Sennheiser PXC 550
- Pros: The Sennheiser PXC 550 intelligently combines Bluetooth with active noise cancelling while providing sound performance similar to previous models. The comfort is superb, with a well thought-out construction and effective tactile controls. The mobile application also brings interesting features.
- Cons: As often on this type of models, the price of the headphone approaches the around $400. At that price, we might have liked more noble materials and noise cancelling even more powerful.
- In Short: Once again Sennheiser demonstrates its full potential in nomadic headphones, and this new PXC 550 should be able to fit into the Momentum range. An excellent alternative to the Bose QC 35, although the noise cancelling is not as powerful.
- Bluetooth headphone compatible with aptX
- Multipoint connection and NFC chip
- Touch controls on the earpieces
- Active Adjustable Noise cancelling
- CapTune mobile app
- Battery life 20 hours
- Protective zipper case
- Airplane adapter and 6.3 mm
Sennheiser PXC 550 Review
Noise-canceling wireless headphones have clearly been on the market for a few months now, and now it’s Sennheiser’s turn to take on the adventure with its PXC 550 model. Thought to compete with the excellent Bose QC 35 Or the new Sony MDR-1000X, this new Sennheiser PXC 550 is a great addition to the Momentum Wireless, which also offers a wireless connection and an active noise cancelling module.
The PXC 550 (now offered in cheap price) is designed in a much more sober and mature sense than its colleagues in the Momentum range and targets above all the most nomadic users, wishing to isolate themselves and travel comfortably during long journeys by plane or by train. Obviously, the headphone is not limited to this use and as we will see in the rest of our article, it can perfectly adapt to a less restless daily.
Obviously, the question of sound performance, because combining Bluetooth connection and active noise cancelling does not always provide a sparkling result.
Is the Sennheiser PXC 550 successful? Keep reading for the answer.
To unveil this new headphone for travelers, Sennheiser does not go by four paths, with a well thought out slogan: Upgrade to First Class. The headphone remains nevertheless presented in a fairly classic cardboard box, where you will find all essential information about the product.
The front side of the package displays a large picture of the headphone, while the back side focuses on the technical specifications of the PXC 550. At the sides, it is discovered that the headphone incorporates tactile controls at its headsets (Like a Parrot Zik 3) and some of its features. We learned in particular that the headphone has an NFC chip or that it is compatible with the aptX codec.
Inside, the headphone is directly presented in its protective case. It also contains its various accessories,
- A cable with remote control for wired use,
- A micro-USB cable to recharge the internal battery,
- As well as an airplane adapter and a 6.3 mm adapter.
Design & Ergonomics
The first thing that comes to mind when you take control of the PXC 550 is clearly its size which seems much more compact than that of its direct competitors. Compared with its big brother the Momentum Wireless but also opposite the models of Bose and Sony, the Bluetooth headphone of Sennheiser appears indeed more discreet and mat. Nevertheless, it remains a circum-aural model, thus having atriums coming to encompass the ears entirety.
The manufacturer is clearly in the sobriety with dark tones embellished with a few silver keys. Visually, it is very successful and users which are a little more mature not necessarily looking for flashy products likes it.
In terms of construction, Sennheiser opts for materials that are a little less noble than Momentum Wireless, with a more pronounced use of plastic. The set appears nevertheless of excellent invoice and should logically perfectly hold on to the duration. This choice also allows the headphone to be light enough on the scale, with a weight of only 227 g. As for the finishes, there is nothing wrong and we appreciate the absence of assembly marks.
A little more in details, we should begin with the headband of the headphone. Quite simple, it is built from a metal rod perfectly structuring the whole while bringing flexibility and robustness. It is covered with a memory foam whose padding brings an excellent comfort while using. A faux leather upholstery then covers the whole.
The adjustment system is also very conventional, with the possibility of increasing the spacing of the arch by means of an extensible rod. It should be noted, however, that the notches are not particularly marked, and no reference mark makes it possible to find its adjustment at a glance.
There is a system well thought out to fold the ear cups flat, but also towards the inside of the arch. This construction will facilitate its storage in a bag or in its protective case while benefiting from a minimum size. It could also have made wearing the headphone around the neck a little more comfortable, but as we will see a little lower this is not necessarily the case.
The auricles themselves have a rather unusual design, with an ovoid shape that is quite rare in the universe of nomad headphones. However, the choice is not insignificant and in practice allows to perfectly match the shape of the ears.
It is on the side of the right atrium that we find the set of controls to manage the wireless headset with the fingertips. The Sennheiser PXC 550 has a big plus with the integration of tactile controls positioned on the outside of the headset. In the image of the different iterations of the Parrot Zik, you can manage the sound volume by sliding your finger up or down and move from one track to another. Lastly, a single tap will allow the music to be played or paused, while a double tap will activate the microphones of the headphones in order to hear everything that happens around us without removing the headphones from the ears.
Still, on the right atrium, there is the first button on the edge to manage the different levels of active noise cancelling. Three levels are proposed in order to adjust it according to its preferences and situations. A good point, even if to use this button proves to be quite inconvenient to handle. A second button can be used to toggle between different sound settings (Club, Movie, Speech or No Effect). Voice announcements will announce the selected effect for easy viewing.
At the end, the presence of a Micro-USB port to recharge the internal battery and a 2.5 mm port to enjoy the headphone even when its range is flat. You probably have noticed the absence of a Power button, because the headphones turn on automatically when the earbuds are unfolded and vice versa. An interesting choice, which should avoid ending up with an empty battery since here it is impossible to forget to turn off the headphone.
The cable used for wireframing is rather conventional, with a 3.5 mm angled connector and a remote control to manage the reading/pause or reception of telephone calls since it incorporates an additional microphone. Note that the headphone obviously has its own microphone for calls when used in Bluetooth mode. When it is wired even then it is possible to adjust the listening volume directly from the earpieces via the tactile controls presented above.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 also comes with two adapters. The first is a 6.3 mm connector that will allow you to enjoy the headphones at home on an amp or Hi-Fi, while the second will be used to connect the model to the specific connectors present in the aircraft. Enough to adapt the headphone to any imaginable situation, except perhaps the sporting practice where one will naturally recommend specific headphones.
On the comfort side, the headphones have memory foam pads naturally resembling the earphones. The padding is there again rather generous and brings to use an excellent comfort in association with the limited weight of the whole. Once on the ears, you can enjoy the music for long hours without fatigue. The set also has an excellent hold and does not move even during rapid head movements.
The only downside to the comfort of the headphone is when it is not positioned on the ears. Indeed, once around the neck, the atria form a kind of vice and the port is not particularly pleasant. A concern that is not really one, since it is ultimately not necessary to remove the headphone from the ears to be able to hear the outside world and exchange around oneself.
At the end, with a small round on the side of the carrying case. Zippered and slightly padded, it effectively protects the Sennheiser PXC 550 but also transports its various accessories via a small inner pocket. Once in a bag, the sleeve is more compact than the model of Bose and facilitates its transport.
The only downside to the comfort of the headphone is when it is not positioned on the ears. Indeed, once around the neck, the atria form a kind of vice and the port is not particularly pleasant. Since it is ultimately not necessary to remove the headphone from the ears to be able to hear the outside world and exchange around yourself.
A small round on the side of the carrying case. Zippered and slightly padded, it effectively protects the Sennheiser PXC 550 but also transports its various accessories via a small inner pocket. Once in a bag, the sleeve is more compact than the model of Bose and facilitates its transport.
Getting Started and Using
Mainly thought to be used via its Bluetooth connection, it is also worth noting that the Sennheiser model has an NFC chip to facilitate its pairing. With compatible smartphones, it will be enough to bring the two devices together to establish the wireless connection.
For other users, including iPhone users, simply select the headphone from the list of available devices in the Bluetooth settings. The headphone then reconnects automatically next time. Once in place, the headphone offers a range of up to a dozen meters, and it is also possible to connect the PXC 550 to several devices simultaneously and then switch automatically from one to the other. Convenient if you want to watch a movie on your tablet while still being able to answer a phone call without having your smartphone in your hands.
In addition to the features already listed above (wireless connection, touch controls etc.) the PXC 550 can also be accompanied by a mobile application provided by Sennheiser. Named CapTune, it is available for free on the App Store for iOS users and on Google Play for Android users.
The application comes in the form of a reader significantly more advanced than those offered by default on most smartphones. In practice, there are several similarities with the application accompanying the Parrot Zik 3, and users wishing to play a little with the sound settings will like it.
From CapTune, you can create playlists by combining several different sources, such as music stored directly on your phone and other titles from a streaming source, in particular through a partnership with Tidal. It is regrettable however that it does not seem possible at the moment to import the songs since Spotify, Deezer or Qobuz.
The application then allows you to juggle between many settings of equalizers, and you can either create your own signature or come to select one of the configurations already proposed by the brand. On this same window, we also find the different effects listed above (Club, Cinema, Dialogue), but it will be possible here to go a little further by choosing the specificities of each of these effects.
At the end, there is the SoundCheck option which allows you to adjust your music preferences step by step. The application proposes a process in 8 steps where one chooses each time between two sound signatures in order to obtain a rendition corresponding perfectly to the expectations. Quite fun and innovative to use.
Last point regarding the mobile application of the Sennheiser PXC 550, the management of its active noise cancelling. The headphone has three settings for this mode, a first one where only the passive cancelling works, a second where the active cancelling is at the maximum and the last mode where it can be adjusted from 0 to 100%. Entitled NoiseGard, this functionality makes it possible to play with the efficiency of the module according to the situations.
In practice, the active noise cancelling of the PXC 550 works well, even if it is still a notch below the market caddy, the Bose QC35. In its maximum position, functionality cuts much of the external sounds but does not completely isolate from its surroundings. The bubble sensation provided by the Bose model is not great, but we will, however, have the pleasure of being able to enjoy its music fully without having to raise the volume, even in noisy places.
The sound performance of this Sennheiser PXC 550, as usual keep in mind that the lines that follow are based primarily on a feel after several days of use rather than on purely technical measures.
The headphone is primarily designed to be used via its Bluetooth connection, it is in this mode that most of our listening has been done. Note, however, that when listening, the sound renderings in wired and wireless mode are very similar, unlike many models. A good first point in itself.
Same with active noise cancelling, which in practice does not deteriorate or drastically improve the audio quality of the headphones. We obviously feel some slight differences in some frequencies, but nothing that could really lessen the listening pleasure provided by the PXC 550.
Overall, the Bluetooth headphone offers a relatively warm, with a slight emphasis on the first half of the spectrum, giving pride of place to bass and midrange. The rendering is nevertheless homogeneous and adapts easily to most musical genres. Not really a surprise when you know the pedigree of the brand in terms of audio products.
The quality of listening is clearly superb, and it takes a huge pleasure to enjoy all the favorite music without being disturbed by any cable. The active noise cancelling, even if it does not make a miracle, also reinforces this sensation.
By playing with effects directly accessible from the headphones, or by going a little more in detail via the application, users will also have the time to personalize their listening. The Cinema effect is moreover rather convincing, clearly improving the immersion on certain scenes. The Dialogue effect on its side can be interesting for listening to podcasts.
The headphone is announced with a range of up to 30 hours. For comparison, the Bose QC35 and Sony MDR-1000X are announced around 20 hours and the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 around 24 hours.
Looking a little closer to the question, we understand that Sennheiser actually announces a 30-hour autonomy in wired mode + active noise canceling. For the Bluetooth connection, the PXC 550 joins the competition with a range of 20 hours.
In practice, count effectively a good twenty hours at moderate volume, in wireless use and with the active cancelling to its maximum. What remains is very correct.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 delivers unmatched convenience and superior functionality to most of its competitors, making it one of the most comprehensive models on the market today.
By combining active noise canceling, tactile controls, and effective mobile application and of course very good sound performance, the PXC 550 is clearly out with honors. Of course, the ANC may not be as mastered as it is with the Bose QC 35, but if you want to isolate yourself in part without completely cutting yourself off from the outside world, it remains an excellent alternative.
Obviously, the question of price (check discount price), because this Sennheiser PXC 550 is clearly not given, the image of its competitors. In this small world of Bluetooth headphones with active noise canceling, only the latest model from Plantronics seems to think of your wallet with much lower price.