do have to stick them in IN your ear canal to make that seal. Not deep, but deeper than most.

  • Eric

    Something I have seen in many canalbud reviews is that they are not always suited for exercise because if the cord jiggles or hits something, the sound is transmitted into your ears rather loudly.  Since the gym is the main place I use my iPod (usually it’s in a dock connected to speakers or in my car), I’d love it if reviews could touch on suitability for use when jogging or exercising.  Thanks!

  • elimilchman

    I hear your anguish. Check back on Saturday, when we review the Klipsch Image S4i.

  • elimilchman

    Eric, good comment. This is a problem endemic to canalphones in general, mainly because they seal the ear canal; however, some are worse than others, usually due to the material used in the cable housing. Canalphones that allow you to run the cables over your ears seem to be less problematic.

    The quick fix is to use a clip (almost always included with IEMs at this level ) to secure the cable and prevent it from rubbing against clothing. I tend to slip the cable under my shirt, which also works.

  • imajoebob

    Hours?  Like decent speakers, most good earbuds take (a recommended) 20-40 hours of break-in prior to any serious evaluation.  I have 2 pairs of Sennheisers, and both took about a week to get nice crisp highs and 2 for clear bass.  

    Since you’re doing a series on relatively expensive buds, that’s important to keep in mind.  Since you’ve got deadlines, at least plug them in and run them unattended at various volumes for a day or two.  We’ll all appreciate the result.

  • elimilchman

    Thanks for the comment, you raise an interesting point.

    Everything we review here is tested thoroughly. I had this set plugged in and playing, altogether, for longer than 20 hours (though probably not as much as 40). But frankly, I haven’t seen or experienced evidence that most IEMs gain much from a break-in period.Finally, all the IEMs here logged about the same amount of hours before they were reviewed, and all employ the same basic transducer type (moving coil), apart from the Ultimate Ears (balanced armature) up next.

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in Hardware, iPhone, Reviews, Top stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |