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Create Labs WP-350 vs WP-450 vs Sennheiser MM 500-x
on July 25, 2012
I have owned dozens and dozens of headphones over the years ranging in price from $70 to $600+. I needed to find a replacement for my Sony DR-BT50 bluetooth headphones because my new Samsung Galaxy S3 only supports SBC and only with a bitpool of 31 (a bug or oversight) which leaves the bitrate so low that audio is highly compressed. I rip all my CDs at Lame 320K because I really can hear the difference between 256K and 320K.
After pairing one of my other headsets to my S3, a pair of Sennheiser MM100's, I discovered that the sound was not degraded like my BT50's. After doing some research, I discovered the MM100's support aptX even though it's not listed in the specs and that the Galaxy S3 is one of the first phones to also support aptX.
I like the MM100's, but they're very lightweight and don't have a great deal of power and aren't quite as full as I want from over the ear headphones.
First up was the Sennheiser mm500x. Bluetooth audio quality clearly survived without any obvious compression(aptX is almost lossless). But the sound quality from the actual cans was awful. Mids and bass are completely thin. I'm not a bass junky but I like a flat response. i.e. a truly flat response headphone will have good bass and treble. It's hard to get both right. The mm500x's are over the ear medium sized headphones and their build quality is outstanding. They look and feel the $350 price tag. Unfortunately, they don't sound it. Even my older mm100's sound way better.
Next up was the wp-450's. These look nice, but they have too much cheap plastic chrome. A stark contrast to the Sennheisers solid brushed aluminum bits. The sound quality from these was even worse than the Sennheisers. The good thing though, like the Sennheisers, the head band holds the cans firmly against the ears.
I had also gotten the WP-350's by mistake. I had tried to cancel the order within 5 minutes of placing it but it still shipped. And boy am I glad they did. I decided to try them and didn't hold out much hope as the electrics and drivers are identical to the 450s and cost 2/3rds the price.
To my surpise, the sound quality on these is outstanding. I soon realized the difference between the more expensive 450s and the cheaper 350s. It's the housing and port design. The 350s have bigger housings (not meant to fold) and have these air ports holes on the back side. These cans are truly flat and neutral sounding...something I've never heard in any BT headphone in the past. The bass is very clean without being distorted or over stated. If your a bass junky and you want really powerful bass, these cans respond really well to equalization. i.e try mixzing on your android and turn on the eq and go to the 12 db range setting, then set the 31 hz slider up. For the bass junkies, this will reward you with powerful and undistorted bass(don't forget to turn the gain down in the eq if it starts flashing red).
If you own a pair of 350s currently and want to know what the 450s sound like, simpley put your fingers over the two port holes on the back of the cans and that's *exactly* how the 450s sound.
So for the price, these headphones are truly miracles. I still need a good over the ear solution but have pretty much discounted the Beats due to reviews on sound quality. Still, the market is young and aptX is exploding which is an incentive to develop high end streaming bt headphones, so I would expect to see many more options in the next year.
I gave these 5 out of 5 because for what they are intended, they excel. Are they even as good as a pair of $70 MDR-V6's? No, but they're not that far off. In fact, I'll bet 99% of the population wouldn't be able to tell you which is better.
What would I have preferred? Over the ear headphones that fold like my BT50s. Also, these don't go as loud as the BT50s which isn't normally an issue as I don't blast music, but I occasionally listen to pod casts while mowing the lawn and like to wear earplugs and then headphones over the plugs. The 350s aren't quite loud enough to get through the ear plugs when mowing the lawn, but I don't need sound quality for that so the BT50s will still work fine there.