If you’re in the market for a pair of wireless earbuds with excellent sound but don’t want to blow your entire budget on Master & Dynamic’s amazing MW08s or Sony’s impressive WF-1000XM4s, for $130 Sennheiser’s new CX True Wireless buds will make your ears happy—although you’ll sacrifice features now found on even cheaper wireless headphones.
The CX True Wireless, available starting today, are Sennheiser’s entry-level wireless earbuds and a more affordable follow-up to the company’s CX 400BT True Wireless earbuds from last year. Aside from some aesthetic improvements (the Sennheiser logo on each bud is now subtler) and improved battery life, the most notable upgrade with the new CX True Wireless is a $130 price tag which is $70 cheaper than their predecessor. They’re not the cheapest wireless earbuds you can buy today, and while they come with compromises, Sennheiser hasn’t compromised on the one thing the brand is known for: excellent sounding headphones.
As with any gadget, designing a pair of wireless earbuds is a balancing act between their size and weight and the technology stuffed inside them. Some companies, like Sony, prioritize functionality, resulting in earbuds like the WF-1000XM4s, which are big, bulky, and require special memory foam ear tips to stay securely snuggled in a user’s ears. Others prioritize size, resulting in tiny earbuds like the Beats Studio Buds that are incredibly comfortable and easy to wear, but don’t deliver sound as impressive as some users would like at a $150 price point.
With the CX True Wireless, Sennheiser has taken the middle ground and delivered buds that are a little larger than what I usually prefer to wear, with a design that sees the bulk of the device sticking out of the user’s ear. Aesthetically, it’s not the most pleasing look, and companies like Master & Dynamic have done a much better job at designing larger earbuds that still manage to comfortably nestle inside the wearer’s ear—but you’re paying a premium for that.
With four sets of included silicone eartips, however, I had no problem getting a secure fit for the CX True Wireless, and they’re light enough that despite sticking out a bit, the buds never felt like they were going to fall out under their own weight.
When I’m not an old man yelling at clouds, I’ve spent just as much time complaining about companies that use touch controls on earbuds. The tapping gesture often dislodges an already precariously perched earbud, and I tend to prefer the usability of physical buttons. That being said, Sennheiser’s implementation is incredibly sensitive, responding to the gentlest tap, and while there’s a delay between the tap and the requested function being performed, the earbuds do make a very quiet beep so you at least know your request has been noted, even if you have to wait a moment for it to happen.
The shortcuts are also customizable through a free app available for iOS and Android devices, but more importantly, the tap functionality can also be completely disabled so there’s no risk of accidentally pausing your music or skipping a track when all you were trying to do was adjust the bud in your ear. I’ve always preferred to control my music playback through a smartwatch than constantly touching my wireless earbuds, and being able to disable those touch controls earns the CX True Wireless some bonus points in my book.
For $130 it’s no surprise that Sennheiser isn’t packing the new CX True Wireless in a charging case bedazzled with diamonds and rubies, but despite being an all plastic affair, it’s thankfully very compact (one of the smallest I’ve tested, but still larger than the AirPods and AirPods Pro cases) and charges through a USB-C cable.
There’s no wireless charging (for just $10 more the Amazon Echo Buds at least offer that as an option), but the case can be used to fully recharge the earbuds twice over, boosting their nine hours of playback time to a total of 27 hours when you’re away from a power source.
By comparison, the original Apple AirPods, long overdue for an upgrade, offer a total of 24 hours of listening, and are still $30 more expensive than Sennheiser’s new entry-level option.
I wasn’t expecting my ears to cringe when I first stuck Sennheiser’s most affordable wireless buds in my ears; I’ve tested enough of the company’s higher-end headphones to know it has an expertise in such things. But I was pleasantly surprised with how good they actually sounded given their price point. The earbuds feature Sennheiser’s “TrueResponse transducer,” a name the company likes to throw around, and while their 7mm drivers are a lot smaller than the 11mm drivers Master & Dynamic uses in its MW08s, the CX True Wireless are some of the best sounding wireless earbuds I’ve ever tested—across the board.
My go-to track for testing the bass performance of wireless earbuds—something that’s most often lacking as companies opt for smaller drivers that don’t drain rechargeable batteries as quickly—is the Tropic Remix of Surf Mesa’s “ily,” specifically when the beat drops at around the 30-second mark. On wireless earbuds like the Beats Studio Buds, the bass performance is a little flat for my preferences, and tends to be overshadowed by otherwise crisp and clear highs. With the CX True Wireless, the entire sound spectrum comes through clear and well-pronounced, while still delivering lower frequencies with a satisfying thump.
That aforementioned “TrueResponse transducer” might sound like marketing speak, but it’s clear that Sennheiser hasn’t cheapened out on the important hardware with the CX True Wireless earbuds just to hit a cheaper price point. These aren’t low-quality earbuds capitalizing on the Sennheiser brand, they’re Sennheisers through and through that prioritize sound quality while sacrificing active noise cancellation and other premium features.
That being said, being able to customize the functionality and sound profile of your wireless earbuds is usually a feature you don’t expect to find on more affordable options, but the Sennheiser Smart Control app offers a surprising level of customizability. Yes, the adjustable EQ is limited with just three sliders, but it’s far more than what most wireless earbuds at this price point offer.
If you can live without active noise cancellation—a feature that I feel isn’t quite as effective as the marketing hype makes it seem—and don’t mind the trade-off of slightly larger earbuds for a lower price point, it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with how the new CX True Wireless sound and the solid functionality that Sennheiser has included. Robust customizability through an app is unheard of at $130, and while many will consider these “no frills” wireless earbuds given the lack of ANC or ambient sound boosting, Sennheiser has obviously made those compromises to focus on creating an affordable set of wireless buds that that sound fantastic for those who prioritize audio over everything else.