Sennheiser is a big name in audio, and for good reason. Their products reliably have excellent audio quality. Sennheiser products can get pricey, but that’s not the case with these two headsets: Sennheiser PXC 550-II vs Sennheiser HD 450BT. Which one is the best?
Editor’s note: this article was updated on June 17, 2021, to mention the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II has a better design
The Sennheiser HD 450BT is a decent amount cheaper than the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, so you’d expect the build quality to be a few levels lower in quality—and this is true to a small extent. The HD 450BT ear cups are smaller than you’d expect over-ear headphones to be, and people with average to large ears may find that they fit more like on-ears.
Both headsets are small and lightweight, but the Sennheiser PXC 550-II can be folded into a compact shape whereas the HD 450BT only allows you to fold the ear cups into the headband. Both pairs of headphones may cause some discomfort at the crown of your head if you wear them for too long, but Lily reported that the Sennheiser HD 450BT was painful until she broke them in by wearing them around for a few days and that the PXC 550-II were much better for people with glasses.
The onboard controls for both the Sennheiser PXC 550-II and the Sennheiser HD 450BT are similarly confusing, but with the PXC 550-II, you can be confused by touch controls whereas with the HD 450BT you can be confused by tactile buttons.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II vs Sennheiser HD 450BT: Bluetooth and software
The Sennheiser HD 450BT and Sennheiser PXC 550-II both use Bluetooth 5.0 and support the same codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency. They also both have a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable for wired listening, and both support Bluetooth multipoint—but its reliability for delivering notifications is a bit spotty in both headsets.
You can download the Sennheiser Smart Control app for either pair of headphones if you want access to firmware updates, the ability to select EQ presets, or change your smart voice assistant. The PXC 550-II also allows you to adjust auto-pause and auto-resume functionality as well as ANC settings within the app.
If you’re an iOS device owner, note that the Sennheiser Smart Control app (Version 3.4.1) has been prone to bugs and crashes in iOS 14. Sennheiser has yet to release an update to address these software issues. That being said, you may want to wait a little longer before updating to the latest version of iOS.
The Sennheiser HD 450B has a better battery life and charging capabilities
The Sennheiser HD 450BT charge via USB-C whereas the PXC 550-II charge via microUSB. With ANC and Bluetooth enabled, the HD 450BT lasts 27 hours, 2 minutes on a single charge, which is a bit less than the 30 hours Sennheiser claims for them. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II last 21 hours, 58 minutes with ANC and Bluetooth enabled. If you use the PXC 550-II with ANC enabled but wired rather than with Bluetooth, they last closer to 30 hours.
The HD 450BT doesn’t support fast charging and takes two hours to fully charge. The PXC 550-II, on the other hand, does support fast charging—10 minutes of charging provides 90 minutes of playtime—but it takes three hours to complete a full charge cycle.
Which headset cancels noise better?
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II has better active noise cancelling than the HD 450BT, but the HD 450BT’s passive isolation is better. This difference in isolation makes sense because the HD 450BT has a much greater clamping force than its more expensive sibling. The PXC 550-II more significantly reduces the loudness of low-frequency sounds, compared to the Sennheiser HD 450BT.
Still, if you’re on a tight budget the HD 450BT noise cancelling is decent.
Which headset has the better sound quality?
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II has a very neutral-leaning frequency response that allows all instruments in a mix to be heard and eliminates masking. If you want to listen to your music the way it was intended to be heard, go with the PXC 550-II.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II produces audio more accurately and so technically has better sound quality, but the emphasized bass and upper-midrange frequencies of the HD 450BT offers a sound signature that many people actually prefer. And these boosted frequencies aren’t so emphasized that they destroy the clarity of other frequencies.
Which headphones have better mic quality?
The microphone of the Sennheiser PXC 550-II is really good at reducing background noise in your calls and transmitting clear audio. Check out the microphone sample below to hear how well it can attenuate ambient noise.
The Sennheiser HD 450BT, on the other hand, does not have a very good microphone. It amplifies bass notes way more than it needs to and results in the proximity effect, which manifests as distortion of bass frequencies when the speaker is close to the microphone.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II microphone demo:
Sennheiser HD 450BT microphone demo:
Should you buy the Sennheiser PXC 550-II or the Sennheiser HD 450BT?
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II is a better set of headphones than the Sennheiser HD 450BT in most of the ways that count. It has a more comfortable fit, better active noise cancelling, more accurate sound quality, better software features, and a better microphone.
That being said, the Sennheiser HD 450BT is not a bad pair of headphones at all, especially if you’re looking for good passive isolation, long battery life, and a consumer-friendly sound. Depending on what you’re looking for in a pair of headphones, you may end up fancying either one of these Sennheiser choices. Just remember that the Sennheiser HD 450BT is a bit cheaper, and you may even be able to find them on sale.
Read next: Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. Sennheiser PXC 550-II
Looking for something truly wireless? Try the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2
So we’ve convinced you that Sennheiser is the brand to die for, but maybe you’re looking for something a bit more portable than over-ear headphones. The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 is a great pair of truly wireless active noise cancelling earbuds with top notch sound quality. Though the buds themselves are a little bulky, they have an IPX4 rating and should get you through a workout no problem with 4 hours of battery life. You can equalize the sound signature as well as activate the transparent voice feature in the Sennheiser Smart Control app.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, both headphones have a removable 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable. You won't be able to use a standard 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable with either of them, though, because the input on the headphones is 2.5mm.
The AKG N60NC wireless on-ears are a solid option, but they don't really compete head-to-head with either of these options. Instead, I would think of them as an alternative. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II and HD 450BT are both solid over-ear cans with good sound, battery life, and microphone quality. While the AKG N60NC are also good in all of these categories, they're on-ear headphones, meaning that they sit flat on your ears instead of surrounding them in the earcup. That said, if you want on-ears (or want to save some money) then they're definitely worth your consideration.