Sennheiser CXC 700 Active Noise Canceling Ear-Canal Phones - Closer Look, Testing and Final Thoughts

Article Index
Sennheiser CXC 700 Active Noise Canceling Ear-Canal Phones
Features, Specs and More
Closer Look, Testing and Final Thoughts

Closer Look:

While appearance and physical design are not as important as comfort and audio quality, we do need to spend a bit of time getting to know the CXC 700 a little better. The main controls are located in the battery compartment that doubles as the control module. On over-the-ear headphones, there is ample room in the cans themselves to house the electronics, batteries and controls, but with an in-ear set, all of this has to be located somewhere - so Sennheiser crammed it all together in this module.

I use the term "crammed" loosely because this control module is actually quite bulky. In an image on the first page of the review, you can see the size comparison to the actual ear-canal phones. This unit is quite large - and probably a bit larger than it needs to be. That being said, you don't have to fidget and fumble your way around the controls and if you live where it is cold and the module is in your pocket, you'll quickly be able to feel the proper controls and adjust your audio by feel.

Main Control

Main Control

Buttons & Clip
Buttons & Clip

Battery Cover & Logo
Battery Cover & Logo

The main part of the control is simply a volume slider and a switch to enable NoiseGard. The NoiseGard is the name for Sennheiser's proprietary method of active noise cancelation and while this switch has only one positions, there are three modes. An interesting thing with the volume slider is that it doesn't allow you to shut off your volume completely. That function is on the side - along with the "Mode" button.

The main side of the module has a "Talk Through" and a "Mode" button. The TalkThrough button will essentially mute the audio and allow you to hear whoever is talking to you - or just the ambient noises around you. When Talk Through is engaged, you still hear a bit of the hiss that is associated with all noise cancelation products. It does provide a very clear listening experience to the outside world - and apart from a full-on mute switch, this does the job.

The "Mode" button allows you to cycle through all three modes of noise cancelation. Mode 1 tries to block out frequencies ranging from 100 to 400 Hz, while Mode 2 blocks out 400 to 3000 Hz. Finally Mode 3 blocks out 100 to 3000 Hz to complete the setup. In my experience Mode 3 was most useful when commuting in large truck while Mode 2 worked very well in airplanes. Three modes are available so that you can tailor the CXC 700 to your specific taste.

The last side of the module has the shiny Sennheiser logo on the battery door. While it looks very classy, the reality is that it does feel a bit cheap. I was a bit scared when I had it open and made sure that I installed the battery quickly before I broke it off. In reality, it's not that fragile, but it does feel like the weakest link in the whole setup. Once you've got it closed back up, it feels more secure, but overall the module feels a bit cheaper than the CXC 700's sound.

 

Testing:

Unlike a few others around here at BCCHardware, ear-canal phones work great for me. I'm a fan and have several pairs that I've bought over the years. These include sets from Creative, SteelSeries, Wicked Audio, Skullcandy and more. I'm a bit of a earphone pimp and can't resist picking up a set on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day or any other day when they are heavily discounted. All these different earphones have different characteristics, comfort levels, volume levels and overall quality. I'm happy to say that in terms of sound quality, the CXC 700's lead the pack.

That's not to say that they are the best for every situation. True, they are active noise canceling earphones and this is both the blessing and the curse for everyday listening. In fact, I'm sure that you won't use them every day as the control module is just a little too clunky for wearing during active use. When commuting, or any situation that requires shutting out a little of the background ambient noise, these fit perfectly.

As previously mentioned, all ANC phones do produce some hiss and the Sennheiser CXC 700s produce a little more than others I've used. Over the years, I've had the pleasure to use Able Planet, Bose, JBL and other on-ear and over-the-ear phones and have some experience. While the CXC 700s do have a noticeable hiss when no audio is present, it is at such a low volume and frequency that it quickly disappears when listening to your favorite music, Audible book, or even a podcast.

Ear-Canal Phones
Ear-Canal Phones - Sennheiser CXC 700

 

The standard fit ear tips worked well for me and they stayed securely in place no matter how much I moved around. The soft-rubber tip can be changed up with a larger or smaller sized tip that also comes included. These soft tips to a decent job at blocking out a bit of ambient noise through passive means, but when you flip the switch on, and adjust the mode to your liking, you'll find they do a fantastic job at isolating and blocking ambient noise. As you switch modes, the control module will blink letting you know what mode you're using. Mode 1 blinks once and also sounds a single tone in the phones. Each mode blinks and sounds the corresponding number as you cycle through all modes.

What makes the CXC 700s unique is that you can adjust the mode individually for each ear. In certain situations this may be beneficial as it allows better customization, but I'm sure that most people will be happy with the same mode for both ears. While this may seem a little silly, the reality is that Sennheiser cares enough about customers to enable a feature like this - even though very few will use it.

 

Listening Tests:

When it comes to listening to audio, the CXC 700s really shine. Any genre of music plays very well through these and you won't be disappointed by the sound quality at all. While the treble sometimes seems a bit sharp, the deep, rich bass balances it out for the most part - and still doesn't overpower any of the other sounds. I used these to listen to a mixture of popular music, some great lossless classics from the 80's and 90's and watched a movie or two on my Surface Tablet. In every situation, I was very pleased with the sound. They clearly outdid the SteelSeries, Creative, and cheap-o Samsung ear-canal phones that I compared them too. Granted, these cost a lot more - but that is largely in part to the NoiseGard feature. Sennheiser didn't skimp on audio quality and has packed as much into these as they can, and I'm impressed overall.

 

General Use:

The shirt clip that is on the module does the job and it's nice to have a carrying case in which to keep these stored. While they are very comfortable, the size of the module is going to prevent you from using these as your day-to-day carry around earphones - unless you commute on a noisy bus every day. In that case, you'll absolutely love these. The overall experience is very good, but not without a couple of flaws.

Final Thoughts:

If you are a frequent traveler and prefer to pack light, there aren't a lot of options to choose from when it comes to active noise canceling earphones. There are a lot of larger headphones on the market that range in price from very affordable to crazy excessive. All of these essentially do the same job - but some do it much better than others. The Sennheiser CXC 700s fit in a different category and blur the lines between other large over-the-ear phones and in-ear phones - all the while adding NoiseGard to the mix. They do a great job at canceling out noise and take things up a notch with excellent audio quality.

Low-end noise canceling products usually have pretty dismal sound when the electronics are switched off, but Sennheiser's audio quality remains stellar whether they are powered or not. Even when compared to regular (non-noise canceling) products, the audio quality is on par with the best of them. At the end of the day, these are the best overall sounding earphones I've used - and while I'm sure there are much better units available - for the price - and for what they bring to the party, they are pretty hard to beat.

It's not all roses though. The control module is bulky and the overall feel of it is "cheap". This dramatically takes away from the CXC 700 experience. It clearly isn't a deal breaker, but it is the black sheep the herd that is the CXC 700 and the one thing I'm not excited to show people.

Feature for feature, these stand tall and I can live with the little quirks and the control module. At the end of the day, these are a nice addition to the travel bag of anyone who lives on the road.

 

Pros:

  • Nice case
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Good noise cancelation with multiple modes
  • Customizable for each ear
  • Long battery life
  • Adapters for most situations
  • Big noise cancelation features in a little package

 

Cons:

  • Bulky and "cheap" control module

Silver

 

These are a very good option, but with the control module standing out like a sore thumb, it's hard to give them pure gold. They easily make our silver award though and are highly recommended if you can live with the large module.

I would like to thank Sennheiser for sending these our way to review. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the forum at the link below.