Sennheiser’s budget headphones sound surprisingly good to me, but there’s a problem

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Sennheiser Accentum headphones lying on green leaves

Jada JonesZnet

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Sennheiser Accentum The headphones are ideal for people looking for professional sound for under $200 They are on sale now for $150.
  • The sound quality is top notch and easily surpasses flagship headphones from other brands in this category
  • An overly tight fit makes them uncomfortable for long-term wear, which is unfortunate given the impressive battery life.

I’ve worn quite a few headphones this year, ranging from $60 to $450, from brands like Sony, Bose, and everything in between. But one thing remains true: Sennheiser’s sound quality is the one to beat for me.

Sennheiser and I have some history. Earlier this year, I tested Sennheiser Momentum 4, the company’s flagship consumer headphones, and I fell in love with the sound. To me, they’re like that ex you can’t get over. I’m looking for the sound of the Momentum 4 in every pair of headphones I try and it has yet to be replicated.

Also: Sennheiser Momentum 4: The best headphones for detail-oriented listeners

In my opinion, Sennheiser only competes with itself in the sound department, so when I saw the company released Sennheiser AccentumAn affordable twin to its flagship headphones, I was more than happy to get my hands on them.

The Accentum is a stripped-down version of Sennheiser’s flagship headphones, delivering “much of the desirable DNA” of the Momentum 4, according to the company. So, the big questions for a potential buyer include: Is the Accentum a decent budget-friendly option, should you save your money for the Momentum 4, or should you look elsewhere? Here’s my verdict after two weeks of testing.

Sennheiser Accentum headphones lying on a brick

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Sennheiser Accentum

The Sennheiser Accentum delivers Sennheiser’s long history of professional audio in a sub-$200 pair of headphones.

Let’s talk about sound first, since Sennheiser focuses a lot on audio performance, and that’s the metric I was most interested in as well.

Accentum’s 37mm dynamic drivers deliver tight, full-bodied bass that stays clean and never muddy, even after a round of bass boost. When I listen to the player come back kid, I could hear the drum basslines and kicks deep in my ears. The iconic guitar solo at the end of the song was so clear and soulful that I had to listen again and again.

Also: Don’t pay extra for noise-cancelling headphones if this $60 pair sounds amazing

In songs like Michael Jackson human nature, I could clearly hear the layered vocal tone and every little detail found in the upper range of high-pitched tones. Sennheiser’s dedication to high-detail signature sound is evident, even in a pair of $150 cans like the Accentum.

However, the Accentum’s ear cups are small and shallow, which affects the sound out of the box. If I gently push the outside of the ear cup, my ear touches the speakers inside the ear cup, which is not ideal.

As a result, listening to more than two songs can lead to fatigue and unpleasant feelings. After tweaking EQ settings and treble reduction, I finally found the sweet spot. You probably should do it, too.

Also: Best headphones for music

After testing both the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Accentum, it’s clear that Sennheiser still has some way to go with noise-canceling technology. Accentum boasts Hybrid Noise cancellation, a type of active noise cancellation that uses microphones inside and outside the ear cups to hear and cancel out outside noise.

A picture of the Sennheiser Accentum headphone ear cups

Jada Jones/ZDNet

Still, conversational sounds can exceed the Accentum’s ANC, and only the high-frequency pitches of droning sounds, such as a washing machine or running refrigerator, are effectively canceled out. However, for Accentum’s price point, the ANC isn’t bad. Also, they have a very snug fit which ultimately helps with noise isolation.

Speaking of snug fit, the headphones straddle the line between snug and tight. I wore the headphones for an hour before my ears needed a break, and if you have a big head, you might find these uncomfortable around the 30-minute mark.

Also: How to choose the best over-ear headphones: ZDNET’s buying guide

You’ll need to take them off and restore your ears before the batteries die, as the Accentum can hang for 50 hours. You won’t get a headphone jack with these, but the Marathon battery makes up for it.

As affordable twins to Sony’s high-end headphones, Sennheiser makes sure you’re paying for what’s inside the ear cups rather than what’s on the outside. The Accentum’s build is solid, and if you close one eye and squint, you might mistake it for the Momentum 4, as their builds are very similar. However, you can find more stylish and comfortable headphones for less.

ZDNET’s buying advice

Here’s the deal: If you want impressive sound quality under $200, then Sennheiser Accentum Their sound is certainly way more detailed than the latest flagship headphones from Sony, Bose and Apple.

You’ll want the Momentum 4 if you prefer a higher-quality, more refined build with up-to-date software features and better sound. Still, even the Momentum 4’s ANC is nothing to brag about.

If your priority is noise-canceling, the Sennheiser can’t give it to you. Instead, you can choose Sony

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