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Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless review: A worthy Bose competitor at a better price

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Not everybody can afford a premium wireless noise-canceling headphone, which is where Sennheiser's more budget-conscious HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless comes in. At $200 (£170, $AU329), it's not cheap, but it's less than what you'll pay for certain models from Sony and Bose -- and Sennheiser, too.

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Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless

The Good

The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless is wireless noise-canceling headphone with effective noise canceling that sounds great and costs significantly less than Bose's QuietComfort 35. It works well as a headset and offers decent battery life. The headphones fold up into a simple canvas carrying bag.

The Bad

Not quite as comfortable as higher-end models from Bose, Sony and Sennheiser.

The Bottom Line

Sennheiser's HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless gets you most of what you want in a premium wireless noise-canceling headphone but costs significantly less.

I like the straightforward look of the HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless and its understated matte-black finish (it does look a little like the Bose QuietComfort 35). However, Sennheiser did cut some design corners to get to the lower price point. This is an all-plastic affair and while the earpads feature cushy memory foam, the material covering them is a synthetic leather that doesn't feel as luxurious and isn't as breathable as the real leather you'll find on step-up models.

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The well-cushioned earpads are covered in faux leather. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

There's no fancy case for storing the headphones, but they do fold up nicely to fit in an included simple canvas case that I liked just fine. 

Overall I found the 8.4 oz. (238 g) headphones comfortable -- they fit snugly though not too snugly. However, during longer listening sessions I did have to make some small adjustments from time to time and give my ears a little air. In other words, they aren't quite as comfortable as Bose's QuietComfort 35, Sennheiser's PXC 550 headphones or Sony's MDR-1000X.

They performed well. I had no trouble pairing and re-pairing them and I experienced minimal Bluetooth hiccups. The controls on the right earcup were also easy to operate by feel. 

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The headphones fold up but don't fold flat.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The noise canceling isn't incredibly strong but it is fairly effective and did a decent job muffling sound while adding only a very faint audible hiss. There's NFC tap-to-pair technology for devices that support it.

Sound quality was quite good for a wireless noise-canceling headphone. This headphone isn't quite as open or refined-sounding as Sennheiser's step-up models, but I thought it sounded as good or better than other $200 wireless noise-canceling headphones. The bass is powerful with good definition, the treble has some sparkle and the midrange sounds fairly warm and natural. There isn't quite enough clarity and openness to get to a wow -- it's missing a little something in the upper treble -- but I liked the sound signature and thought it worked well with a wide variety of music types.

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What you get in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can connect a cord and go wired, which comes in handy when you want to plug into an in-flight entertainment system on a plane. I didn't notice a big difference in sound quality when going wired, but you will save some battery by turning off the Bluetooth. Battery life is rated at 19 hours with Bluetooth and noise canceling activated (or 25 hours with Bluetooth off), which is quite decent though not exceptionally good. 

The headphone does perform well as a headset. It has a side-tone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the headphone as you talk. That feature isn't usually available in a headphone at this price -- and even some headphones that cost more.

In the final analysis, if you're looking for a little more comfort, you'll have to step up to a higher-end headphone. But this Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless is definitely worth considering if you don't want to spend $350 or $400 on more premium wireless noise-canceling model that won't be a big step up in terms of sound quality.

For those who can do without the noise canceling, Sennheiser also makes the HD 4.40 BT for $50 less. I haven't tested that model yet but it's said to feature a similar sound profile.  

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Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 8Value 8