Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless ANC Headphones

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Just when I thought my review days were winding down, Sennheiser - among others, comes out with a bunch of great new products and they asked me if I would continue to look and share my thoughts on their latest and hopefully greatest. I’ve once again plugged in my laptop, downloaded some great music and made sure that I’m all mellow and ready to spend some solid hours listening and evaluating the new PXC 550-II from Sennheiser.

These are not studio headphones. The PXC series is about active noise cancellation, lightweight and offer a plethora of other features that should appeal to frequent travelers. Just because they are geared for those that spend a bunch of time on the road, on a train or in a plane, doesn’t mean they won’t be a great accessory for those who desire a listening experience immersed in solid comfort, excellent noise cancellation and app features that simplify and allow you to custom tailor the experience for you alone.

PCX 550-II

 

The advertised MSRP at launch of these headphones is $459.95 CDN or $349.95 USD, they come in a little more affordable than the Momentum 3 we looked at a little while ago. They are priced in the mainstream ANC road-warriors budget and we’ll find out if they are worth your hard-earned green.

First Look:

The Sennheiser PXC 550-II come in a understated box as is typical for quality Sennheiser products. Inside the box the headphones come packaged with all their goodies in a nice travel case. The case is quite thin as the headphones twist flat for storage and this twist also double as the power switch.

In The Box

 

Folding headphones aren’t always built to last, but I’ve had enough experience with Sennheiser to believe that these will last longer than most, but I’m not sure how I feel about the power switch requiring a mechanical twist. Time will tell if this is a weak point in the design.

In The Package

 

The earcups are closed circumaural and feel like good quality foam cover by soft leather. They are very comfortable to wear for extended periods. While they do feel a bit warmer on your ears than open-backed headphones, they aren’t as smothering as many others I’ve tried. 

Bundle

 

These are more than just headphones, they double as a killer hands-free headset for your favorite mobile device. As such, they include a microphone located at the front of the left side earcup. I didn't snap specific image of this microphone array, but it's more than just a simple little pin-hole. The PXC 550-II uses a three microphone array as well as “beamforming” to provide excellent microphone pickup and call quality with these.

Control

 

The controls on the PXC 550-II are pretty much perfect. As for buttons and switches, there is a single button that allows you to use your voice assistant (Alexa is possible if desired). There is also a single switch that allows you to turn off Active Noise Cancellation, turn it to adaptive or set it to maximum. There are a couple of adaptive modes that can be adjusted through the Sennheiser Smart Control App, or you can just crank it to max and it works. Volume up, down, skip forward, back and answer calls are all done through a large touch pad on the right earcup. It works well and is intuitive. I have no complaints and only praise for the layout and execution of the controls.

On the next page, we’ll take a look at some of the features, specifications and more from Sennheiser.


Features & Specifications:

The information below has been pulled from the manufacturers website and posted here for your convenience. For all the updated details and downloads, please visit Sennheiser.

Created for the frequent traveler, the PXC 550-II Wireless from Sennheiser upgrades every journey with unrivalled sound quality and wireless freedom. Travel the world on a single charge with 30 hours of battery life: Listen to music, take calls, interact with AI assistants, or simply journey in tranquility without distractions.

Leave background noise behind
Adaptive Noise Cancellation automatically adjusts to your surroundings to suppress unwanted background noise, for your ever-changing environments.
 
Your personal travel assistant
Take control via convenient, one touch access with the Voice Assistant Button that connects to virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri. With the triple microphone array offering unrivalled speech clarity when giving voice commands.
 
Long lasting comfort, one charge travel
Whatever your destination, the exceptional 30-hour battery life of the next generation PXC 550–II Wireless is powerful enough to last your entire journey without the need to recharge. And with the advanced ergonomic design and rotating earcups, the PXC 550-II is effortlessly portable with a perfect fit for your ear.
 
Smart pause autopilot
The Smart Pause feature reacts to your movement with seamless and practical automatic switch-off. The headset automatically turns on and connects via Bluetooth as it’s unfolded so you can listen exactly where you left off.
 
The sound of smart travel
The Sennheiser Smart Control App, with selectable sound modes, allows you to tailor the sound experience to your travel playlist whether that be music, news, podcasts, or film.
 
First class call quality
A bespoke triple microphone array makes it easy to stay connected while on the move. ANC detects and removes background noise providing unrivalled speech clarity, so your calls and voice commands are never lost.

 

Technical Details:

Speaker Type: Dynamic, 32mm
Frequency Range Speaker: 17-23,000 Hz (-10db)
Ear Coupling: Around-ear headphones
Impedance: Active – 490 ohm / Passive – 46 ohm
Sensitivity: 110dbSPL (passive 1kHz/1V RMS)
THD + N: <0.5% @ 100dBSPL / 1kHz
Frequency Range Microphone: 50-10,000 Hz
Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 5.0 compliant
Transmission Frequency: 2400 MHz-2483.5 MHz / GFSK, Pi/4DQPSK, 8DQPSK
Supported Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
Audio codec: SBC, aptX™, aptX™ Low Latency, AAC
USB Standard: micro-USB
Power supply: 5.0 V DC, 330mA
Battery Specification: Built-In Lithium rechargeable battery
Charging Time: 3 hrs
Battery Time: 20 hrs (ANC + AD2P) 30 hrs (ANC + wired)

 

On the last page, we'll dive into testing and then wrap things up.


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