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. This pair of Bluetooth headphones sounds excellent and gives 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 July 2, 2021, to include the Monoprice BT-600ANC and Skullcandy Crusher Wireless as alternatives and to update the scoring with the results of our audience poll.
Who should get the Sennheiser HD 350BT?
- Anyone can get the Sennheiser HD 350BT, and while it doesn’t have active noise cancelling (ANC) the passive isolation is good enough to block out distant chatter. 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
What’s it like to use the Sennheiser HD 350BT?
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 is easy enough to operate. Though, I wish the volume rocker was bigger and the toggle switch was more defined.
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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, the HD 350BT isn’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 minimal 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?
The Sennheiser mobile app is very clean and easy to use and 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. If you really want to dive in, go ahead and configure voice prompts, this lets you toggle the headset’s voice notifications on/off every time you power the headset on. 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.
Does the Sennheiser HD 350BT stay connected?
The Sennheiser HD 350BT operates via Bluetooth 5.0 and stay connected whether you use them indoors or outdoors. Unfortunately, the Sennheiser HD 350BT lacks a 3.5mm input, so you can’t get the full high-resolution experience from your FLAC files with this headset. To make up for the lack of wired audio, the headphones support quite a few Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low-Latency.
Lag is absent when streaming video from my Samsung Galaxy S10e over the aptX Bluetooth codec, and the experience is the same when streaming video from my MacBook Air to over the AAC Bluetooth codec.
Bluetooth multipoint suffers from the same issues as other Sennheiser Bluetooth headphones: notifications from the secondary device are 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 it 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 does the Sennheiser HD 350BT sound?
Sennheiser makes some of the best-sounding headphones, and it spared nothing with the Sennheiser HD 350BT. This headset boasts a nearly 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.
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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 lacks 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 voice 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.”
The HD 350BT is a great headset for listeners with an eclectic taste in music.
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 down strummed 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:
As of July 2, 2021, 829 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “okay” and “good.” This is a pretty typical result for Bluetooth headset microphones, and at the middle-upper end of what you should expect to get out of any products of this type.
Sennheiser HD 350BT vs Sennheiser HD 450BT: What’s the difference?
The Sennheiser HD 350BT and the HD 450BT look virtually identical to one another, but there are some key differences between the two wireless headphones. The most glaring difference is that the Sennheiser HD 450BT features noise cancelling, while the Sennheiser HD 350BT relies 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 supports 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 this has its 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.
What should you get instead of the Sennheiser HD 350BT?
The Monoprice BT-600ANC is cheaper than Sennheiser’s headphones and it includes very good active noise cancelling for the price—even outperforming headphones double the cost. The frequency response is consumer-friendly, but the bass note emphasis is sure to mask vocals and instrumental detail. Monoprice doesn’t include an app for its headset, so you’ll have to rely on your phone’s integrated EQ or a third-party option.
If you want something a bit more stylish, consider the Skullcandy Crusher Wireless. You can typically find this headset for around $99 USD and it features a sleek, covert design, excellent battery life, comfortable ear pads, and bass sliders that let you manually adjust the bass response from the headset.
Frequently Asked Questions
Though they are the same price, the Sennheiser HD 350BT and Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are very different headsets with very different use cases. The HD 280 Pro is a wired headset that is meant to be used in the studio. Though the frequency responses are similar, you won't want to be doing any audio mixing with a pair of Bluetooth cans like the HD 350BT. The HD 280 Pro headset does not offer any software features, is not compatible with the Sennheiser Smart Control app, and does not have a microphone. If you want consumer headphones, get the Sennheiser HD 350BT; if you want studio headphones, get the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro.