“Sennheiser’s debut workout headphones look good, sound good, and fit the mold.”
- Attractive design
- aptX, AAC support
- Clear, bright sound signature
- Designed to hang in front or back
- App may not be useful to many users
- May be fit issues for some
- Battery life just OK
We’re big fans of Sennheiser. Its products tend to offer style and substance in equal measure, and we’re rarely – if ever – disappointed after giving them a listen. The new, wireless CX Sport represent the company’s first stab at a workout headphone, featuring an eye-grabbing, sweat-resistant in-ear design not so different from a pair of Jaybirds or Jabras.
At $130, the CX Sport fall within the same price range as some of our favorite exercise-aimed headphones (like the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless SE), so we were eager to see how they stacked up against some stiff competition. As expected, Sennheiser has crafted a solid set of workout buds well worth adding to your list.
Note: We use the word “volt” a lot in this review. It’s that lightning yellow color with a hint of green that you’ll find on lots of Nike stuff.
Out of the box
From a busy, blue-and-white box, out slides a cardboard compartment containing the headphones – peeking out from a gray foam housing – and, underneath, an assortment of goodies. The usual suspects are here: Three fold-out info sheets (smartly tucked, together, in a little plastic sleeve), a Micro USB charging cable, a black plastic shirt clip, a neoprene zip pouch bearing the Sennheiser logo, and some extra silicone eartips (in black) and wings (in “volt” yellow).
The back of the box shows a diagram to help you orient the headphones in your ears. The charging cable is laughably short – maybe four inches long, total (including the plugs) – but that doesn’t make much difference for most users.
Features and design
The CX Sport are visually striking, featuring a vibrant, volt-and-black design similar to many popular workout headphones. The elbow-shaped driver housings sport chrome ends (hidden by the eartips) and a yellow stripe along the abdomen (hidden by the ear wings). On the back of each housing is a pearlescent Sennheiser logo, glinting against aluminum caps.
The cable components are smartly spaced at equal distances from the center for great balance.
The cable connecting the headphones is split by two components – one for the three-button remote, and one for the battery (we think) – smartly spaced at equal distances from the center, which alleviates the issue of imbalance often introduced alongside in-line remotes. The remote is also home to the charging port, sealed by a finicky little rubber cap which probably would have been easy to open with fingernails (alas, we have none). In the middle of the cable, a clever clip allows you to adjust the length of the cable, in case you’re wanting a little less slack.
The wings are smartly marked with both size (S, M, L) and stereo channel (R or L); the headphones themselves also have L and R markings on the cable. All the eartips, including the ones already on the CX Sport, have little bars in them, perhaps to prevent sweat or earwax from making its way into the mesh filter. The headphones are advertised as “sweat and splash-resistant,” but we don’t see any official IP ratings on the packaging or on the Sennheiser website, so we can’t offer any more detailed analysis there. In our limited experience exercising with the CX Sport, they didn’t electrocute us or fill up with sweat, and seemed to stay gunk free.
Taking and making calls with the CX Sport is a breeze.
The CX Sport offer support for Apple AAC and Qualcomm aptX, helping to improve Bluetooth audio quality (depending on your device of choice). They also support aptX Low Latency, which could be great for watching rhythmic workout videos – or any video, really – without lip-sync issues. Sennheiser estimates six hours of battery life, which actually seemed a bit conservative in our testing; we got closer to seven or eight, though six was a pretty low bar in the first place. They do charge rather quickly, offering approximately an hour of playback per ten minutes spent charging.
Taking and making calls with the CX Sport was a breeze. The microphone was quite good at picking up voices and eliminating background noise, even in busier locales.
CapTune is Sennheiser’s dedicated smartphone app, which you can download from the App Store or Google Play Store and use to customize playback via a cool, detailed EQ control module. Unfortunately, CapTune only works with music on your phone’s hard drive or Tidal, so those who use Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, or any other popular service (so most people) have no compelling reason to bother with it.
Before we get into the audio performance, we should issue a disclaimer: This writer never found an optimal fit with the CX Sport, as the shape of the headphones seemed to prevent them from sealing properly in both ears at once.
That said, not all ears are made equal, and the headphones never became uncomfortable – just a little off. Colleagues able to gain better aural purchase found the CX Sport offered excellent passive noise isolation and a more secure seal (and, as a result, better bass performance).
The headphones offer clear, balanced sound no matter your music tastes.
We did, in any case, greatly appreciate the presence of the cable clip, allowing us to swap the cable from back to front (and vice versa) with no annoying bouncing or pulling to speak of.
Overall, we were impressed with playback on the CX Sport. The Sport actually boast the exact same specs as the $100 Sennheiser CX 6.00BT (from what we can tell, they’re exactly the same save for the Sport’s ear wings, sweat-proofing, and paint job), and as with all Sennheiser gear thus far, they offer clear, balanced sound no matter your music tastes.
The Sport do push bass forward a bit more than, say, the HD1 – as might be expected from an exercise headphone – but even those able to find a tighter fit in our office never noticed it getting out of control. Listening at the gym or on the street, we cranked the volume almost all the way up to ramp up the power down low. Luckily, the headphones never distorted (aside from some light sibilance in the treble at louder volumes), offering pristine clarity when ambient noise was eliminated or reduced. Vocals – rap vocals, in particular — pop out with confidence, with distinctive voices like those of Pusha T (If You Know, You Know) and Jay-Z (The Story of O.J.) taking center stage.
We spent most of our time listening to hip-hop, pop, and electronic music, which are the preferred genres of 24 Hour Fitness deejays everywhere, but you could throw anything at the CX Sport and find yourself pleased with the results.
Sennheiser offers a 2-year limited warranty on any products purchased in the USA. More details here.
Sennheiser’s first attempt at an exercise-focused headphone is impressive, all things considered. They sound good, they look good, and they’re smartly designed, with a few small touches that vastly improve usability. Our biggest complaint – fit – may not be an issue for most people, anyway.
Is there a better alternative?
It depends on your preferences, because there’s a lot of competition out there. The Jabra Elite Sport Pulse Wireless SE, while a mouthful, offer more workout utility, with sensors built in to monitor your oxygen intake and heart rate.
The Jaybird X3 is more affordable, comes with Comply foam tips, and its companion app is actually useful. If you’re willing to spend a little more money, the Forza Metallo Wireless offer even better audio quality, or you could even go the fully wireless route with the Jabra Elite Sport.
How long will it last?
From a utility perspective, the CX Sport are middle-of-the-road, as they’re not packed with unique features. The build quality does feel solid, though, so as long as you keep moisture out of the charge port, they should last for a few years at least.
Should you buy it?
Sure — though be aware that fit might be an issue. They’re not quite the best of the best, but there are plenty of reasons to pull these off the shelf, and we definitely suggest giving them a listen before you pull the trigger.
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