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I tested Sennheiser's new mid-range headphones and they're so close to perfect

The Sennheiser Accentum Plus offer many upgrades from last year's model, with improved sound, noise-canceling tech, and software features.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Sennheiser Accentum Plus headphones lying on a brick mantle
Jada Jones/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The new Sennheiser Accentum Plus are an exceptional mid-range option for audio fanatics. They're now available to purchase for $230.
  • Exceptional sound quality and a marathon battery life set these headphones apart from similarly priced competitors.
  • The build quality is exactly the same as last year's model, with no improvements to fit, design, or materials.

During this year's CES, audio company Sennheiser announced three new pairs of headphones and earbuds, one of them being an upgraded version of the Sennheiser Accentum.

Sennheiser's Accentum line can be thought of as the mid-range, bare-bones version of the company's flagship Momentum series over-ear headphones. Last December, I tested the Accentum headphones and enjoyed their imposing sound, given their $150 price tag.

Also: The best over-ear headphones: Expert tested and reviewed

However, the Accentum had a really tight fit that made them almost unbearable to wear. So, I had higher hopes for the new Accentum Plus, which go on sale today at a new, higher price point of $230. Are the latest headphones worth it, and have Sennheiser fixed the fit and finish? Read on.

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Starting with sound, the Accentum Plus' output is both rich and clear, and Sennheiser angled the speakers' transducers to tweak the soundstage just enough for a great listening experience. By moving the transducers, Sennheiser gave the Accentum Plus a more airy and spacious sound than last year's Accentum. The new sound is like an in-between of static and spatial audio, giving you an immersive experience without feeling like they're altering the sound significantly.

Also: Sennheiser's budget headphones sound surprisingly good to me, but there's one problem

When I listened to Lorde's Green Light, the bass was punchy and full, and the synth harmonies were present enough to give me a warm feeling at the base of my ears (that's a good thing). Listening to Black Out Days by Phantogram was an experience of well-blended bass and midrange harmonies, delivering an electric and all-encompassing sound. 

There's no decrease in sound quality from the first model Accentum to the Plus and no drop in quality from the Momentum 4 to the Accentum Plus. For $230, you're getting an impressive sound experience with exceptional clarity and depth from the Accentum Plus.

The Accentum Plus have the same design as the Accentum, which is mostly plastic, except for the polyurethane-covered ear cups. However, the plastic build makes these headphones very light, so if the ear cups suit your ears, these headphones are a solid option for long commutes and all-day wear. 

Still, their fit was too tight for me, and I tapped out after about an hour of wear. If these headphones fit your noggin, they can stick around for a whopping 50 hours with Bluetooth and noise-canceling on. For comparison, headphones in a similar price range, like the Beats Studio Pro and the JBL Tour One M2, can only offer up to 35 hours with ANC enabled.

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

Tap and swipe controls on the right ear cup replace the buttons found on the Accentum, and they're responsive and reliable. A quick tap can play and pause music or accept or end a call, while swipes increase and decrease the volume. These headphones also have wear detection, which pauses your music when you take them off and resumes the music when you put them back on.

The first model Accentum had hybrid noise canceling tech, which employed microphones inside and outside the ear cups to listen for noises and cancel them out. The Accentum Plus boasts adaptive noise canceling, an increasingly popular form of noise-canceling technology. Adaptive noise-canceling listens for the noises in your surroundings and automatically adjusts according to your environment's noise levels. This way, you can get more noise reduction in louder settings and less in quieter areas. 

Sennheiser Accentum Plus headphones in a woman's hand
Jada Jones/ZDNET

That said, the Accentum Plus' ANC is still weaker than other headphones in this price range, like the Bose QuietComfort 45. However, the ANC adaptivity helps quieten your surroundings while keeping your music center stage, and it's the best I've experienced in the noise-canceling department from Sennheiser. 

Also: The best noise-canceling headphones: Expert tested and reviewed

Sennheiser included a carrying case this time around, which is a bonus. Of course, it's not as sturdy as the case you get with the more expensive Momentum 4, but it's less bulky and serves its purpose, which is to protect your headphones from dust when they're not in use.

You can listen to the Accentum Plus over a wired connection, but I don't recommend it unless you're plugging into professional audio equipment. These headphones require more electrical power over a wired connection than your smartphone can offer, so the Accentum Plus will sound quiet, distant, and tinny. When listening on your smartphone, stick to Bluetooth; you get several audio benefits wirelessly by accessing Qualcomm's AptX codecs.

ZDNET's buying advice

The Sennheiser Accentum Plus headphones are great for music lovers looking for a small and light pair of headphones with an extensive battery life. The Accentum Plus are a step up from the first Accentum headphones in the sound and noise-canceling departments and are best for people interested in spending the extra money for better features. 

I'll note that the non-Plus Accentum model is still the cheapest option, so if you want great sound for less money, try those. However, if you want something even more stylish in design and has a longer battery life and a deeper bass response, go for the Momentum 4.

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