Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless ANC Headphones - Testing the PXC 550-II

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Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless ANC Headphones
Features and Info
Testing the PXC 550-II

Testing:

Let me get this out of the way; I'm not an audiophile. Granted, I really love good audio. I do have a pretty good ear and I really enjoy music. However, I don't believe that there are a lot of objective ways to test headphones. The experience is very personal, unique and everyone has a different idea of what sounds "good". I did listen to Momentum M3 and Massdrop HD6XX for comparison. I used these wireless as well as wired through my Bottlehead Crack 1.1 OTL amp. Most of my thoughts are going to be through the Bluetooth however as these are designed to provide audio on the move; not strapped to your desk with an amp.

I listened mostly through my Samsung S9+ as I was pretty busy and on the move for the duration of the review period when I had the PXC 550-II on my test bench leading up to Christmas. Volume is decent via Bluetooth, but when wired, you do get more bang for your buck.

Flat

 

In terms of music specifics, I did listen to a lot of different genres as I'm not really strapped to one type of music. I listened to everything from 90's alternative, modern pop, country and everything in between. I have a few lossless FLAC albums that I purchased that really showcase stereo headphones and I made sure to spend some time listening to these as well. The sources for most of my testing was Google Play Music, SiriusXM or Spotify Premium with the quality set to maximum.

These headphones provide a well-balanced music experience no matter what type of music you listen to. The bass is full and powerful enough to really be appreciated without trying to shake your brain. I never felt I needed more bass, mid-range or treble when using the neutral setting through the Smart Control App. If you want to get a bit more bass by changing EQ, I felt that I lost a bit of clarity in the mid-range when using Club or Movie settings.

Face Up

 

Overall, the experience was pretty solid, but after being spoiled with the HD6xx from Massdrop (think Sennheiser HD650), the PXC 550-II clearly aren't quite audiophile quality. They are, however, a fantastic piece of kit for walk-around and travel cans. The lightweight PXC 550-II trumps the Momentum 3 in terms of carry-ability and all-day comfort.

In terms of pop music, if you've been brainwashed into "Beats" audio, you’ll enjoy the pre-configured equalizer presets. The “Club” preset makes pop music come alive and there are even more simplified settings up the “Director” section in the Smart App. While it doesn’t give you a full equalizer, it does make things easily tweakable and very different. These settings are saved to the headphones so even after you disconnect them, or switch to a new device, your preset is saved on-board the PXC 550-II. At no point do these push bass-heavy distortion (unless it’s actually in the recording) and the low-end and high-end are always perfectly crisp and clean. There are times though, when I can’t get the mid-range to be as pronounced and balanced as I’d like.

As far as comfort goes, the PXC 550-II are over-the-ear headphones that are covered with leather and filled soft foam for excellent comfort. I've worn these for hours on end with no discomfort whatsoever. I like to wear them around the house so that when my kids ask for money, I can point at the headphones and shout NOISE CANCELLING so they leave me alone. They are a closed design but are light enough and seem to breath so they don’t get too warm. In fact, you could wear these during a light workout and not suffer heatstroke on your ears. They are very light for a full-wireless headphone and are very comfortable.

 

Conclusion:

As I type this conclusion, Five Finger Death Punch “Gone Away” is pounding in my ears and it’s glorious. The opening piano is clean and clear, quickly being added to by a snare and the clear vocals. Once the opening is done and the main verse starts with additional guitar and drums, things get even better. At maximum volume, the vocals get a bit overshadowed but the bass line, but it’s very immersive and almost a spiritual experience.

Billie Eilish "Bad Guy" is a touch bass heavy, but that's the track and it sounds bass heavy on any decent pair of headphones. Lesser headphones produce distortion, but these are clear, clean, crisp and comfortable.

Breaking Benjamin "Lights Out" sounded a bit cleaner than the Momentum M3. That is a very busy track and it’s very difficult to make that sound perfect. The HD6XX pull it off perfectly, but they aren't conducive to a portable audio experience. The vocals, highs and thrumming bass line fit and blend well.
Audioslave "Show Me How to Live" seems like it was mixed specifically for these. It's a perfect showcase for how headphones and music should sound. The M3 and the PXC 550-II sound so close here, the only difference is the weight on your head.

Blake Shelton’s “Jesus Got a Tight Grip” (and everything country) is fantastic. I know country music gets a lot of hate, but the clean guitar, sweet bass line and crisp vocals gives your favorite pair of headphones a bit of a workout and the PXC 550-II are up to the task without even breaking a sweat.

In terms of physical constructions, while folding headphones can often feel a bit flimsy and construction quality can be an issue, Sennheiser makes products that are built to last. They don’t feel as robust as the metal Momentum M3, but they do feel solid. They feel as solid as they did when I first unboxed them.

In terms of audio quality and ANC - which is probably why you decided to consider these, they perform very, very well. Whatever your music choice, these are a solid choice and won’t leave you feeling disappointed. 

 

Pros:

  • Good quality construction
  • Good, balanced audio
  • Quality fit and finish
  • Lightweight and built for the road warrior
  • Super comfortable
  • Works well with Android devices
  • Multi-modes of noise cancellation (Adaptive, Wind, Max) 
  • Equalizer through app saves to headphones (not just through software)
  • Excellent battery life

 

Cons:

  • Super light-weight construction leaves me worried about longevity and durability