The Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus have just been unveiled at CES 2023, and they are not what you’d call a conventional pair of true wireless earbuds.
What you get for $850 is a breakthrough pair of earbuds that bring the best of over-the-counter hearing aid technology to a sleek form factor, which revolutionizes the idea of a typical transparency mode, to help you hear conversations a lot clearer in busy/noisy environments.
Disclaimer: these are NOT hearing aids
Let me make something clear. These are not over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. Sure, they sport the tech and capabilities similar to something in this category, but they are not a replacement for any medical-grade hearing aid.
It all starts with the fact Sennheiser’s consumer division is now owned by hearing care solutions brand, Sonova. This means you’re getting Sonova chip technology that drives a lot of the capabilities in this system — packed with various sensors and microphones you’d expect from true wireless buds, alongside a beamforming mic that does something pretty magical.
In the app, you get three modes: “Relax” (Noise cancellation), “Communication” (the speech enhancement mode), and “Streaming” (music, podcast and content playback). My first test came courtesy of a small event with around 20 people in the room.
As I put the buds in, you can actively hear the buds start to make sense of the environmental noise, and when my PR rep began to talk to me from two meters away, his voice stood out — almost like he was wearing a lapel microphone.
This is all part of the buds’ “advanced speech enhancement technology,” which uses the on-board mics and ANC to isolate particular voices based on who you’re looking at. The effect is weird at first, but once your ears get used to it, the impact is amazing.
Plus, the traditional side of these earbuds means you’re getting Bluetooth connectivity, a 9-hour listening time extended to 27 with case charging, and that signature Sennheiser sound. When speaking to a representative, they do mention that the Momentum True Wireless 3 are the optimal option for those who just want a great music experience, but in personal testing, the Clear Plus do come damn close to providing that same clarity and warmth.
Since the FDA announced the law change that allows for OTC hearing aids to be sold last year, many companies have jumped in to provide their own solutions. Sennheiser is taking a slightly different route by providing something of a middle ground — buds that do provide similar tech, but to help you hear conversations better in noisier situations.
And from my small amount of time using them at CES, they really do work wonders on the show floor. $850 may be a steep price at a time we’re all watching our bank balances, but to those who have hearing difficulties, it’s a worthwhile investment.