It s good, but it could be even better. Sennheiser HD 450BT and HD350BT - review

Good headphones with active noise reduction are expensive. It's a sad fact - despite the passage of time, we still have to pay dearly for decent ANC, as well as decent wireless headphones in general. Sennheiser HD 450BT and HD 350BT are trying to deal with this problem. With what effect?

When we look at prices of Bluetooth headphones with ANC from the top shelf, we look at prices from 1200 to 1700 PLN. Expensive.

However, there are few devices priced around PLN 500-700 that would offer decent sound, good ANC and as-such comfort at the same time; this territory is still reserved for the best.

Sennheiser tried to change this state of affairs three years ago, with the HD 4.50BTNC model. These headphones, costing around PLN 500 today, were close to perfection in their class. It was felt, however, that we are dealing with a lower-end product, and their quality of work left something to be desired.

Now Sennheiser has shown the successor to this model - HD 450BT - and its even cheaper counterpart, without noise reduction: HD 350BT.

I spent over a month with these headphones, using them alternately in different situations. Conclusions? It's good, but it could be even better.

Sennheiser HD 450BT or HD 350BT - what connects them?

Both models look almost identical from the outside. Both are available in black and white, both are roughly the same construction and are made of probably the same materials. Even the weight is identical - 238 g.

Both models can work on one charge for up to 30 hours and we both charge with a USB-C connector. In both cases, charging from zero to full takes about 2 hours.

With HD 450BT I was able to squeeze 28 hours without charging, with HD 350BT about 26, so the working time does not quite coincide with the manufacturer's declaration, but it does not depart from it enough to make an affair of it.

Both pairs of headphones connect via Bluetooth 5.0 with support for SBC, aptX, aptX LL and AAC codecs and both did not cause any problems in this matter during the month of testing.

The HD 450BT and HD 350BT Sennheisers are built almost identically, which has its pros and cons. A definite plus is the comfort of wearing and handling. Headphones fantastically adhere to the skull, do not choke the turbinates and do not press on the head. On the edge of the right box you will also find a number of physical switches - I personally prefer them over tapping the touch panels on the headphones.

Both models also have a button to wake up the voice assistant. If someone uses the Google Assistant, you can call it directly from the headphones, without having to take the phone out of your pocket.

On the downside, unfortunately, I have to include the material covering the headband. The rubberized surface collects every dirt, pollen and dust that is in its vicinity, and quickly ceases to look aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, the rest of the construction does not get dirty as much as in the HD 4.50 BTNC model.

Another downside is the inability to turn the cans after removing them from the head. We can only turn the earmuffs slightly, we can't turn them 90 degrees in any direction. As for removing the headphones from my head, I have one more problem - Sennheiser has not equipped the new headphones with an automatic pause mechanism, so when we slide the headphones off the head, they continue to play sounds. Like a small thing, but it is lacking.

Fortunately, the headphones take up little space when folded, so they can easily fit in your backpack or bag. Personally, I carried them in a photo backpack and easily pushed both models into the compartments for lenses.

We also get a material cover for the more expensive HD 450 BT model. It provides no protection, but at least the headphones won't get dirty in the backpack. In the cheaper HD 350 BT there is no cover, but it's probably a small loss.

A much greater loss for many people may be the lack of a headphone connector, which is in the HD 450BT, and which in the HD 350BT for some reason was missing.

Which leads me to the other differences between the models.

Sennheiser HD 450BT or HD 350BT - what's the difference?

The basic and most important difference between both models is ANC.

Only the more expensive HD 450BT have a noise reduction function in the form of proprietary NoiseGard technology. On the HD 350BT, noise suppression is passive.

I tested the quality of NoiseGard technology in the HD 450BT model during two Słupsk-Warsaw connections at PKP Intercity, as well as flying from Warsaw to Munich. And I must say that I am very impressed by how well it insulated me from the roar of rail cars rushing on the rails or the monotonous, sleepy drone of aircraft engines.

NoiseGard performs perfectly in the case of uniform noises. It's a bit worse when we want to isolate ourselves from passengers with a crying child or a representative of the Januszex company in a mandatory blue suit, dealing with important matters by telephone so that every passenger hears that these are important matters .

The HD 450BT Sennheisers did quite well in cutting me off from the general harmony of railway stations and the Warsaw airport, and even at home they quite effectively distanced from me the sound of knocking on the keyboard. So they will be as it found for office use, especially for people working in the recently fashionable altpenas .

As I mentioned above, ANC did not affect the headphones' working time, which is still around 30 hours. This is due to the fact that the HD 450BT have twice the battery than the HD 350BT.

The ANC affects the sound quality quite drastically.

At first I was a bit surprised that the cheaper HD 350BT sounded better on my ear than the HD 450BT. I solved the puzzle only by turning off NoiseGard in the more expensive model.

Then both pairs began to play almost identically, although the HD 450BT have a slightly wider frequency response than the cheaper model. When you turn on noise reduction, the Sennheiser HD 450BT unfortunately lose quite much detail and clarity of sound; it also becomes explicitly "digital".

However, I will say simply that even without ANC turned on, the sound of the new Sennheiser headphones will not break anything. It is correct, relatively susceptible to graphic equalizer in a dedicated application, but it is difficult for me to write something warmer about them.

There is a lot of bass that boasts. It doesn't boast that the bass is quite "muddy" and not very selective. The same can be said about the other frequencies. Listening to music, I sometimes felt like I was listening to speakers placed behind Plexiglas. The headphones lack detail, individual notes blend together, and the music scene is way too tight for my taste.

What's worse, these are universal features for all music genres I've heard. These headphones sound simply average. It hurts especially in the case of the model without ANC, because if we ignore the issue of wireless convenience, then for the same money we buy headphones with a cable that will sweep the Sennheisers HD 350BT (and HD 450BT along the way) with sound quality.

I really liked the podcast dedicated mode available in the application for mobile devices. Dedicated setting raises the frequencies of the human voice, thanks to which they break through the sounds of the environment much better. I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks, and this feature turns out to be surprisingly useful.

Finally, I have to mention one problem that I encountered during testing - the cheaper HD 350BT had a clear problem with the built-in microphones for conversations. I tested them in tandem with two phones and if they worked properly with the Samsung Galaxy A71, in the case of the iPhone 11 the collected sound was muffled and blurred.

However, this may be a matter of this particular copy. I was also unable to replicate the problem on the more expensive HD 450BT.

It is a pity that in terms of sound the new Sennheisers are so average. Because in every other aspect they are great headphones, but it is difficult to appreciate these aspects when the cans flow the sound that we would expect from products from a much lower shelf. It could have been much better.

Worth or not worth?

When it comes to the more expensive Sennheiser HD 450BT, it's definitely worth it. Their average sound fully compensates for the comfort of use and excellent for this ANC price shelf.

For PLN 770, we get headphones that are great for everyday, urban use. Which employee of a loud corpo will be able to wear for 8 hours without getting tired. Which you can take on a long journey without worrying about the battery level.

As for the HD 350BT model, although it offers the same fantastic comfort and long working time, I wouldn't spend PLN 430 on it. For a simple reason - for less than PLN 200 we can still have a great HD 4.50 BTNC model with active noise reduction. For PLN 130 less - HD 4.40 model, without ANC, but with almost identical set of functions and possibilities.

There are also wireless headphones from other manufacturers at a price of up to PLN 400, which sound better and also do not have ANC.

Bottom line: Sennheisers HD 450BT I definitely say so, especially if you can get them a little cheaper than the current list price.

I would buy HD 350BT sennheisers only if comfort and working time have priority over sound quality. In any other case - there are better options.

It's good, but it could be even better. Sennheiser HD 450BT and HD350BT - review


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