Android Central Verdict
Sennheiser's sporty earbuds debut makes you change the ear tips depending on where you plan to use them, and while they can sound good, you have to learn to move with what's also missing here.
Solid audio quality via EQ
Ear tip differences are interesting
Adjustable touch controls
Good app support
Swapping ear tips not for everyone
No ANC or ambient modes
No auto play/pause
No wireless charging
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Finally, Sennheiser has entered the arena, and by "arena," I'm referring to the obvious sports metaphor involved with the company releasing a pair of earbuds for those who plan to sweat in them. Sports earbuds are a growing sub-category with tighter competition these days.
That's what the Sport True Wireless face, and Sennheiser took an interesting approach to give the active crowd different ways to get what they're looking for. Some of that leads to surprising results.
Sennheiser Sport True Wireless: Price and availability
Sennheiser launched the Sport True Wireless in May 2022 with fairly wide retail availability, so they shouldn't be hard to find. They start at $130, and while Sennheiser doesn't often drop prices early on, you may see these get the odd discount after plenty of time has passed. They only come in black.
Sennheiser Sport True Wireless: What's good
They aren't part of the same line, but the Sport True Wireless bear a similar appearance to the CX Plus and CX True Wireless, previous earbuds from Sennheiser that focused more on sound quality at a better price. They differ once you take a closer look at the design and how the ear tips play a more important role here.
For example, there are seven pairs of wings and six pairs of ear tips, except they don't all serve the same purpose. The tips are split between what Sennheiser calls "Focus" and "Aware." The tips with blue trim were designed to allow more ambient noise in to hear your surroundings, which you may want if you're out for a run. The all-black tips with the webbed opening are supposed to deliver passive noise cancelation when you want to hear less of the outside world.
All that doesn't necessarily apply to the wings, some of which don't even have wings — great for those who would prefer not to have them.
That means there is no active noise cancelation (ANC), nor an ambient mode that you cycle through, as is so common now in other earbuds. Sennheiser's passive approach to both is interesting and does require some trial and error, as well as planning ahead. For instance, if you want to block things out more while at the gym, only to open them up on the walk home, you would theoretically have to switch ear tips.
Sennheiser's Smart Control app also switches between the two modes, though what it's actually doing is changing the equalizer to accommodate the physical realities of the respective tips. Basically, the music will sound different when toggling between the two modes, ramping up the bass in Aware to make up for the inevitable sound leakage that comes with it. Focus delivers a more balanced soundstage in line with what you might expect from Sennheiser.
I wasn't immediately impressed with the sound signature out of the box, feeling it lacked punch, especially on the low end. The EQ helped a great deal, and I imagine you would come away with something that works well for your ears under the same scenario.
The Sport True Wireless support both AAC and aptX to cover key codecs and deliver good quality from an Android device. With all that in place, the app offers an EQ with a handful of presets, plus the ability to create your own. It's hardly an extensive EQ, given you only have three bands to adjust, but it's at least something to utilize to get even better sound.
There's nothing stopping you from switching between Focus and Aware if you have the opposite ear tips in place, but you may feel a certain way about the sound. I found myself sometimes choosing Aware while wearing Focus tips because I wanted the bass boost. Other times, I felt like I was switching between them looking for something that wasn't there. These earbuds need a fair bit of experimentation to gauge what works best wherever you take them, and that's why they can be hard to read at first.
As for workouts and generally sweaty action, the Sport True Wireless earn their keep. The fit is nice and snug, and they probably won't move much while you're working out or running, but I did feel like they could itch a little along the way.
The touch controls are effective and efficient, though I'm puzzled as to why Sennheiser never bothered to include a simple toggle between Focus and Aware into the mix. You can also switch out the controls however you like, or even turn them off entirely if you'd rather not have them.
The Sport True Wireless have an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance, making them the most rugged earbuds Sennheiser's made to date. And they prove to be rugged enough for sweaty workouts, only it's important to wipe and clean them right after to keep moisture and salt from causing problems down the line. While I would've liked a higher IP rating, I can't say they caused me much concern that way.
The case doesn't have the same level of protection, but it does have a slit to snake the included lanyard through in case you want to attach it to something. While it is bigger than the other Sennheiser CX earbuds' cases, I wouldn't have minded if this one added more space to fit in extra ear tips.
Sennheiser Sport True Wireless: What's not good
When you do make ear tips key to how you hear audio with your earbuds, it might be a good idea to make room for an extra pair in the case. I kept thinking that every time I wanted to switch between Focus and Aware, remembering that I had one or the other tips in place, only for the others to be at home.
This presents itself as a usability problem unless you only plan to use the Sport True Wireless for a singular purpose each time out. Most earbuds don't require that kind of forethought, and I suspect not everyone would care to, either.
The overall sound also affects battery life in one very important way, which is volume level. Sennheiser tuned the 7mm drivers too quietly out of the box, forcing me to raise volume as high as 90% in places where background noise seeped in too easily. That's a battery killer, so the company's estimate of nine hours per charge is a lot more like six hours or less if you routinely have to do that. Thankfully, it's not as necessary in quieter situations, but raising the volume that much just isn't natural or normal for any pair of earbuds.
The case holds an extra two charges, and when it's time to recharge it, you will have to plug in via USB-C. The Sport True Wireless don't support wireless charging, taking away a really convenient feature that has become way more common in earbuds at this price.
Various other features are also missing. The Sport True Wireless don't have wear sensors, so they won't automatically play/pause when you remove or place them in your ears. That can be problematic if you need to talk to someone, however brief it may be, without pausing audio playback first.
Forget pairing them with two devices at once because they also don't do multipoint connections. If Sennheiser was interested in using ear tips to better passively block out ambient noise, it might have considered using foam tips instead. Those deform to create a really tight seal, and are (in my estimation) the best there is out there for passive isolation.
Sennheiser Sport True Wireless: Competition
The options for the best workout earbuds continue to grow in both number and sophistication. The Jaybird Vista 2 are hard to pass up, simply because they're more rugged, fit well, and offer amazingly deep audio EQ customization. For a similar price, the Jabra Elite 4 Active also offer a really snug fit, with great app support, and key features, like ANC and ambient mode.
If you'd rather have more stability around your ears, the JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC can give you that, along with plenty of bass and noise cancelation. You would just have to be OK with the mediocre call quality.
Sennheiser Sport True Wireless: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You want sporty earbuds
- You care about fit and comfort
- You want sound you can adjust
- You like customizable controls
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want ANC support
- You don't like the idea of always switching ear tips
- You want more bass
- You prefer to have wireless charging
The Sennheiser Sport True Wireless may not be the company's premium earbuds, but they serve as an important foray into a burgeoning category. The best wireless earbuds will probably see more durability as time goes on, with the top brands recognizing how balance applies to more than just audio quality.
That also makes these earbuds something of an experiment, especially when you factor in how they utilize the different ear tips. If you like the idea of less tech and a more pragmatic approach, as well as good balance and customization with the sound, you may like the combination Sennheiser put together here. If you're unsure, you do have other avenues you can pursue instead.
Sennheiser gives its first pair of sporty earbuds some rugged treatment, though the Sport True Wireless also offer the audio finesse you'd expect from the brand, even if they are an acquired taste in some ways.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.