Sennheiser is well-known for its great-sounding noise-cancelling headphones, and its latest, the Sennheiser HD 450BT, offer a cheaper alternative to previous models like the Momentum 3 Wireless and class-leaders like the Sony WH-1000XM3.
With a minimal design and built-in noise cancellation, these fully-foldable wireless headphones are aimed squarely at the commuting crowd. But how do they stack up against their pricier competitors?
We put the Sennheiser HD 450BT to the test, and we think the company is onto a winner with these sleek over-ear headphones.
[Update: Sennheiser has launched an updated version of the HD 450BT. The Sennheiser HD 450SE come with Alexa support, and are an Amazon exclusive.]
Price and availability
The Sennheiser HD 450BT are available to buy for $199 / £159 – that works out at around AU$280, but we’re still waiting on official pricing and availability in Australia.
That’s considerably cheaper than the best headphones of 2020, the $349 / £300 / AU$499 Sony WH-1000XM3, and the brand’s previous model; the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless come in at $339 / £349 / AU$599.
These minimalist over-ear headphones come in black and white color variants; we tried the white model, which sport chic silver-gray ear cushions and detailing on the headband.
They look quite stylish, if not as eye-catching as the recently released Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones; for some, the subdued design may be a little underwhelming, but if you prefer an understated design, these cans will probably be right up your street.
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. Thanks to that foldable design, they take up a minimal amount of room in your bag, making them ideal for travel.
Compared to the Momentum 3 Wireless headphones, the build of the new cans feels less premium and less sturdy: the plastic construction could even be described as feeling flimsy.
The build of the new cans isn't as sturdy or premium as the Momentum 3 Wireless headphones, and the plastic construction can feel a bit flimsy at times.
While that lower-grade build is reflected by the lower price, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a more luxurious finish for the money.
One benefit of this plasticky design is that the HD 450BTs feel very light, and are comfortable to wear during long listening sessions. The earcups are generously padded, and they don’t lead to the clamping sensation that’s common with on-ear and over-ear headphones.
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.
Battery life and connectivity
With 30 hours of battery life (that’s with active noise cancellation turned on), the Sennheiser HD 450BTs can stand up against the Sony WH-1000XM3, and beat the Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 by a significant 10-hour margin. It’s also far superior to the 17 hours offered by the more expensive Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless.
Pairing these wireless headphones with our devices was a breeze, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 support. Gamers will be pleased to know that, as well as codecs like aptX, AAC, and SBC, these cans support aptX Low Latency, so you shouldn’t experience any annoying lag between what you’re seeing on your screen and hearing through the audio. When watching video on our smartphone, we didn’t experience any latency issues either.
The Sennheiser HD 450BT work with the Sennheiser Smart Control app, which allows you to toggle the equalizer settings: a cool touch that will appeal to those who really like to personalize the sound of their headphones.
Unlike the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless, there’s no option to switch between noise-cancelling modes; you can only switch the noise cancellation on and off using the dedicated switch on the right earcup.
We found that the noise cancellation worked well enough, although it seemed to be better at blocking out low, rumbling noises than higher pitched tones. For example, while using them outdoors, they did a great job of cancelling out the sound of heavy wind rushing through the trees, but we could still pick out sirens in the distance (in terms of safety, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.)
Sennheiser’s onto a winner with the soundstage it’s crafted for the HD 450BTs; detailed and clear, without sounding too dry and boring, these headphones convey a fantastic blend of high fidelity sound with warm, fun-to-listen-to bass frequencies.
This combination of controlled (yet warm) bass and tight, lively trebles became apparent when we listened to Kendrick Lamar’s Alright; smooth, dissonant vocals provided a challenging harmonic background that was cut through with crisp snares and resonant drums.
Moving on to King Kunta gave the cans a chance to really show off those lower frequencies, with deep, spongy bass lines underpinning cartoonish chimes and distressed electric guitars with toe-tapping energy.
Wanting to test the Sennheiser HD 450BTs on something a little mellower, we opted for Joanna Newsom’s Sprout and the Bean. The plucked harp showed off the full range of these headphones, with rumbling bass notes and trickling treble melodies.
Listening to this track, we felt that the headphones handled all the temporal and dynamic changes really well. Sure, you’ll get more dynamic range and a wider soundstage from the Momentum 3 Wireless, but the HD 450Bts sound clear enough to bring out the hidden details in your music.
We did notice that the headphones struggled a little with busy, mid frequency-heavy tracks like The National’s Sea of Love. We’d have liked to have heard more of the top-end from this track, and found some of the higher guitar drones became lost in the mix.
If we were to nitpick, we’d also have preferred a more open sound from these headphones; they do have a more closed-off feel compared to the Momentum 3 Wireless.
Overall, we’re quite impressed by the Sennheiser HD 450BT, particularly in the way they sound; their well-balanced profile should appeal audiophiles and bass-hunters alike.
Battery life and connectivity are both very good, and the noise-cancelling works well enough, although you might find that these headphones don’t quite block out all external noise.
Our biggest bugbear is with the flimsy-feeling build of these cans; even though they’re cheaper than the Momentum 3 Wireless, $199 / £159 is still a lot of money to pay for headphones – and for that, we think it’s fair to expect a more premium-feeling build.
Saying that, they look pretty good on, and if you’re after a cheaper alternative to the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM3, the Sennheiser HD 450BTs are a great choice.