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Sennheiser Accentum review: Sennheiser moves downmarket without moving downmarket

Our Rating :
£159.00 from
Price when reviewed : 159
inc VAT

The Sennheiser Accentum offer a bit of high-end cachet and a bit of high-end performance, without the high-end price tag

Pros

  • Balanced, expansive and convincing sound
  • Impressive battery life
  • Good specification and control options

Cons

  • Could maybe sound livelier
  • Earpads get too warm too quickly
  • No pouch or case included

Reputations don’t come much more bomb-proof than that of Sennheiser so when the brand revealed the Sennheiser Accentum –  a pair of headphones that look, on paper at least, to be specified beyond their asking price – I was very intrigued.

With the possible exception of touch controls, there’s nothing about the way the Accentum wireless over-ear headphones are specified that makes them look like the poor relation to Sennhesier’s range-topping Momentum 4 headphones. Physical, voice and app control are all available. Wireless high-resolution streaming is on the menu. The frequency response from the custom-made full-range drivers looks promising in the extreme. And the standard of build and finish, as well as comfort, is everything you’ve come to expect from Sennheiser.

And in practice, the Accentum satisfy in virtually every respect. They sound big, balanced, organised and eloquent, and they cancel external sound with real determination. All their control options are properly implemented, and – with the exception of the way the earpads can heat your ears in short order – they’re about as comfortable as these things ever get. If they sounded a little more animated and a little less detached, they’d be getting on for perfect. As it is, they’re very, very good value indeed. 

Sennheiser Accentum: What do you get for the money?

By the standards of big, credible headphone brands, the Sennheiser Accentum are an undeniably affordable option. But a relatively accessible price point doesn’t mean forgoing features – at least, not in this case it doesn’t.

£159 put Sennheiser’s way for a pair of Accentum buys you a pair of wireless, noise-cancelling over-ear headphones finished in either black or white. No matter the finish you prefer, your money buys you plenty of plastic – but it’s that hard-wearing, mildly tactile and entirely acceptable plastic we’re talking about here. Build quality is well up to the sort of standard we all expect from Sennheiser, and finish is good too.

The Accentum use Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connectivity, and there’s compatibility with the SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX HD codecs – so relatively high-resolution digital audio files can be streamed without difficulty. Once the audio information is on board, it’s served up by a couple of 37mm full-range drivers with a claimed frequency response of 10Hz – 22kHz.

Battery life is an uncomplicatedly impressive 50 hours from a single charge (as long as you keep volume levels on the right side of oppressive). Charging takes place using the USB-C input on the right earcup – from flat to full is a three-hour job, but just 10 minutes hooked up to power should be enough to deliver five hours of playback.

And that battery life is achievable with noise cancellation switched on, if for no other reason than it can’t be switched off – you’ve a binary choice between hybrid noise cancellation (which assesses your surrounding and adjusts itself accordingly) and transparency (which gives a little boost to external sounds).

You can toggle between the two positions using one of the four physical control buttons on the right earcup and also control play/pause, skip forwards/backwards, volume up/down, power on/off, Bluetooth pairing, wake voice assistant and answer/end/reject call. Or you can do the same thing in the Smart Control companion app that’s free for iOS and Android – it has quite a few niceties, including a five-band EQ and wind noise reduction control.

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Sennheiser Accentum review: What did we like about them?

There’s plenty to like about the Sennheiser Accentum. For starters, they’re very easy to control – the beam-forming mic in each earcup allows for good voice-assistant interaction (as well as decent telephony), the app is as stable as it is useful, and the physical controls are reliable.

They’re well-made, too – which is par for the course where Sennheiser is concerned. The headband adjustment, which is mostly concealed in the headband itself, moves smoothly, and the yokes holding the earcups are slender and sturdy in equal measure. The earcups swivel through 180 degrees, and there’s plenty of in-and-out adjustment available too – so along with the nicely plump earpads and inner headband, it’s simple enough to get the headphones comfortably positioned.

Best of all, though, is the way they sound. From the bottom of the frequency range to the top, the Sennheiser Accentum are a poised, detailed and expertly balanced listen, able to identify and contextualise the finest, most minor or most transient details out of a recording.

A listen to a high-resolution TIDAL stream of Fat White Family’s Tastes Good with the Money lets you know exactly what’s what: the Sennheiser establish a large and properly organised soundstage, and position every element of the recording securely on it. There’s sufficient dynamic potency to track the song’s changes in intensity faithfully, and more than enough skill with the harmonic variations to make both instruments and voices sound realistic.

Low-frequency information is deep and textured. Equally importantly, it’s properly controlled where the attack and decay of individual sounds is concerned – so the Sennheiser have no trouble keeping momentum reasonably high or confidently expressing rhythms. At the opposite end, there’s substance to treble sounds as well as a decent amount of bite and shine. In the midrange, the Accentum make sure singers have enough space in which to stretch out a little – but they also ensure that voices are properly integrated into the overall presentation.

And the good news keeps coming where noise cancellation is concerned. Low-frequency sounds can escape the attention of the Sennheiser, especially if they’re particularly loud or particularly close by (or both) – but in general the Accentum do a very acceptable job of keeping you isolated from external distractions.

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Sennheiser Accentum review: What could be improved?

A mild complaint: it would be nice if the Accentum were provided with a carrying case (or even a soft pouch) to keep them clean and scratch-free while in transit. A slightly less mild complaint: it would be very nice indeed if the pleather-covered earpads didn’t insist on retaining your body heat and then returning it, quite quickly and with interest. Hot ears are nobody’s idea of a good time.

As far as sound quality is concerned, though, there’s really only a slight lack of energy (and, as a knock-on effect, less of a sensation of fun than you might be expecting) that spoils the Accentum’s otherwise impeccable performance.

For all their powers of resolution, of detail retrieval, of soundstaging and all the rest of it, these Sennheiser aren’t the most engaged or engaging listen. The way they present music can make hectic, up-tempo music in particular sound a little less animated than it really should. Feral is obviously not a quality anyone wants in their headphones but, in all honesty, remote isn’t that much more desirable. 

Sennheiser Accentum review: Should you buy them?

The market for wireless noise-cancelling over-ear headphones is, of course, madly competitive – but aggressively priced models from brands with copper-bottomed credibility are quite thin on the ground.

And with the Accentum, Sennheiser has managed to deliver a product that upholds its hard-won reputation for build quality, that doesn’t obviously scrimp on features in order to keep the price down, that enjoys epic battery life and that is compatible with one of the more useful control apps out there.

This is also a product that cancels noise with efficiency and sounds expansive, informative and balanced – even if it’s not the most exciting sound you have ever heard. Recommending the Sennheiser Accentum, then, isn’t difficult at all.

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