Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones
The first noticeable aspect of the sound is the looming mid bass. It’s hard hitting, thumping, and is forward in the mix. Sub bass is still present, but takes a backseat. This is not only enjoyable with bass-heavy music, but is also a great combatant for common enemies of public transport listening (such as low-droning engine noise). Midbass emphasis truly gives these cans a bit of kick, and gives the entire signature a bit of attitude.
Having angled drivers helps to deliver a wider soundstage than expected from a Noise Cancelling headphone - but don’t expect the soundstage to start rivalling your HD600 rig back at home. Mids are clear and realistic - with a bit of emphasis on the upper-mid region to bring a bit of sparkle to the overall signature. This also helps to bring great detail retrieval. Vocals sound intimate, and imaging is pretty good for a closed-back can.
The overall soundstage is slightly impacted and reduced when the noise-cancelling feature is switched on, but surprisingly, not too many other aspects of the sound signature are affected strongly by this - kudos, Sennheiser.
The highs are fighting a little with the upper-mids here, but don’t suffer too badly overall as a result. We didn’t experience any issues with sibilance or piercing highs, even at louder volumes. Despite being a little recessed in the mix, we didn’t feel that the highs were lacking overall, and still delivered in full when called upon. They didn’t come across as muffled, and these cans could be considered “warm”.
When using these in “passive” mode (switched off, with cable plugged in), the cans are very easy to drive. No external amplification or high-powered source is required to drive these. There are no major sonic differences between running these cabled, or Bluetooth - and we once again take our hats off to Sennheiser for making this the case.
The PXC 550 battery life is incredible - they have it marketed as “30 hours” on the box, and that’s almost exactly what we clocked up whilst reviewing it. The battery is not user replaceable.
Overall, the PXC 550 is an incredibly “fun” sounding headphone, with strong mid bass and upper mid presence - neither of which are strongly impacted by using the Noise Cancelling feature.
Bose have been the undisputed champions of Noise Cancelling, several releases in a row. Their most recent flagship offering, the QC35, have sat up on top of the Noise Cancelling throne since their release earlier in 2016.
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing these two headphones side-by-side is the build quality. The Bose has a lot more flexing and squeaking amongst the parts, while the Sennheiser has a far more solid and premium feel.
The Bose is also heavier, weighing in at 309 grams compared to the 227 grams of the Sennheiser.
The noise cancelling function between the two is very difficult to tell apart. They both cancel out engine noise and low frequencies effortlessly. We struggled to detect much difference in this department - which is a big nod to Sennheiser, as they seem to have stumbled upon the “Secret sauce” of noise cancelling that Bose has been feasting on for years.
Both headphones have NFC, so pairing with them served as a simple task with our Android device.
Soundwise, the two headphones have similar bass quantity, but the Sennheiser is a slightly brighter headphone overall. The soundstage on the PXC 550 overtakes the QC35 by a noticeable margin, possibly due to the angled drivers on the Sennheiser, paired with the slightly darker presentation on the Bose.
The QC35 are fantastic headphone - but if you have a little extra budget to throw in, the PXC 550 is worth the extra stretch.
To put it simply, Bose QC35 = Good, Sennheiser PXC 550 = Better.
There are a few things that I feel should be mentioned here. Firstly, when adjusting volume on the headphones in Bluetooth mode, there are not as many volume steps as I would have liked.
The carrying case also isn’t as small as it could have been. The headphones do collapse and fold, but to store them in the case they aren’t completely folded to their full extent. There is a little too much breathing room in the case for an everyday travel companion.
On top of this, the usual gripes with Noise Cancelling headphones are here - long-term comfort. It might just be our heads, but pleather pads with a firm grip can get a little itchy after a while; but no Noise Cancelling headphone is innocent of this.
After a few weeks of testing, we feel that the Sennheiser PXC 550 is currently the best Noise Cancelling headphone currently available on the market. Keep in mind that they will not replace your home Head-fi rig, nor will they avoid the usual pitfalls of noise cancelling headphones. But If you are after a premium option for travelling, look no further.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones are available now for $629.95 RRP.
For more information visit Sennheiser Australia.
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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