Sennheiser CX Plus review: Next-gen buds with effective ANC

The Sennheiser CX Plus maintains the series’ premium sound quality, while introducing upgrades that elevate performance

The Sennheiser CX Plus wireless earbuds docked in the charging case
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Sennheiser CX Plus gets you flagship sound and surprisingly good noise cancellation and cost significantly less than the AirPods Pro.

Pros

  • +

    Superior sound and call quality

  • +

    Decent active noise cancelling

  • +

    Great controls

  • +

    Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive support

  • +

    Respectable battery life

Cons

  • -

    Uncomfortable design

  • -

    EQ is ineffective

  • -

    No wireless charging or multipoint technology

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Sennheiser CX Plus specs

Price: $180

Colors: Black; white

Battery life (rated): 8 hours (ANC on); 9 hours (ANC off); 24 hours (charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2

Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Size: 2.3 x 1.3 x 1.6 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.21 ounces (per bud); 1.23 ounces (charging case)

The Sennheiser CX Plus earbuds feel like the model Sennheiser originally set out to create, delivering the company's signature sound and well-balanced performance across multiple categories. First-gen CX and CX 400BT were acceptable AirPods alternatives of course, but many critics felt neither did much to move the needle for mid-range wireless earbuds. 

As far as improvements go, the CX Plus come with active noise cancellation, aptX Adaptive, and the latest version of Bluetooth (5.2). The also maintain the series’ strengths such as powerful sonics, medium battery life, and a sleek minimalist design. Not everything receives an upgrade, but any flaws are overshadowed by Sennheiser’s fantastic sound profile.

Read our full Sennheiser CX Plus review to see why it is one of our best cheap noise-cancelling headphones and best noise-cancelling earbuds for the price.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Price and availability

Sennheiser launched the CX Plus at $180 and can be purchased direct from the Sennheiser store (opens in new tab), or (at the time of writing) they can also be found on offer for $126 at Amazon (opens in new tab) and Walmart (opens in new tab). Two colors are available: black and white. Inside the box are a charging case, USB-C cable, quick guide, safety guide, and four sets of different sized ear tips. 

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Design and comfort

  • Sophisticated and stocky
  • Charming charging case
  • Displeasing comfort levels

The CX Plus sticks to Sennheiser’s design ethos of minimalist detail and neutral colors. It’s an understated chic look that appeals to business class types. Construction is solid with a hard plastic shell protecting the internals. IPX4 certification makes the buds sweat and splash resistant.

The Sennheiser CX Plus wireless earbuds placed on the concrete

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

I’m digging the compact rectangular charging case that sits handsomely on any surface. It’s a light carry at 1.6 ounces (both buds and case). The logo atop and matte finish are nice touches. Strong magnets keep the lid shut tight and the buds stationed into their charging slots.

The Sennheiser CX Plus charging case

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The large form factor does interfere with comfort. Wearing the CX Plus for over an hour felt like something was poking the concha and top part of my ear. A breather was needed after two hours of use.

Our reviewer testing the Sennheiser CX Plus' comfort levels

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Fit was stable. The ear tips created a tight seal that kept the buds locked in. Slippage wasn’t an issue when moving quickly around the house or during jogs. Having several different sized tips at your disposal helps determines the best fit for your ear shape.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Controls and digital assistant

  • Touch accuracy is spot-on
  • Tri-digital assistant support

Sennheiser programmed a full suite of commands that can be enabled through different input gestures. The touch controls take on most of the functionality, including playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, and listening mode activation. Single/double/triple-tap and long hold gestures can be individually assigned via companion app. There is also a Smart Pause function to automatically pause music when removing the buds, along with Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby compatibility.

The Sennheiser CX Plus' touch controls being demonstrated

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Everything works superbly. The touch panels are highly responsive and rarely mistake multi-tap commands. On-ear detection is precise. All of the digital assistants work equally well to execute verbal inquiries without a hitch; the mics are intelligible and pick up every syllable spoken.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Sound quality

  • Balanced, accurate sound
  • Customizable EQ doesn’t enhance sound much
  • aptX Adaptive for hi-res streaming

Audiophiles and music lovers will swoon over the CX Plus’ sound quality. Clarity and depth are fantastic, and frequency range is handled superbly to feed your ears a well-balanced dose of deep lows, rich mids, and detailed highs.

The pounding kick drums on Justin Timberlake's "Summer Love" packed a mean punch and played nicely with the sultry synths, making for a rhythmic and vibrant listen. That same energy carried over to melodically funky selections like Arrested Development’s “Africa’s Inside Me,” where the clean vocals and adlibs blended nicely over the infectious electric keyboard loop.

Justin Timberlake's "Summer Love" playing on the Sennheiser CX Plus

(Image credit: Regan Cooule/Future)

I make a habit of playing orchestral recordings when testing any audio product since they’re a great measuring stick for highs. The CX Plus didn’t disappoint. Latin classics like the Fania All-Stars’ “Ponte Duro” had me toe-tapping from the jump, reproducing percussive sounds (cymbals, drums, piano) at the same level as the flagship Momentum True Wireless 2. Even the live audience sounded prominent and brought an immersive vibe to the performance. 

The CX Plus has an Equalizer to personalize sound by manually adjusting three bands: bass, mids, and treble. It’s fine for decreasing lows and mids, but it doesn’t increase them so well. Luckily, the Neutral EQ (default) is sonically effective, and the DSP stabilizes volume no matter what adjustments are made.

Testing the Sennheiser CS Plus' EQ settings in the Smart Control app

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Sennheiser doesn’t load you with several presets like Sony or Anker. You only get three (Podcast, Movie, Bass Boost) to play with. Each one barely alters the sound. Bass Boost is designed to work with all the presets, not alone, which is a bit odd.

AAC, SBC, apt X, and aptX codecs work with the buds, the latter being a premium feature that not many wireless earbuds offer. All that means is you’re getting a more dynamic, fast-streaming experience for all applications (e.g., music, gaming, video).

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Active noise cancellation

  • Effective ANC
  • Ambient sound mode is perfect for conversations

The Momentum True Wireless 2 was a better-than-average pair of wireless ANC earbuds. Going in with low expectations, the CX Plus surprised the hell out of me with improved noise cancellation that handles higher frequencies better than its big brother.

Blocking out loud noises produced by landscaping tools (e.g., hedge trimmer, lawnmower) when working in the backyard was blissful. Other distractions like airplanes flying over the house, bird chirping, and a portable speaker didn’t affect my workflow either. Indoors was just as rewarding, keeping chatter around the kitchen table silent and my toddler’s incessant crying outside of the play area to a minimum.

ANC being tested on the Sennheiser CX Plus

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Transparent Hearing opens the soundscape up to hear what’s happening around you and is a vital tool for those wanting to increase their awareness in all surroundings. Walking on the street with the feature turned on allowed me to hear noises distinctively and determine where cars were coming from. I loved how clear vocals sounded, which made it easy to communicate with the missus and eavesdrop on other conversations.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Special features and app

  • Stylish and user-friendly app
  • Fair number of features
  • Useful call quality adjuster

Sennheiser Smart Connect is where you’ll access all the CX Plus’ special features. The attractive homescreen greets you with menu options for the EQ, Transparent Hearing, and Connections (a list of devices previously connected to the buds), along with battery indicators for each bud.

The Sennheiser CX Plus connected to the Sennheiser Smart Control app

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

A variety of functions are hidden in the settings page; select the cogwheel icon on the top right. Here is where you’ll find key features like control customization, ANC, auto-power off, smart pause, and sidetone to adjust the audible feedback of your voice during calls.

Exploring the Sennheiser CX Plus' special features in the Sennheiser Smart Control app

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

You have plenty to work with, plus firmware updates leave room for additional perks to be introduced when Sennheiser is ready to roll them out.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Battery life and charging case

  • Better battery life than the AirPods Pro
  • ANC playtime is lower than advertised
  • No wireless charging

Sennheiser has the CX Plus rated at 8 hours with ANC on, but it’s really 6 hours when factoring in high volume and streaming — I achieved up to three days of moderate use (2 hours daily) before recharging. You can extend use to 9 hours by disabling ANC. 

The Sennheiser CX Plus charging case being charged via USB-C cable

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

You’ll get up to 24 hours from the charging case, which is the industry-average time set by the AirPods’ charging case. A 10-minute quick charge will net you 1 hour of use.

Wireless charging is MIA.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Call quality and connectivity

  • Excellent for indoor calls
  • Powerful connectivity

The Momentum True Wireless 2 and CX 400BT weren’t great calling headsets, but the CX Plus is worthy of inclusion on our best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls list. Conversations sound loud and clear, and Sennheiser’s mic arrays do an incredible job of eliminating ambient noise. My wife was shocked that she could not hear traffic in the background during brief chats. I did receive feedback about my voice sounding harsh when speaking outside, but people on the other end of the call could make out my words.

A video call being taken on the Sennheiser CX Plus

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bluetooth 5.2 operates smoothly. The initial pairing process is fast and auto-connect is even faster; the buds automatically connect to your last recognized device. Range is lengthy at up to 60 feet, a distance that is nearly double what most wireless earbuds offer.

Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology (pairing to two devices simultaneously) could have made for sweet additions, but Sennheiser opted to leave them off the spec sheet.

Sennheiser CX Plus review: Verdict

At $180, the Sennheiser CX Plus face stiff competition, but they're a bargain worth pursuing for $130 and one of the top models at the price. Articulate, high-quality sound combined with normal playtimes, effective ANC, and dependable connectivity make them an enticing package.

The mediocre fit, subpar EQ, and lack of newer features (e.g., wireless charging, multipoint technology) are compromises that not everyone will be happy to live with. Those who can will get plenty of value out of these buds, otherwise you may want to consider alternative options such as the AirPods Pro or Jabra Elite Active 75t.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.