Sennheiser Earphones Fakes, or Not?

April 18, 2010

Technology

I’ve gone through quite a few pairs of Sennheiser’s CX200, CX300 II and one CX 500 ear-canal earphones, most of which (though not all) have been bought through EBay resellers. For the most part, they have been good quality – with the occasional store-bought pair being indistinguishable in listening or packaging quality.

One of my recent purchases was a pair of CX500s from another reseller – even though they were packed convincingly, the sound was pathetic – accordingly, the reseller refunded my money instantly (and didn’t even ask for the product back) – of course he played dumb on the suggestion that they were counterfeit, however I am sure his lightening-fast quick response was directly in defense of his 100% seller rating.

The average retail store RRP for the CX300s is $89, however, I have never paid anymore than $25 for a pair of these through EBay.  It’s conceivable that retail stores overheads and middle men impose huge premiums, but I’d like to think that competition would impose a natural ceiling on this. So, am I getting a knock-off (counterfeit), a factory ‘back door’ model, or the genuine product?

CX300 II Precision, or Precision Copies? [unboxing]

What follows is a unboxing of my latest pair of Sennheiser CX300 II Precision in-ear-canal earphones purchased from an EBay seller with a 100% red-star rating.  The packaging is seemingly identical to  those available in a local chain retail store nearby.  Having read some of the articles/posts on fake Sennheisers, I accept that  you may have a better eye than I do:

01overview

02overview

Impeccable packaging:

03backfront

There are no giveaways here – the earphones snap neatly into the plastic packaging.

04budsincase

Everything is where it should be. Is the coding on the bag a clue?

05

Although the photos don’t show it, the print on the paper insert was indiscernible from that on packaging of my most recent store-bought pair. Of course, this would be a unfair benchmark if the retail store products were also fakes.  I mean, apart from dealing with official distributors, why would your average record store attendant have even the first clue?

06diag

Probably the lowest quality packing (the cord in the plastic bag) of all, but still okay:

08cordinplastic

09cordplug

Others have pointed out that the grille on the speaker is a clue to spotting a faking – is this the right grille?

10bud1

11bud2

12budandtag

The silicon rubber sleeves/caps appear to be good quality:

13budscloseup1

Corroborating Evidence

It does take much searching to find numerous articles about fake Sennheisers: AnythingButIPod | FakeHeadPhones | Ebay’s Guide on ‘Real vs Fake’ CX300s | Home Gadgets ‘How to spot a fake’ | and many more. The trouble with these posts however is that the counterfeiters would surely use these as  “to do” list for successive batches.

By the way, in case you’re wondering – the high attrition rate of these earphones for me is not due to product failure, but my own negligence – the usual culprit cause is allowing them to become tangled up in my bike chain or wheels.

Imitation: the Sincerest?

Assuming that this sample, or, if not, certainly the many others like it is counterfeit, what is Sennheiser doing about this problem?  Is it that they take the position is that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, or is this an adaptation of the old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicty”. On Sennheiser’s Counterfeiting page, they seem to pay lip service to the issue but conveniently hide behind the general warning:

You should be alarmed if the products are being offered at an extraordinary low price

Yes, well that’s convenient isn’t it :-/  We’re all not stupid enough to believe these things costs anywhere near $80 to make, probably more like $10.  Which is not to say that Sennheiser’s don’t have a right to recover research, development and administration costs.

Hello Sennheiser .. Beuller?

Sennheiser, you have a good name amongst fellow audiophiles – why are you not aggressively pursuing this issue?  At the very least, post your own reference images (fakes vs genuine) – and, importantly, keep it up to date. We want to buy your product for a reasonable price.  We want to pay you a reasonable stipend of ongoing development and evolution of your products.

How about you side-step (or compliment) your distributors and, sans the packaging (that’ll save $5), fulfill orders directly? We want to see more proactive action from you – certainly more recent raids than 2006 .. and perhaps slimming your line from 20-odd ear-canal models, to say [take a deep breath] 3 or 4, but which are renewed frequently to stay ahead to the counterfeiters.

What do you think?

Fake or not?  Is a good fake as good as the real deal (ethics aside)? What are the ethical and long term implications for improved products from Sennheiser (et al)? Left unchecked, will counterfeiters will eventually cannibalise the likes of these manufacturers?

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About Justin Moss

An information and engineering technologist. Unabashedly opinionated, open-minded and an oft overthinker. Born Sydney Australia, home of the 'Southerly Buster'

View all posts by Justin Moss

22 Responses to “Sennheiser Earphones Fakes, or Not?”

  1. Matthew Scarlett Says:

    As the editor of one of the aforementioned site fakeheadphones.com I’ve read your post with interest.

    The main problem with you’re agreement is that there are no consistencies with counterfeit products. I’ve had a few counterfeit CX300’s in my time, and one varied greatly from the other, not only in terms of build quality, but also in terms of sound quality. Some sound O.K. but nowhere near the quality of the originals, but most sounded far worst than their $10 price tag suggests!

    The other problem is that regardless of the price, people are walking around thinking that what they are listening to is the real Sennheiser, Bose, and Audio Technica, Sony sound. To the manufacturers I speak to they all say the same thing. People moan about the product, build quality & sound are the two most common complaints. Of course when the customer sends them to the manufacturer, they’re fake!

    The last issue is that of them being counterfeit. Sellers will tell you that they’re OEM product, which means nothing by the way. I have no problem with some two bit factory in the Far east creating a piece of junk for a few pence, and then selling them for a few dollars, however when they then label and promote their garbage headphones as something they are not, that then turns into a counterfeit product, and at best you are being deceived into thinking that you are buying something you’re not. That’s why you get the like of a Bang & Olufsen store telling me that he sees 3-5 pairs of B&O A8 earphones broken with a complaining customer!

    Sennheiser criticized my site in the beginning, saying that counterfeiters could use the site to perfect their products. I returned an email stating that the best way they could do this would be to buy the original products. BTW Sennheiser don’t criticize my site anymore, and I am sponsored by two of the biggest name in the Audio world! But for now my lips are sealed on that.

    The problem is that if someone was stealing money out of my pocket, I would not pay him or her “lip service” and your statement suggesting that they are, is pretty niece. It’s to do with people like me and you, cutting corners; buying from sites we shouldn’t be buying from, and are not advised to buy from, in order to save a quick buck. We all do it; we’re all to blame.

    It’s not a matter of the Manufacturer’s not doing anything, it a matter of we keep on buying this stuff, even when we know that the item is fake. And our friendly global auction site does precious little to stem the problem, that’s why Tiffanys took ebay to court twice. That wasn’t “Lip service”.

    Shure seized a huge shipment in early … 2009, with… I think it was around $1,000,000 (street value) shipment. Again this isn’t “lip service”. I have contacts with various manufacturers who have dedicated departments now to deal with the problem of fake headphones.

    This is the main problem (watch the videos)

    http://www.fakeheadphones.com/forum/index.php?topic=539.msg1827#msg1827

    As for your CX300II’s, they’re fake; the grill is a dead giveaway.

  2. Justin Moss Says:

    Matthew, many thanks for taking to time reply in such detail. As the son of someone whose 40 year business manufacturing was effectively and critically eroded by counterfeiters both in the far east and in concert with local sellers, I do not wish to endorse (in anyway) purveyors of counterfeit products, but merely bring to the attention of other buyers that fakes are getting harder to spot. Perhaps I was a little hard on the manufacturers (re “lip service”), but clearly big companies are not doing enough – you can see it in the video in your forums, manufacturers shrug their shoulders and shake their heads, suggesting that this is a battle they just can’t win. Really? Surely a pareto approach (in the form of let’s say and class-action law suit against Ebay’s WRT their reputation management system) would be a good start. As for these particular CX300s, how is the grille a “dead giveaway”?

  3. Matthew Scarlett Says:

    First of all let me correct myself.

    The Grills aren’t a dead giveaway. I was comparing them to the CX300 pictures on my site, where the grill and I got confused with one picture in particular. Serves me right for writing when I do, late at night.

    I’m not quite seeing the ‘V’ grove in the silver driver casing. the grove is in the right place (offset to one side) but please check if the grove has a predominant ‘V’ design.

    Your CX300’s ‘look’ the part, so for now I’ll say, if they are fake, then I’m unable (as a human being) to tell the difference. the only other way I would b e able to tell in this instance would be:

    1) sound test

    2) the pouch test.

    Again I can’t quite see from the image of the pouch inside the plastic bag, what’s going on.

    Let me address some of your concerns. Counterfeits never stay the same. they will always develop their product to confuse people, however by their very nature of cutting corners and cutting costs, there will always be a noticeable difference somewhere within each pair that are bought. It can’t be otherwise!

    The Bose In Ears that I bought were near identical in looks until I got to the carrying pouch. the zip was different and the leather was cut rather roughly.

    From my point of view, ebay are doing precious little to stop the sale of counterfeit goods, and when there is a complaint, they seem to side with the seller and not the buyer, which shows to me, where their interests lie.

    What can we do? All I can tell you is what I did and what I intend to do. To paraphrase a conversation I had with one manufacturer: As soon as we get one factory shut down, three spring up elsewhere.

    Yes we might be loosing this battle, however that does not concern me. My goal is to do what I can.

    My ultimate goal would be that fakeheadphones.com would become such an influence for good, that everyone will come to the site, before they make a decision of whether to buy or not. Big goal? Maybe an impossible one, however I’m trying, you’re trying and my forum members, who are the strength of fakheadphones.com are trying.

    The only reason I found this article is because you’ve taken time to write a post, you’ve included images and you’ve linked to fakheadphones.com

    So I come home, check the ‘comments’ box in my admin panel, trying to decide whether to ‘approve, delete or spam’ the comment, and there was a link to your article.

    For good or bad, we must share. I’m not saying fakeheadphones.com is the only resource. A lot of my links point to head-fi.org, I contribute on that site as much as I can, and I join other forums and comment whenever I feel it’s appropriate. But I get involved. I wnat to warn people.

    I’m an Art student at university. I work for [brand name] part time. I have no more power and authority, than you do, but like you, I want people to take note that there is an issue.

    http://scarlettsart.wordpress.com/

    Some big name companies that approve of what I do, now back me. I get many websites emailing me saying things like: we like your cause and if we can help.

    I don’t care about how many factories there are, I just saying that I will not lie down and accept things as they are. It’s nice when I get an email and someone expresses thanks. In actual fact, it’s the contribution of everyone that counts, even your article here.

    I would like to be in a financial situation where I could deal with this full time, where I could afford every single possible counterfeit out there, and do a comparison. But I am one person and we all need to help each other. I get such help buy those who are members of my forum. jaywalkra and Den90 in particular are great at spotting boxes and packaging. I’m not so attentive as I should be in this area. I prefer to look and hear the products and concentrate on that area.

    Another slap on my wrist, is that I’ve never registered any of my headphones, and so once again I rely on others who have been through that process to share their knowledge.

    My Mistakes

    I don’t always get it right first time, as the ‘Grill’ comment on your blog will testify. However I always say that: I’d rather shout from the rooftops and be wrong, than sit there knowing that they’re fake and say nothing. I always hope that I remain humble enough to take correction when I am wrong!

    The issue is that (from my point of view I don’t speak on behalf of a manufacturer) it would take a serious amount of time and money to chase counterfeits products. And to be honest the guidelines are often obvious and are set in place and are all we really need.

    If one will step outside the authorised dealer network, then you take a serious risk. Counterfeits companies feed on our need to ‘save money’. I don’t want to call it greed, but If a Sennheiser product from authorised dealers cost £39.99 retail, and the dealers (online) price is £28.99 and you see a pair online, not from a dealer for £18.99, then you’re playing with fire! That might sound harsh, but that’s the way it is.

    Don’t get me wrong, I cut corners to. I’ve just an ipod classic 120GGB from Cash Converters in town for £100. we all like a deal, all I’m saying is be prepared!

    headphonesales.co.uk

    I had an interesting ‘live chat’ with someone from headphonesales.co.uk, and they started out by admitting that the headphones they sale weren’t ‘Authentic’. After the chat my goal was then to make sure that if someone typed into google “headphone sales” or “headphonesales” or “headphonesales.co.uk” that under the search results, that you would see “fakeheadphones.com” and a comment about the fake headphone they’re selling. So it became a real vendetta.

    http://www.fakeheadphones.com/forum/index.php?topic=536.msg1780#msg1780

    Now if you type in “headphonesales” or “headphonesales.co.uk” you’ll see Fakeheadphones in the search results (I’ve just had a go):

    fakeheadphones.com » headphonesales OEM confusion!
    headphonesales give the poorest excuse for selling counterfeit headphones. “They’re OEM.’ – Oh really! Not heard that excuse before … much! …

    fakeheadphones.com » headphonesale.co.uk
    2 Apr 2010 … So when I saw the ‘Live Chat’ option at headphonesale.co.uk, I thought I would ask about the authenticity of the headphones they’re selling. …

    fakeheadphones.com
    Revealing live chat with headphonesale.co.uk admits the headphones are “not … I’ve already done a little piece on headphonesale.co.uk on the forum. …

    The point is I kept on writing small articles until I saw Fakeheadphones.com up there. Now if you type in those search terms into google, they are 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the results.

    What will this do and will it have an effect? Truth, I don’t know, but I hope that when someone does check out headphonesales.co.uk via google they’ll see that headphonesales.co.uk are con artists!

    Justin, don’t give up. I may not reach the whole headphone world in the way head-fi.org does, but I’m trying to do my best to help people who have wasted their hard earned cash on a piece of nothing, garbage!

    It’s people like you, who will make the difference in someone’s life. Keep it up

    Matt Scarlett
    Editor for fakeheadphones.com

  4. tko Says:

    the grill is a dead giveaway…100% fake

  5. JS Says:

    the grill is a dead giveaway…100% fake * 2

    Just bought the CX-300 II from an authorized seller and examined it about 30 min.

    The grill of the genuine product is like the meshes of a net, not like the pictures above.

  6. Janice Says:

    Fake headphones? I wouldn’t like that very much. This is a good review of a product that if you are not familiar with the functions of the product or how it is suppose to sound you may get a fake without knowing it. I haven’t used any of the ear buds, but would like to try a pair. I have had some experience with the Sennheiser 450 headphones, but they are definitely different than what is being displayed here. They have great sound quality, plus noise cancellation capability. So, if you don’t want a fake, try them instead.

  7. Weebel Says:

    The Sennheiser CX 400-II “Precision” headphones my husband bought me for Valentine’s Day just arrive.

    I was looking at your photos…great by the way…and noticed one thing.

    In the shot where you show the top of the box you have what looks like 2 sets of rubber adapters for ear size. I have three. It could well be the difference in the model. The adapters in your photo look thicker than mine and more rounded at the top. Again…could be the model.

    I can’t get a good look at the grill through the plastic case, but from what I can see, it looks like mesh vs. a metal bit with holes in it if that makes any sense.

    On the right side of the package, there is also additonal information including 2 year warranty and what’s in the box which includes,[Model] “ear-canal phones, Extended ear adapter set (S/M/L), Cable winder, Cable clip, Carrying pouch.” The clear box had a generic plastic sleeve wrapped in plain brown paper.

    It was shipped from Global Electronics USA, New York.

    I haven’t opened the package yet just in case.

    Hope this helps.

  8. Justin Moss Says:

    Hi Belinda, thank you for the feedback and descriptions. Unfortunately it’s nigh on impossible to tell the fakes from the real ones. The presence of real mesh, rather than drilled screen, was supposed to be the one ‘easy’ way to tell them apart (the mesh being genuine), but who knows … the counterfeiters are probably onto that trick too. If Global Electronics is an authorised Sennheiser dealer, that may be all the assurance you need.

  9. freedom1 Says:

    I have bought at least half a dozen fakes and a few real ones online.

    Surprisingly I have been able to spot the fake almost instantly when I listened to it. It also depends on the ear. My sister couldn’t tell the difference. But in the fake ones the sound is muffled. You try on all the silicone piece sizes and they all sound like garbage. Now with cx-300 – the jack is where the truth is.

    Look at the jack on the original. It’s not elongated where it covers the metal. The fake ones almost have a ‘snout’ shape. look carefully. Plus the real ones have a shiny, non-elastic plastic feel to them as compared to the fake ones. If it feels like rubber, it is probably nothing more than that.

  10. Voja Says:

    These look ok, most probably genuine.

  11. BOB Says:

    these are fake, a square cut in the driver casing where there should be a V; the grill does not look as finely woven as my reseller-purchased ones.

  12. jimmy Says:

    all packets with mostly red writing are fakes. i brought mine an the propper shop and the packet is comletely different to this one

  13. Luke Says:

    Well. I just bought a pair of the white “eco” CX-300 II’s my 3rd pair the 1st purchase being from JB HI fI and the other two from ebay. My current pair sound extremely close to the original, i can’t even remember the differences. If their fake then the sound quality should be bad i.e. if its worse than the apple headphones that nearly everyone owns then their fakes, if they sound better than they’re either original and if not than you still got some good sounding headphone for $25. Just go with a good seller from ebay.

  14. ahmadeus Says:

    just look at the jack. doesnt have any Sennheiser look. and yes, the finishing look srateher horrible

  15. revanth Says:

    I want to purchase sennheiser cx300ii precision from these link [tradera]. can any one find these are fake or real. please help me.

  16. Justin Moss Says:

    My guess – fake

  17. Pete Smith Says:

    Hi

    Just sending back some dubious CX300s.
    Would it be possible for you to list a selection of reputable Ebay dealers?
    In terms of support from manufacturers how about them looking at the packaging? Having a whole heap of plastic is obviously not working so that cant be an excuse so what about packaging that is clear so that sellers would have to show a clear view of the product within their ad? Most of the comments here are from people who have bought the item and then had to open them to have a look.
    Pete

  18. jens Says:

    just compare it with the picture on the packaging. Real FAKE!!!

  19. Justin Moss Says:

    I would love to see a list of authentic sellers, however, as a rule, I would say ALL Sennheisers on Ebay are fake. Of course, “fake” doesn’t mean they don’t work – some say the quality is indiscernible from the genuine units.

    If in doubt, only buy from resellers authorised by Sennheiser (www.sennheiser.com)

  20. Ben Says:

    From the photos above, none belongs to genuine Sennheiser.

  21. fußsack Says:

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for sennheiser

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