If you're going to spend AU$1000 on a new iPhone, you're probably in the market for an excellent pair of headphones as well. The iPhone is, after all, probably the best music-playing phone around and the bundled headphones aren't much chop. Sennheiser has played in this space over the last few years, with the affordable MM 50 speakerphone set among its list of headphones. The MM 80s is the latest addition and is basically more of the same with a price tag that suggest at least a better sound.
Design and features
At first glance, the MM 80 is bigger than its predecessor. Designed to loop over your ears, the earpiece is a largish silver disc with the ear-canal speakers angled to fit in most ears. In the box with the headphones you'll find two alternative rubber ear buds and plastic ear hooks, though we found it more comfortable when we wore the MM 80s without the hooks. Overall, we found the ear buds comfortable, though a couple of the editors here at CNET didn't like the fit of the rubber buds, preferring a foam ear-bud found on some of the competition.
One feature we all agreed we didn't like was the detachable hands-free microphone. The MM 80 comes in two parts: the earphones on a 50cm cable; and a speakerphone microphone on a 1 metre cable, with a 3.5mm connection in the middle. In total, the cable from end to end is a sufficient length, but you could comfortably use the earphones only — the cable would go as far as your shirt pocket. Having the cable in two parts suggests a choice that doesn't exist, you either use the hands-free attachment, or you don't use the headphones. With this being the case, we'd much prefer the unit to have been integrated into one unified piece.
The MM 80s advertise in-flight use on the tin, but offers only noise reduction, not true noise cancellation. We haven't had a chance to test the MM 80s on a trans-Pacific flight as yet, but we do feel the phones do a decent job of blocking out ambient sound in the various places we tested them on the ground. Sennheiser also wisely include an in-flight adapter so you can get stereo sound on a plane.
If nothing else, the MM 80s maintain our impression of the consistently excellent sound of Sennheiser headphones. These headphones deliver a nice, even mixture of sound across the low, mid and high frequencies, tending towards the sharper sounds rather than just banging on the bass. Compared with the MM 50s, the MM 80s deliver a richer sound, with the MM 50s sounding slightly duller with the direct comparison.
People with multiple music devices should be warned that the MM 80s won't work with all 3.5mm headphones sockets, thanks to Apple's non-standard pole alignment on the 3.5mm connection. We tested the MM 80s in an HTC Wildfire and Desire without any issues, but couldn't get them to work in any number of the PCs in our office. We noticed this same issue with the MM 50s since our review last year.
Sennheiser hasn't faltered in delivering an excellent sound, but we're put off by a few choices in design. Match this misgivings with the MM 80's significantly higher price tag and we're left thinking the older MM 50s are probably a better option for iPhone users who want Sennheisser in-ear headphones.