Bluetooth headphones are defined by their flaws.
When you go wireless, you accept trade-offs. The questions become “Does the connection avoid freaking out all the time?” and “Do they sound that much worse than a normal pair?” Everyone would love a world without wires, and that desire goes a long way, but cords are still reliable little things from a quality perspective.
Because of those technical challenges, very few Bluetooth headphones manage to be polished enough to provide a genuinely delightful experience. But Sennheiser’s HD 1 Wireless are an exception.
They have been around for a while now — they used to be called the “Momentum Wireless” — and I am far from the first person to say they’re great. They also cost a whopping $A622.
But that high price is really the only thing you could call a “flaw.” The HD 1 Wireless aren’t much of a value, but they’re the type of product that just feels pleasant whenever you need them. If you must go wireless, and you simply want the best, they should be near the top of your shortlist. Here’s why:
Let's start with the design. The Sennheiser HD 1 Wireless are at once stylish and understated. I could see them looking good on both men and women, and I had people of both genders tell me as much, unprompted, while I wore them. They've got this retro vibe to them, but don't lean so hard into it that they feel corny. Looks matter with over-ear headphones, and the HD 1 have the sort of upscale feel you'd want from a $A622 product.
The materials here are just nice. There's little plastic -- instead, you get a mix of metal and leather, all of which feels wonderfully smooth to the touch. It's also sturdy enough to survive a few drops.
Everything is exceptionally comfortable, too. The leather headband is smooth and light, and the soft earpads are both thickly padded and sizable enough to fit over most ears. It's not overly heavy, and, for me at least, it was spacious enough to keep my ears from getting sweaty. I wore them for hours at a time without issue.
Just don't expect these things to accompany you to the gym; that's not the point here, and you should know that just by looking at them.
The controls on the HD 1 Wireless are simple enough. There's a power/pairing button and a toggle that manages to control volume, play/pause, and track skipping all at once. All of this works fine, though the power button could stand to be a little more pronounced.
There's also a spot to plug into a traditional audio cable, one of which Sennheiser packs in the box. That's great if you absentmindedly run out of battery. It also brings a slight but noticeable upgrade to audio quality. What it doesn't bring, however, is a microphone or remote. Once you lose Bluetooth, you lose the ability to make phone calls or change tracks. That's hardly a dealbreaker, but it's a pain nonetheless.
The headphones also charge via microUSB, which isn't as fast to recharge as the newer USB-C standard. It's at least ubiquitous, though. And when you do go wireless, call quality is perfectly acceptable.
The HD 1 Wireless aren't exactly new, so they connect over the older Bluetooth 4.0 standard. (We're up to Bluetooth 5 now.) For the most part, it's fine. The wireless range is solid, and you can generally walk around with your phone in your pockets and not get annoyed. You'll still get a few connection blips every now and then, however, particularly in busy areas. It's not so spotty as to ruin the whole experience, but it's not perfect.
Likewise, while the HD 1 Wireless can automatically re-pair with a phone or laptop to which you've previously connected it, it doesn't always follow through. It's hard to determine an exact pattern for it; sometimes it reconnects seamlessly, other times it just doesn't.
Again, this wasn't enough to make me stop using the headphone, but don't expect the easiness of an AirPods or newer Beats headphone, which use Apple's W1 chip to connect more easily with Apple devices.
The HD 1 Wireless also come with active noise cancelling, which goes into effect as soon as you turn the headphones on. So long as you've got the music going, it'll successfully drown out most of the world around you. It works well in the office. But it's better to look at it as a bonus feature more than a core selling point.
Sennheiser's noise-cancelling tech can't touch the best from Bose or Sony: Without any music playing, things will sound more distant, but will largely remain audible. And in particularly noisy environments -- a rumbling bus, let's say -- you may still have to make it a point to crank the volume to block everything out. These concerns don't exist with some other high-end cans.
The other issue is that you can't turn the noise cancelling off at all so long as you're connected over Bluetooth. Sennheiser isn't the only headphone maker to do this, but it's an annoyance: Noise cancelling isn't constantly necessary, and it technically degrades sound quality and battery life more than it has to.
The overall package is still robust enough to make up for it, but generally speaking, consumer choice is better.
What allows the HD 1 Wireless to justify any of its smaller shortcomings is how purely fantastic it sounds. To get it out of the way: No, they don't sound better than the best wired headphones at this price; those, as always, are both livelier and more detailed. But they're better than many wired pairs priced below it, and they're right at the top of the heap compared to other Bluetooth cans.
Balance is the name of the game here: These things work well with any genre, and handle treble, mids, and bass with aplomb. There's a small boost to the bass, which can cover up lower-mid sounds a tad, but Sennheiser doesn't overdo it. The bassline in a hip-hop track like Joey Badass' 'Ring the Alarm' is deep and powerful, but never bloated. There's nuance to it, too, so it doesn't just sound like one low-end note being thumped repeatedly.
There's an exceptional level of depth and detail to the mids -- again, relative to other Bluetooth pairs -- and the soundstage is nice and wide. A shoegaze-y rock song like Slowdive's 'Go Get It' has room to breathe -- the ghostlike vocals sound off in the distance, as intended, and you can feel the track gradually amplify as it builds up to its chorus, then lift off once it gets there. The dynamics are great, and muddiness is kept to a minimum.
If I had to nitpick, I'd say the highs could stand to be a little bit crisper, but they're much clearer than with most wireless headphones as it is.
They manage to stay smooth pretty consistently, too; only with poorly-recorded tracks could things start to sound harsh.
But all told, if you're open to listening to a Bluetooth headphone in the first place, the HD 1 Wireless' sound should work for you, regardless of what kind of music you prefer.