While most mainstream personal audio brands have pivoted towards a wireless future, Sennheiser is perhaps the only major brand to continue earnestly on its wired audio portfolio, while also working on competitive wireless products. This also means that it’s among the few big names with products made for audiophiles, including wired headphones and earphones across price points. Among the latest in the company’s range is the Sennheiser IE 200, which is priced at Rs. 14,990 in India.
The Sennheiser IE 200 has a similar form factor and feature set to the IE 300 earphones, but is considerably more affordable. With 3.5mm wired connectivity, detachable cables, and a single dynamic driver system, is the Sennheiser IE 200 the best wired IEM headset under Rs. 15,000 that you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
Sennheiser IE 200 design and specifications
The IE line of wired in-ear monitors from Sennheiser maintains impressive consistency across the range, particularly when it comes to design. Everything from the IE 200 to the top-of-the-line IE 900 has the same general design, with the differences apparent only in the colours, textures, and materials used. The IE 200 comes across as looking a bit more plain than the more expensive IE 300, but that isn’t a dealbreaker by any means.
The construction material is the same as on the IE 300 (the actual earpieces are plastic), and weigh the same at 4g each without the cables attached. Usefully, the cables are detachable and replaceable, and the use of the MMCX connector standard means that you can swap in any compatible cable from other brands as well. The included cable has flexible ear hooks and twisted wires that look quite nice, but feel less durable than the solid cables on the IE 300 headset. The connector on the cable is a standard 3.5mm L-shaped stereo plug.
As expected for an audiophile IEM headset, the included cable does not have a microphone. While this type of fit style is usually a bit complicated to wear and take off, I found the Sennheiser IE 200 to be quite easy to handle and comfortable to wear, with a secure, noise-isolating fit. Also included in the sales package is a small leatherette carry pouch, and a total of six pairs of ear tips — three silicone pairs and three foam pairs, each in small, medium, and large sizes.
Like the IE 300, the Sennheiser IE 200 has 7mm extra wide band dynamic drivers, with a frequency response range of 6-20,000Hz. Despite the use of the same drivers, there are significant differences between the two in the tuning, which showcases itself in the sound quality — more on that later.
The impedance rating is slightly higher at 18Ohms, but it’s still low enough to be easily driven by even basic source devices such as smartphones and laptops. That said, for optimal performance, I’d recommend using the Sennheiser IE 200 with at least a basic portable DAC.
Sennheiser IE 200 performance
Unlike wireless and true wireless headsets priced at around Rs. 15,000 or so which are heavy on features, audiophile-grade wired IEMs expectedly tend to put the focus entirely on sound quality. Sennheiser’s typical competition in this price segment comes from ‘Chi-fi’ brands such as Fiio and Moondrop, so the brand’s better recognition in India and the fact that the IE 200 is part of an established product range will weigh in its favour.
For my review, I usually used the Sennheiser IE 200 with my Shanling UA2 portable DAC, connected to either an Android smartphone or my laptop as a source device. This was an optimal match, and helped bring out the best performance from the earphones by handling the data from high-resolution audio files and providing the right amount of amplification to the IE 200. Performance was decent enough even without the DAC as part of the chain, but it did sound a bit less energetic and immersive.
Hooked up to my current lightweight setup with the Shanling DAC and Apple Music for high-resolution audio tracks, the Sennheiser IE 200 was a bundle of fun. The earphones are a bit less balanced and neutral-sounding than the more expensive IE 300, but it’s still a detail-oriented sonic signature that gives the mid-range and highs plenty of room to shine. That said, the bass did seem to have a bit more drive in it, which I quite enjoyed with the right kind of tracks.
Listening to Can’t Stop by Coucheron with the volume level just a hint above the halfway mark, the Sennheiser IE 200 sounded beautifully detailed, and articulately captured the upbeat and positive tone of the track. The lows did have a noticeable level of energy which set that part of the frequency range apart from the rest, but the vocals and melody of the highs felt quite present and alive.
The similarly fast-paced and up-tempo Tokyo Night Train (Claes Rosen Remix) by The Midnight tended to push the bass a bit further; while bass lovers will enjoy the aggression and drive in the sound, it’s a bit of a departure from the expectation of neutrality and tonal focus that you’d typically have for a pair of audiophile IEMs such as this. While the Sennheiser IE 200 had no trouble keeping up with the fast pace of the track and keeping all the elements cohesive and in tune with each other, the bass sounded perhaps a bit too forceful.
Slowing things down with You by Mk.gee, the Sennheiser IE 200 felt a bit more controlled and at ease. The soundstage was spacious given the actual size of the drivers powering these earphones, but the focal points of tracks tended to not spread too wide; faint elements came through from different parts of the virtualised soundstage reasonably well, though. The sound was also loud and engaging unlike anything with wireless connectivity at this price, although this was no doubt helped along by the excellent amplification from the Shanling DAC.
Despite being half the price of the IE 300 (Review) earphones, the Sennheiser IE 200 is very similar in most ways, including the design and fit, driver size, and the fact that the cables are detachable. That said, you’ll be able to hear the difference in the sound fairly easily — the IE 200’s tuning isn’t quite as polished and balanced as the more expensive earphones. However, it’s still an enjoyable, detailed, and engaging listening experience, particularly if you like a bit of bias in the sound towards the lows.
That may not completely agree with the audiophile philosophy of neutrality in the sound, especially when you consider that Rs. 15,000 isn’t by any measure an entry-level price point for this kind of product. However, there aren’t any objective flaws in the Sennheiser IE 200, and it’s worth considering as a second or third step in your journey towards better sound, provided you have the right resources to get the best out of it.