Few people brag about how good their $100 headphones sound. In fact, a good chunk of headphones in this price bracket sound pretty mediocre, but Sennheiser doesn’t forsake its decades-old legacy with the Sennheiser HD 350BT. These Bluetooth headphones sound excellent, and give more premium headsets plenty to chew on. Let’s find out if sound quality alone is enough to make the HD 350BT worth your money.
Editor’s note: this Sennheiser HD 350BT review was updated on November 27, 2020, to include battery life testing results.
Who should get the Sennheiser HD 350BT?
- Anyone can get the Sennheiser HD 350BT: these are non-noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones that block out some background noise. The compact design is easy to take on-the-go, but listeners with large ears may find the small ear pads uncomfortable.
- At-home workers generally don’t need noise cancelling during the day, so these would be a good fit for keyboard warriors who need a decent microphone for conference calls
Are the Sennheiser HD 350BT easy to use?
The HD 350BT (left) look nearly identical to the noise cancelling Sennheiser HD 450BT (right) headphones. The Sennheiser HD 350BT has a slight learning curve, if you plan to memorize all of the onboard controls. A number of buttons and switches crowd the right ear cup, and make for a much less intuitive experience compared to offerings from Bose and Sony. As with anything else, once you commit the controls to memory, the HD 350BT are easy enough to operate. Though, I wish the volume rocker was bigger and the toggle switch was more defined.
Sennheiser deserves some credit for attempting to make an ergonomic headset, but the ear cups are far too narrow to be comfortable for most listeners. The company swung a little too far to keep these headphones portable, without considering the importance of ear clearance within the ear cups. You can replace and clean the ear pads, which is great if you happen to find a third-party pair that fits.
The Sennheiser HD 350BT are more comfortable than the pricier HD 450BT noise cancelling headphones.
Unlike the Sennheiser HD 450BT headphones, the HD 350BT aren’t painful to wear. The clamping force is far less intense with the HD 350BT variant, making it easy to wear these for two hours at a time. The ear cups offer very minimal give and rotation, but you can ball them up toward the headband and toss them in your bag. Sennheiser doesn’t include a carrying pouch, so you may want to invest in a headphone case if scuffs and scratches bother you.
How to use the onboard controls
Here’s a quick list of controls so you don’t fumble around as much as I did.
- Tap and hold the power button for two seconds to turn the headset on/off.
- Press the voice assistant button (closest to the headphone yoke) to talk to your virtual assistant.
- Slide the switch back (located just below the voice assistant button) to skip back a track.
- Slide the switch forward to skip to the next track.
- Press the switch like a button to pause or resume playback.
- Press the volume rocker up or down to adjust media output.
For calls you have two options:
- Depress the switch button once to answer or end a call.
- Press and hold the switch button for two seconds to place a call on hold.
Should you get the Sennheiser Smart Control app?
Yes, the Sennheiser mobile app is very clean and easy to use. It features a custom EQ module that lets you personalize the sound profile. You can also enable transparent hearing mode to remain aware of your surroundings, or hold a quick conversation. You can also configure voice prompts, if you don’t want the headset to notify you every time you power it down. Arguably the most important feature of any headphone app is the ability to receive firmware updates, something the Sennheiser Smart Control app can also do.
What Bluetooth codecs does Sennheiser HD 350BT support?
The Sennheiser HD 350BT operate via Bluetooth 5.0 and support quite a few Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low-Latency. Very few devices support aptX LL, but most support AAC, aptX, or both; and virtually all Bluetooth devices support SBC. Unfortunately, the Sennheiser HD 350BT lack a 3.5mm input, so you can’t get the full high-resolution experience from your FLAC files with these headphones.
Lag was completely absent when streaming video from my Samsung Galaxy S10e over the aptX Bluetooth codec, and the same can be said of when I streamed video from my MacBook Pro over the AAC Bluetooth codec.
Bluetooth multipoint suffered from the same issues as other Sennheiser Bluetooth headphones: notifications from the secondary device were rarely pushed through to the HD 350BT when streaming music from the primary device. The only event that interrupted playback from the primary device was if my smartphone received a phone call. This issue can be fixed with a firmware update, though.
How long does the battery last?
We subjected the Sennheiser HD 350BT to a constant 75dB(SPL) output, and they lasted 33 hours, 49 minutes on a single charge. This exceeds the official 30-hour battery life, and is far better than most wireless headphones. Just like the Sennheiser HD 450BT, the HD 350BT doesn’t support fast charging, so you will need to set aside the full two hours to charge the headset via USB-C.
How do the Sennheiser HD 350BT sound?
Sennheiser makes some of the best-sounding headphones, and it spared nothing with the Sennheiser HD 350BT. These headphones boast a near perfect frequency response through the bass and midrange frequencies. There’s a slight dip around 200Hz, but that’s nothing to be too concerned with as its de-emphasis just makes the threshold of human hearing (3dB). The more dramatic dip from 3-5kHz is strategic, and reduces naturally occurring, unpleasant resonances within the human ear canal.
Related: How to read charts
That’s a bunch of words to say that Sennheiser made some intelligent tuning decisions with the frequency response without deviating from its accurate sound profile. Listeners who want a bit more bass can always change this in the Sennheiser Smart Control app.
Background noise is blocked out well enough thanks to the tight, but bearable, clamping force and thick padding. Conversations are effectively quieted, and if you’re listening to music: they’re very difficult to hear. The HD 350BT lack active noise cancelling, so it’s very important that you get a proper fit for optimal audio reproduction. Make sure the seal between the ear pads and your skull is free of gaps, otherwise external noise might mask your music, making it hard to perceive detail.
Lows, mids, and highs
The song Ode to Artifice by Samia opens with a groovy electric guitar riff and simple drum beat. Samia has an impressive vocal range, and her harmonic resonances remain clear throughout the song, even as her pitch drops significantly as she says, “Catch me as I stumble down,” at 0:28. This is an impressive feat, as most Bluetooth headphones under or around $100 run with the standard consumer-friendly bass response that would ordinarily mask Samia’s vocal resonance during the word “down.”
Despite the more pronounced treble frequency deviations, cymbal hits and tambourines sound great through the HD 350BT. Skip ahead to the bridge at 1:57, where perfectly measured drum kicks set the beat of Samia’s flat tone and a downstrummed guitar. Cymbal hits remain perfectly clear here, which can’t be said for similarly priced headphones like the JBL LIVE 650BTNC.
Can I use the Sennheiser HD 350BT for phone calls?
The HD 350BT microphone is passable for casual calls, and has a nifty sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice while speaking, which helps you avoid unintentional shouting. It tends to amplify everything, including background noise, despite the dual beamforming microphones. Although this isn’t great, we’ve seen companies like Shure release firmware updates that substantially improved the Shure AONIC 50 microphone performance, so Sennheiser may follow suit with its HD BT headsets.
Sennheiser HD 350BT microphone demo:
Sennheiser HD 350BT vs. Sennheiser HD 450BT
The Sennheiser HD 350BT and the HD 450BT look virtually identical to one another, but there are some key differences between the two headsets. The most glaring difference is that the Sennheiser HD 450BT are noise cancelling headphones, while the Sennheiser HD 350BT rely on passive isolation alone. The HD 450BT is a better option for commuters because of the ANC technology.
The Sennheiser HD 450BBT headband has a tighter clamping force, because it’s set more narrowly than the HD 350BT. You’ll experience better passive isolation at the expense of comfort, as a tight fit like this is often a necessary evil for optimal noise cancellation. If you’re basing your purchase on comfort alone, get the cheaper model. Be aware though: both the Sennheiser HD 350BT and HD 450BT have uniquely small ear cups for over-ear headphones.
Sennheiser dropped the headphone jack from the HD 350BT model, but kept it on its more premium headset. It can also be found on the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, but the company used a 2.5mm input, rather than the standard 3.5mm input. Both headphones house a USB-C charging port, but neither support fast charging.
The microphone frequency responses vary from one headset to the other, but neither would be our go-to pick for conference calls. If anything, you’re better off with the PXC 550-II, or another brand altogether.
Should you buy the Sennheiser HD 350BT?
Sennhseier nailed just nearly everything about the Sennheiser HD 350BT headphones. Sound quality is very good, and the high-quality Bluetooth codec support is a rarity at this price point. If you don’t care for high-tech features like automatic ear detection you’ll be very happy with these portable headphones.
Of course, they have their drawbacks too: large-eared listeners won’t be comfortable wearing this for more than an hour at a time, because the narrow ear cups are bound to fit more like on-ears than over-ears. What’s more, the microphone system isn’t the best, and you may want to invest in a dedicated headset if your day job is spent on the video call treadmill. I sure wish that a legacy audio company like Sennheiser had kept the headphone jack, but again, the high-quality Bluetooth codecs soften the blow.