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Build Quality – 6.5
The 449′s look great but their looks don’t match their feel. The 449′s are made completely of plastic and not a heavy, brawny feeling plastic. Rather, they have the cheap almost toyish feel. The ones I had for a month held up well but then again I’m pretty easy on headphones. I don’t know how well these would hold up to wear and tear – they might be more resilient than they feel, but only time would tell – and my time was up!
Comfort – 8.5
Honestly, I’d give these a higher score on the comfort if it weren’t for the fact that a few of the people I let try them out didn’t have a problem with the smallish ear cups. The headphones are extremely light weight – so much so that you’ll almost forget they’re even on your head. The ear pads are elongated and fairly narrow and might be a deal breaker for those with wider ears.
Isolation – 8
The 449′s do a pretty decent job for headphones that have no built in noise-canceling technology. Music was kept in very well and external conversations and noise were muffled very nicely. With even lower levels of volume, you could basically block out the world around you (unless you’re at a construction job!) and that’s a huge plus for those who work in office type environments.
Volume – 7
I was actually a little surprised that the 449′s didn’t fair better in this department. These are 32 ohm headphones and usually anything in that range can be easily driven by an iPod/iPhone. I found that my iPhone could just barely drive these to moderate listening levels and trying to go past that would introduce noticeable amp strain from the phone itself. If you pick these up, you’ll want to invest in at least a portable amplifier such as the Fiio E11 or the PA2V2 – both of which worked very well with the HD 449′s.
Bass – 7
The bass is neutral, balanced, and mostly detailed. It doesn’t have the complete resolution of other sets I’ve tried at this price point, but it does sound pretty good. One thing you won’t get with the bass on these is any level of thump. If you’re in love with rap, hip/hop, R&B or the like, these won’t be your cup o’ tea.
Midrange – 8
The midrange is also neutral and again does a nice job producing a natural sound, but they are missing some detail in the upper midrange that gives you that involvement you look for when listening to great vocalists or skilled instrumentalists. Saxophones and wind instruments just don’t have that pizazz I want and that feeling that someone is singing to you is missing. All the sounds are tonally accurate and overall sound nice, but just won’t give you that extra something that would have put these in a special class of headphones.
Treble – 8
You guessed it – neutral. I appreciate a treble that doesn’t become fatiguing or harsh, and that is definitely the case with the 449′s. While these also lack a bit of detail and resolution that will allow you to experience the pulling of a bow across the strings of a violin, or the picking of the strings on a guitar, the treble does have an ease to it that allows you to listen for hours on end without ever feeling abused. Not recessed, and not too forward, the treble mixes very well with the bass and the mids.
Soundstage – 7.5
I was actually pretty impressed with the soundstage on the HD 449′s. Usually at this price point and a sealed set of headphones, you can’t expect much, but these actually had a decent sense of space and placement. If the details in the mids and treble had been greater, I would imagine this would have been better still.
Overall – 7
Overall, I liked these headphones but I felt there were too many areas where they needed to be improved for me to be super enthusiastic about them. The biggest problem for me is that these headphones don’t get me involved in the music like I want to be. What exactly do I mean by that? They don’t get my head bobbing or my foot tapping like other sets of headphones out there (both in this price range and obviously much higher). The frustrating thing is they sound good, but they just don’t put me “that place” I want to be when listening to a higher end set of headphones. Granted, at $120 you can’t be asking for the moon, but I’ve definitely heard headphones that cost less such as the PX-100 II’s that I felt were more involving than the HD 449′s. Now that’s not to say that the 449′s are bad – rather they’re decent. For people who are sensitive to heavier headphones but they still need a sealed/closed design, these might be a good option. Also, these do a decent job with lower quality bit-rate recordings as they’re a little more forgiving than more detailed sets. So if you’re a Pandora listener or have a lot of 128 bit encoded songs, then these might work out well for you.
Best for these genres:
- Big band
- Rock (if you’re not craving crazy amounts of bass)
Would avoid these:
Hopefully you’ll see that I’m basically targeting those that love pounding bass. The bass in the HD 449′s is accurate but it’s not going to feel like subwoofers jumping in your ears. These don’t take all that well to bass EQ’ing so you can boost it slightly, but anything more than a gradual bump will distort the bass and make the listening experience not all that enjoyable. That’s not to say the bass isn’t adequate for most listening experiences, as it is, but it’s best for people that want to listen to things in their natural sound and not the boosted thump that most enjoy with the “avoid” genres above.