- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Life in a “cube farm,” as I encounter it daily, can be exciting. I’m in a large enough building, with an atrium, no less, that construction noise and even other people’s conversations drift over from upper and lower levels.

It would be nice to have a bit more quiet, and, since the fabled “Cone of Silence” from the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart” isn’t available, I tested Sennheiser’s MM 450-X headphones, list price $449.99. These “cans,” as audiophiles often refer to their headsets, are very, very good. Are they worth this amount of money? That’s a different question.

The MM 450-X headphones are a “premium wireless headset,” Sennheiser says, offering a Bluetooth wireless connection to a wide range of devices, including computers, smartphones and tablets. The company says the MM 450-X also offers “active noise canceling,” which presumably would cut down on external sounds; something a cubicle dweller would doubtless appreciate. There’s a built-in microphone, so you can use the headphones to conduct a voice or Skype call, or to dictate a few words into an email or document.

I’d imagine that part of the hefty price tag — $150 more than Bose Corp.’s superb QC-15 wired noise-canceling headphones — is the wireless connection. Not having a cord is a blessing: You get more freedom of movement, and a pretty good range of motion at that: I could walk about 30 feet from my desk before the sound connection was lost.

Depending on the music chosen and the volume selected, noise cancellation is pretty good. I cranked up the Pandora.com Internet radio service and the Beatles had their gently weeping guitar in my ear without any outside distractions. (Well, almost any: The aural response of the Matus Tactile Pro keyboard was still audible.) Ditto for the Rolling Stones, and, for that matter, for Bach’s Mass in B Minor and anything by Beethoven.

Another nice thing is that the headphones have a rechargeable battery, which connects to a mini-USB cable. I haven’t timed it, but battery life seems quite good, spanning several days of use.

Mastering the side-of-the-speaker controls isn’t a major hassle, and there’s both a “quick start” guide and more detailed printed instructions. Nicely, Sennheiser offers a pouch in which to carry the headphones (which fold up) as well as a USB charging cable and a cord to connect the headphones to a device if necessary.

Didn’t I mention? Sorry: It’s worth noting that these “wireless” headphones can use a wired connection to let you hear audio where Bluetooth might not be optimal.

My only hang up is the price: $450, give or take a penny, is a lot of money for most of us. Is it really, really worth the expense just to have a cordless listening experience?

It might be. If you really want to escape the surrounding noise and yet be free to move around, if you want to listen in bed, perhaps, and not get tangled up in a cord, then this is a worthwhile investment. The more I listen to the MM 450-X’s sound, the more convinced I am that it is that sound which is worth the price tag.

But you — or your bank account — may see things differently. About all I can suggest is that if you have the chance to try these out, it’s worth doing. You may be very satisfied, even if ramen is your go-to meal for a while. More information on the Sennheiser product is online at bit.ly/XDvDj9.

‘MASTER YOUR MAC’: It’s the title of a new book by author Matt Cone, and promises “simple ways to tweak, customize and secure OS X,” the Mac operating system. I’ll just say the $29.95 list price for this No Starch Press title is some of the best money a new Mac user can fork over. Mr. Cone’s style is simple, direct, and informative and lets readers take action simply and easily. I highly recommend this book for those wanting to make more of their Mac experience.

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