Sennheiser came to CES 2020 with two new pairs of wireless headphones, one of which comes with built-in active noise cancellation, as well as support for low latency audio and the Google Assistant / Siri smart assistants.
The new Sennheiser HD 450BT cans build on the success of the brand's previous noise-cancelling headphones, the HD 4.50BTNC, and at less than $200 / £200, could prove a wallet-friendly alternative to the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM3.
We spent a little time getting to grips with the new cans at the Las Vegas tech show, and so far, we're impressed – if not blown away.
Price and availability
Available to buy in mid-February, the Sennheiser HD 450BT will set you back $199, which works out at around £150 / AU$280 based on current conversion rates – we're still waiting on official pricing outside of the US, but we'll be sure to update this review as soon as we get it.
If the new over-ear headphones can measure up in terms of sound quality and noise cancellation, they could prove a compelling alternative to the $349 / £300 / $499 Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones.
These minimalist over-ear headphones come in black and white color variants – we tried the white model, which sports chic-looking gray ear cushions and silver detailing on the headband.
Fully-foldable, the Sennheiser HD 450BT are geared towards listening on the go, and can be easily stowed away in your bag when not in use.
When we tried them on for size they felt comfortable enough, although some people may prefer a little more padding on the headband; we'll need to spend more time with these headphones to find out how they fare during long listening sessions.
Compared to the recently released Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones, the build of the new cans feels less premium and less sturdy. While that is reflected by the lower price, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a more luxurious finish for your money.
On the bottom of the right earcup you'll find a USB-C charging port, a 3.5mm jack, buttons to control your music playback and voice calls, and a dedicated button to summon your voice assistant of choice, whether that's Siri or Google Assistant.
Features and performance
The Sennheiser HD 450BT headphones don't skimp on connectivity, with support for the latest Bluetooth 5.0 wireless standard, as well as the AAC, AptX and AptX Low Latency codecs (for syncing audio seamlessly with video).
They come with a companion app, Sennheiser Smart Control, for firmware updates, instructions, battery status, and the like – as well as a dedicated 'podcast mode' to improve the "intelligibility of podcasts, audio books, and other speech content".
We didn't get to test this feature out at CES, but we'll be sure to put these cans through their spoken word paces when we carry out our full review process.
While testing the new headphones, we were impressed by their well-balanced sound and the separation between the different frequencies. Listening to The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony, we heard the lush strings, with bowed cellos and pizzicato violins swept beneath rich vocals all come through clearly.
The HD 450BT don't have the widest soundstage we've heard, and the audio fidelity on offer doesn't quite match the Sony WH-1000XM3; that being said, they're enjoyable to listen with.
Noise-cancelling too, seems to be pretty good; standing in a crowded room, we were able to listen to the music in relative piece. Again, you don't get the total immersion of pricier noise-cancelling headphones, but they should work well enough to block out the worst of your noisy commute.
So far, we're impressed by the Sennheiser HD 450BT headphones – but we aren't exactly enamored, not yet anyway. They sound good, with a nicely balanced soundstage, but they don't have the audio chops of pricier models.
Noise cancellation is also pretty good, if not class-leading – but that's reflected in the price, as is the less premium-feeling build. Even so, you could argue that $200 is still a lot of money to spend on a pair of headphones, and many would expect more luxurious craftsmanship for that price.
While we'll need to spend more time with these headphones before we can make a definitive assessment, we do think they could make a savvy choice for anyone who wants the convenience of wireless noise cancellation, without the super steep price.
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