Sennheiser CX 400BT review: Sound sublime, but there’s a compromise

The wireless earbud market is getting more and more competitive by the day as just about every tech firm on the planet tries to make its mark. The latest addition to this saturated market comes from Sennheiser who, let’s face it, with over 70 years in the audio business should know a thing or two about creating great-sounding headphones.

Their latest AirPod-like earbuds, the Sennheiser CX 400BT, have just gone on sale and include all the features we’ve come to expect from wireless earbuds.

That includes a charging carry case, long battery life, comfy in-ear fit, and seamless Bluetooth link with your smartphone when you pop open the case.

With that feature list all ticked, you’d expect us to give them a resounding thumbs up …but sadly, there are some niggles which mean we can’t fully recommend the CX 400BTs compared to some of their closest rivals.

Let’s start on a positive note – there’s no question the CX 400BT sound great. Despite not sporting any active noise cancellation technology, the snug fit blocks out most background audio leaving you to enjoy your tunes or podcasts. Load up a favourite playlist and you’ll find an audio experience that includes plenty of bass, which makes these ‘buds highly enjoyable to have stuck in your ears.

Everything we listened to was packed with detail with music sounding luxuriously rich and crystal clear.

That audio quality isn’t surprising as they use the same 7mm dynamic drivers as the (much) more expensive MOMENTUM True Wireless from Sennheiser.

Despite their incredibly angular design, they are also pretty comfy to wear and we’ve had no issues using them for long periods of playback. Although they fit well, these are not headphones if you’re planning on hitting the gym as we’re not sure they’d stay put when thumping along the treadmill.

Battery life is also good with them lasting around 7-hours on a single charge and when they do run flat a 10-minute refill brings an extra hour of music.

There’s also a comprehensive companion app for your iPhone or Android smartphone, which allows you to change the touch controls on the side of the buds. These work really well and are very intuitive. Without touching your phone you can skip tracks, pause the music, summon Google and control the volume levels.

So that’s all the good news, but there’s also a few things that have really bugged us when using the CX 400BT.

Firstly, the design is anything but subtle. The blocky build protrudes so far out of your ears we actually felt more than a little self-conscious when wearing them for our morning stroll.

With so many of its rivals featuring a much more subtle look, it’s a strange decision from Sennheiser to go so far in the opposite direction. Of course, some might prefer this chunkier design aesthetic, but for our money, we’d rather our wireless earbuds not announce themselves to everyone we walk past in such a prominent manner.

And then there’s the charging case, which can only be described as “awful”.

This battery booster feels so cheap and nasty you’ll find it hard to believe it’s shipped with these premium £169 earbuds. There’s no satisfying AirPod-style snap as you shut the case and it’s also a really odd shape which doesn’t make it ideal for popping in your pocket.

You also can’t charge this case wirelessly, which isn’t ideal considering most earbuds in this category get this easy way to refill the battery.

The only good thing about this plasticky black box is that it does offer two full refills of the CX 400BT meaning they’ll last for a total of 20 hours without needing to go near a plug. One final niggle is that they don’t auto-pause when you take one of the buds out of your ear. It’s not a deal-breaker but it is annoying and it’s a shame Sennheiser couldn’t find a way of including it.

SENNHEISER CX 400BT review: Final Verdict

If you don’t care about the design and simply want a pair of wireless earbuds with some brilliant sound, you can’t go wrong with the Sennheiser CX 400BT.

The audio produces by these small music-makers really is quite special and even though there’s no noise-cancelling, these ‘buds offer a sound that’s hard to beat for the price – no mean feat in such a competitive field.

Despite what the design looks like from the outside, the CX 400BTs are very comfy to wear for long listening sessions and the array of touch controls mean you should never have to reach for your phone when using them.

Although they sound good the awful charging case and bulky design definitely let them down.

This is such a crowded market and some small changes would have made the CX 400BT a must-have purchase.

Before you buy these it’s definitely worth checking you can live with the CX 400BT’s faults before splashing out £169 on them. Yes, they sound epic but there are plenty of other buds that pack a similar punch and look a whole lot better.

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