Sennheiser headphones hardly need to grab your attention with bold designs or out-there features - the brand’s strong reputation speaks for itself. The German brand has produced excellent wireless and noise-cancelling headphones, most notably the models in its iconic Momentum range, more or less since such concepts were invented.
So when the rather plain-looking, button-heavy Sennheiser HD 450BT wireless noise-cancellers land in our laps, we know all too well not to judge them by their cover.
We are initially a little disappointed by the mid-range cans, though – not so much by the understated design, which is robust and smartly finished in black or white, but by the controls. The world is increasingly moving on from physical buttons and towards touch, gesture and voice control, and while you shouldn’t expect an affordable pair of headphones such as these to adopt a sophisticated (and costly) system, nor should you have to blindly navigate such a busy button layout.
Each button has its purpose, of course. The one closest to the connector mechanism launches your phone’s voice assistant. Run your finger down the earcup and you’ll find a slider for play/pause and answering calls, skipping forward and backward tracks. There’s also a volume button, which you can manipulate for volume up and down with a suitable press.
Further around the earcup is another button, separated from the rest by a USB-C charging socket and a 2.5mm audio jack for plugging in the supplied 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cable. This button activates noise-cancelling and powers the headphones on and off.
Learning such an arrangement isn’t beyond the average user, but it does prevent quickly and instinctively reaching for the correct button.
The Sennheiser HD 450BTs are light and sturdy on your head, with the earpads clamping firmly over your ears to provide isolation and prevent unwanted movement. They may feel a bit tight on larger heads at first, but that should ease over time. Thanks to their reassuring build and foldable design, you won’t be afraid to sling their compactly folded form into a bag or cram them into a coat pocket.
A 30-hour battery life, which can be replenished in just two hours via their USB-C charging port, puts them on a par with the pricier, premium competition and actually pips that of Sennheiser’s flagship on-ears, the Momentum 3 Wirelesses.
Finishes Black or white
Bluetooth version 5.0 aptX
Battery life 30 hours
Control app Sennheiser Smart Control
Battery status can be viewed on the Sennheiser Smart Control App, which is also the gateway to performing firmware updates and adjusting EQ.
On the latter, you can drag a pointer around an equalisation map to adjust the balance towards more bass or treble. There’s no harm in favouring either to get a bit more low-end domination or top-end sparkle although, predictably, going extreme either way makes them pretty unlistenable.
Bluetooth is complete with aptX Low Latency support for syncing up audio and video (with less than 40 milliseconds of latency) when you’re watching a video or playing a game on your connected device.
The Sennheiser’s wirelessness is complemented by noise-cancelling. True to the technology’s intention, the HD 450BTs sheath you in a comfortable silence with noise-cancelling activated: keyboard tapping, background chatter and low-level street noise are all sufficiently blocked. Just don’t expect such effectiveness in noisier environments: a busy road of traffic is still discernible, as are raised voices, hampering quieter songs such as Nils Frahm’s My Friend The Forest.
More sophisticated, and pricier, noise-cancellers such as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 do a better job in such scenarios, but for the money, the Sennheisers live up to expectations.
That is mostly the case with performance, too, the HD 450BTs producing a smooth, rich balance that’s enjoyable, not to mention easy to listen to. Whether you’re listening to Frahm’s virtuosic piano playing or satisfying some electro funk impulse, their full-bodied and rounded, yet still plenty lively, delivery will amiably present warm piano keys and sizzling synths alike.
Their tonality is a little skewed towards the bottom end, sacrificing the midrange clarity that more neutral rivals, such as the AKG N60NCs, are capable of. That may not play into the hands of every music fan, but those who like electric guitars to sound weighty and basslines beefy will find favour in the Sennheiser’s modest bias.
Play The Weeknd’s Heartless and they gobble up the track’s bass drop. Its potent presence isn’t without bass definition and agility either, the beat finding its groove to drive the track forward.
The accompanying vocal and trebly synths, which sit just on the peripherary of the Sennheiser’s centre-stage spotlight, carry decent detail and as much impetus too. By comparison, though, the AKGs and similarly priced Philips PH805s do greater justice to the production by surfacing greater texture and dynamic variation.
The Sennheiser HD 450BTs aren’t the best sounding noise-cancelling headphones out there for the money. Nor are they the easiest to control on your head.
But while they may lack the outright transparency and simplicity of some, there really is plenty to like here – not least in the way of top-notch features, such as excellent battery life and aptX Low Latency support, which are far from given in headphones of this price. If battery and bass are up there on your list of priorities, you won’t regret making these Sennheisers yours.
- Sound 4
- Comfort 5
- Build 4
Best wireless noise-cancelling headphones 2020
Read our Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless review
Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
Read our AKG N60NC review