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Sennheiser CXC 700 Noise-canceling headphones review

Make the noise quiet and the music loud

Some of our articles are written by people outside of our usual writing team. They're typically Crutchfield employees in other departments, but we'll sometimes feature articles written by folks from outside the company as well.


Any college student will tell you that noise can be a constant distraction in daily life. From busy sidewalks to crowded common areas, you find yourself in a state of constant auditory chaos that can be maddening. When I got the opportunity to try out the new Sennheiser CXC 700 noise-canceling headphones, I was excited. Try out a $200 pair of headphones for free? Why, certainly!

On the surface

The new CXC 700’s come out of the box looking sleek and clean, in typical Sennheiser fashion. The headphones come with a 54-inch cord, which provides plenty of length for jittery and active people, and attached to said cord is one of my favorite bits of headphone gadgetry, a volume controller.

The volume control on the CXC 700’s is in a slide bar format, something I greatly preferred over the typical “push the button for this set amount  of more noise” configuration I’ve experienced on other headphones.  This gives you greater precision in volume control.

The volume controller is also where the CXC 700’s noise-canceling features are located. There is an easy “slide and pop” housing for the AAA battery required to operate the noise-canceling modes as well as the switches to operate all of the features for Sennheiser’s NoiseGard™ technology (more on that later).

The only downside to the housing is that it has the tendency to weigh down the cord awkwardly. While the controller sliding off my desk has never once wrenched the cord out of the headphone jack, it still provoked a terrifying moment of panic when I saw it slip off the edge.

That said, however, the controller is situated perfectly for on the go use. Placed nearer the headphones on the 54-inch cord, the volume control resides at the perfect length to be stored in a pocket without straining the length of cord reaching to the headphones themselves. Its placement also ensures it sits at the opening of whatever storage compartment is being used, making it easy to grab and utilize the controller.

The CXC 700’s come with three various sized rubber ear bud sleeves, as well as an airline adapter, headphone adapter, cleaning tool and a conveniently sized carrying case. Everything you need for travel headphones.

Noise cancelation

Noise cancelation is one of those luxury features that someone on my budget can’t spare money for. Thanks, college. Nevertheless it’s a feature that I swoon at having, and I was eager to see just how well noise canceling on in-ear headphones would work.

On the CXC 700’s, Sennheiser provides a set of NoiseGard noise-cancelation features. There are multiple settings options, including talk-through capability.

Activating noise canceling is as easy as flipping a switch, which is precisely what you do. On the volume controller, the frame surrounding the volume control is the “on, off” switch for noise cancelation. Once activated a red LED indicator lights up to let you know it’s active. From here, you have three different noise-canceling modes to optimize noise cancelation for particular environments.

  • Mode 1: Optimized for commutes on trains, subways, buses, cars and short distance flights. Effective primarily for low-frequency noise (100-400 Hz).
  • Mode 2: Optimized for longer flights on large passenger aircraft and air conditioning systems in office buildings. Effective primarily for mid-frequency noise (400-3000 Hz).
  • Mode 3: Optimized for on-the-go use in crowded environments or other loud surroundings. Effective primarily for wide-frequency noise (100-3000 Hz).

If you’re like me, when you first look at this you probably think, “Well that’s unnecessary.” It may not be absolutely necessary, but guess what? It’s amazing. Between the different modes there is a noticeable difference in the cancelation response.

Mode 3 cut down much of the busy noise in the cubicle forest I call home during the week, eliminating just about everything but keyboard clicks and loud voices (which take on a tinny, radio-like quality through the cancelation). I ended up using Mode 3 a lot, only because it gave me the best noise reduction in the environment I most utilized them in. But these headphones and their noise cancelation are optimized for travel, so it was obvious that I needed to test them for that as well.

Sennheiser%20CXC%20700%20noise-canceling%20headphonesThe headphones come with a variety of earbud sleeves, an airplane adapter, quarter-inch adapter, and travel case.

Since chartering a plane, buying a ticket or sneaking on in a suitcase were not options, I decided to create my own “plane” noise environment. How? With a box fan in a small room. Yes, there is a huge difference between the noise outputs of a fan versus that of a jumbo jet, but for my purposes it worked.

On any of the settings, Mode 1 of the NoiseGard did a great job of reducing the white noise to a low hum. Not completely eliminated but definitely easier on the ears and with Mode 2, which does a wonder on any air conditioning buzz; these two modes are a must for the constant traveler.

Talk through option

But wait a minute. What happens when someone approaches you in need of conversation? By pressing the button labeled, “talk through” the noise cancelation cuts off and also turns off any music you are currently playing. It also pumps in outside noise directly to your earphones, allowing you to communicate without ever removing the headphones.

My only peeve with this option is that, when activated, it doesn’t pause your music; it simply cuts off current to the headphones, allowing the music to continue playing in silence. It’s one of those annoying, nitpicky things, but missing a section of a song or having to backtrack can be bothersome. Besides that point, the talk through option is a simple, one step option that is better than attempting to turn off noise cancelation and mute your music in efficient time. With talk through capability it’s one button and bam, you can hear!

Battery life

Another great feature is that when the battery, which lasts a good 16 hours, finally runs out, the CXC 700’s will still allow you to listen to your music and use the volume controller. And as far as comfort for those 16 hours, these guys fair better than your average pair of budded head phones. It was only after six hours of continuous use that they started feeling uncomfortable, and anything that stays in the same position without relief for six hours is uncomfortable by that point anyway.

Music quality

As far as in-ear headphones go, these guys have about the best music quality I’ve ever heard. Granted this is coming from a person whose last pair of in-ear headphones were bought for $20.

When I audition a pair of headphones, my go-to band is Les Friction. Their music, considered “Cinematic Orchestration” or trailer music, covers a wide expanse of both dynamics and instrumentation. From gorgeous classical orchestration to hard hitting electric guitar solos, this band strikes every chord (literally and figuratively speaking).

Listening with NoiseGard on, I got the cozy feeling of hearing my music without annoying background noise. The music came through warm and clear, mid-tones rich and lively. the astoundingly subtle lower vocals Les Friction utilize popped throughout their songs, distinguishable from the more prevalent lead vocals.

Though the cancelation tends to softer high and low ranges, they're still more prevalent than I've ever heard on my own lower quality headphones. The CXC 700's cover the dynamic range wonderfully. and that coverage broadens even more so when noise cancelation is turned off.

In conclusion

To sum it all up, the quality that the Sennheiser CXC 700’s provide is outstanding for earbuds. And they're certainly worth the price if you’re looking for a good pair of lightweight, noise-canceling headphones. I know I will keep dreaming of them.

 - Courtney G. is an intern in the Crutchfield Creative Department.

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