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Sennheiser is an audio company that has been in the business for the better part of 70 years.
The latest addition to the Sennheiser noise canceling headphones offering are the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless (PXC 550).
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless headphones are designed with the travelers needs in mind.
We all know that when it comes to noise canceling Bluetooth headphones, there is usually some level of compromise (or at least there should be) between the specs and the price.
So when the PXC 550 came in at an asking price of $400*, the expectation was that these headphones would have all the bells and whistles and everything in between.
I am not sure what the thinking was in the pricing as this is at the upper end of the Bluetooth noise canceling headphone pricing segment especially given the nature of the competition (Think Sony and Bose QC 35 II).
The Price very quickly dropped to $350* as the market was not as responsive.
But the price has subsequently dropped to below $300*, and at time of writing have been discounted all the way to around $250* and slightly higher depending on where you get them.
Thank goodness that they have dropped the price, because I feel as if this is the price range at which these headphones start becoming competitive.
Thankfully Sennheiser have made sure that you do not need to compromise on sound quality, design and build, testament to the competitive nature of this segment of the headphone market.
Fortunately I got these during techtober and was flying around all over the place, so these cans were really put to the test.
And to be perfectly honest this is where a good set of cans really stand out.
I like the fact that they seem to have got the basics right with these headphones and provided an all round great audio and noise canceling experience.
The headphones come with 2 microphones in total, 2 on the outside and 2 on the inside.
The right ear cups include the Bluetooth on/off switch, speech microphones, audio input (for the cable jack), micro USB input, LED display, effect mode control and Noise guard/ANC control switch.
Sennheiser have made an interesting feature, whereby the headphones are automatically turned on when you turn the ear cups into the use position.
I actually found this to be annoying as I not only have to physically remove my headphones from my head when I was done with them, but I had to remember to rotate them to turn them off.
That can be a problem, because should you forget to turn them when you are away from your desk you can actually lose some battery power.
Say that I am done with my headphones for the day and I fold them inward to store away, they would still be on. You would physically need to twist them to get them off.
Sennheiser has built a gazillion features with the sensors of the earphones, that are quite fun.
I will go through the basic ones, but you can read the headphones manual and play around with them to get an understanding of the rest of them.
One thing to note is that the sensors are very sensitive. So if they happen to be touched accidentally, ever so slightly they will re act accordingly.
Perhaps in the next model, Sennheiser may want to consider reducing the sensitivity of the headphones, and perhaps incorporating the feature into the app.
To increase/decrease the volume you simply swipe the sensors on the ear cups up in the case of an increase in volume and down in the case of a decrease in volume.
To skip between tracks you simply swipe back and forth on the ear cup sensors.
To skip forward you swipe forward and to skip backwards you swipe the sensors backwards.
To answer and end a call you simply tap the sensors.
Unfortunately the voice prompt that comes with the headphones can become very annoying and will consistently tell you the amount of battery life that comes with the headphones, especially when your battery starts to go below 20%
Fortunately you can get upwards of 20 hours of use with the Sennheiser PXC 550 wireless headphones.
To be honest that is not very impressive as the standard is at least 24 hours of battery time for a full charge.
But on the other hand if you consider that the Microsoft surface headphones are $100* more expensive at time of writing and only give 15 hours of battery life, then Sennheiser are perhaps not that bad.
But one criticism that I have of the headphones are that they do not come with a fast charging mechanism.
In this day and age this is unacceptable especially if you consider the initial offer price.
These bad boys may not be designed for the audiophile, but they sure do sound good.
And for the current price, I definitely give them an 8/10 for the sound quality.
Remember how I spoke about effect mode earlier on.
This mode allows you to control your headphones based on the genre of the music and the effect that you would like.
If you leave the effect mode to the default setting then you will notice a few things.
Higher frequencies have such superb definition.
As a fan of Bassy music, I must say I enjoyed these.
Every time I listened to music with hip hop drums, I found the bass to be deep, rich and well-defined.
Now if your phone happens to support APT-X playback, the sound is even more impressive.
The overall sound is crisp and really immersive. The mids are well-defined, and I was impressed with the sound stage.
What you will notice are the various types of finishing on the headphones.
There is a lot of silver like finishes to the headphones around the headband and around the ear cups.
The touches do look aesthetically appealing, however I think the finishes are easily susceptible to damage which may affect the look.
I would have preferred the finishing to be made of plastic.
At least with the plastic finishes you can get scratches, which could be sprayed away.
Fit and comfort
The build is robust, and solid. When I do the flex test, I notice you can stretch these out quite wide and there is no sign of fragility. So automatically you can see that they were designed with various head sizes in mind.
Now very quickly you will notice that the ear cups are oval shaped.
When I see this I give a thumbs up to the manufacturer as the have considered how these cans will fit onto all sizes of ears.
Nothing can be worse than headphones that rest on your ears, especially when you have to tune out for long periods such as at work or on a long flight.
The outside of the ear cups are made of a matt like silicone finish to them.
The ear pads are made synthetic of leather, and really help give these cans a snug fit, although I did feel some sweat after wearing these for a while.
But then again I do sweat more than the average person, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about that if I were you.
The headband is made of plastic materials and has a metal frame.
You may find the clamping force slightly strong initially, depending on your head size, but this does improve after you wear the headphones for a while.
The weight of the headphones are 227 grams which are nice and light, ensuring that you do not feel like you are carrying a brick on your head.
As Henry Ford once said, you can have a ford in any color as long as its black.
That is certainly the case with the Sennheiser PXC Wireless. Unfortunately at the time of writing the only color that was available was black.
What’s in the box
You get the black Sennheiser PXC 550 wireless headphones and a hard shell carry case.
Also, included are an airplane adapter and a micro USB cable, and an audio cable with answer/end with 2.5mm and 3.5mm jack plug.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless headphones come with a nice snug hard shell carrying case.
This should automatically tell you that you are able to fold the ear cups.
This for me is perfect as I do not have to feel like I am being burdened by a case.
A voice assistant has been incorporated into the headset, which prompts you on things like powering on and off, and also lets you know how many devices you have connected at any specific time.
Now this can be nice at first, but it can be annoying and sometimes can get in the way of your audio experience, especially when your battery gets low.
Fortunately Sennheiser made sure that you can turn off your voice assistant with the captured app.
One thing that should be noted with the voice prompt is that it is not available when the headphones are connected directly to a machine/laptop.
So the app must be used when establishing a connection.
Unfortunately the headphones come with a micro USB cable.
This is of course always somewhat disappointing as I would have preferred a USB C compatible device.
I do think this is one area where performance was slightly compromised for cost consideration purposes.
The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 4.2 and cover the traditional range of +/-10m/+/-30ft.
The smart pause feature automatically pauses the headphones when you take the headphones off and resumes the music when you place them back on your ears.
I think this is an excellent feature as when I have to leave my desk, I can simply remove my cans and my music will pause.
The dedicated app is compatible with both android and ios.
Sennheiser also has its own integrated music player and sound tuning app called CapTune, which allows you to adjust the feel of your music to your perfect setting.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 wireless headphones are NFC enabled.
Simply slide your phone against the left ear cup to connect and your devices are paired immediately and automatically.
Remember that this can be done only if your device has NFC enabled on it as well.
Active noise cancellation
Sennheiser Noise cancellation is the adaptive kind adaptive.
Sennheiser call their noise cancellation technology “noise guard”, there is a button located on the right ear cup that allows you to control the amount of noise cancellation.
You can choose between full and adaptive noise guard mode.
The cans also come with an effect mode button that allows you to toggle between different effects or the built in EQ’s.
Similar to the AKG 700 NC headphones, the Sennheiser PXC 550 comes with a feature called talk through.
Now this as I am sure you have guessed, is a feature that allows you to be able to hear someone talking to you without having to remove your headphones.
This is achieved through the microphones that are outside of the headphones.
When the talk through feature is enabled, you simply double tap the sensors and you will activate talk through mode.
This then allows you to let in the ambient sounds within your environment.
There are a total of 4 microphones that deal with the noise cancellation capabilities of the headphones.
The 2 inside microphones filter out the lower frequencies and the 2 on the outside filter out the higher frequencies.
The lower frequency sounds were kept well at Bay. Of course this is never the feature of noise cancellation that impresses me, as the minimum that a decent pair of noise canceling headphones should be able to do is block out the low frequency sounds.
The true test of quality noise cancellation is the extent to which it deals with higher frequency sounds, such as the crying baby in that flight.
I must say these were pretty decent at this.
On my flight to Munich, I gave these a try to boy did they do an excellent job of blocking out the jet engine noise.
One word of caution is that if you do not have music playing in the background then it feels like you are in some sort of vacuum.
This is the customary white noise that accompanies many noises canceling headphones.
But it should never be so pronounced that it becomes an issue, and I felt that it was somewhat annoying here.
But then again who uses noise canceling headphones without listening to music? I have never heard of anyone, so this on its own should not become a massive problem.
I love how the Sennheiser has a built in limiter, which ensures that when you are on ambient listening mode, you avoid sudden and extreme sound level peaks.
For the techies out there, the Sennheiser PXC 550 wireless headphones come with Impedance of 490 ohms active and 46 ohms passive.
The frequency response is 17-23000 Hz. The sound pressure level is 110db.
Although the on/off twist feature is playing around with some ingenuity, I think it has missed the mark and is a potential battery drainer as opposed to helpful.
The touch pad for me is perhaps a little to sensitive, and can take a little while to get used to.
Other than that these are a solid set of cans, they are well-built and have good noise cancellation ability.
Reasons to consider buying:
- Multi point technology allows you to connect to 2 devices at a time.
- NoiseGard™ Hybrid adaptive noise canceling
- 20 hours of battery life with noise cancellation on and 30 Horus with noise cancellation off.
- NFC compatible
- Touch sensitive track pads on the ear cups
- Solid build and comfortable
- Built in limiter to avoid sudden and extreme sound level peaks
- Capture music player and sound tuning app
- Powers on as you unfold it, automatically pauses when you remove it and switches off when you fold it.
- Lightweight at 227 grams
* Prices mentioned above where relevant at time of writing.
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