Review: Sennheiser LX70 Sport Flexible Stereo Headphones
Pros: Lightweight sport headphones that are like Apple’s packed-in iPod earbuds, but with a loop-like flexible connecting cord between them, water- and sweat-resistance, greater durability, and bright, sporty green coloration. Very good audio quality, with strong extended bass. Good carrying case is included, along with shirt clip and replacement earbud covers in foam and rubber.
Cons: Highest-priced of the Sennheiser sport earphones we tested, without commensurate benefit. Foam covers may be tearable; additional reinforcement provided by soft cable to keep these on your ears isn’t as strong as on Sennheiser’s other sport options.
For years, sports accessories have been amongst the biggest areas of iLounge reader interest, and for good reason: from mini to shuffle, nano, and 5G, each year’s smaller-than-competing model iPods simply make better exercise companions than their bulkier alternatives, and many users enjoy the iPods at gyms, out on runs, and even in pools. Yet sport headphones have not made significant evolutions until recently - we’ve only seen one company make decent pairs of submersible waterproof headphone accessories (H2O Audio), which don’t sound great above water, and though Nike and others have made sports headphones, we’ve heard many complaints about individual models’ durability and/or suitability in sweaty or rainy conditions.
So when Sennheiser announced a new series of headphones designed specifically for sports, we were naturally very excited to put them through their paces, and now, we have. Though a number of other models were introduced, we focused on three different options - the LX70 ($55), reviewed here, which connects two standard-sized earbuds with a flexible center cable that becomes a loop for easy storage when not in use; the PMX70 (iLounge rating: B), which connects its earbuds with an inflexible headband that goes behind your neck and stays in place; and finally, the OMX70 (iLounge rating: A-), which uses a semi “clip-on” design that is highly similar to one of our favorite pairs of Sony earbuds, the MDR-EX81s (iLounge rating: A). However, unlike the EX81s and most of our other favorite earpieces, all three Sennheiser earbuds have two things in common - they all use buds that sit on the edges of your ears rather than inserting into your ear canals, and they all use bright green and gray plastics that are designed to stand out rather than blend in with your clothes or iPod.
They’ve also been designed as water- and sweat-resistant - key word: resistant - headphones, and made especially durable to withstand the stresses of extended athletic use. As promised, they do resist water, but shouldn’t be submerged, which leaves H2O Audio’s Waterproof Headphones as a superior underwater athletic option, but makes these a much better general-purpose headphone for those who are concerned about sweat and rain. Though we can’t subject each of them to the months of abusive testing that our readers will no doubt put them through subsequent to this review, we can say that we were impressed across the board with their solidity and build quality; these are not the delicate Sony sports headphones of years past, likely to snap apart or see their glue wear out with repeated exposure to water. Sennheiser has done a good job of making headphones that would accompany the rugged Otterbox cases we’ve tested on strength, if not looks.
All of these decisions turn out to be good ones for athletic purposes. We love the in-canal phones we’ve tested, but their silicone rubber bodies and tight fits aren’t necessarily ideal for use when you’re sweating or running in the rain: they can slip out, and feel less than comfortable inside already hot ears. Sennheiser’s approach instead uses external mounts to suspend the earbuds just outside your canals - as close as Apple’s pack-ins, but with pressure as reinforcement.
the LX70’s design may appeal to those who want a little more reinforcement than a pair of Apple earbuds, but substantially less than that offered by PMX70 or OMX70. The cord that connects the left and right earbuds can be worn in front of or behind your head, and sometimes keeps one earbud from falling to the ground if the other earbud falls loose. It’s a simple and lightweight alternative that puts less pressure on your ears than either of the other models, but also delivers less actual reinforcement while you’re in motion. Of the three options, we preferred OMX70’s physical balance the most.
Like the OMX70s, the LX70s come with a carrying case and replacement earbud caps - one pair in silicone rubber, used for larger ears and to deflect more sweat, and one pair in foam, to provide a gentler contact surface with any ears. While the LX70s’ foam caps didn’t rip like the OMX70’s did, the parts seemed identical, and there’s a likelihood that the same thing could happen here, too. Sennheiser’s carrying case here is made from gray hard plastic, and isn’t as easy to use or interesting as the one included with the OMX70s. That said, it’s sufficient and looks just fine.
All three headphones have something else in common: audio quality. Though this factor isn’t as hugely important for sports gear as it is with headphones intended to be used while you’re sitting quietly, Sennheiser has delivered a listening experience that few users will complain about. As with earlier Sennheiser headphones we tested, the audio quality of each of these headphones was affirmatively good for the price, delivering pretty much exactly what buyers of inexpensive headphones want for the dollar. When compared against Apple’s iPod pack-ins, they deliver similar clarity and noticeably extended bass response, with much lower thump in every bassline we tested, yet no incidence of distortion.
That said, these are still earbud-style designs, and so it wasn’t any surprise that isolation was inferior across the board to all of the in-canal earphones we’ve tested. These sit on the outsides of your ear, so you’ll hear more outside noise while you’re using them - a benefit for those who need some situational awareness while outdoors, perhaps less so for those in the middle of an indoor workout. For that reason, while we wouldn’t rate these as superstars in an absolute sense, they’re certainly better than Apple’s earbuds for athletic users in both sound and comfort, and you’d need to spend more money to get a decidedly better-sounding pair of earbuds.
Overall, we think that the OMX70s are the best of the bunch - lightweight suspension earbuds that are physically similar to Sony’s terrific MDR-EX81s, but with added comfort and adjustability, and generally better durability for athletic purposes. Only their lack of in-canal design and easily torn foam covers detract from an otherwise dynamite offering, and the latter will be modulated if you’re careful. The PMX70s would be our second choice for most users - at least those with large ears - and only superior to the OMX70s if you’re in need of rock-solid earbud support on your head. The LX70s are the least special of the group, with a design that is only a little more supportive than using a standard pair of earbuds, albeit surely more water-resilient. As they’re also more expensive than both of their brothers, we were also on the edge about the right rating for them - a general or limited recommendation - but ultimately decided that their audio quality placed them in the solid B range for the dollar. They’re not our top sports pick, but if you like the design, you’ll like how they sound.