While so many people are busy buying true wireless earphones with active noise canceling, one of the world’s oldest and most recognizable audio brands has just announced a new pair of noise-canceling headphones in the traditional over-the-ear design.
Sennheiser’s HD450SE closed-back headphones are a Special Edition version of the company’s HD450BT model. These noise-canceling headphones deliver high-quality wireless sound alongside seamless Amazon Alexa interaction. While a lot of headphones and earphones on the market support Siri and Google Assistant, far fewer seem to offer deep integration with Amazon Alexa. If Alexa is your constant companion, these could be the headphones for you.
As you’d expect from a company like Sennheiser, the sound quality provided by these affordable wireless headphones is impeccable. They have a solid and dynamic bass with a clear but smooth treble that suits most genres of music. There’s also great wireless performance thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 and support for AAC, aptX and aptX Low Latency audio codecs. The low latency version of Qualcomm’s codec is ideal for watching movies and playing games without losing synchronization between sound and vision.
With a 30-hour battery life, these headphones are edging close to the market leaders Sony and Bose in terms of stamina. A USB-C socket is used for recharging the HD450SE’s built-in battery and a full charge takes around two hours. The HD450SE are ideal for frequent flyers or anyone who works in a noisy office environment where unwanted sounds might otherwise spoil the music. There’s also a flight mode that can be used for blocking out the sound of an aircraft’s engines when not listening to music.
The headphones include a dedicated Alexa button for firing up Amazon’s voice assistant. Users can program the button to trigger Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. A neighboring cluster of buttons on the right earcup are used for controlling the music, answering phone calls and adjusting the volume levels. There’s a noise cancelation button that turns ANC on and off. Sennheiser also included a regular 3.5mm analog headphone jack for connecting to devices that don’t have Bluetooth onboard.
Sennheiser has created Smart Control, a smartphone app that can be used to customize and tailor the HD 450SE’s sound using an intuitive graphic equalizer. Smart Control also shows the battery status and has a Quick Guide for useful tips. The app is also be used to update the firmware of the HD450SE, while its podcast mode enhances the clarity of speech content like podcasts and audiobooks.
The HD450SE are reasonably priced and this is reflected in the lightweight build quality. That’s not to say that these headphones aren’t robust and able to withstand the rough and tumble of commuting life, but they are light and made mostly of plastic. The yoke design is foldable so that the headphones collapse into a small size and can easily stow away in the supplied zippered carry case.
The earcups fitted on the HD450SE are wonderfully soft, providing a great level of comfort when worn for long periods like a transatlantic flight. The size of the opening in the earpads is quite narrow and takes the form of a vertical cat’s eye shape. This provides great passive noise isolation but may not be comfortable for people with very large ears.
Like all headphones with active noise cancelation, the HD450SE uses built-in microphones to monitor ambient sounds which are then processed and subtracted from the audio signal. The efficiency of the noise-canceling function on these headphones is excellent, although you’d expect that from Sennheiser. I’d be very happy wearing these on a long-haul flight because the noise canceling is very effective. There isn’t a hear-thru function so if that’s important you might want to consider a different pair of headphones.
Verdict: Sennheiser’s HD450SE sound great with a laid-back sound that doesn’t tire the ears. There’s a fair amount of sound pressure on offer and the noise canceling is excellent. The build and fit of the headphones are great and I love the way they fold up for easy storage in a carry-on bag. The integration with Amazon Alexa is good and thanks to the high-quality dual-beamforming MEMs microphones, any commands are picked up with great accuracy. The microphones also work like a charm when making phone calls or taking part in a video chat. If you’re looking for a high-quality pair of ANC wireless headphones with Amazon integration – and you don’t want to stretch to a pair of Bose or Sony flagship ANC headphones – the Sennheiser HD450SE could be the ones for you.
Pricing and Availability: The Sennheiser HD450SE are available now and cost £179 / $179 / €179.
More info: www.sennheiser.com
- Frequency response (microphone): 80 Hz to 8,000 Hz
- Bluetooth: Version 5.0 compatible, class 1, BLE
- Supported Profiles: HSP, HFP, AVRCP, A2DP
- Charging time: Approx. 2 hrs
- Modulation: GFSK, π/4 DQPSK, 8DPSK
- Transmission frequency: 2,402 MHz to 2,480 MHz
- Microphone: MEMS
- Frequency response: 18 Hz to 22,000 Hz (-10 dB)
- Sound pressure level (SPL): 108 dB (1 kHz/0 dBFS)
- Total harmonic distortion: < 0.3 %
- Driver: Dynamic
- Style: Closed-back
- Weight: 238 g
- Mic pick-up pattern: Dual Beamforming
- Battery: Lithium-Polymer 3.7 V 600mAh
- Charging: USB-C
- Playing time: 30 hours music playback via Bluetooth with ANC activated