Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones Review
The new Sennheiser PXC 550 wireless bluetooth headphones are the latest entry to the wireless headphone arena at reviewflux.com – we give them an extensive test to see how they stack up against the competition from the new Bose QC35, Sony MDR-1000X and our favorite, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless.
Straight out of the box the PXC 550 remind us a lot of the Bose quietcomfort 35, there is a lot of familiar looking elements & I can’t help but wonder if the Sennheiser design team weren’t heavily inspired by the Bose guys. I don’t want to say that the PXC 550 is plain…. let’s say ‘conservatively styled’. A little chunky & blocky, with a lot of high quality matte black plastics going on. There is a conspicuous absence of buttons, with most of the clever features being dealt with by means of a discrete touch panel on the side of the earcup in the same vein as the Sony MDR-1000x we have previously looked at.
So no ugly duckling, but not winning first prize at any fashion contests either.
Connectivity is good, the PXC 550 offers the quality increasing aptX protocol so long as you have a compatible phone / audio player (most everything except Apple iPhones – these will connect using standard bluetooth which still sounds great on these thankfully). If you are not sure what these connectivity formats mean, you can check out our in depth look at the aptX and other protocols here: Best Bluetooth Audio Formats – How to Get the Best Wireless Sound
Build quality is overall very good, the PXC 550 feel nice & solid in the hand, being nice & comfortable on the head thanks to soft cushioned headband & memory foam earpads. These showed no comfort problems or fatigue after an extended listening session of several hours, so very nice work so far Sennheiser.
The larger size allows for an extended run time of a claimed 30 hours which seems to be getting better with every new release, a trend we are more than happy to applaud. We can do without one extra device to sit on the overnight charge stand every day – thankfully with occasional use you may stretch the charging sessions to several weeks at a time. In the full size bluetooth headphone space including active noise cancellation, this is the best we have seen so far.
There are a couple of unusual buttons on the bottom of the right earcup which deserve a mention – one flips the equalizer mode to 4 presets direct on the headphones (no app required on the phone, but there is one available should you like to tweak & customize that way). We don’t normally mess about with equalizers on our headphones whilst listening, but the option is there & can be fun to play around with different sound profiles. The other button switches the noise cancellation mode (or turns ANC off entirely).
The Sennheiser PXC 550 is one of the first wireless headphones to support 2nd generation active noise cancellation – check out the link where we look into the advances in technology with 2nd generation active noise cancelling headphones.
Volume level & track skipping are dealt with by tapping / stroking the right earcup. This is something we have seen before with other models, and it works ok but not great – skipping several tracks in one hit seems laggy & can get on your nerves when it goes wrong. Volume adjustments seem fine, as does tap to pause, as these are the key elements to get right I would say it works great – but you would do well to keep the more complex track jumps / album changes to your phone / media player.
Sennheiser PXC 550 Review – Sound Quality & Performance
So – on to the main event for the Sennheiser PXC 550 review – how do they sound?
Listening to the Sennheiser PXC 550 reveals a lot of effort has been made into the ongoing improvements in sound quality being made in the wireless bluetooth world. The PXC 550 excels in the midrange detail & high frequency performance is also exemplary. Bass is well detailed, with a subtle boost but otherwise an accurate sounding headphone. If you are going to tweak the sound profile, a subtle boost to bass is exactly what we would prefer – so top marks here.
There is a crispness & clarity to the sound delivery that very few wireless bluetooth headphones can even get close to – it’s a top performance from Sennheiser. Compared to the flat delivery of the Bose QC 35 it is night & day, a subtle improvement on the delivery of the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless that went before it.
Performance was pretty great even in standard bluetooth mode (SBC) which is all you get with Apple iPhones, but if listening in a quiet environment & zoning out to the music you can feel the subtle improvements by switching to an aptX device (we used an iPhone 7 and a Samsung Galaxy S7 when testing). It’s nice that it works great with both to be honest.
The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) works well on the Sennheiser PXC 550, but is more subtle than the Bose, not cutting out quite as much of the background noise as we have heard on other models. It’s good, and you can clearly tell it is working it’s magic, but from time to time you notice a little noise working it’s way into your music on quieter passages.
If you like audio books, this is especially noticeable when traveling on a busy train or bus, but we found switching the equalizer mode on the PXC 550 into ‘speech’ really improved the situation. So the equalizer may get a bit of use after all!
Overall the big win for the Sennheiser PXC 550 is the sound quality which is top it’s class right now in early 2017. Did Sennheiser just look at the Bose QC35 playbook and +1 on everything? Maybe. But they got it right where it matters, which would make the PXC 550 into our ‘must listen’ list before purchasing.
We aren’t in love with the conservative looks (subjective I guess – you might love them!), and the touch controls are a bit hit & miss too.
But the wins are big / the fails are small – we rate the Sennheiser PXC 550 a strong contender for sure & it features high on our list of best wireless headphones 2017.
- Feature Set 92%
- Build Quality 88%
- Sound Quality 93%
- Value for Money 85%
- Overall Rating 90%
Sennheiser PXC 550 Review – Final Thoughts
Sennheiser’s latest PXC 550 wireless bluetooth headphones are a superb audio performer, one of the best pairs of wireless headphones we have seen so far. The conservative styling will not appeal to everyone, but they definitely make the top 5 list for early 2017. Recommended.