Sennheiser MM200 Bluetooth Stereo Earphones

For my first attempt at Bluetooth I tried the Moldyrolla Rokr. First off, they don't rock. The Rokrs don't seal the ear canal, hence no bass and ya gotta turn 'em up to hear anything over ambient noise. The ridiculous "neckband" rubs, pulls, conducts rubbing noises and is a total nuisance. They fit like headphones that have slipped off your head and bounce against your neck when you walk. Can't image what they'd feel like when wearing a coat or sunglasses. Never even turned them on because the fit is unfit for human heads. Returned them the same day they arrived. So then I bit the bullet and I tried some expensive "audiophile" earphones. Won't tell you the brand other than BEWARE of any company with "research" in its name that doesn't actually specialize in research. They are overpriced junk. The connection had a continuous buzz. After they turned off, they wouldn't turn back on unless I plugged them in to recharge. The auto off feature worked, sometimes. On other occasions I had to re-pair them to get them to connect after being off. To top it off they looked stupid. The wire between the earphones rubbed behind the neck and conducted way too much noise. When I contacted tech support about the connection, on/off, and the noise problems they told me I needed a $100 dongle for it to work properly with the iPhone. What? Another hundred USD; another thing to plug and unplug? Don't think so. And nowhere does it state anything about needing the dongle for the iPhone on their website. Plus, they don't function for answering calls—there's no mic. Returned those too. The "research" company took days to respond to my email and over a week to refund my CC. Not impressed.

By some dumb luck I stumbled upon the Sennheiser MM200. It's not as if Sennheiser is some obscure brand, but the MM200 didn't show up in my numerous google searches. As with all of the Bluetooth head/ear sets, the forward/back function doesn't work with the iPod/iPhone. I don't care. Most important to me is, noise isolation, decent audio quality, comfortable fit, and CORDLESS convenience. If the phone works too—fantastic! Well, the Sennheiser fits the bill and the phone works too. Woo-hoo! The forward button does function to redial the last call, and the back button accesses voice control. Great features. With the lastest 4.0 OS update, the volume is controllable from both the phone and the headset. Another good feature. The sound is not great, but it is good. Bass is strong, but a little muddy. Treble is a little rolled off, but when I do a treble boost it's too much. So I've left EQ flat. When using the phone, people on the other end haven't complained about echo, noise or not being able to hear me clearly. So far, so good.

An aspect that is very critical for me is the fit. My ears are extremely sensitive to having things stuffed into them. Ordinary earbuds cause me excruciating pain within minutes. Even if they didn't, the low grade sound and lack of isolation from ambient noise are unacceptable. The Sennheiser are not quite as comfortable as my Shure earphones with the triple flange silicone, nor do they isolate as much noise. Still, I can wear these for hours. Foam inserts would be more comfortable and isolate noise better. Hopefully there's a source for foam ear tips, but even if there isn't I can live with the OEM "ear pads" as Sennheiser calls them.

After searching for months, and trying out two other sets, it's quite a relief to finally find a set that is almost everything I want. The cordlessness (alright—it's not a word in the dictionary) is great—love the freedom. The 'necklace' (aka lanyard) is surprisingly unobtrusive. It comes with a clip to keep the unit from swinging around if needed. Because there's less cord to deal with, cord rubbing noise is less of a problem. Online reviews have mentioned poor range. I don't see the need to get fifty feet away and still have a perfect signal. If you go into the next room you'll have dropouts. BT isn't designed for distance. That's no biggie. I keep the phone on me or in the same room. Some mentioned dropouts even with the phone in a pocket. I have had occasional dropouts. They used to occur a lot at home when there was another BT device operating in the house, along with WiFi, cell phones, and cordless phones. Turns out that almost everything interferes with BT transmission/reception. We're asking a very weak signal to carry a lot of data. It's highly susceptible to interference, but it appears most of the problem was from the other BT devise. Once that was eliminated, the dropouts ceased, except when streaming, but that's a Wi-Fi streaming issue, not BT. Nonetheless, if you can't deal with occasional dropouts, you may want to stick with hardwire. (Update : After many months of use, I haven't had any dropouts in the same room.)

On the pro side is the excellent battery life. I counted out the Sony HBH-IS800, which is really cool because everything is packed into the tiny earbuds, no lanyard, no box behind your neck or wrapped around your ear. They're amazingly compact, but the tiny battery means short battery life; under 4 hours talk time, probably less than 3 for music. I haven't kept track of my exact usage with the Sennheiser, but I played them a couple hours a day for the first week just to run down the battery. Even after the low battery warning signal, they went on for another 15 minutes before giving a second warning, then shut down.

The MSRP is a striking $199. I found them for nearly half that including shipping. Not a huge price to pay considering that I'm really pleased. The others I tried were worthless. Note, I've held back for over a month to post this review. Many revisions have been made to my initial reactions as I've learned more about the unit and gotten used to it.

One more thing to add. Contacted Sennheiser about foam ear tips/pads. Got a response within twelve hours. Then I spoke to a real live person on the phone who guided me to someone who would know the answer. Emailed him. Got a response within an hour—he offered to send me a few foam pads—free. Now that's customer service. And the foam? Not quite what I expected, but they do isolate a little better than the rubber flanges.

(II) UPDATE 08-08-11: Had a problem with the left channel on my MM200. Sent the unit back for warranty service. Unfortunately, Sennheiser has discontinued sales of the MM200 in the US. Instead of repairing it, they replaced it with the MM100. I was not happy. The packing slip with the replacement had a name, email and phone number of a contact person. Called him to say I was not pleased, that the MM100 is not an acceptable replacement. It's a headphone, not earphone, with a behind the neck band. Yuk. Ross, the contact person, listened with a knowing awareness. He'd heard the complaint before from others who feel the same way. He immediately offered to exchange the MM100 for another Sennheiser product of my choice, or even more than one item based on retail value. But, he also promised to look into finding a working MM200 for me. After only a week we spoke again. He found some new MM200s in Canada. He had some shipped to the service center so that they could satisfy, not just me, but other MM200 users. What the hell's going on here? Am I still alive or have I been transported into a parallel universe? I can't tell you the last time I had a customer service experience coming close to this. This is not good service. This is exceptional service. Three cheers for Sennheiser!

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