Sennheiser HD 450BT Review: I Love Them and Don’t Love Them

Rating: 7/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $199
The Sennheiser HD 450BT folded up
Cameron Summerson

When it comes to quality audio, Sennheiser is one of those names that just stands out in a crowd. It makes excellent headphones, soundbars, earbuds, and even pro audio that people have trusted for years. And, the company’s newest set of cans, the HD 450BT, is no exception.

Here's What We Like

  • Good sound quality
  • Very comfortable for on-ears
  • Excellent battery life

And What We Don't

  • Wonky controls
  • Not the best noise canceling
  • No auto-power options

I’ve been testing the HD 450BT (just called the 450 from here on out) for the past several weeks, and overall I think they’re a great set of on-ear headphones. They sound good, look great, have killer battery life (and USB-C charging), and are about as comfortable as a pair of on-ears can be. But they’re also not perfect—the controls are weird.

Let’s dig in.

Build Quality and Features: Kinda Plastic-y, but Still Mostly Good

The Sennheiser HD 450BT unfolded, showing the band
Cameron Summerson

My first impression when I opened the 450 box was that the white color is absolutely striking. I usually have an “if it comes in black, get it in black” mentality, but these look great in white. I love it. (They also come in black, though.)

The soft-touch plastic feels nice, especially around the band. The earcups feel a little on the cheap side to me, with the band a little more robust. For a $200 set of headphones, I honestly expected them to feel a little better than they do—it’s not bad, per se, just not quite what I expected.

Unlike a lot of modern Bluetooth cans that turn on as soon as you open them, the 450s have a dedicated power button, which is kind of annoying compared to something like the Beats Solo Pro. In fact, the 450s are loaded with buttons that do a whole bunch of stuff, are hard to find, and are actually backward from what you’d expect.

When looking at the front of the headphones, you have power/noise canceling, audio jack, USB-C port, volume rocker, sliding track toggle, and digital assistant buttons—all on the right earcup. The left is completely empty.

But here’s the thing: the volume and track control buttons are backward. So, when you want to increase the volume, you push the back portion of the volume rocker (towards the back of your head), but if you want to lower the volume, you push it forward (towards your face). Track controls work the same way.

The buttons on the Sennheiser HD 450BT
Cameron Summerson

I’ve been using these for weeks now, and I still can’t get used to it—I get it wrong every single time. It’s just counterintuitive in a way that my brain can’t get used to. The worst part is that there’s no way to fix it (aside from maybe wearing the headphones backward).

Also, if you’re trying to find the buttons by feel (which would be the most common way to find the button you’re looking for) and start at the back, there’s a solid chance you’ll actually end up accidentally sliding the track toggle when you rub your finger across it, starting the track over. This happened to me about 75 percent of the time and it’s annoying.

Now, all that said, I do appreciate the fact that you have full control over everything you need without ever touching your phone. So many headphones/earbuds have some controls, but may be missing crucial things like track controls or volume adjustments. At least you get the full gamut on these, even if it is in the most convoluted way possible.

Fit: All-Day Comfort, Especially for On-Ears

A Styrofoam mannequin head and white mask wearing the Sennheiser HD 450BT headphones
This is Brian. Judging by the look on his face, I think he likes them. Cameron Summerson

Normally, I am not a fan of on-ear headphones—especially when they have noise-canceling, because they have to be so tight. The Beats Solo Pro is a good example of this, as they sound amazing and have killer features, but are so tight they’re hard to wear for more than half an hour or so.

The 450s, on the other hand, are incredibly comfortable for on-ears. They’re still pretty tight to account for noise canceling, but it’s not unbearable by any means. The pads are very soft and form-fitting, and the whole ear cup is a little larger than most on-ears. They’re really sort of in-between an on-ear and an over-ear set of cans.

Ultimately, I can wear these for hours without the need to take them off due to discomfort.

Sound Quality: Very Good, Especially Once They’re Dialed In

Man, these things sound good. Right out of the box they sound full-bodied and full of life, but when you install the Sennheiser Smart Control app (iPhone/Android) and tweak the EQ using the super-intuitive slider, then you can really dial in the sound you want. It’s great.

In fact, the sound quality is good enough that I almost want to give a pass to the dodgy-ass controls. Because with these cans on my head and my favorite jams blasting into my ears I drift away to a far away place. One that enables me to fully focus on what I’m doing in a way that shoddier-quality headphones just don’t.

The Sennheiser Smart Control app

As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a playlist for testing headphones, and it has gone mostly unchanged for years. I’ve added a few newer tracks recently, but the core 10 to12 songs have been there for ages. This playlist gives me a good baseline not only for how headphones react to different types of music, but also how they compare to each other.

Over the past several months, however, I’ve gravitated toward one specific track on this playlist as my go-to “first listen” song—Rocky by The White Buffalo—because I feel like it really showcases a lot of elements that I look for in headphones. It starts off with nothing more than a fast-strummed acoustic guitar, and from the very first note, I can get a sense of how “alive” a set of ‘phones are going to be.

And, for the 450s, there was a smile on my face from the start of the song till the very end. The acoustic rings out in a way that I expect the best-sounding cans to. And, when the Buffalo’s gravely vocals come in, they’re crystal clear and defined. The real fun starts when the bass line and drums kick in because everything just comes to life. The whole track just sounds amazing on the 450s—as did everything else on my playlist. (Seriously, I could bore you to death with a breakdown of every track … but I won’t).

Like I said in the TicPods 2 Pro review, music is supposed to inspire and motivate, and a good set of headphones brings out the best qualities in your favorite tunes. These headphones do just that. They’re full of life.

Opposite of that, however, is the noise canceling. It’s there, and it does an okay job, but it’s not great. Compared to something like the Sony WH-1000M3, there’s just no contest. The noise-canceling on these reminds me a lot of the AirPods Pro—they do a good enough job of blocking out ambient hum, rumbles, engine noise, etc., but they still let a lot of other sounds come through.

Still, I’d rather them have this than not have NC at all, so I’ll take it.

Conclusion: Great Sound, Noise Canceling, and Convoluted Controls

Sennheiser HD 450BT open on a desk
Cameron Summerson

The Sennheiser HD 450BT is a polarizing set of headphones. On one hand, the sound quality is great; on the other, the controls are pretty bad. They’re comfortable, but the build quality is more plastic-y than I’d want. There’s a duality to these headphones that I can’t say I’ve really experienced before—for each good feature, there’s an equal and opposite bad feature.

So, do I recommend them? I’m on the fence there, too. The sound quality is so good—on par with the excellent Sony WH-1000M3. The noise-canceling isn’t quite as good, however, nor is the build. They’re also $80 cheaper on average, though the Sonys go on sale pretty regularly.

If you’re in a pinch and want a set of cans right now, I don’t think you’ll regret buying the 450s. But if you can bide your time, the WH-1000M3 will likely go on sale (especially because the writing is on the wall for the M4s), which are a better choice if the price dips anywhere close to $200.

Rating: 7/10
Price: $199

Here’s What We Like

  • Good sound quality
  • Very comfortable for on-ears
  • Excellent battery life

And What We Don't

  • Wonky controls
  • Not the best noise canceling
  • No auto-power options

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and serves as an Editorial Advisor for How-to Geek and LifeSavvy. He’s been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times. Read Full Bio »

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