Yet shoppers would do well to carefully consider the soundscape before purchasing. These headphones lack emphasis in the high end, which means music sounds very bass heavy. Some listeners love that kind of profile, but if you're anything of an audiophile, this sound quality just won't do.
10 great accessories, one glaring omission
Many consumers are sure to consider the DX 120 IE headphones based on the portability that in-ears generally offer. With that in mind, Beyerdynamic outfits these headphones with a flattened cable that wards off tangles, a shirt clip that reduces tug, and even a Y-adapter for sharing music with a friend.
Still, certain drawbacks mean these Beyerdynamics aren't exactly the perfect companion to commuters. An included soft carry case works nicely for safe storage—and you'd better use it every time, because these aren't the most durable headphones. The cable isn't substantial, the speaker sleeves tend to slip off, the jack isn't gold plated, and the reinforcements look a bit vulnerable, too.
But the traveler's biggest gripe will probably be the omission of a mic and remote. If you want to answer a phone call or pause a song, you'll have to fumble through pockets and purses in search of your device.
No one will complain of an uncomfortable listening experience, however. Beyerdynamic includes a generous set of differently sized speaker sleeves—seven altogether. One pair sports a unique shape, too, so that users can "corkscrew" the speakers into the ear for a reliable fit.
I am bass, hear me roar.
The main thing to know before purchasing the DX 120 iE headphones is that they're big on bass and light on treble. If you're a purist, if you're someone that enjoys equalizing your own tunes, or if you're a classical enthusiast, these aren't the best buy for you.
These in-ears lack detail in the high range. It's not that these headphones overemphasize bass, it's that they underemphasize treble. Thumping bass, low-down notes on brass, drums, and strings—those sound out richly and beautifully. Middle range instruments sound great, too. Much of the vocal range, plus midrange notes on every string, horn, and woodwind in the book sound forth loud and clear, despite the prominent bass.
The trouble is that high mids and very high notes fall sharply in volume. Percussive shimmer, the delicate sibilance of a violin, the pierce of a piccolo—these notes lack decent prominence.
That's a shame, too, because these things are otherwise a total ace. They block loads of annoying outside noises, thanks to their in-ear ear form factor. They absolutely dominated our distortion tests, they balance volume expertly in both speakers, and they don't produce any unwanted echoing. The only hangup is the lack of emphasis on tip-top notes, and that can be a real deal breaker for audiophiles or classical lovers.
One performance drawback and a lot of competition make these a rather tough sell.
Before you buy the DX 120iE in-ears (MSRP $109), consider these key drawbacks: Bass overwhelms the soundscape because of underemphasized treble, and there is no microphone or remote.
Perhaps you never use a mic and remote, and maybe you love big, booming bass. After all, the DX 120 iE aced every other performance test we threw at them: They're comfortable, free of distortion, and great isolators, too. Either way, shopping around never hurts. Better priced, better-performing options are frequently just around the bend.
Beyerdynamic mastered many of our tests with its DX 120 iE in-ear headphones (MSRP $99). The isolation results, the distortion results, the tracking—just one great performance point after another. Unfortunately, these in-ears dropped the ball during a crucial test, which is why they don't come highly recommended.
To determine how a product emphasizes each frequency along the audible spectrum, we run a test. Are high frequencies too loud? How audible is the midrange? Collecting and measuring a product's frequency response (FR) tells us as much.
Take a look at the DX 120 iE's FR: Low and middle frequencies of between 20Hz and 2kHz are expertly handled. Bass is prominent, but middle frequencies are given plenty of emphasis in volume, too—so nothing is lost in the shuffle.
But then volume plummets sharply after 2kHz, so that most of the upper range is a good 25dB quieter than the thumping bass range. This means that while bass is pounding away at a volume of 80+dB, delicate details like high notes on a violin live at more like 60dB and 70dB—making them difficult to hear. This is why the DX 120 iE's soundscape sounds very bass heavy.
Many consumers choose in-ear headphones because the shape naturally blocks notable amounts of outside noise. The same goes for the DX 120 iE, which block an average of 21dB of the noisy, outside world.
To completely block grinding, booming, low-end disturbances, you'll need active noise cancelers. These Beyerdynamics only reduce those bassy bothers by half. Happily, midrange irritants are quelled to 1/4 their original loudness, and very high-pitched noise are reduced to as much as 1/16 and higher.
Aside from its tendency to underemphasize high frequencies, the DX 120 iE really nailed all of our tests. These distortion measurements are very low, which is ideal. When we take these measurements, we're trying to find out how much added noise and clipped harmonics a set of headphones produces, and we're always hoping to find no more than 3% total harmonic distortion (THD).
The DX 120 iE accomplishes this, averaging more like 1% THD across the board—a really great result. The measurements are even minimal throughout the sub-bass range, which is normally much more hampered by distortion.
Even more impressive, unless you crank these in-ears up to more than 125.93dB, the THD keeps below 3%. Be sure never to listen that loudly, though—it's terrible for your hearing.
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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email