This new entry-level IEM bundle is a strangely attractive proposition, says Justin Choo
The Sennheiser IE100 Pro BT Bundle is a limited offering of in-ear monitors that come with the handy option of wired or wireless operation. Eight thousand units are being made available, and the result is what on the face of it, looks like a great value package.
The IE100's translucent red housing adds some sparkle to an otherwise simple design, but the lack of fancy visuals hardly matters when these in-ears fit so comfortably in my ear. Sennheiser says that the housing comes as close as possible to custom ear moulds, which is a bold claim, but one that's not completely unbelievable after you've worn them. Indeed to me, they seemed perfectly okay for extended periods of listening. This IEM uses the same connectors as its more expensive brethren, so you can swap out better wires if you need to. The connectors seem robust, and there's always a reassuring click whenever you remove or attach the cables.
ON THE GO
This is a budget offering, so there aren't much in the way of amenities. That's actually a plus in my book because it means that you're not paying more for what you don't need – in this case, a soft carry case is all that's required. Like many in-ears, it has three sizes of silicone buds and one pair of foam buds. I tend to gravitate towards the latter for slightly better sealing and bass, but the former worked well enough. Although I found the idea of two separate modules on the Bluetooth attachment a little silly, it was never annoying in daily use. Indeed if anything, it felt more stable, and the ensemble sat well on my shoulders whenever I removed the earbuds and let them hang around my neck.
The Bluetooth module also gives you the convenience of hands-free. The microphone quality is adequate and seems to have moderate protection from gentle wind, so no complaints there. The battery life is modest, but you can safely expect seven to eight hours of playback on average. I like that they've gone with a USB-C charging port; while it might not be as ubiquitous, I reckon it's far less janky than micro-USB. Owners of the IE400 and IE500 versions might want to consider checking out the Bluetooth module once it's available individually, although at this point I can't vouch for how well they will pair.
The sound of this Sennheiser is really rather likeable. It leans towards the warmer side of things and has a good balance of controlled lows and highs. Subtle detail isn't its strength, but this is an entry-level IEM, and it performs very well with what it's got. I actually found myself liking the Bluetooth module more than I expected. The trade-off in sound quality is evident but not as dramatic as I'd feared. If you do choose to go the wired route, the IE100 works best with low gain settings, meaning it's a ready-made pairing for your mobile devices, assuming that you still have headphone jacks, that is. That's how I did most of the listening for this review.
The soundstage is large, with an impressive amount of depth. De Camino a La Vereda by Buena Vista Social Club had a natural presentation and a fine feeling of space between the instruments and backing vocals. With a Woman by The Darkness reinforced this point to me; through a wall of crunchy, edgy electric guitars it still managed to capture the urgency of the snare drum and the grit of the bass guitar for the most part. Indeed I can't stress enough how well balanced this entry-level IEM proved, not least because there are no major flaws to detract from the overall listening experience.
Sennheiser's IE100 Pro BT Bundle is a well designed and executed combination in my book. While this IEM is very good for the price, I'd be less inclined to buy it on its own because there are too many distracting options to choose from in this competitive price bracket. Yet as a package it makes sense – you get the convenience of using it both ways at seemingly no cost to the longevity of its connectors. I think that the quality-of-life benefits that this bundle brings is an inspired piece of marketing, so do keep this package in mind.