(The following review covers the Sennheiser PMX 100 and PMX 200 headphones.)
Behind-the-head headphones — those with a thin headband that goes around the back of the head rather than over it, popularized by Sony’s StreetStyle line — have become very popular over the past decade. Unfortunately, until recently, few higher-end headphone manufacturers had joined this trend, leaving behind-the-head fans to settle for lower-quality sound. Sennheiser, which released their decent PMX 60 just over a year ago, has now firmly entered the market with the release of the PMX 100 and PMX 200.
The PMX 100 and PMX 200 appear to be variants on the company’s PX 100 and PX 200, respectively. (Considering the high quality of the PX line — Playlist awarded the PX 100 a 5-Play rating and 2005 “Play of the Year” award, and the PX 200 a 4-Play rating — this is a good thing.) But instead of a thin, padded, plastic/metal band that fits over the top of the head, the PMX 100/200 use an unpadded plastic/metal band that wraps around the back of the head, and each earpiece has a thin plastic “clip” that helps hold the headphones on your head. Although the PMX 100 and 200 do fit securely, it takes a bit of practice to get these clips onto your ears, and because they’re fairly thin, some people may find them to be a bit uncomfortable (not to mention that some people simply aren’t fans of the behind-the-head fit at all). One other design difference: The PMX models don’t fold up into a hard plastic case like the PX 100 and 200; however, the earpieces do fold flat for storage.
As with the PX 100 and PX 200, the main difference between the PMX 100 and PMX 200 are that the former are “open” models; the latter “closed.” The PMX 100’s earpieces are covered in thin foam pads that don’t block much external noise but make them more comfortable. The PMX 200 uses “pleather” pads that block out a limited degree of external noise. In my testing, the PMX 100 offers significantly better sound — richer, with better bass response. (Although the PMX 100’s bass can actually be a bit too prominant at times — this makes the PMX 100 a great workout partner, but can be fatiguing over long-term listening.) The PMX 200, on the other hand, has the same drawback as its PX sibling: If you don’t get a good “seal” on your ears, the bass response drops out quite a bit.
The two PMX models also differ in color (both from each other and from the rather staid appearance of the PX models): The closed PMX 200 feature metallic light blue earpieces with gloss black trim; the open PMX 100 opt for a five-spoke “carbon fiber” look.
If you’re a fan of the behind-the-head style — it’s great for working out, or if you want “bigger” sound than earbuds but don’t want to mess up your hair — Sennheiser’s PMX 100 and 200 provide the best sound I’ve heard in such a design, with the PMX 100 earning our Playlist Pick designation.–Dan Frakes