Sennheiser recently added to their excellent noise cancelling headphones line-up with the HD 4.50 BTNC. The wireless headphone is their mid-range offering at $200 USD ($299 AUD £169.00). Sennheiser haven’t cut any corners though, and it has many of the features of more expensive models. To see more where this came from, go to the Parrot Zik 3 headphones review.
The HD 4.50 BTNC features wired and wireless operation, 19 hours of battery life with noise cancellation on (25 hours with it off) and a broad frequency response of 18 – 22,000 Hz. It’s comfortable, sounds great and is easy to use. There’s a few issues here and there which we’ll discuss, but overall the design and build is very high quality.
Huge sound from Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
The HD 4.50 BTNC offers great audio performance, especially for the price. It has a punchy, bass-focused sound that remains balanced enough to work with a variety of styles. It has a detailed response and you’ll notice little things with this model you won’t hear on other set-ups. The flagship Sennheiser PXC 550 undeniably sounds crisper and more detailed, but you have to A/B the two headphones to notice it.
Bring Me the Horizon’s Happy Song sounds huge through the HD 4.50 BTNC. You can hear all the details in the drums and the guitars. The rhythm guitars and vocals are brought forward in the mix, and the bass guitar sounds thick and full. For something different, I also put Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta through the Sennheisers. The synth bass sounds massive, driving the entire mix. The vocals are up front and centre, while the subtle drums and guitar melodies are pushed back. Bass-focused genres like hip hop and EDM are clearly right at home with these headphones.
Sturdy build from Sennheiser
The headphone is made out of hardened plastic and synthetic leather. It’s not as sturdy as a model designed for professional use like the AKG K240 MKII, but for regular listening you shouldn’t have any issues. The HD 4.50 BTNC earcups swivel for comfort, and they can be collapsed into the headband for storage.
Easy to use design
You can control the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC via the buttons on the right earpiece, which are easy to use. Turning on the headphones and noise-cancellation requires you to press down longer than I consider comfortable, but that’s the only issue I have with the controls. The Sennheiser PXC 550 has a touch-based control scheme and turns off when you swivel the headphones around. I miss the latter feature but apart from that, the controls on the HD 4.50 BTNC work just as well.
Soft case only
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC ships with a charging cable, a cable for wired operation and a soft case. Obviously the case is one area where Sennheiser have tried to keep the price down. Personally I’d definitely prefer a hardcase for a $200 headphone, so it’s probably worth the extra expense of buying one.
Quality noise cancellation from Sennheiser
The headphone features Sennheiser’s excellent noise cancellation technology. As far as I can tell it uses the same noise cancellation as the PXC 550, which puts it among the best in the market. It takes almost all low frequency ambient noise out of the equation and leaves a small amount of high frequency noise. As a result it makes travel much less tiring, as engine noise is pushed right into the background
I’m pretty picky when it comes to headphone comfort, but I found the HD 4.50 BTNC easy to wear for long sessions. It’s more comfortable than the older Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 (our review here), but it can’t match the superb PXC 550. I’ve had no problems with wearing the HD 4.50 BTNC for several hours, although if I was doing a 12-hour flight the pressure of the cups would probably start becoming an issue. Additionally, like most noise cancelling headphones, turning this mode on can cause a sensation of pressure on the eardrums. Sennheiser have improved this issue since their earlier designs. Nonetheless, if you think this still might be an problem for you, it’s best to try out the headphones in person.
Comparing the market
In the sub-$300 wireless noise-cancelling headphone market, the main competitors are the Sony XB950N1 ($248), Plantronics BackBeat PRO ($148) and Samsung Level Over-Ear ($249). Most brands seem to be launching more expensive noise cancelling models these days, so most headphones in this price range are older models.
The Sony has a real bass-heavy response, and isn’t quite as versatile, despite being more expensive. The Plantronics BackBeat PRO is an older design, so it’s more affordable. It has an impressive 24-hour battery life, although it’s not the most comfortable pair of cans going. Like the HD 4.50 BTNC, the Plantronics has a bass-focused sound but remains versatile overall. The Samsung Level Over-Ear sounds great and has a very balanced response. Unfortunately it offers a smaller battery life of 15 hours and the noise cancellation isn’t that powerful.
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC is an excellent entry into the wireless noise cancelling headphone market. I’d go as far to say it’s the best headphone of its type at the $200 price point. It has a powerful audio response with plenty of bass (but not too much) and is fairly comfortable and easy to use. The headphone’s noise cancellation performs well and while it’s not built like a tank, it’s certainly tough enough for everyday listening.