The Sennheiser CX True Wireless that I reviewed are entry-level headphones that focus on audio and autonomy at the expense of ANC. Retailing for $129.95 a pop, it does not miss the mark even though there is no noise-cancellation compared to its more expensive rivals.
- Faithful audio reproduction
- Good passive isolation
- Very good battery life
- Solid build quality
- Complete application with many features
- aptX codec support
- No ANC
- Boring design
- No wireless charging
- Microphone performance is average
- More expensive than the ANC-equipped competition
Sennheiser CX True Wireless in a nutshell
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless was launched on July 8, 2021, for $129.95. They are Sennheiser's entry-level entry wireless earbuds in its vast catalog. Recently, the manufacturer launched an almost identical version, the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless, which offers active noise cancellation (ANC), with a recommended retail price of $179.95.
$129.95 for a pair of earbuds without ANC is rather expensive in 2021. There are a lot of true wireless headphones that sell for less than $100 that offer decent active noise cancellation. One can point to the Nothing Ear (1) that I recently reviewed, the Huawei Freebuds 4i, or the Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2.
Where the Sennheiser CX True Wireless stand out is would be the audio quality, since they use the 7mm TrueResponse drivers, which are the same ones found in the excellent Momentum True Wireless 2 that sold for $299.95 at its release (in fact Sennheiser has put these drivers in all of its buds in 2021).
Sennheiser has adopted an Apple-like approach (calm down anti-Apple folks, it's just a word) for its catalog of true wireless headphones. The entry-level (CX True Wireless), mid-range (CX Plus TWS), and flagship (Momentum 2 TWS) models all share the same drivers. Kind of like the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max all share the same A15 Bionic SoC.
But is that enough? Can non-audiophile earbuds overlook features like ANC to supposedly focus on audio quality while being more expensive than the competition? It's a complicated matter.
Design: A boring look that is seen time and again
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless have the same boxy design we've known since the range first hit the market, but that doesn't stop them from coming with a matte plastic finish that I find very neat in addition to IPX4 certification.
What I liked:
- The neat finish
- IPX4 rating
- Solid case
- Good sound insulation
What I disliked:
- Aging form factor
- Not discreet enough when worn
While I could have talked for hours about the design of the Nothing Ear (1), the look of the Sennheiser CX True Wireless doesn't really give me the desire to wax lyrical.
It follows the same conservative design, being a little too big and a little too square, that we've seen over and over again since Sennheiser dipped their toes in the true wireless market a few years ago. Basically, this boring design is located entirely in your auditory canal without any stems sticking out. In terms of comfort, it is adequate enough while allowing it to have a very good passive sound isolation (a plus when you don't have ANC).
As for the charging box, it is rather thick but compact enough for my taste. The magnetized hinge of the lid confers a rather satisfactory impression of quality when you close or open it.
The matte black plastic finish is very clean and pleasant to look at. The surface is smooth and the simple black-on-black laser-etched logo on the earbuds and the case cover is perfectly consistent with the brand's design language. It gives the impression of owning a serious pair of earbuds. These earbuds are IPX 4 certified, which means they are not waterproof but will be able to resist sweat, dust, and direct splashes of fresh water.
So much for the design. It's very (a little too) conventional for my taste but it's proven to be functional. The IPX4 rating is also a plus.
Apps and features: Almost a full range of options
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless feature the manufacturer's Smart Control companion app and offer a fairly comprehensive array of features and touch controls.
What I liked:
- Customizable touch controls
- Precise equalizer
- Management of connected devices
What I disliked:
- No ANC or transparency mode
- No multipoint Bluetooth support
The absence of Google's Fast Pair also disappointed me a little since I have been spoilt by it. But once paired, the Sennheiser CX True Wireless offer a rather wide range of features for a device in this price range.
Large tactile surfaces on each earbud support 4 types of commands: single-tap, double-tap, triple-tap, and long press. It's simple enough to master, but it allows for no customization options when it comes to assigning touch controls. Playback control, volume control, voice assistant, - they are all here.
The Sennheiser Smart Control companion app, available on Android and iOS, is also pretty comprehensive. You can reassign almost any control to a different gesture or from one earpiece to another (aside from controls for calls). Funny how both apps received rather low ratings from users - below 3!
The equalizer is a very nice thing to have since it allows you to create precise custom presets, right down to the nearest decibel. The application shows you which audio codec is currently being used by the headphones and offers a management tool for connected devices, which I find really useful especially since the earbuds are not compatible with multipoint Bluetooth.
Finally, I still appreciate the ability to use a single earpiece only but I regret that Sennheiser does not combine the channels of the earbud in your ear and the one in the case. Only the earbud in your ear retains its mono channel, which is a shame.
I don't have much to say about the application or its features. For an entry-level pair of earbuds, the experience is rather complete. But we're talking about an entry-level pair at $129.95. The lack of ANC or multipoint Bluetooth are not so forgivable when you find them on models for $100 or less.
Audio quality: Faithful audio reproduction that makes a difference
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless takes advantage of the same 7mm TrueResponse drivers found in the Momentum 2 TWS and offers a fairly faithful audio reproduction that breaks away from the ultra-bassy signature we're used to hearing in this price range.
What I liked:
- Wide frequency range 5-21.000 Hz
- Balanced audio signature
- aptX codec support
What I disliked:
- Latency issues
- Microphones have trouble with ambient noise
It is really this point that the manufacturer can, in my opinion, justify its higher price than its competitors. The frequency range of 5-21,000 Hz that the CX True Wireless can cover is significantly wider than almost all other earbuds sold at the $100 mark. This allows the earbuds to be really accurate when it comes to bass without being overpowering.
Basically, the audio signature of the Sennheiser CX True Wireless sounded very flat to me, which is a very good thing. This means that the reproduction of the sound at its source is faithful. And that's pretty much against the grain in what entry-level true wireless earbuds do in general.
Mainstream songs that are hugely popular and consumed by the masses, exude a high degree of bass that drowns out the musical message and also acts as a bit of a cover-up (it makes it harder to spot phonic imperfections when your eardrums are bombarded with BOOM BOOM BOOM all the time). Here, you might feel like a bat, as you get to hear everything.
In any case, you can adapt the audio reproduction to your taste thanks to the extremely precise equalizer in the Sennheiser app, as well as the Bass Boost function whose name speaks for itself. Finally, we benefit from compatibility with SBC, AAC, and aptX codecs.
As for the microphone performance, I found the quality to be rather average, just like on almost any other pair of true wireless earbuds. Each earbud is equipped with 2 microphones. When I am indoors, a weird echo can be heard and while I am outdoors, the earbuds pick up all the ambient noises without filtering them out.
On the other hand, I did not find that my voice was compressed when I listened to my recordings again. So it's a double-edged sword. You can hear yourself well but you can also hear everything else that goes on around you.
The earbuds have a particularly noticeable latency when it comes to mobile games of around 1 second. When it comes to streaming music or movies, various services have features to compensate for the lag and make it almost imperceptible.
As is often the case, Sennheiser offers excellent audio quality that would almost make me forget that these CX True Wireless are a bit more expensive than the competition.
Battery life: Over 8 hours and counting...
Sennheiser promised a battery life of 9 hours of music playback for its CX True Wireless and up to 27 hours with the charging case.
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless's charging case contains a 400 mAh battery and each earphone has a 60 mAh cell. In theory, the case is therefore capable of recharging the headphones at least 3 times before it runs out of juice.
In reality, a mixed use case (music, movies, video calls) without any interruption (the buds were not stored in the case and the auto-off mode was disabled), the Sennheisers consistently lasted more than 8 hours, with my best "score" being 8 hours and 31 minutes on a single charge. This is below what Sennheiser promised but it is still a very good result for true wireless earbuds.
According to the manufacturer, a 15 minutes charge in the box is enough to deliver juice for 1 hour of listening. Personally, I achieved on average more or less 60% of battery after a 15-minute charge. I needed a little less than 1 hour and 30 minutes on average for a full recharge.
Finally, the case of the Sennheiser CX True Wireless is not compatible with wireless charging. It is not unforgivable at this price range but the Nothing Ear (1) which costs $30 less has wireless charging support. I won't list this as a defect, but for some (including me) it's a feature that we have the right to expect from a pair of premium earbuds.
The battery life of the Sennheiser CX True Wireless is excellent. But it is also the bare minimum for a pair of earbuds sans ANC, no?
Sennheiser CX True Wireless
|Frequency range||5-21.000 Hz|
|Battery life||27 hours with the case|
|App & EQ||Yes: Android and iOS|
|Dimensions & weight||
Headphones in case: 59 x 33.8 x 42.3 mm
After complaining about the Nothing Ear (1), will I have the audacity to recommend the Sennheiser CX True Wireless? YES!
The 8+ hour battery life is very good, the touch controls and EQ are extremely customizable thanks to the comprehensive companion app, and the passive sound isolation of the admittedly somewhat boring and recycled in-ear design makes the lack of active noise cancellation tolerable.
Take the Nothing Ear (1) for example. I find them to be far more visually appealing than the Sennheiser. They also have ANC and wireless charging, which the Sennheiser offering lacks. But I also found their sound performance to be average. Not bad, but far from excellent. However, the Sennheiser offers classic sound reproduction in a pair of affordable true wireless earbuds.
- Also read: The best noise-cancelling earbuds in 2021
If you mainly listen to your music on Spotify or MP3 tracks, you don't really care and you're right. In that case, I can only recommend the Nothing Ear (1) which has a very good quality/price ratio at $99. But if audio quality is important to you without being a snobbish audiophile, but you want a more faithful and refined sound than what you can find elsewhere, then the Sennheiser CX True Wireless would be the more relevant choice even though it costs $129.95 and lacks ANC.
And if you want that kind of audio quality but the lack of ANC is a real deal-breaker in your eyes, you can opt for the recently launched Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless at $179.95. It is exactly the same model as the one I just reviewed, but ANC thrown into the mix.