Sennheiser is one of the more popular brands in the world when it comes to high-quality headphones, known for its over-ear models like the legendary HD 650. But Sennheiser also makes earbuds, and for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying out two of Sennheiser’s wireless options, which seem pretty similar at first glance: the $199.95 Momentum HD1 Free, and its cheaper counterpart, the $99.95 CX 6.00 BT.
The Momentum HD1 Free and CX 6.00 BT look virtually identical. The hardware for the cables, the in-line remote on the right earbud, the battery module on the left earbud, are all exactly the same — the two products even share the same FCC ID. Both headphones have Bluetooth 4.2 and support Qualcomm aptX and aptX Low Latency audio for higher quality playback, assuming your device supports it, which makes sense seeing as, again, they’re more or less the same. The primary visible difference? The HD1 Free features a red color scheme, while the CX 6.00 BT is blue.
But that’s all surface level stuff. Things change when you get to the earbuds — and the audio. The Momentum HD1 Free has earbuds that are almost twice as large as those on the CB 6.00 BT, presumably to offer more in the way of drivers and acoustics. Sennheiser doesn’t really dive into what the practical differences are on an audio level aside from saying that the HD1 Free offer a wider frequency response and higher maximum sound pressure level. But it’s that difference between the earbuds that in theory makes up the $100 difference between the cheaper and the more expensive versions.
As for whether it’s worth paying twice as much for the HD1 Free over the CX 6.00BT? That’s harder to say. There is definitely a noticeable improvement in how the HD1 Free sounds — the larger earbuds offer a wider sound with better bass than the CX 6.00BT, but it’s not a massive, life-altering difference. And unless you’re a hardcore audiophile or have the two headphones to compare back and forth right in front of you, you’d barely notice what you’re missing. Given the $100 savings, I’d generally stick with the CX 6.00BT.
Both headphones are comfortable enough to wear — Sennheiser touts the HD1 Free as its most “compact Bluetooth headphone”, and that seems true enough (although the CX 6.00 BT are technically smaller). Both pairs were comfortable and light enough to wear for the entire six hours of advertised battery life without any problems, and small enough to easily stuff into a pocket when I wasn’t using them. And as an added bonus, they even stayed in my ears relatively well, something that I tend to personally struggle with when using in-ear headphones. It’s here actually where the smaller earbuds of the CX 6.00BT gave it an advantage — I found they stayed in my ears better without the extra bulk of the HD1 Free, which was useful for working out.
I’m still not entirely sold on the form factor of wireless earbuds like this, and the entire slice of the industry still feels like a stepping stone toward truly wireless earbuds like Apple’s AirPods that will eventually die out. The fact that Sennheiser has already released two different versions of what are essentially the same headphones already speaks to that: both the HD1 Free and the CX 6.00 BT are just a new form factor for the company’s original neckband style headphones, the Sennheiser HD1 Wireless and the Sennheiser CX 7.00BT, respectively.
But for now, we’re still stuck with the vestiges of wires, and the Sennheisers are both perfectly fine options if that’s the style that works for you. But they’re also proof of the fact that the most expensive option isn’t always the best one.