Today on the Best Buy blog, I have a review of two monitoring products from Sennheiser. The first is the XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set, and the second is the IE 100 PRO In-ear monitor. In my life as a professional musician, I use wireless and In-Ear technology regularly. I am very happy to have an opportunity to review these Sennheiser products for the Best Buy blog. In my review, I will explore their features and offer my opinion on the quality of these products.
There are many in-ear monitoring options available to explore in the In-Ear Monitors & Headphones at the Best Buy website.
Sennheiser XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set
As an industry leader in sound technology, Sennheiser and their wireless in-ear monitoring sets are extremely popular. Sennheiser describes their XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set as simple, flexible, reliable and easy to use. This in-ear monitoring set has many features:
- single or double rack-mountable
- rugged metal housing
- lightweight bodypack receiver
- Easy frequency presets which allow quick setup for up to 12 systems
- Three sound modes: Stereo, Dual-mono and Focus
- IE 4 in-ear monitoring headphones
- Frequency presets and ranges designed to maximize interference-free operation with XSW 1 and XSW 2 microphones
XS Wireless system set contains all you need for a great setup
Upon opening the box, I discover a delightful treasure trove of equipment.
The centrepiece of the XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set is the XSW IEM Stereo Transmitter. I take it out of the box and discover that it has a delightfully simple design. I also notice there are more features than I expected to find.
The front panel of the XSW Transmitter features a power button, up/down scrolling buttons, as well as “Set” and “Sync” buttons for dialling in wireless frequencies. Next is an LCD screen, which is a convent size. Finally, I find a nice surprise — a 1/4” headphone jack and volume knob, for direct monitoring. Such a helpful feature for troubleshooting when needed.
The rear panel of the transmitter is simple. Here I find the antenna connection, Left (mono) /Right inputs, which are a hybrid XLR to 1/4” connection. Lastly, the connection for the included DC 12V power supply. Lots of extras in the box Power supply adaptors for international use are included with this kit. There are four kinds: the US (with holes, and without holes), EUROPE, and the UK.
The XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring set also includes mounting brackets and screws to accommodate single or double rack mount installation, the antenna itself, the XSW IEM EK wireless Stereo Receiver, a set of batteries and the IE 4 earbud headphones.
XSW IEM EK Stereo Receiver bodypack is lightweight with some interesting features
The bodypack included with this In-Ear monitoring set has all of the standard features of typical of this kind of unit. It is simple in look and use, has a flexible antenna and is lightweight. Although lightweight is a nice selling feature, it comes at the cost of the unit’s construction material. This bodypack is made of plastic. Immediately I question how durable this bodypack would be over time.
I try to treat my equipment with care. However, in professional situations, there can be many different variables which could include dropping, falling upon (if you’re an active stage performer), or simply bouncing around in a transport case. There is no included case with this Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set, so best to handle it prudently.
Limiter, Panning and Focus features create flexibility for all situations
The bodypack features onboard additions that are accessible only via the bodypack itself. I find access to an audio limiter, which will help control peaks in the sound signal. Additionally, an EQ on/off setting, control of L/R panning and also the listening mode. All of these modes are fairly easy to access. However, there is a lot of button-scrolling involved.
Because of the extra features the XSW Receiver offers, there seems to be a bit more than usual as I move through each of the options, one by one.
A final detail on the XSW receiver is that the LCD display turns off, which is clearly a power-saving measure. This is a small yet important feature!
XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set is quick to set up sounds as I expected
The next step for this review is to set up the transmitter and receiver and put it to use. The transmitter is simple to set up, and connectivity is instantaneous with the body pack as well. Before I listen through the body pack, I test my audio signal via the transmitter’s 1/4” headphone output, and it sounds great. Next, I test the bodypack receiver, and it also sounds great. I observe a noticeable noise floor, which is standard for pretty much every wireless in-ear monitoring pack I have used. Things are sounding good, and feeling good too.
The reception on the bodypack is solid and reliable as well. The unit has a good range, and I did not experience any dropouts or interference during my tests. Every stage is different, but it is my opinion that the XS Wireless Monitoring system will deliver great results in most professional situations.
There are many adjustable parameters on the transmitter
Now that everything is functional, I can dive into some of the onboard features of the XS Wireless Monitoring Set. The gain volume is adjustable, allowing for you to boost output volume at the transmitter level, before any further volume adjustments on the body pack or 1/4” headphone output. These are easy to manipulate once I understand the menu-diving on the XSW Transmitter unit.
However, the most interesting of the variables is probably the Focus feature. This feature allows for different listening options, and some customization of the options as well.
Using the Stereo mode, a nice wide stereo mix is available. This also allows manipulation of L/R panning, which creates flexibility according to the user’s preferences and situational circumstances. The Dual-Mono mode allows for independent manipulation of the Left and Right channels, mainly for volume purposes. The Focus mode seems to “collapse” the stereo field towards the centre, bringing the sound from a left/right frame to the centre. My feeling is that the Focus feature can be very useful in the right situation. The XS Wireless Set promises to be a very flexible sonic tool for a variety of live performance situations.
Presets make for fast recall of artists’ preferences
Working with multiple artists also means working with many different preferences for sound. Using the Presets, the XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set is customizable in this regard. It is possible to fix frequencies, listening modes and gain volume via this feature.
XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set provides solid value and reliable wireless monitoring
Overall, the XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set delivers exactly what I expect. The extra audio options are impressive. The only concern I see is the quality of the body pack itself, as it is made of plastic.
Oh yes, and the included IM4 earbud earphones? They are an afterthought, in my opinion. they sound average and forgettable. This leads me to the next part of the review: a more suitable in-ear set to complete your in-ear monitoring setup.
Sennheiser IE 100 PRO are comfortable and sound great
Sennheiser offers many different models of in-ear monitoring (IEM). The IE 100 Pro In-ear monitoring is Sennheiser’s most basic design, and some may consider these to be their entry-level IEMs. However, they are more than a basic IEM.
The IE 100 PRO IEMs are a fantastic product. One might only imagine how good their pricier models will be! These in-ear monitors aim to offer warm, natural and precise in-ear sound for professional and amateur musicians, and they deliver.
Here are some of the features:
- detachable “stage-proof” cable, with a break-proof connection and reinforced ear hook
- compact profile
- lightweight with a comfortable fit
- carrying pouch and three different types of ear tips
IE 100 PRO have a nice fit and a detachable cable
The ultimate test of the IE 100 PRO In-ear monitoring set is to use them for listening. For this review, I am using them as headphones in my home studio. They are impressively lightweight, and I immediately notice the flexible reinforced cable in the area that hooks around the ear. The flexible cable wraps easily around my ear and provides a comfortable, confident fit.
The IE 100 PRO features a detachable cable, which breaks free from the earbud under stress. This is a smart feature which is quite common on IEMs, as it prevents damage if ever you ever caught up in a cable during a particularly animated moment on stage.
I plug them in and start listening, and my initial reaction is “Wow, cool!” The sound is vibrant and solid. It is a very welcome feeling to have the music sounding this good in my ears. The IE 100 PRO IEMs are indeed lightweight, and they sound great.
My only concern with these IEMs is their noise-blocking ability. Outside noise reduction can be a critical element of any pair of IEMs, and it is difficult to tell exactly how well this pair serves this goal. The IE 100 PRO is not a moulded earpiece. Instead, it is very much like a regular earbud, and the cable that wraps around the ear provides a much more secure fit, and better noise blocking than your average earbuds.
The IE 100 PRO comes with different interchangeable ear tips. These can help you find the best fit for you to optimize noise blocking.
I would be happy to use the IE 100 PRO In-ear monitoring set. They have great sound and are very comfortable, due in large part to the flexible over-ear cable.
A great combination for your wireless monitoring needs
To conclude this review, I think that the combination of Sennheiser’s XS Wireless In-Ear Monitoring Set and the IE 100 PRO In-ear monitors offer a classic, reliable wireless system for your needs. Considering the extra details available on the bodypack and transmitter, you will find the right listening experience for you.
Are you ready for your first wireless monitoring system, or to update your current system? Find these products and many other Sennheiser products as well at BestBuy.ca