Sennheiser is one of the biggest names in headphones, and deservedly so—headphone geeks have frequently called the company’s full-size models (such as the HD 650 and HD 800) the best headphones available, and there are plenty of other gems in Sennheiser’s extensive product line. A few years ago, the company entered the canalbud market with the $79 CX 300 ( , currently available as the updated CX 300-II); Sennheiser’s new $130 MM 70 iP shares design elements with the CX 300 and the now-discontinued CX 400-II, but adds a three-button remote and microphone module. (As with most Sennheiser headphones, the MM 70 iP can be found for significantly less than its official price.)
As mentioned, the MM 70 iP is a canalbud-style headset. Canalbuds essentially split the difference in design and price between traditional earbuds and in-ear-canal (“canalphone”) models. (See our in-ear-canal headphone primer for more details.) Since they fit partially in the ear canal, canalbuds block some external noise and form an acoustic seal that improves bass performance. However, they don’t block as much sound as true in-ear-canal models, and, as with those in-ear-canal models, getting a proper fit can be tricky, the cord can produce unwanted microphonic noise in a listener’s ear, and using the headset function can sound weird due to the occlusion effect of having your ears plugged while talking.
The MM 70 iP uses hemispherical, black-and-chrome earpieces with silicone eartips. The earpieces are attached to an unevenly split, J-shaped cord, an arrangement that makes it easier to wear the headphone cord behind your neck. The earpiece fit is typical of canalbuds—each earpiece sits just inside the ear canal, blocking only a moderate amount of outside noise. However, the MM 70 iP’s earpieces are easy to insert and, in my testing, more comfortable than those of most canalbud models.
The inline three-button remote/mic module sits on the shorter, left side of the MM 70 iP’s split cord, with the microphone positioned on top of the module—most inline mic modules we’ve tested place the microphone on the side. The two volume buttons have small bumps on them to differentiate them from the center Play/Pause/Call button, but the three buttons are very close together; I found it difficult to be sure I was pressing the correct button and to avoid accidentally pressing multiple buttons. The microphone is more or less on par with the iPhone 4’s internal microphone—the MM 70 iP’s mic is a little smoother but also less detailed than the iPhone 4’s—and sounds very good overall.
The MM 70 iP’s packaging includes a faux-leather carrying pouch, a shirt clip, six pairs of eartips (single- and dual-flange styles in small, medium, and large sizes, respectively), and a unique cable wrap that, unfortunately, would work better with an evenly split cable.
I initially found the MM 70 iP’s sound pleasant and inoffensive, if unimpressive. Various instruments in the bass, midrange, and treble ranges were easy to hear and moderately detailed. But as I listened more, I noticed some mid-bass and upper-bass boom that obscured bass detail, as well as weak low-frequency performance that made bass tones lack authority and visceral impact. I also noticed a pervasive hollowness to the MM 70 iP’s sound, and I found that the MM 70 iP’s treble reproduction has a tendency to sound brittle and harsh with recordings that haven’t exhibited these qualities when played through other headphones.
Switching to the $80 Maximo iP-595 iMetal Earphones () solidified my doubts about the MM 70 iP’s bass and high-frequency performance. The iP-595’s bass is tighter but with more punch at the lowest frequencies, and treble frequencies are more relaxed and natural but also more detailed. Overall, the MM 70 iP’s audio quality is more comparable to that of the $80 Moshi Vortex ( ), although the two do have some sonic differences. The Moshi model sounds more natural, but the MM 70 iP has more “space” between instruments, making those instruments easier to distinguish.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
I found the MM 70 iP easy to get along with, but hard to love, even considering the street price of $100—there are a number of canalbuds in the $50 to $100 range that offer better overall sound. However, although the MM 70 iP’s sound quality falls short of some of the best competing models, few of those models offer the microphone performance and comfortable, shallow fit of the MM 70 iP.