“Sennheiser has re-invented the ear bud with their "Twist to Fit" design found in the MX 90VC.”
- Improved fit over traditional ear buds; stylish design; in-line volume control
- Cords tangle easily; sound quality is not inspiring
The good ‘ole ear bud. The staple, cheap headphone included with nearly all portable electronics, has finally received a makeover. Sennheiser tries to set itself apart from the competition by designing an ear bud that addresses one of the most annoying flaws: the tendency for them to fall out with the slightest of tugs. But how does the Sennheiser MX 90VC’s “Twist to Fit” technology work, and is it worth dropping your cash on a peripheral you get for free with your portable audio device?
Design and Features
If you glance quickly down the seats of a busy city train or a street in a college town, you’re bound to see a least a few dazed-looking patrons with the signature white iPod ear bud wires streaming from their ears. As any audiophile or well-informed consumer will tell you, the ear buds included with most portable music players are junk. As the never- ending battle to pack in more features at a lower price marches on, quality ear buds are often the overlooked casualty.
Ear buds do have some inherently nice aspects. They are easy to insert and remove quickly while on the go. They are relatively easy to untangle, and take up little space when stowed away. They are cheap and therefore easy to replace. And finally, they are matched to the players they ship with, so the consumer doesn’t have to worry about whether they can be driven by the media player they came with.
However, there are a couple major downfalls of the ear bud. Companies generally skimp out on the quality of the ear buds they include with a device. More annoyingly, ear buds easily get knocked out of place, making them less than ideal for any vigorous activity like jogging.
Sennheiser has re-invented the ear bud with their “Twist to Fit” design found in the MX 90VC. Rather than just letting the ear bud rest on the bottom of the ear, the MX 90VC has an extension above the bud piece, topped with a rubber wheel, that wedges the earpiece into the ear. The earpiece is inserted at an angle and twisted while in place, causing the wheel to roll along the upper edge of the inner fold of the ear, wedging the driver into place.
Included with the stylishly magnetized box are the headphones, carrying case, foamies, and several sizes of rubber wheels. The rubber wheel sizes can be swapped out to get the right tension between earpiece and ear. The hard case fits the earpieces in a custom-molded cord wrap. The headphones feature a unique in-line volume control. Rather than using a dial or slider to adjust the volume, a central cylinder slides through a tube piece to adjust volume. The accent plastics are a sophisticated tan color, with sharp, stylized edges.
One unfortunate side effect of this design is that the ear buds are much more prone to tangling. The wheel tipped extension creates a snagging point for the connector of the other earpiece. This isn’t a major problem, but it negates one of the advantages of the ear bud’s design. Also, the plastic parts have an attractive glossy coat that is unusually stiff in cool weather.
Image Courtesy of Sennheiser
Performance and Testing
On the sound quality side, we tested the MX 90VC with an Apple iPod, Creative Zen Nano, and a PC with a Creative X-Fi Elite sound card. We played a selection of classical, jazz, alternative, synthpop, and industrial music off of MP3s encoded at 320kbps, CDs, and DVD-Audios (when available). Overall, we are impressed with the sound quality, but we aren’t sure if the MX 90VC warranted tossing out your old, free ear buds.
The responsiveness of the MX 90VCs is good. There is no trouble keeping up with faster paced music, and we heard very little smearing of lingering notes. Like nearly all ear buds, the MX 90VCs are a little bright on the high-end, leading to some shrill, high-hat sounds. Lows are better than any packaged ear buds we have heard, but still only qualified as adequate compared to other headphone types. Mids are slightly recessed, leading to slightly washed-out vocals; this in particular is a problem, because it causes the listener to increase the volume to hear the lyrics, which boosts the ear-damaging high- and low-pitched sounds. While the problem isn’t too significant, it still warrants some attention.
The sound stage is normal for ear buds: split down the middle. There is very little feeling that sound is coming from directly in front of us; it was more like being situated halfway between the stage, which is nothing particularly new. Sounds engineered for atmosphere felt more like they were whispered from each side.
As mentioned above, high-energy music fares very well. Slower and more atmospheric music still sounds good, but the punchy response and odd ear bud styled sound stage made for a less enjoyable experience. Jazz, and especially classical music, are not in the forte of these cans. Alternative/rock fares well, as do acoustic and vocal performances. Overall, we would be happy to toss aside the old white ear buds for the MX 90VCs.
The Sennheiser MX 90VCs offer an improvement in sound quality over bundled ear buds. While the improvement in sound quality isn’t staggering, the convenience of the “Twist to Fit” design enables the wearer to use these ear buds in situations where the competition would be useless. If you’re looking to upgrade your ear buds, and you like the convenience of ear buds, the MX 90VC is a great overall option.
• Improved fit over traditional ear buds
• Stylish design
• In-line volume control
• Cords tangle easily
• Sound quality not inspiring
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