Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones
Sennheiser is one of the largest headphone manufacturers in the world, founded in 1945. Their headphones and microphones alike are highly regarded for their sonic qualities and versatility, and their products can be found in multiple categories including professional use in aviation and marine communications, through to domestic headphones.
They have previously dabbled in the portable Noise Cancelling travel market, with their PXC 250-ii and PXC 450 headphones, as well as the wireless Momentum series. The PXC 550 is the newest release - aimed to sit in the flagship position of the PXC travel line.
When the words “Noise Cancelling” are uttered, shivers often run down the collective spines of the audiophile community. This is partly due to a common stigma - “Noise Cancelling sounds poor” - and partly because a lot of Noise Cancelling headphones often make sacrifices to compete in the market. For example, some may have good battery life, but may be heavy as a result. Others may have a very comfortable and light clamp, but their noise cancelling may suffer in turn.
Bose have been at the forefront of Noise Cancelling technology for years, unparalleled in popularity for their premium headphone offerings. Now that Sennheiser have finally dropped a premium flagship offering into the noise-cancelling arena, is this just an attempt at throwing Noise Cancelling into a headphone to see if it will work? Or could this just be the change that Noise Cancelling fans have been crying out for?
Packaging, Materials & Build
The PXC 550 comes with:
- Micro USB cable (for charging)
- 2.5mm to 3.5mm headphone cable (with inline mic)
- Travel adapter
- Fullsize headphone jack adapter (non-threaded)
- Semicircle headphone carrying case
The headphones have a solid, rigid feel. No creaking, squeaking or excessive flexing. All materials and parts on the headphones are premium, and the styling is well planned. The matte-black body and silver highlighting is very trendy at the moment, and this design pulls it off successfully.
The pleather pads are soft and comfortable, and can be worn for decent periods of time. Like all ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) headphones, eventually they will get a little warm under the pads. The clamping force is neither strong nor too light - but solid enough to form a decent seal. Weighing 227 grams, these are a good, comfortable weight for a headphone - without even taking into consideration all of the gadgetry and battery inside.
There is an array of built-in microphones on the headphones themselves, as well as on the included cable. Phone calls can be made with or without the cable - in either “active” or “passive” mode.
There are various switches and buttons on the outside of the headphone:
- Bluetooth on/off switch
- “Effect mode” button
- Noise cancelling switch (off, medium or full)
- Micro USB charging port
- 2.5mm connector for the included headphone cable.
There is no locking mechanism for the 2.5mm connector, but it feels like a sturdy connection regardless.
The power toggle for these headphones are rather interesting; instead of having a direct on/off switch, the power is actually toggled by rotating the right hand cup. This may sound confusing, but after some use, it actually makes plenty of sense. The sheer act of removing the headphones from their carrying case and placing them onto your head will power on the headphones.
Once you have paired a compatible device, unfolding the cups will automatically resume connection to it. A voice prompt will tell you which device you have just connected to, and the headphones are ready to use. One might argue that placing these on your head and touching the cup (to give the “play” command to your source device) may actually be significantly quicker than plugging in a cable, like you would with a traditional pair of headphones.
The touch gestures on the headphones are similar to the recently released Sennheiser HD630VB - up and down for volume control, left and right for track skipping, Once you become accustomed to the basic gestures, there is less need to fish around in your pocket for your phone whilst listening.
The PXC 550 is compatible with Sennheiser's audio player app “Captune” (available on both the IOS App store and the Google Play Store). It’s a unique take on the regular “music player” app, in that it has a strong focus on interaction with Sennheiser headphones themselves. You can view which current “effect mode” the headphones are in, as well as check the noise cancelling status, battery life, and connection status.
It also contains a 14-band custom eq, where points can be manually inserted and adjusted. Not only that, but the app also features a “sound-check” feature - in which the user is presented with two an A/B test between two options for series of EQ bands. This effectively allows for absolutely anyone to fine-tune their audio experience without having to read up on how an EQ works.
All of this combined makes Captune a very strong contender on the market compared to other audio players. However, we would have been thrilled if we could save the custom EQ presets we made to the headphones, so that we can use them across all devices and sources (like with the Jaybird Freedom and X3).
Unfortunately, the Android app also doesn’t support folder view.
Captune includes a 90-day TIDAL trial which is excellent - but the app does not support Spotify use, so any EQ adjustments made in the Captune app do not carry over to other streaming applications. We would love to see this addressed in the future, if at all possible.
Nevertheless, the headphones themselves still have a selection of preset EQ modes that can be used at any time, with any source. Pressing the music note button on the bottom of the cup will cycle through the “effect” modes, and a voice prompt will guide you through which one is active.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.
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