Sennheiser CX Plus wireless headphones review: Smooth sound
Sennheiser’s CX Plus strikes the right balance between great sound and value for money.
These buds are the missing link between Sennheiser’s budget CX True Wireless buds and its high-end Momentum True Wireless 2. price that places them squarely in the middle of the Sennheiser pack.
About the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
- Price: $179.99
- Battery life: up to 8 hours per charge, up to 24 hours total with case
- Quick Charge: 10 minutes of charge for 1 hour of listening
- Wireless charging: N / A
- Voice Assistant Compatibility: Siri, Google Assistant
- Colors: Black White
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
- Audio codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX adaptive
- Water resistance: IPX4
- Ear tips: small, medium and large
- Mass: 6 grams per bud, 47 grams with charging case
- Guarantee: 2 year warranty
The CX Plus includes three pairs of ear tips, a manual, and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable. You’ll also want to download the free Sennheiser Smart Control app which offers several different useful controls.
What we like
Breathtaking sound on a budget
To start with the elephant in the room: no, the CX Plus aren’t the audio spectacles that their older, more high-end relatives are. Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 continues to stand out in its field as some of the best performing buds we’ve ever tested. Their masterful mastery of balance, depth, instrumental timbre and dynamic expression is unmatched, and they try as best they can, but the CX Plus cannot meet this particular challenge.
When categorized into their own weight class, the CX Plus immediately stand out. They have a refreshingly neutral signature, emphasizing detail and clarity that’s hard to find under $200. I regularly found myself replaying certain tracks (Heart’s “Barracuda” comes to mind) just to make sure I wasn’t imagining the tantalizing new elements of classic guitar riffs that these buds were discovering.
For good measure, I ran the CX Plus through the gamut of my musical tastes – sampling everything from Mac Miller’s “100 Grandkids” to the Allman Brothers Band’s “Ramblin Man,” with a healthy dose of Sheryl Crow and Caribbean artists like Kes find their way into the mix. They offer an impressive display of balance between instruments and vocals, distributing bass and high frequencies as needed while managing to keep the haunting lyrics of a Leonard Cohen or a Childish Gambino in plain sight.
At their retail price, the CX Plus face formidable competition from options like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro or the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless headphones (although the latter lack ANC). That said, the CX Plus went on sale for $130 during my review period. In this price range, nothing I’ve heard so far can touch them.
A relatively robust collection of features
Frankly, there are much cheaper headphone options out there that offer better battery life and better weather resistance. That caveat aside, the CX Plus offers a decent assortment of features. They give you up to 8 hours of battery life per charge (less with ANC on), support audio codecs like AAC and aptX for improved sound with aptX-enabled iPhones and Android devices, and offer a resistance rating IPX4 splash proof. Moreover, they are equipped with the aforementioned ANC, Transparent Hearing and Smart Pause features that were missing in the previous CX True Wireless.
In addition to these features, the CX Plus offers simple and responsive touch controls that make it easy to do things like switch between ANC mode and Transparent Hearing mode, change tracks, or answer a call. Speaking of calls, a total four-mic system has provided clear dialogue during phone calls over the time I’ve tested them.
There are more budget headphones that offer better value for money in terms of features. The Jabra Elite 4 Active offers things like IP57 waterproofing and headphone finder functionality, although they don’t have an auto-pause feature. The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, meanwhile, has nearly identical specs to the CX Plus for a $50 discount. Still, the features of the CX Plus are useful additions to their formidable audio skills.
A handy companion app
Sennheiser’s Smart Control app lives up to its name, serving as a particularly useful companion to the CX Plus. In addition to an equalizer tab, the app offers a Sound Check feature that lets you create an extensive library of custom EQ presets to cover a wide variety of musical genres. It also has Sound Zones, which let you map locations that automatically call for specific sound settings, whether it’s a bass-focused EQ in the gym or a more conservative signature for the office.
Other controls through the app include transparent hearing options, the ability to turn ANC on or off (but no way to control the level of noise cancellation, notably) and a customizable panel of touch controls.
What we don’t like
ANC has some blind spots
As for audio quality, the CX Plus didn’t come equipped with the same level of active noise cancellation as the Momentum True Wireless 2, which wasn’t a full-fledged ANC juggernaut. The CX Plus offers good passive isolation through a solid fit, and their ANC capabilities excel at blocking mid and upper frequencies. When things get weak, however, the CX Plus struggles. The deep exhausts of trucks and muscle cars driving around my neighborhood were relatively unchanged, allowing these sounds to invade my listening environment much more than I would like.
That wouldn’t have fixed that flaw, but it also doesn’t help that the CX Plus lacks adjustable noise cancellation. The feature is an on/off function, with no ability to increase or decrease the level of noise the headphones block. The same goes for the CX Plus’ Transparent Hearing feature. It’s always valuable to have, but you can’t choose how much of the outside world you let in.
Sennheiser’s signature bulk strikes again
Apparently the trade-off when it comes to Sennheiser is sound for size. Whichever model you choose, chances are they’ll sound better than their tightly priced counterparts. There’s also a good chance they’ll stick out of your ears like a pair of sore thumbs.
This is the case of the CX Plus. I’ll note that they stayed in place surprisingly well through a handful of morning runs and after-work gym sessions, mostly thanks to their firm yet comfortable fit. If you have ears that run on the small side, it’s worth considering the weight of these beefy buds and their cooler-like carrying case.
Should I buy them?
Yes, especially if you can find them at a discount
Sennheiser has found the happy medium with the CX Plus True Wireless. They pack in features and sound quality reminiscent of the brand’s flagship Momentum True Wireless 2 while flirting with the price of their predecessors, the CX True Wireless.
The CX Plus leans more towards the middle of the pack when it comes to features, and they fall far short of the industry leaders in active noise cancellation or water resistance. If you’re looking for improved ANC or a slimmer, sportier design, the Panasonic RZ-S500W or Jabra Elite 7 Active are compelling alternatives, respectively. Samsung’s zippy Galaxy Buds Pro are also tempting rivals with tons of features. But if sound quality is your main guide, the CX Plus are the best contenders.
We’d also be remiss not to mention that the price of Sennheiser’s high-end Momentum 2 has also dropped significantly over time at many retailers, available for around $200 at press time.
While not the best headphones Sennheiser has ever made, the CX Plus are the best value, even at retail. And if you’re lucky enough to find them on sale, they offer an almost unmatched sound experience for less than $150.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.
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