Ameya DalviNov 24, 2020 09:45:02 IST
Price: Rs 2,990 to Rs 3,490
Build, design and features: 3/5
Call quality: 3/5
Battery life: 2.5/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
I am generally fond of Sennheiser audio products and their sound quality. I was quite excited to learn about the launch of their budget wireless earphones, the CX-120BT. I did notice that the company had cut some corners in order to keep the price down, but support for Qualcomm’s aptX codecs was a welcome addition in this segment. And the same goes for the two-year manufacturer’s warranty too.
The Sennheiser CX-120BT looks a little unusual when compared to most wireless neckband earphones on the market. You have an earbud and the battery module at one end, and the second earbud and the control pod at the other. The two are connected by a thin cable that goes around the back of your neck. The cable is so thin that it barely qualifies as a neckband; it is more like a string. A tiny slider lets you adjust the length of the cable for a comfortable fit.
There is ample Sennheiser branding all over the product, and yet, it doesn’t look out of place. I played a wide variety of audio tracks and video on these earphones to gauge their response across various genres of music and sound reproduction. Here’s what I liked about the CX-120BT and things that the company could have done a lot better.
What I liked about the Sennheiser CX-120BT wireless earphones
Extremely lightweight and fairly elegant
Though a little unusual compared to other wireless neckband earphones, the CX-120BT doesn’t look bad at all. In fact, the black body with a hint of red and silver in the Sennheiser logos does add class. The left and right markings for the buds could have been more conspicuous, though. The neckband is extremely lightweight at just 14 grams, and you hardly feel it around the neck; even lighter than a few TWS buds. It doesn’t cause any discomfort in the ear either.
You get three pairs of silicone eartips to choose from; the medium-sized pair worked best for me. The inline control pod lets you adjust the volume, jump to the previous/next track, play/pause music or answer/end/reject calls. That pretty much takes care of all the basic functions, and you don’t need to go looking for the phone to address these.
Support for Qualcomm aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs
Despite being budget earphones, the company has provided support for Qualcomm’s aptX codecs for better throughput over Bluetooth, which is good to see. You also have support for aptX Low Latency codecs for minimal delay between audio and video. However, I would like to point out that mere support for those codecs does not guarantee great sound output.
Sharp highs and clarity in vocals
While the sound signature of these earphones is not to my liking, there is ample clarity in vocals along with a good amount of detail in midrange and high-end frequencies. So if you are watching a show or a movie with higher emphasis on dialogues, these earphones work well in such a scenario. I wouldn’t say the same about music though.
What I didn’t like about the Sennheiser CX-120BT wireless earphones
Overly bright sound signature with weak bass
I have heard quite a few wired and wireless earphones from Sennheiser over the years, and I liked most of them. While I found their sound output to be generally warm and balanced, the CX-120BT sounds nothing like them. The sound signature here is distinctly bright. When listening to music, the highs sound overly sharp — bordering on sibilant — and overpower other frequencies, especially the upper mids. You get fatigued quite quickly, because of the overly-sharp sound and the lack of sufficient bass.
Budget earphones generally opt for a V-shaped sound signature where both low and high frequency sounds are boosted. In the case of the Sennheiser CX-120BT, it is only the latter. Bass is extremely weak here, even with the right-sized eartips, and you feel a semblance of it only if you push the earbuds deeper into the ear to a point that it starts to hurt. I wouldn’t advise doing that. The usual tight and punchy bass that you associate with Sennheiser earphones is completely missing here. Quite a strange decision to tune these the way they are.
Poor battery life and below-par volume
The company has used some relatively older tech for a wireless neckband launched towards the end of 2020 such as Bluetooth 4.1 and a micro USB charging port, when several brands have been using Bluetooth 5.0 and type-C USB ports for over a year now. While it is possible to overlook these, an advertised battery life of 6 hours is too low for this day and age, when wireless neckbands have been pushing past 20 hours.
In reality, I got 4 hours and 45 minutes out of them on a full charge. This low figure could be a result of me having to push the volume up to 90 percent to hear the audio clearly. Yes, these earphones are very polite, and one needs to push the volume closer to full for normal loudness. That does take a toll on the battery life. It appears that the company has sacrificed battery capacity here to keep the unit’s weight down. It takes about 90 minutes to charge it fully, which is a tad on the high side, given its low battery life.
Average call quality and wireless range
While you can hear the person on the line clearly, the other person has a tough time hearing you if you are outdoors or in noisy environments, with a lot of ambient noise seeping through. If you are indoors, the call quality is much better. However, it starts to stutter as you move away from your phone. It is fine up to 5 metres with no obstructions in between, but it struggles to maintain the connection if you move further away, or even to the adjacent room. Most budget wireless neckbands provide better range than that.
Loose fit and no sweat resistance
While these earphones are light and comfortable to wear, the fit is a bit loose. It won’t matter if you are seated, but if you take them along for a brisk walk, you will find yourself adjusting them from time to time. Even more so, if you jog. Anyway, these aren’t ideal for a jog or a workout, as the company doesn’t guarantee any sweat resistance or IP rating for this pair. Yet another corner cut.
The Sennheiser CX-120BT is priced at Rs 3,490 with a 2-year warranty, but can be purchased under 3K on Amazon and Flipkart. All said and done, the CX-120BT isn’t among the products that the company should be proud of. They need to go back to the drawing board if they are serious about making inroads in the budget wireless audio segment.
The competition is brutal in this category, with the likes of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless and Sony’s duo of WI-C400 and WI-XB400 setting the bar really high in the sub-3K wireless neckband segment. To complicate matters further, the Oppo Enco M31 that sells close to Rs 2,000 is good enough to give the above three a solid run for their money. Sennheiser will need to do a lot better than CX-120BT if it wants to compete.