OLD LYME, CONNECTICUT - NOVEMBER 2009: Custom personal ear monitors typically cost $1,000 or more and involve a visit to the doctor to be fitted for ear molds. Costing less than half the price, Sennheiser's new off-the-shelf, flagship IE 8 earphones are receiving rave reviews for their sound quality and fit from international touring engineers, who are using them both onstage and off.
"I think they're one of best things I've plugged into my head, ever,"
comments Wil Burton, the monitor engineer with Australian band, Jet on their current world tour. "They're absolutely deadly accurate. They have what I call the 'Sennheiser sound,' which means that they've got the proper dynamic weighting for the bottom end. They've got weight and depth and thickness to them, unlike a lot of earpieces."
Burton reveals that his IE 8s are in constant use, whether he is traveling or working. "The band were laughing the other day because they never see me without them hanging around my neck," he says. In addition to using them as onstage IEMs on tour, Burton, who is also a studio engineer, has been using them to evaluate reference mixes being produced in his absence back in Australia. "I find that I can make completely informed mix decisions via remote using them," he says.
"They sound spectacular," agrees Steve Bumbera, FOH engineer for Somali-Canadian hip-hop artist K'naan, "and they have great isolation," he reports. Both K'naan and bass player Ray Nesmith have adopted the IE 8 earpieces, which are supplied with a wide variety of bud adaptors to fit almost any ear size. "They fit really well and give you a molded ear feel.
If you're spending a considerable amount of money on personal monitors they're all going to sound spectacular. But I think what sets these apart are their price range and that they fit. You put them in and you're not going to have to worry about them falling out."
"In fact," adds Burton, "I recommend to clients that they try the IE 8s. You can get them off-the-shelf, and fit them however you want them to fit, with whatever attributes you want. You can have them completely sealed or you can leave them slightly open."
"They're very transparent and they're very flat," states Sean Quackenbush, FOH engineer for Robert Randolph and the Family Band, who also enjoys the adjustable low-end response of the IE 8. "You can tailor them to the way you want them to sound. I like a lot of low end, so I crank it up." He also believes that the IE 8 stands up to comparison with custom earpieces. "They sound phenomenal and the isolation is great. They mimic the personal monitors that we're using onstage really well."
Quackenbush can testify to the comfortable fit of the IE 8 firsthand. "I flew to Japan and had them in for the entire 17-hour flight; I even slept with them in," he laughs. "They didn't bother me once."
Mike Fanuele, who acts as production and tour manager, as well as FOH and monitor engineer, for super-group Tinted Windows, is also pleased with the fit. "They really are light and easy to put in. You almost don't even notice that they're there." Fanuele, who has also worked with Dashboard Confessional and Fountains of Wayne, adds, "I did a comparison to my custom personal monitors and the IE 8s are on the same quality level. I also mix records, and I could absolutely use these for referencing."
Never mind the fit and sound quality. Are they road worthy? "The packaging is incredible," says Bumbera of the carrying case. "I keep them in one of my road cases and there's no worry that they're going to break." Quackenbush adds, "It's a hard shell case, so they're protected if you throw them in your backpack or your pocket. And they put a rock salt packet in there to keep them dry." Burton also pays the packaging a big compliment, "It's one of the better pieces of packaging I've seen. I put it on par with Apple packaging, in terms of design."
Sennheiser is a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Established in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, Sennheiser is now a global brand represented in 60 countries around the world with U.S. headquarters in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Sennheiser's pioneering excellence in technology has rewarded the company with numerous awards and accolades including an Emmy, a Grammy, and the Scientific and Engineering Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.