There’s no denying the fact that wireless headphones may seem to cost you a fortune at times, but when you think of the freedom they offer in terms of mobility and a clutter-free musical experience, they are worth a shot. Whatever is your reason to upgrade to a pair of wireless headphone, I get an opportunity to help you choose. And today we are comparing two pairs of wireless headphones from two camps, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 and Sennheiser HD 4.50.
Plantronics and Sennheiser are two international brands and the competition is quite rough because of the features these two come packed with. The Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 and Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC wireless noise cancelling headphones seems formidable opponents in the wireless headphone category. However, audiophiles will be happy that I picked these two for comparison. There is a clear winner by a slight margin. So, read on!
The Sennheiser 4.50 BTNC fondly knows as the HD 4.50 is a sturdy bad boy. Going over the physical features, the headphones are all plastic, but not the cheap-feeling plastic. They are well made; they don’t rattle or feel finicky. They feel like a confident product to test. The headband is covered with little padding but does not affect comfort. The ear cups fold in neatly for storage into the included fabric carry-case.
Speaking of Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2, you get a nice carry pouch with the headphones to tuck it away safely inside. In the box (cloth bag), you find an audio cable, a USB charging cable and the instruction book and warranty information. When it comes to build quality, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 feels solid and little more refined than their previous versions. They are slimmer than both their original and the Backbeat Pro plus.
As far as design goes, these aren’t the prettiest headphones but the plastic around the ear cups has a textured pattern to it. The headphone padding is a dark brown that gives the headphones a more professional look. The fake wood pattern on the outside of the ear cups may, at first, feel out of place and might not be for everyone, but it may grow on you over time.
One other aspect of the headphones that the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 doesn’t have is the ability to fold. The ear cups do swivel 90 degrees; so it is easy to slide them back into the carrying pouch once they are flat. However, if you are looking to save space in your bag while traveling or commuting you might have an issue with these.
Moving on to comfort, the Sennheiser 4.50 seems clampy at first but soon you get used to the full size headphones. It was a subjective judgement as the new pair of any headphone does feel a little tight straight out of the box. However, the jawline pressure and wear-fatigue disappears with use and can be worn for extended periods of time without any issue. Weighing a 236 grams, the Sennheiser 4.50 can feel a little clampy if you have a sensitive head/ jawline.
The Plantronics Backbeat Pro weighs a little more than 289g and is a little bulky but manageable than their previous versions and mostly made of plastic. The pleather padding on the earcup and the headband feels smooth and gives it a premium look. The bottom portion of the headband is even made with a breathable mesh and adjustable bands. The overall feel is good but u feel a weight on your crown when you use it for extended periods of time.
One of the main themes of the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 series is the level of control that the user has over their music without needing to reach for a source device. That trend continues here with buttons, switches, and rotating wheels all over the place. On the right ear cup, there is a multi-function button on the side, micro USB and 3.5-millimeter inputs on the bottom and then a button and a switch along the edges.
The left ear cub has a single switch along the edge with playback buttons on the side and a rotating volume control ring. The Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 is easy enough to connect and it does have NFC, so you should not have a problem if you have a compatible device. The backbeat pro tools do have a confusingly robust set of switches and buttons but they let you control, basically everything, without actually needing to use your smartphone. You can play/pause music, skip between tracks or adjust the volume using the controls on the left ear cup. You can also access any personal assistance or answer phone calls by pressing the button on the right side of the ear cup. If you take off the headphones, sensors in the ear cup will detect that they’ve been taken off your head and music will pause automatically.
When we look at the Sennheiser HD 4.50 controls, the right ear cup has the power ON/OFF, a very smooth multi-function switch below the power button that allows you to skip and go back and forth on music tracks. The same button is also used to answer calls, which we tested in a public place and found that voice wasn’t very clear to the user on the other end. Light to moderate background noises are picked up by the headphone. There is a 2.5 mm port for wired connection and Sennheiser does offer a locking wire cord, so that the pin is not yanked out while in use. To charge the Sennheiser 4.50, a micro USB port is available.
The Sennheiser 4.50 has a battery life of up to 25 hours with ANC off. With ANC, Sennheiser HD 4.50 gives up to 19 hours of use. If you connect these headphones to your PC, it charges automatically and do not require any driver installations. One important piece to note is that the headphones switches off while charging and you cannot use them.
Plantronics claims a battery life of 24 hours of constant playback, which seems to be true in my tests as well. Tapping the button on the right ear cup when you’re not wearing them will also illuminate a tiny indicator, so you know roughly how much juice it has left.
Active noise Cancelation
Jumping on to the ANC performance, I found the Sennheiser 4.50 worked absolutely fine, but not as great as the Bose Quiet Comfort, especially outdoors in coffee shops and public spaces, where I wore them continuously for a day as a part of this testing. A rocker button activates the ANC on Sennheiser HD 4.50 when using them wirelessly.
The Plantronics Backbeat Pro has a switch to turn on or off active noise cancellation as well as the open mic mode. This uses the microphones in the headphones to let sound in so you can hear what’s going on around you while the ANC is switched on. These are ANC headphones but the Backbeat Pro 2 just cuts the outside and ambient noise by half when compared to other premium headphones including the HD 4.50.
One of the standout features of the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 series is the solid wireless range they offer. They have class 1 Bluetooth, which means you can stream music up to about a 100 feet and in our testing we got a little under 80 but that’s still pretty good.
NFC, apart from Bluetooth, is one of the features available on the Sennheiser 4.50 for streamline pairing. Bluetooth connectivity is very strong on these on-ear headphones and works with houses or brick-walled areas with ease and personally, I did not experience any break in sound or quality while moving around in the house or office areas.
Speaking of sound, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 has a decent low end but they are a little too big sounding when compared to our contender today. Songs with deep base thumps or rumbling noises tend to sound a little muddy. It doesn’t feel bad but there is noticeable audio bleed if you are in a silent room. They often give a pretty nice balance with good amount of detailing without piercing through your ear drum in the volume levels of 50% to 70%. The airy reverb and the highs got cut down a little, but even on max volume they were comfortable to listen.
The Sennheiser 4.50 provides a very balanced audio experience – accurate and clean is what you are going to get. The bass is neutral and not altered or base-boosted, the mids are equal with the other high frequency responses and does not come as bright or recessed either. However, I wished for a little more resolution and detail in the mid-range for a more vibrant experience. From a consumer’s point of view, I am confident that these microscopic aspects will be hardly visible (I mean audible) and can pull up a great deal of romance with whatever you listen. The highs does have roll-offs and plays it quite safe because it doesn’t come anywhere near ‘tin-y’ (metallic like that of tin reverbs) and sharp, which is good. The 4.50’s are very easy to listen to without any listening fatigue.
Now let’s condense it in a table so that you can have a quick pick:
|Brand||Plantronics Backbeat Pro||Sennheiser HD 4.50|
|Model||Backbeat Pro 2||HD 4.50|
|Build quality||Premium and heavy||Premium, strong, lightweight|
|Earcups||Pressure on the crown and ears||Clampy but manageable|
|Gross Weight||289 grams||236 grams|
|Controls||Built on to the ear cups; buttons and volume ring to control tracks and audio||Rocker button and traditional buttons|
|Noise Cancellation Technology||Active with open mic option||Active|
|ANC Performance||Average||Comparatively better|
|Battery (usage time)||24||25|
|Mic||Open mic mode; inbuilt and sensitive||Excellent audio clarity|
|Bluetooth Range||100 m||–|
|Included in the box||Carry case, micro USB charging cable and 3.5 mm audio jack||Carry case, charging cable and 2.5 mm audio jack|
Sennheiser HD 4.50 stands out as the winner between Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 and Sennheiser HD 4.50 by a tiny margin. Hope you enjoyed this detailed comparison; stay tuned for more updates. Signing off for today, have a great day.