Sennheiser is known for delivering exceptional audio quality across the price points, from superb high-end to surprisingly quality low-end. While many sound companies seek to value-add to music by ramping up the bass or tailoring the designs to certain musical genres, Sennheiser often goes the way of sound reproduction rather than sound manipulation. The mid-range HD 449s are testament to that pursuit, pushing high clarity across the frequencies with nary a drop of distortion or hint of superlative bass or treble.
The HD 449s are a pair of light, closed-back earphones with a versatility that lends them to on-the-go, outdoor listening to lounging with a movie, and even in-home Hi-Fi.
They're very flexible despite the seemingly rigid, plastic design, but unfortunately they don't fold up for all the on-the-go listeners. They're also very light and sit comfortably over the head and ears without getting to steamy thanks to the soft, leatherette ear cups.
The closed-back design and snug fit blocks out sound seeping and prevents sound leakage to help privatise your music - also great if you're listening privately at home to your Hi-Fi system, complemented by the quarter inch adapter and bundled extension cable.
The HD 449s deliver strong mid-range performance when peering in for subtle details, but the bass doesn't perform very highly which makes the mid-range and vocals suffer in some genres of music. Where the low-end of deep hums should resonate, the lacking warmth cuts in and steals the timbre.
Pop music styles that thrive on superlative bass and treble soundwaves won't get the same punch as they would on in-ear counterparts (or even Sennheiser's cheaper HD 400 series sets) with this set of cans.
The sound is immensely detailed and clear though, picking up subtle detail while differentiating well across the low-, mid- and high-end. To get the full breadth out of this headset, a small headphone amplifier would be recommended. Listening on a home Hi-Fi set up will get the most out of these little achievers, especially if you've got your own amplification and are taking in tracks especially suited for these headphones.
House tracks with a light bass kick, riding the snare next to some jazzy horns will spread across the soundstage lovingly, while the articulation of a symphony will also suit the dynamic range of these cans. Songs with more subtle detail will shine brighter than bass-heavy pop, hip hop and R&B tunes on this set.
Vocals triumph though, and movies go down well with this headset. They're generally very multipurpose thanks to their build quality (even if they don't look the best on close inspection), plethora of little add-ons for different listening environments, fair noise blocking and comfortable fit. For under $150, this headset is a good contender for your buck if clarity is your game - but steer clear if you're after volume and meaty beats.