Today we’re checking out the all-new Sennheiser IE 300.
Sennheiser is a brand that needs no introduction. They’ve been around since 1945 and have created some of the most memorable and respected products in the industry, many of which have become staple recommendations for sound engineers, budding and seasoned audiophiles, and general music lovers around the world.
The new IE 300 is a replacement for the venerable IE 80s eschewing that model’s classic shell design and bass tuning feature for a single signature and newly designed, highly ergonomic shell. Inside is an updated version of Sennheiser’s 7mm XWB (Extra Wide Band) transducer backed by a new membrane foil and unique resonator chamber resulting in a more natural sound and a reduction of unwanted resonances.
Coming in at just under 300 USD, the IE 300 finds itself in a very competitive segment. Does it have the chops to compete? Let’s find out, shall we?
What I Hear While I don’t agree with marketing materials in that the IE 300 delivers a balanced sound, I will agree that is is very refined. The IE 300 doesn’t shy away from treble or bass and delivers listeners with a bombastic, high energy presentation. Not until you step up to the 500 USD Polaris II from Campfire Audio have I found another v-shaped earphone that is quite as smooth and detailed as Sennheiser’s newest.
The IE 300’s treble feels very nimble and light with a somewhat lean weight. Notes are very tight and well controlled with excellent definition. The upper ranges of this earphone are free of splash, looseness, and any general sloppiness that can be very distracting on King Crimson’s “Cat Food”. The IE 300 has plenty of upper end emphasis that gives it a very shimmery, sparkly presentation. Despite being quite bright, it somehow manages to avoid crossing the line into discomfort, retaining a refined smoothness that is quite uncommon in my experience.
Dropping down into the mids, you’re greeted with solid detail retrieval amidst a similarly lean presentation as the treble. It fills out the deeper you go resulting in full-bodied male vocals, especially apparent if you use the IE 300 for podcasts and commentary-based content. The IE 300 is fairly revealing and not particularly forgiving with poor quality and/or flawed material. A satisfying warmth is present keeping both male and female vocals sounding natural, and an accurate timbre presentation that permits the accurate delineation of specific instruments. Sibilance is well-managed with tracks like The Crystal Method’s “Grace” and Aesop Rock’s “Blood Sandwich” seeing their more aggressive moments tamed. My only issue with the mids is that they are recessed and could benefit from some EQ to bring them more in line with surrounding frequencies.
The IE 300’s low end is quite strong with plenty of emphasis in the mid- and sub-bass regions. The presentation carries notably more warmth, weight, and density than the treble and mid regions, yet remains quite quick and punchy. Visceral feedback on the deepest notes is aplenty, while mid- and upper-bass regions carry gobs of punch thanks to this little 7mm driver’s excellent control. It is very articulate with quick bass lines and has no issues keeping up with the rapid double-bass found throughout Havok’s album, ‘Time Is Up’. Texture isn’t half bad either with the IE 300 finding a welcome balance of refined smoothness and raw detail.
Another strong point of this earphone is the sound stage. From my first listen, I have been enamoured with the way the IE 300 envelops you in sound, be that music, movies, or video games. Vocals sit away from the ear by default, pulling the staging with it. From there effects and instruments expand. Even with a fun EDM track that doesn’t really do much with imaging and spatial cues, such as Metrik’s “We Got It (ft. Rothwell) (S.P.Y Remix)”, the IE 300 manages to surround you with the track, completely avoiding the ‘in-the-head’ feel provided by other products. Pitting the IE 300 against something more dynamic, such as Supertramp’s “Rudy”, you get a feel for it’s accurate imaging and excellent channel separation. Instruments are effectively separated and busy tracks are well-layered. I find the staging is wider than it is deep which does limit the IE 300 slightly with heavy instrumentals, such as the Witcher 2′ s OST or Gyakuten Meets Orchestra (orchestral renditions of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney tracks).
Overall I’m quite pleased with the IE 300. I like that while bright, it’s not particularly tiring. While bassy, the mid-bass presence isn’t overwhelming and everything is handled well. Although the mids are recessed, vocals and instruments sound natural and aren’t drowned out by surrounding frequencies. On top of that, it is technically competent and has a fantastic sound stage. Those wanting a more neutral and/or balanced sounding earphone should look elsewhere while anyone wanting a refined v-shaped sound in this price range should have these on their radar.
Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)
ADV GT3 w black filter (299.00 USD): The single dynamic GT3 also has a v-shaped sound, though one that is less exaggerated than the IE 300. Bass out of the IE 300 is slower and warmer with more mid-bass emphasis. It provides just as much, if not more visceral feedback on the deepest notes along with additional punch and weight to the mid- and upper-bass. The GT3 pulls ahead in terms of texture and control. Leading into the mids, they are slightly more present and weighty on the GT3 but have a cooler tone which puts it on the back foot when it comes to sounding natural with proper timbre. Treble out of the IE 300 is skewed towards the brilliance region which has notable more shimmer than the GT3. The ADV lacks in brilliance, making up ground in terms of raw detail and clarity. The GT3’s sound stage is positively intimate in comparison. The IE 300 is wider and deeper with more space between notes. Even so, I found the GT3 to more accurately image while giving up little to nothing in terms of separation and layering.
If you’re looking for a technically impressive single dynamic and don’t mind a less natural sound, the GT3 will probably be a better fit. A tuning setup that doubles down on this doesn’t hurt. Otherwise, I found the IE 300 a more enjoyable, versatile listen.
BGVP DM7 (299.00 USD): The 6 armature DM7 is more balanced with a midrange that sticks out more thanks to reduced emphasis in both bass and treble regions. While I do enjoy the mids of both products, they accomplish this in different ways. The IE 300’s is warmer and more natural but gives up a significant amount of presence and detail to the DM7. Bass out of the BGVP is notably leaner and less prominent. It lacks the visceral feel and punch of the Sennheiser’s single dynamic, though it provides more texture and is even more capable when it comes to rapid, complicated passages. Treble out of the IE 300 is leaner and more airy with a lot more shimmer and energy. They go head-to-head on detail and clarity with the DM7 having an edge. The sound stage presentation on these two is quite different. While the DM7 is no slouch in terms of staging size, the Sennheiser feels quite a bit wider and more open, though it falls behind in depth. Imaging accuracy is more precise out of the DM7 and it does a better job of layering busy tracks, while the Sennheiser keeps up just fine when it comes to ensuring individual instruments remain clean and coherent.
If you’re looking for a balanced, solidly technical earphone with a small boost to the low end the DM7 would better meet your needs than the IE 300. If that sounds boring and you prefer big bass and sparkly treble set within a wide stage backed by good technical capability, go with the IE 300.
In The Ear The IE 300’s shells are plastic but they in no way look or feel cheap in the hand. From the initial product photos I figured the reflective specks within the plastic would look chinzy, but in real life it gives makes the IE 300 look like a modern, professional piece of audio equipment. Not unlike the impression I got from the glorious matte black paint Dunu used for the DK-3001 Pro. The three part design (nozzle, rear panel, and main body) is well put-together without any ill-fitting pieces, rough edges, or other such imperfections that would suggest cost costing or low quality materials. The face of the earphone contains a single pinhole vent set beside a recessed, gun-metal chrome Sennheiser logo. On the inner face the right earpiece is completely blank, while the left has the model name moulded into the plastic. Up where Sennheiser has opted to use MMCX instead of the proprietary 2-pin system from the IE80s, you find a red plastic band indicating the right channel. On the left is a black band with a small bump to aid those with a visual disability in determining channel. Overall the build quality is fantastic leaving the IE 300 as one of the best built, plastic bodies earphones I’ve used.
The cable is nice save for one notable flaw. On one hand, I really love the brown sheath which has a distinctly old-school look to it, hearkening back to the types of cables that were common in 2014 when I entered the hobby. While stiffer than many of the multi-strand braided cables offered with competing products, the cable included with the IE 300 is extremely resistant to tangling, doesn’t retain memory of bends or kinks, and is topped off with memory wire that actually works. You bend it, it stays. It’s great! I still prefer preformed ear guides, but memory wire that actually nails the ‘memory’ portion is pretty cool. Rare too. The other hardware is solid as well, from an extremely tiny, well-relieved 90 degree angled jack to the classy aluminum wrapped y-split and plastic chin cinch, something that would have been a sin to omit. Why? Well, if I didn’t use that cinch to tuck the cable tightly around my chin, cable noise was very intrusive. While sitting it wasn’t much of an issue, but go for a walk or jog and every bump or rub came through loud and clear unless that cinch was being used.
Comfort is a huge win for the IE 300. That plastic shell is quite small and slim, very lightweight, and thanks to the low profile design, unflappable during heavy movement. The memory wire is quite effective in keeping the cable neatly wrapped around the ear without worry of it bouncing up and over, something that can be an issue with lightweight and/or stiffer cables if they’re lacking such wire or preformed ear guides. The IE 300 is one that I can comfortably wear for pretty much as long as I want without any risk of hot spots or general discomfort settling in. Isolation doesn’t quite fare as well, at least with the silicone tips in place. When using the IE 300 in noisy places, like the local coffee shop, added volume was needed to drown out those chatting around me. Thankfully the added bass and treble Sennheiser baked in works wonders in such an environment so even with some sound leakage, you still have a good listening experience. That said, I recommend swapping over to the foam tips if isolation is key since they improve the experience a notable amount.
Overall a very premium feeling, well built earphone with excellent ergonomics and comfort. It’s let down only by below average isolation with silicone tips and a noisy cable, though you can mostly address both of those concerns with the included foam tips and chin cinch.
In The Box The IE 300 arrives in a fairly large lift-top cardboard box adorned with Sennheiser’s familiar blue and grey colour scheme. On the front you find an image of the IE 300 itself along with the usual branding and model information. Down the left is a list of contents and specifications, on a the right a QR code, while the back contains a list of features and product highlights in six different languages.
Removing the lid you find the IE 300’s earpieces, with cable attached, neatly and safely stored in a large foam insert, half of which is covered by a cardboard flap. Lifting the flap you find the rest of the cable neatly wrapped alongside a hard, clam shell carrying case. Lifting out the cardboard flap you find one of Sennheiser’s typically dense user manuals. In all you get:
- IE 300 earphones
- MMCX cable with 3.5mm plug
- Single flange silicone ear tips (s/m/l)
- Foam ear tips (s/m/l)
- Cleaning tool
- Carrying case
Overall a fairly basic accessory kit, though everything is of excellent quality. The case is compact but spacious with more than enough room inside for the earphones and spare tips, along with either a compact DAC like the Shanling M0, or maybe a Type-C dongle such as the EarMen Sparrow or Cozoy Takt C. Both sets of included ear tips are quite unique thanks to foam inserts and soft, in-built grill with a design mirroring that found on the earpiece nozzle itself.
Final Thoughts The IE 300 has shown itself to be an excellent companion for daily driver duties. The v-shaped signature provides an exciting listen that helped keep me energized and entertained throughout the day. The light, low profile shell looks great and is extremely comfortable. The included carrying case is small enough to fit in most pockets, yet large enough to hold most of your gear; ex. small DAP or type-C dongle, earphones, spare tips. The IE 300 also offers good technical capability in terms of quick, well-textured bass, natural sounding mids, and detailed, airy treble. This is all set within a reasonably deep, very wide sound stage that images well and does a good job separating individual instruments.
Isolation is weak when using silicone tips though, and the cable won’t win any awards for noise as it transmits plenty when rubbing against your shirt. Thankfully Sennheiser included a chin cinch which mostly negates this issue. The short nozzle could also be an issue for some. If you’re not opposed to using third party tips, something like the Spintfit CP145 can alleviate this issue while retaining the signature of the included silicone tips.
Overall I find the IE 300 a very compelling package. If you enjoy bombastic bass and radiant treble, the smooth, lively sound of the IE 300 is quite enjoyable and plenty versatile. There is very little I can find fault with here.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer A huge thanks to Everett with Sennheiser (Evshrug on Head-fi) for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the IE 300, and for arranging a sample for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Sennheiser or any other entity. At the time of writing the IE 300 was retailing for 399.95 CAD / 299.95 USD: en-ca.sennheiser.com/ie-300 / https://en-us.sennheiser.com/ie-300
Frequency Response: 6Hz – 20,000Hz
Sound Pressure Level: 124dB (1kHz, 1Vrms)
THD: <0.08% (1kHz, 94dB)
Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, FiiO M3 Pro, Earman Sparrow, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams