CX True Wireless review: Basic Sennheiser earbuds that sound anything but
It’s the actual tone, not proverbial bells and whistles, that make these Sennheiser earbuds sing.
The marketing materials for the CX True Wireless claim that these new Sennheiser earbuds make “no compromise.” Well, I’m here to say that’s wishful thinking for a pair of $130 earbuds. Hell, $250, even $350 true wireless earbuds usually make some compromise. To build these affordable wireless earbuds, Sennheiser had to sacrifice features like active noise canceling and serious water resistance. However, the compromises made were worth it, because the end result is ergonomic earbuds that offer exquisite sound and surprisingly good EQ customization at a relatively low cost. Whether you’re looking for your first pair of true wireless earbuds or to expand your collection with some of the best-sounding earbuds at the price point, these Sennheiser wireless earbuds should definitely be part of the conversation. Here’s our take on the Sennheiser CX True Wireless.
|— Sound quality and customization||— Minimal water resistance|
|— Price point||— No active noise cancelling|
|— Long battery life|
What are the CX True Wireless earbuds?
The CX True Wireless follow up on last year’s CX 400BT True Wireless earbuds, which debuted for $200. The CX True Wireless earbuds are now Sennheiser’s entry-level wireless earbuds and $70 less, but they still manage to deliver the brand’s renowned balance of warmth and detail. These Sennheiser earbuds offer the same 7mm dynamic driver as the $300 Momentum True Wireless 2. That extra $170 buys you features like built-in sound equalizing and active noise cancellation, but the richness in the CX True Wireless’s sound comes from what Sennheiser dubs its “TrueResponse transducer,” a fancy name for tiny speakers that can reproduce a frequency range from 5Hz to 21,000Hz. Making sure the true wireless earbuds’ tone remains stable is Bluetooth 5.2 with support for the industry-standard SBC codec, as well as the higher-quality AAC (for iPhones) and aptX (for compatible Android phones).
That big sound comes in a very manageable size. Though these buds were wide enough to stick out of my ear more than sleek pairs like the bean-shaped Sony WF-1000XM3, they weigh just 6 grams per bud. That’s barely more than a sheet of paper, and just a smidge more than the 5g Beats Studio Buds (another pair of inexpensive earbuds we reviewed). The matte black plastic housings, embossed with the Sennheiser logo, have a flat face that’s touch-sensitive, letting you control your earbuds without having to click any buttons. For talking instead of listening, each CX True Wireless earbud is equipped with two beamforming mics meant to focus on your voice.
To hold all that technology securely, Sennheiser includes a charging case, which measures 2.3 inches by 1.3 inches by 1.6 inches and weighs 37 grams without the earbuds, is also a basic plastic, meaning it’ll recharge your earbuds but it won’t provide any notable weather protection. Included is a relatively short USB-C charging cable.
Setting up the Sennheiser earbuds
I set up the Sennheiser earbuds in seconds. After I removed them from their case and put them into my ears, they paired to each other in three seconds and then to my phone a few moments later. NPR’s “All Things Considered” was streaming in my ears as fast as I could pull up my phone’s Bluetooth settings. There were no surprises or hiccups in the process.
I found the tappable—rather than push-button—controls intuitive and fairly easy to use. However, I noticed a slight delay in response time, which tripped me up most when trying to tap twice to change tracks. To compensate, however, I learned to pay close attention to the beeps marking when my tap was registered. Doing it once to pause and three times to activate Siri was no trouble, and I had zero issues pressing and holding to adjust the volume.
The Sennheiser Smart Control App was easy to install: I searched for it in the app store and in minutes it was on my iPhone SE, which I used to adjust the EQ level. The app is compatible with Android version 8.0 and up and iOS version 13.0 and up.
Sennheiser also includes four round silicone eartip size options, which are easy to swap. I pulled off one set and snapped a new set in place without trouble. I found the large size to fit my ears well, allowing the CX True Wireless minimal movement even as I walked around vigorously. The right fit is also imperative because these Sennheiser earbuds offer passive noise cancellation, using only the snug silicone eartips to seal out environmental distractions with no neutralizing sound waves to assist (for that, check out these models). I found that when seated properly they quieted the world nicely, but they didn’t mute it entirely.
Key features of the Sennheiser earbuds
If you’re buying the CX True Wireless earbuds for one thing, it’s the sound quality. All of the high notes aren’t just the detailed treble response, however. There’s also customizable EQ through the Sound Control app, as well as battery life that’ll last from your morning commute until supper—or for more than a day with the case. Being only IPX4 splash-proof, not truly sweat-proof, these earbuds are best skipped over if you never skip a workout. I wore them on a jog on a humid day and that was about all they could handle. The charger wouldn’t register the buds until I wiped them off carefully. Still, if you want a set that sounds great for a price that sounds even better, read on for more reasons to purchase the CX True Wireless.
The CX True Wireless sounds way richer than it costs
As with most Sennheiser products, these high-quality wireless earbuds stake their reputation on their sonic signature, particularly the surprising depth of bass that comes from their diminutive bodies. I put them to the test immediately by pulling up a YouTube video meant to get your subwoofer pumping. The thumping in my ears impressed me, even after I popped in my well-equipped $199 Jaybird Vista 2 for comparison (see our full review of those here). Then I pulled up Dave Matthews’ “Crush,” one of my favorite bass-testing tracks because Stefan’s solo at the beginning provides the pulse for the entire track, and I found the Sennheiser earbuds far superior in bringing out the bottom end—and that was even before I messed with the EQ on the app.
Overall, the CX True Wireless earbuds proved they didn’t compromise on sound, offering up a lush midrange and a lot of detail, whether it was the mandolin plucking in Mandolin Orange’s “Wildfire” or the drums in Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break.” The layering across frequencies really added up to exceptional sound quality, with guitar riffs thrumming under vocals. I actually noticed this capacity most when listening to an NPR story that included sound footage of a parade in China. The audio of the parade came before any narrative setup, and for a moment I truly thought a crowd was shouting on the streets where I was walking. I even pulled out one earbud to be sure.
There’s an app with that
Part of what makes the CX True Wireless earbuds’ sound quality so strong is the accompanying customization you get from the Sennheiser Sound Control app. While not quite as robust as the customization available with the higher-priced Jaybird Vista 2, it’s still an impressive feature for affordable buds. On the app, you can control the sound mix using a single slider that scales from bass-heavy to treble-focused. Or you can adjust three slide levels to bring the bass, mid, or treble up or down by up to 6dB. You can save mixes by adding them to your presets, allowing you to create blends that are better for high-energy activities and other sound mixes that are better for just before bedtime.
Lasts from sun up to sun up—and then some
If you can’t stop listening to your favorite songs rejuvenated by the CX True Wireless, you’re in luck. The battery life of the Sennheiser earbuds is flat-out exceptional. They’ll play for up to nine hours at a clip—I saw no signs of slowing down after having them in during several hours of work—and the case brings the total to 27 hours. For reference, Sennheiser’s more expensive Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds offer a total of 28 hours of battery life, and the Apple AirPods Pro wireless earbuds offer 24 hours of charging with the case. What’s more, the CX True Wireless will charge in 1.5 hours or they’ll give you a quick boost to 1 hour of playtime in 15 minutes.
Compared to the super-solid music playback capabilities, the four total beamforming microphones—two in each bud, with a frequency response of 100Hz to 10kHz—were adequate, but not great. I had to correct Siri often when I was trying to call my wife and my wife asked me to repeat things slightly more than normal. Granted, our 3-month-old son could have distracted her but, because of my trouble with Siri, I don’t think he’s entirely to blame.
So, who should buy these Sennheiser earbuds?
I’d recommend the CX True Wireless Sennheiser earbuds to anyone looking for a relatively affordable pair of the best wireless earbuds that prioritize audio. If you will wear earbuds while working out, look for something like the durable Jaybird Vista 2, which is IP68 rated, meaning they can be submerged in water up to 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes, and has more customizable sound mixing and noise cancelling. Meanwhile, if you want active noise cancelling in addition to a superior sound, consider the $279 Sony WF-1000XMF (here’s our full rundown. Or shoppers on a very tight budget should consider the Skullcandy Dime, which offers the same IPX4 waterproof rating as the Sennheiser earbuds and a comfortable fit and solid sound for just $20 (here are our thoughts on that pair).
Still, if you’re in the market for your first pair of true wireless earbuds, or you want a pair to use at work and on your commute but not at the gym, consider these Sennheiser earbuds. Even if compromises have been made on certain features, the CX True Wireless’s sound quality could be all the convincing you need.