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Photos: Extensive ears-on with Sennheiser IE 8

We've waited ages to get Sennheiser's new flagship IE 8 earphones in, but it was worth it -- these could pinch high-end earphone customers from Shure's spectacular SE530s

Computer Accessories

Last month we had a chance to briefly play with the entire new IE line of high-end earphones from Sennheiser, including the IE 6, IE 7 and the flagship IE 8. We've now got the complete collection in-house at CNET UK, and have spent a day or so grinning with the IE 8s.

Rarely do we hear an earphone we think challenges the spectacular Shure SE530s, but this could be one of them. The IE 8s differ radically in that they use single drivers instead of the SE530's three. And we'll come to that in our full review, Sonny Jim. But in terms of sheer pleasure to listen to, the IE 8s are right up there with Shure's flagship model.

They could well turn out to be the single best earphone for listening to dance music with. The bass is absolutely phenomenal. And in an unusual innovation, Sennheiser provides a tiny screwdriver (with a wax cleaning tool stuck to one end as some sort of a bonus) for tweaking a screw on each earphone that increases or decreases bass.

It makes a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless. With bass turned up to 11, the low end booms even more tumultuously, dominating all bass frequencies and bleeding over into the lower mid-range for added oomph. Some people will definitely find this boominess a little overpowering, but it can be tweaked with the aforementioned screw.

Dance fans will adore these earphones. Truly. Our own Ian 'If it ain't happy hardcore, it ain't music' Morris appeared to have fallen in love when they were passed over to him, and us metalheads can't get enough of the explosive bass that booms from the drums of the finest death-metal bands.

Other parts of the audio spectrum are impressive as well, it's just that bass is the real focus here. The mid-range is powerful and clear, giving instruments heaps of room to sound like they should, and although we've heard brighter, more crystalline treble qualities from earphones, the high-end is detailed, clear and airy.

As for figures on paper, frequency response starts at 10Hz, rising up to 20kHz, with a sensitivity of 125dB/mW and a low impedance of 16Ohms, so they're perfectly suitable for all portable players

Our full review will be with you very soon, and they're on sale now for around £250. We've got a heap of hands-on photos over the next few pages for you to drool over.

The unusual shape of the IE 8s don't detract from their comfort -- they're very comfy indeed.

On the right-hand side of the earphone at the front of the photo is a tiny screw. This is what you twist to adjust bass performance to your liking.

The cabling can be unhooked from the earphones and replaced with better models direct from Sennheiser. All are sold separately.

The 3.5mm plug is gold-plated and splits into a Y-cable half-way up, with cables of equal length running up to your ears.

A range of silicone and foam tips come in the box.

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