Once in a while, a good company makes a crummy product. Perhaps crummy is harsh--the speakers inside Sennheiser's OMX 52 sound just fine, but design flaws trump sound quality in this case. The OMX 52 is part of Sennheiser's new Street line, but it's the only one of the line that is over-the-ear. The other Street offerings, to be detailed further in this review, are all earbud headphones.
Unfortunately, the OMX 53's over-the-ear design is its downfall. Indeed, this style of headphone (also known as "open") rarely works well. Sure, we can make an exception for the Reference Series by Grado, but those are $600 or more--and considered by many the greatest headphones ever made--and they're not terribly suitable for the street. Generally, earphones designed to be worn while exercising or in transit are in-ear or enclosed (cupping around the outer ear). There's a reason for this: they stay in place better and deliver the sound isolation necessary to compete with street noise, subway rumbles, and other auditory obstacles. Thus, the OMX 52s aren't really conducive to the environment for which they are made.
We'll give the OMX 52s one thing: they definitely stay in place, thanks to a secure ear-clip (that can be a bit of a nuisance for those who wear glasses). The problem is, the position at which they are secured does not press firmly enough against the ear to deliver the proper low end and crispness that the 'phones are capable of. We found ourselves constantly pushing on the earphones in order to block out sound and increase the bass in the music we tested. But hey, the triangular Velcro carrying bag looks cool.
We could go on and on about how nice the OMX 52 sounds when you press the cups against your ears--Art Brut's "Emily Kane" was delivered with a fine bass response and great clarity in the high end--but who's going to walk down the street doing that all day? That's exercise in and of itself, so those of you who want killer biceps and forearms combined with Sennheiser sound quality, we have found the perfect earphones/exercise routine for you. For those of us who would prefer to have the use of our hands, the OMX 52s pose a problem: they sound distant and weak. Oh, and they leak sound at the high volumes you will inevitably turn them up to in order to achieve a semblance of the sound you desire.
Luckily, the other earphones in the Street line do not suffer from the OMX 52s' main affliction in that they all fit securely inside the ear. The MX 51s ($29.95) are the most basic of the bunch, offering a classic earbud design, several sizes of ear fittings, and a soft travel case. The MXL 51s ($34.95) are exactly the same, but with an integrated lanyard. The OMX 50s ($34.95) feature flexible ear loops, an inline volume controller, and ear fittings in various sizes. Finally, the MX 55Vs ($39.95) feature the same twist-to-fit design found on the MX 75 Sport headphones as well as built-in bass-boosting technology for low-end lovers. These 'phones include an inline volume control on ear fittings of various sizes. Or if you don't mind neon green, you could go for a pair of Sennheiser's MX 75 Sport headphones.