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Review of A2DP headsets Sennheiser MM400 and Sennheiser MM450 Travel
In the box
I am often asked why I do not test Bluetooth headsets, because it is very convenient to connect wireless headphones to the phone. I hope this review will answer this question in detail. Reviewed headsets are not the worst in their class, but their sound quality leaves much to be desired. Do not be in a hurry, though.
Box Content and Packaging
Both MM400 and MM450 Travel are offered in big carton boxes. The difference in packaging is minimal and the box content is completely the same.
What do we have in the box apart from headsets? There is a big charger with replaceable plugs for different sockets, which will be handy during travels abroad. The adapter is complemented with microUSB cable and the cable to connect headphones to players (if the battery is dead).
There is also a case with a zipped pocket. Headphones can be easily stored and they do not require much space. The abovementioned pocket can be used for the player.
The detailed user guide has a pocket with a CD containing an animated user guide.
Design and Usability
Two models do not differ much. The most important and obvious difference is the color of headphones cups. The build of MM400 and MM450 Travel is of high quality. The dominant material is plastic, but there was still some place for metal.
The right cup features all controls. Both models have a multipurpose button on the front panel together with rewind and volume buttons and a Bluetooth key. Besides, the right cup hosts a 2.5 mm jack for the cable from the box, while the left one has microUSB jack.
MM450 Travel has a multipurpose button NoiseGard on the right cup, which is responsible for the active noise reduction. If pressed and hold it enables and disables "noise reduction" and with the activated option quick pressing brings headphones into the sound capture mode named TalkThrough.
I have to say that NoiseGard is useless in Moscow underground. It blocks the low frequency noise just a bit and all other features of this transportation means remain the same. You can clearly hear scratching, hissing and howling sounds.
In terms of the passive noise reduction these models do not perform well as the headphones stay loose on your ears despite all efforts.
Probably MM450 Travel will suit trains and planes, but I did not check it. It was quite comfortable to use in the street and nothing else.
Bluetooth Headset Mode
Headsets were tested with iPhone 3Gs and Nokia N900 as stereo headsets and for the ordinary phone communication. First connection (pairing) takes up to 10 seconds or even more, but subsequent ones are almost instant.
Unfortunately, headsets lack the feature of Multipoint, so you cannot connect to more than one device at a time.
Speech reproduction of MM400 and MM450 Travel is decent, especially if you speak in a calm place. Go outside and your interlocutor will not hear you well, while headwind will make life difficult for your contact on another phone.
Now we have to concentrate on music playback via A2DP. There is some noise, but it is not prominent and can be detected only in a very calm environment. So, this drawback is not critical.
With Nokia N900 I could use not only play and pause button, but also rewind and tracks switch, as AVCRP profile is supported. In iPhone 3Gs this profile is not supported by the phone itself and you cannot switch or rewind tracks. There is also the repeat calling option and voice call, so MM series can successfully replace a mono headset in terms of features. Voice transmission of Jawbone Icon is much better anyway.
The maximum playback volume is higher than the comfortable level, but headphones still do not have a deafening effect. The volume itself is not that powerful and if you use MM400 and MM450 Travel in noisy environment both as headphones and the headset you may experience problems.
Both models have excellent maximum ranges. In an apartment 1 concrete wall was not an obstacle. Longer distances led to reproduction problems in the form of stammering.
Interestingly, I had reproduction interruptions at shorter distances between the phone and the headset. It rarely happened with iPhone (once every 5 minutes) and more often with Nokia N900 (every 1-2 minutes). Outside the situation was out of control and I had series of stammering sounds. I cannot say that Bluetooth operation is stable.
How about the sound? Headphones have a broad stereo pan with mid localization of instruments. Details are not impressive and you would better listen to simple pieces.
The bass has some humming and does not give much information. Vocal parts are tense with a slightly sharp and dirty sound featuring sibilants.
I would recommend listening to the music in lossless formats or well compressed mp3 files, because low bitrate recordings sound awful after recompression (inevitable for A2DP profile). Do not forget that sophisticated music tracks will sound like a total mess.
If you connect the cable from the box to the headset and player Bluetooth connection switches off (if it was turned on) and the device gets into the headphones mode. For MM450 you can activate the noise reduction feature in this mode. If it is unnecessary (or you use MM400) switch off the headset as in the headphones mode you can clearly hear the hissing of headset amplification (volume can be adjusted during playback and the headset switch off does not decrease the volume).
I think that the Bluetooth switch off is bad, as otherwise you could have used the headset for communication and use the player. It's a pity, but developers ignored such a scenario.
The cable sound is almost identical to that of the wireless connection. Tracks sound less dirty, though and there are more high frequencies. Anyway, the result is not good enough and is comparable to simple headphones for $60.
The volume limit during the playback from iPhone is almost nonexistent.
When you disconnect the cable you cannot expect the automatic connection by air to take place even if the headset is connected. You have to press and hold Bluetooth button on the right cup to resume the proceedings.
The charging from the standard adapter takes around 3 hours and slightly less if you connect the headset to the USB port of your PC. During the charging near microUSB jack you can see the red LED, which turns green when the charging ends. There is no other indication and you cannot learn how long the headset will last on its charge.
Claimed 8 hours of operation with the noise reduction option and 10 hours without this active feature are probably an exaggeration. Standard playback volume will allow the battery to provide 6 and 8 hours respectively. With the active use my sample worked around several days and then the charging was required. If you listen to the music all day long you will have to charge the headset at lunchtime.
I think I have not missed much in this segment during the last 5 years. In 2005 I was choosing between Plantronics Pulsar and Jabra BT620s. I settled on the latter and experienced problems with the sound quality, its volume, noise insulation and speech reproduction. It was the latest thing in those days and cost around $100. What about our today's heroes?
MM400 costs around $220, while MM450 Travel fetches around $390. The difference is in NoiseGard and TalkThrough features. Do you need this noise reduction option, which does not work in real life situations?
For long train and air travels MM450 can be a better solution, but I cannot judge. If you are dying to have a wireless solution you can go for MM400. The quality of sound and speech reproduction are not perfect. The wired stereo headset will be a better option. Can I suggest other solutions? A good player with quality headphones and a phone with Bluetooth headset will do the trick.
If the quality of speech reproduction is not vital for you (and you rarely use the phone outside), and you are not a music fan choose MM400. Are you ready to pay around $220 for it? I am not sure.
Travelers can still benefit from MM450 if you are satisfied with operation time from one charging. I would like to ask those in the know – is it allowed to use Bluetooth on planes? I always thought it was forbidden.
The author is grateful to the www.doctorhead.ru audio shop for the test sample.
Published - 23 September 2010
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