BERLIN – A truly superb set of headphones can cost you north of $500, and as such, require that you treat them with the utmost delicacy. Contrast, then, the Sennheiser HD 400 series: three new headphone models that are built to provide robust everyday sound and a durable design at a low price. The HD 451, 461 and 471 provide Sennheiser's signature sound quality in no-nonsense packages.
I went ears-on with the HD 451, 461 and 471 at IFA 2015, and got a chance to observe the subtle differences between them firsthand. None of the models has a solid release date yet, but the 451 will cost $55, the 461 will cost $90 and the 471 will cost $110. Expect all three sooner rather than later.
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The HD 451 is the cheapest of the three, but it also provides the strongest bass. I listened to tracks from Disturbed, Flogging Molly and G.F. Handel in order to gauge the headphones' treatment of vocals, treble and low-end; the overall sound was clear and loud, with very little distortion. The bass was surprisingly present, whether it was highlighting a bass guitar or a choir of singers, and great bass is something of a rarity for headphones at this price level.
The HD 461 is very similar to the 451 sound-wise, but also features an inline microphone and remote. This allows users to make phone calls and control volume from the headset itself rather than having to pick up their phones.
On the other hand, the HD 471 presents a much more treble-heavy sound, better suited to those who use their mobile devices for media streaming and games. The 471 also has an inline mic and remote, making it the most capable and versatile of the three headsets (but naturally, the most expensive, too).
The HD 400 headphones were not the most impressive headphones I heard at IFA 2015, and yet they were some of my favorites. Given the choice between something fancy and something affordable and suited to everyday use, I'll usually take the latter, and those who share my viewpoint would be wise to check out these straightforward peripherals.