This year at CES 2017 Sennheiser promised to deliver on several new headphones and earphones and the most anticipated so far is the HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless Over-Ear Headphone. The entire line of Sennheiser HD 4 Series headphones is a relatively new approach that focuses on a more robust sound in a comfortable and portable headphone. The HD 4.50 BTNC is the top tier of this series and is packed with features. And all for less than $200. It’s time to put this headphone to a full test and see if the features meet the standard people expect in a wireless noise-cancelling headphone.
HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless Headphone Review by Features
Bluetooth / NFC Wireless Pairing
I got started with this headphone by trying to see just how easy it is to pair up to a mobile device and get going without the use of the manual. Powering up and pairing is as simple as holding down the power button for 2 seconds and it shows up in the available Bluetooth devices in the settings on my iPhone 6s. The HD 4.50 BTNC is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible as well as NFC (Near Field Communication).
When testing the range I simply put on some music from different sources online and direct from the phone. The manual says you can get up to 10 meters wireless range from the transmitting device which is a little over 30 feet. I found that this was pretty accurate although I did encounter occasional dropouts at the boundary of that range and also when moving into places where there was not a direct line of sight to the device. Moving away into rooms separated by walls yielded similar results. This is not surprising though and you’ll find that most wireless Bluetooth devices will have the same limitations. For the most part this headphone is designed to be used with a smartphone which is generally going to be in close proximity. Overall the HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless worked very well at 20-30 feet without physical obstacles.
The Sennheiser trademarked NoiseGuard noise-cancelling kicks in right away and it works so well you’ll find you’re almost completely in a zone of your own. The cool thing about the NoiseGuard is you can turn it off if you want to by pressing both volume buttons simultaneously. Having the option is priceless in my opinion. Sometimes you want to be aware of your surroundings and with NoiseGuard off you can listen to your music or talk on the phone without being completely cut-off from the outside. The noise isolation from the earcups however is still very good so you won’t be bothering nearby commuters or getting excessive ambient noise in your music mix.
There’s 3 buttons on this headphone (the power button, multifunction button and volume button) and if you’ve ever used a wireless Bluetooth headphone it’s pretty simple to figure out. It’s basically what you would expect and very similar to what most people are used to whether it’s play/pause, track advance or volume I found it easy to do what I wanted. The following diagram shows a layout of the controls and functions.
The Lithium Ion battery in the HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless headphone is permanent and designed to last you for the lifetime of the headphone. You’ll get a full charge in just 2 hours and it lasts up to 25 hours without NoiseGuard on. When getting started I gave the headphone a full charge and used it for several days with the noise-cancelling on and off at different times with no issues at all. In fact it still had a decent charge left when I was through with the demo.
Earpads & Headband
The earpads and headband are basically identical to the other headphones in the Sennheiser HD 4 series. The earpads are considered around-the-ear and the padding is quite soft and thick. I will say however it’s a tight over-ear fit but it worked fine for me. Undoubtedly some people will find it to be a little bit on-the-ear. Certainly no headphone is going to be one size fits all and the HD 4.50 BTNC is definitely a comfortable fit while sized to be streamline and portable. The headband is comfortable but could have a little more padding. I don’t think it would bother most people though.
This headphone was definitely made with portability in mind. You can see by the size of this fairly low-profile design that Sennheiser wanted to give listeners that full over-ear design without being too bulky. The HD 4.5 BTNC hangs well around my neck when in transition and it folds up nicely and comes with a canvas carry case that will help keep it well and looking good for years.
Making & Receiving Calls
I conducted a few simple tests in making and receiving calls with and without the NoiseGuard noise-cancelling engaged. Both functions are quite simple. The clarity on both ends of the line was pretty good. It works best indoors of course and can be a little tough if walking the streets of a noisy city but most Bluetooth headphones are going to have the same results. My only complaint is I can’t hear my own voice when on the phone. It’s something I never considered but found myself wanting to hear my own voice when on a call. Not the biggest deal ever but still something I would change if I could.
Sound & Frequency Response
Testing headphones with the right music is definitely a necessity. The entire HD 4 Series is designed to get the most out of pop, hip-hop, electronic and rock genres of music. I personally have somewhat unique taste in music and prefer to make my own playlists when testing out headphones so I created one especially for the HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless Headphone. You should definitely use a selection of music you’re familiar with when testing any headphone but feel free to sample my playlist. It features synthpop and electronic tracks from MGMT, Depeche Mode, Computer Magic, Com Truise and a many more tracks that really accentuate the power of this headphone.
Getting down to the sound of the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless headphone I wasn’t expecting it to be much different from the HD 4.40 BT that I recently reviewed. For the most part I was right but I did find that the NoiseGuard noise-cancelling made a big difference.
The bass is full and punchy making it a formidable competitor with Skullcandy and Beats by Dre headphones. In fact the build of this headphone is miles beyond either of those headphones and the sound is without a doubt better as well. The mids and high frequencies come through beautifully. My only complaint would be the top end of the frequency response only spans up to 22kHz. If Sennheiser could manage to get this into the 30kHz to 40kHz range I think they’d have the best wireless headphone of the year hands down.
CapTune App by Sennheiser
It’s also worth mentioning the CapTune application available for Apple iPhone and Android devices. It’s very useful with Sennheiser wireless headphones. You can stream music directly from you library or connect to TIDAL. As I mentioned in the review on the HD 4.40 BT, there’s an assortment of features from custom eq settings and savable profiles. Even if you find no use from these functions it’s honestly worth the space on your smartphone because it will show remaining battery life.
To sum it up the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless Headphone is excellent. It’s perfect for everyday use and has superior sound over any other similarly priced Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphone on the market. It’s simple to use, sounds great and is built to last a long time. And you really can’t beat it for a headphone under $200.
Impedance 18 Ω
Frequency response (Microphone) 100 – 10,000 Hz
Frequency response 18 – 22,000 Hz
Sound pressure level (SPL) 113dB (Passive: 1kHz/1Vrms)
THD, total harmonic distortion <0.5% (1kHz/100dB)
Pick-up pattern Dual omnidirectional microphones
Battery Specification Li-ion Polymer Battery