“When everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold, gold” was once sung by the band known as Imagine Dragons, and it appears as though Sennheiser has found that statement to be true for most of their product line. Although most covers a good portion of Sennheisers creations, it doesn't cover all, as Sennheiser IEMs haven't found the same great success their headphone counterparts have in recent years. While the household German name continues to triumph in the landscape of sound, does the IE 600 strike that same gold mine that Sennheiser has visited time and time again with their headphones?
Build and Design
Engineered in Germany and assembled in Ireland, Sennheiser takes great pride in their craftsmanship, and it shows in the quality of the IE 600. The amorphous metal, crafted layer by layer through selective laser melting, makes for both a timeless look, and a housing that will withstand the test of time as well. While the inside of the IEM is cozy due to its well-protected covering, the insides of my ears aren’t too fond of the textured steel that creates a bit of a rugged surface. The seal is nearly perfect, and the size of the IEM feels as though it's custom built, but I can’t ignore the bit of irritation I experienced during longer listening sessions.
IEMs aside, the package Sennheiser provides is well put together. Included is a traveling case, cleaning tool, shirt clip, silicone and foam tips in small, medium, and large, and two sets of cables with MMCX connectors terminated in both 3.5mm and 4.4mm. While it’s certainly a nice addition to have two cables provided in the package, I would’ve preferred one cable that's nicer overall than the two included. The cable performs a disappearing act when listening that would’ve made even Houdini jealous due to its lightweight nature. The memory of the cable doesn’t create much tangling either, so that's another plus.
My biggest gripe comes with the overall feel of the cable and the ear hooks. With so much attention to detail with the IEMs themselves, it would’ve been great to see that sort of craftsmanship in a thicker, braided cable that would’ve been the perfect compliment. The ear hooks feel as though they forget you just had the IEM around your ears as soon as you take them off. Readjustments have to be made each time you put them on in order to have a comfortable fit. Minor complaints aside, Sennheiser crafted a beautiful and durable IEM and paired it with a functional package that creates an overall balanced build and design.
The IE 600 sound signature is certainly U-shaped, with the single dynamic driver putting a clear emphasis on the high and low end frequencies. While doing this, the IE 600 doesn’t lose focus on the midrange, either. With an overall well-balanced and well-tuned sound signature, the IE 600 is a very enjoyable listen. Let's dig into the guts of it a bit more.
In the low end, Michael Giacchino’s entirety of “The Batman” is a high octane, adrenaline producing listen with thunderous boom in the subbass. It’s easy to get caught up in the rumble you’re hearing, as if the Batman is making the streets of Gotham safer right behind you, however the low end region remains controlled and balanced with the rest of the music, never infiltrating any other regions of the overall balance of the IEM that take away from the rest of the music.
The midrange is well-tuned and knows its place in the IE 600. Billie Ellish’s “everything I wanted” becomes that much more gut wrenching when the vocals are as bold and intimate as they’re made from this IEM. The sound is full, concise, and creates a natural presentation of the music. The higher mids of female vocals are portrayed well by the IE 600, and makes for a detailed listen that immerses you deeper in the music.
Now the treble captured my main focus throughout my entire listening with the IE 600. Similarly to the kid on the playground that gets his finger extremely close to you, then proceeds to exclaim “I’m not touching you!” While they have a point, it’s the premise of how close you come to crossing the line. The treble comes extremely close to becoming sibilant, but unlike the playground experience, it's enjoyable and non-fatiguing. The timbre of strings are clear and defined, with plenty of air up top. “Convergency” by Candy Dulfer boasts a loud and full brass that could come off as piercing with some IEM’s, however the IE 600 paints a wonderful picture of detail and definition without coming at the cost of peaky treble or treble that's too smooth. The IE 600 never loses focus on the definition of the high range frequencies in the music you’re listening to.
I found the IE 600 to give good space and provide a well-drawn picture of where each instrument was played in a certain track. The best test I discovered for what a single dynamic driver IEM can do is through Luben Yordanoff’s “Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre, Op. 40, R. 171,” which presents a wide variety of strings, brass, and percussion. The roll off from a large hit of a percussion can be heard from a satisfying distance, in conjunction with a bell being rung from the opposite side of the stage. This creates for an eye-closed listen, thinking and trying to decipher where each member of the orchestra is sitting and displaying their skill. The unique, qualitative characteristics of the IE 600 makes the imaging and soundstage truly bring out the liveliness that Sennheiser so eloquently created in this IEM.
Comparison - Meze ADVAR
The tale of the tape shows the Meze ADVAR and IE 600 being fair competitors in the fight for single dynamic driver supremacy in this weight class. Both coming in at $699, these IEMs have to fight tooth and nail for the crown, as neither has the performance to cost advantage. Without further adieu, let's begin.
Starting in the low end, I believe the ADVAR takes the foot off the gas a bit in its bass presentation. While still packing a punch, with texture and appropriate slam, the ADVARs bass is certainly nothing to scoff at. On the other side, however, the IE 600 articulates a well tuned, non bloated bass that satisfies both the basshead and neutral listener alike. It’s loud, full, and fills your ear with a subwoofer-like performance. That's not to say the ADVAR does anything wrong in particular with its bass presentation, it’s just not as full as I would expect from a single dynamic driver.
The midrange advantage will side with ADVAR. With the mids just a bit more forward than the IE 600, ADVAR finds that sweet spot in what a U-shape sound signature can achieve. ADVAR seems to give that extra focus on vocals that can make a world of difference.
The highs of each IEM walk a thin line that either has them fall into detailed or harsh. While neither IEM gets too hot for my taste, I believe that the ADVAR falls into the harsh category whereas I’d tend to put the IE 600 as more detailed. When listening to classical, it was much easier to go through this genre with ease and enjoyment with the IE 600, whereas the ADVAR could get fatiguing at times when a serenade of strings came in for a longer period of time. I don’t want to discredit what the ADVAR is able to achieve in the highs, rather exemplify the extraordinary sound that the IE 600 is able to produce in the high frequency range.
Concluding with the stereo image, this may just be the hardest to compare yet. While ADVARs sound is taller than the IE 600, the latter has more width. Imaging is tight and well-produced in both IEMs, with the IE 600 edging out the ADVAR by the slightest of margins. While I wouldn’t consider this to be a toss up, the difference here is definitely slim, with the IE 600 coming in as your victor for the soundstage and imaging category.
While similar, the ADVAR and IE 600 do just enough to separate themselves as two top competitors within this price range. With ADVAR placing the midrange a bit more forward, the overall tonal balance is slightly better than the IE 600, however, the IE 600 takes the U-shaped sound signature to new heights with its dazzling highs and thunderous low end, making both IEMs stellar options within this price range.
The Bottom Line
Sennheiser has become synonymous with great sound, and I believe that testament remains true with the IE 600. Although it hasn’t come as easy for Sennheiser to pinpoint that signature IEM sound as it did with their headphones, the IE 600 breaks that mold, and offers an incredible price to performance ratio that is certainly bound to shake up the sub $1000 IEM conversation. Keep mining that gold, Sennheiser.