Review: Sennheiser's PXC 550 Wireless Headphones Should Put Bose on Notice


Past month we appeared at Bose’s wi-fi QuietComfort 35 noise-canceling headphones ($350) and arrived absent with the feeling that – at the very least for these eager or equipped to take a look at quality waters – Bluetooth-centered audio fulfillment was lastly a probability.

So it would be remiss not to turn subsequent to rival quality headphone maker and properly-regarded German audio company Sennheiser to see what it has to give in the wi-fi noise-canceling space.

Sennheiser has dipped its toes into the NC market in advance of with the PXC 250-ii, PXC 450, and its lauded wi-fi Momentum sequence, but the organization introduced its flagship PXC 550 travel cans ($400) in an just about immediate response to Bose’s QuietComfort changeover to Bluetooth, which can make comparisons listed here unavoidable. Very first although let’s appear at the design and style and capabilities of the PXC 550 headphones on their own phrases.

The PXC 550 headphones come with a sturdy semicircular have case, a micro-USB cable for charging, a 2.5mm to three.5mm cable for wired mode featuring an inline mic, a travel adapter, and a comprehensive-dimensions headphone jack adapter.

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The matte-black headphones appear elegant and stylish, with silver steel aspects that mark out the micro-grilles of four noise-canceling mics and accentuate the earcups’ oval condition.

The hinged pivots variety aspect of a collapsible body that folds flat for stowing in the travel case. It’s a reliable, properly-crafted design and style – which is just as properly, for the reason that turning the earcups from a flat to an inward struggling with situation powers the headphones on and reversing the action turns them off, so buyers will be carrying out this quite a great deal.

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The correct earcup is where all the operation life: there is a Bluetooth on/off switch a different switch to turn noise canceling on/off or help adaptive ANC mode a combined pairing and “Effect Mode” button a a few-mic array for speech all through calls and the aforementioned electric power switch crafted into the hinge.

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On leading of that, the again of the correct earcup is sensitive to contact gestures, enabling you to regulate quantity (slide a finger up/down) and playback (tap to perform/pause, slide ahead/backward to skip/go again a monitor), as properly as to get and close calls. There is also a micro USB charging port and a 2.5mm connector on the rim for the integrated headphone cable.

Battery life is stated as 30 hrs wired and 20 hrs wi-fi, both equally with ANC enabled, and the charging time is a few hrs. These really spectacular occasions turned out to be extremely exact in subsequent tests, specially supplied the envisioned discrepancies in quantity desire and the ANC’s variable response to adjustments in ambient noise. The battery although is not consumer-replaceable – the headphones require to be despatched again to Sennheiser for a alternative set up.

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The headphones hook up working with Bluetooth 4.2 or NFC on supporting products. There is a TalkThrough attribute that can make it simpler to hear somebody speaking to you without having taking off the headphones, and a crafted-in limiter to guard versus unexpected, intense seem peaks. The PXC 550’s also help you save pairing profiles for up to 8 products. Finally, there is crafted-in assist for the aptX codec, applied for streaming 16-bit audio above Bluetooth connections (more on this underneath).


The PXC 550’s went into automated pairing mode when I initially turned them on. A sequence of LEDs on the earcup flashed in a running sequence as a female voice identified my Iphone as “Phone 1” and paired with it with no concerns. I held down the Influence Manner button for four seconds to activate pairing mode all over again, as explained in the Swift Start off information, and linked the headphones to my Mac (“Phone 2”). Switching amongst them was seamless and automated, and simply depended on whichever unit in proximity was enjoying audio at the time. The relationship also remained potent through.

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Headphone contact controls can be a strike and miss affair, ranging from the overly sensitive, to the just simple awkward to use. Sennheiser’s implementation sits at the middle of the scale for the reason that of the restricted egg-formed gesture surface. It’s an additional attribute men and women have to consider them selves to make a judgement, but I got on with them fine – my only gripe is that the stages of quantity are not granular sufficient for my liking, and after or 2 times I located my finger reaching for my Iphone to alter it more carefully as an alternative.

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The handbook lists a bunch of gestures over and above the kinds famous earlier mentioned. For instance, if you obtain a call when you are listening to new music on your Iphone, you can transfer the call from the headphones to the cellphone by tapping and keeping the earcup for a 2nd. This allows you go on with the call if you really don’t fancy sporting the headphones when chatting on the cellphone, when the aforementioned TalkThrough attribute for chatting with somebody in the identical home is a double-tap absent.

Somewhere else, swiping again and keeping the gesture pad activates Siri, and tapping and keeping for about four seconds gives you a rapid battery standing update. I rarely applied these gestures, but the simple fact that they exist shows just how considerably thought has long gone into the contact capabilities.

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The PXC 550’s in the worn “Power On” situation (left) and laid flat to “Power Off”.

What impressed me more although was the rotating earcup electric power toggle. When I initially commenced working with the headphones, I truly didn’t like it considerably, and skipped the binary certainty that comes with a common on/off switch. But it didn’t get very long for me to try to remember to lay them flat when I removed them, and right after a when I thought it made a great deal of feeling.

Taking the headphones out of the have case or buying them up from a flat orientation and putting them on… turns them on. And vice versa. Two ways combined in a single action. That the cans instantly hook up with the last two paired products when they electric power up – and each step is accompanied with an audible voice prompt – can make this an intuitive solution.

In phrases of consolation, right after a several hours’ use, I felt the PXC 550’s ended up on par with Bose’s QC35’s. Both equally headphones are superb to wear. Correct, the home inside Sennheiser’s softly padded cups are not as extensive in comparison, but the QC35’s are extremely roomy to start with. My ears are not enormous although – even bigger lugs may well uncover the lessened confines as well near (or as well warm) for consolation. Make absolutely sure you consider them on initially to check out the in shape.

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As for the audio, the mid-selection bass of the PXC 550’s is somewhat more pronounced than the QC35’s. It’s more energetic and ahead, but not in the synthetic-sounding way that’s typically involved with early Beats headphones, for illustration. It’s a thumping bass, but it does not dominate the soundstage, which continues to be extensive and comprehensive.

Over-all I located the audio better than Bose’s ANC headphones. These closed-again cans give what you could possibly call a more “warm” seem, with a small less emphasis on the upper mid selection, but a remarkably vivid over-all signature that works properly with vocals, as well. They sounded lively in both equally lively and passive modes, with or without having noise cancelation, and the customizable outcome modes – club, motion picture, and speech – made available extremely good alternative signatures for unique listening scenarios.

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There is been some heated discussion among noise-canceling connoisseurs about whether the PXC 550’s ANC is as very good as or marginally weaker than the Bose QC35’s.

Getting now examined both equally headphones aspect by aspect when no new music is enjoying and in the actual identical situations, I truthfully can’t notify the variance amongst them. This integrated sporting them when touring by prepare, by aircraft, and when sitting in a living home with a dehumidifier humming absent in the background. The only obvious change arrived when I switched to the PXC 550’s adaptive ANC mode, which at any time so somewhat lags as it compensates for variations in ambient noise when you are on the transfer. If not, Sennheiser’s NoiseGard Hybrid technology is basically indistinguishable to Bose’s own patented ANC as much as this reviewer is worried.

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A further attribute really worth dwelling on is the PXC 550’s aptX assist, which implies they can wirelessly stream 16-bit audio, or what is about thought of “CD-quality”. Sadly, none of Apple’s mobile products at this time assist the aptX codec (to some, that’s inexplicable – aptX is supported by various Android phones and is accredited by Qualcomm, an Apple supplier). Happily although, aptX is crafted into OS X/macOS Sierra, and I was equipped to pressure my MacBook Professional to hook up to Sennheiser’s headphones working with the codec, many thanks to Apple’s own Bluetooth Explorer utility.

The variance was subtle but obvious when listening to large-bitrate, minimal compression formats, providing somewhat better fidelity than when connecting to my Iphone 6s (which defaults to common SBC, as per the Mac) and listening to the identical documents.

CapTune App

The CapTune app for iOS/Android could quickly fill a complete other article. It’s where you can change the PXC 550’s audio prompts and percentage of ANC, and activate its Good Pause and Connect with Improvement modes. But that’s not even the 50 percent of it.

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CapTune is also a standalone new music player and audio-tuning utility in its own correct. You can produce playlists, import them from iTunes, or use its just lately performed and most performed vehicle-created lists. It also optionally integrates with the Tidal streaming support, and comes with a no cost ninety-day large-definition quality subscription trial.

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A amount of audio documents are supported by the app, like MP3, AIFF, AAC, WAV, and Apple Lossless. You can also personalize the PXC 550’s present seem profiles centered on Improve, Spatial, Reverb, and DLC parameters, or produce your own ‘Director’ profile, which then gets to be the fourth selectable mode via the earcup Influence Manner button.

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In addition, there is a soundcheck perform where you can A/B-take a look at a sequence of predefined equalizer configurations, additionally a bunch of genre-precise preset EQs to pick from. Finally, you can help you save all of your configurations in particular person profiles for unique scenarios – like a ‘gym’ or ‘relaxing’ profile, for instance.

Bottom Line

Choose nothing absent from Bose – the QC35’s are exceptional headphones in their own correct. But I arrived out of this take a look at preferring the Sennheiser PXC 550’s, for a amount of causes.

Very first, they seem somewhat better, and only narrowly fall shorter of the heights of Sennheiser’s wi-fi Momentum sequence. The design and style of the PXC 550’s is also more progressive and properly-thought of than the QC35’s, which are just about identical to Bose’s before flagship QC25’s (experimented with and examined although they may well be) and come off feeling a bit uninspired as a final result. As very long as you can are living with contact gestures, Sennheiser’s cans give a more up-to-day setup. They also come to feel more rigid and less ‘creaky’ than Bose’s design and style, suggesting they will last extended in travelers’ luggage.

You can turn off the ANC and nevertheless hear wirelessly (or wired) with the PXC 550’s not so with the QC35’s. Sennheiser’s headphones also enable you alter the degree of noise-canceling, which is arguably on par with Bose. The PXC-550’s are lighter (227g vs . 309g) regardless of the extra tech they also assist aptX, where the QC35’s really don’t and in phrases of app capabilities, it is no contest actually – CapTune is the clear winner.

The Sennheiser PXC 550’s may well cost a tidy sum, but on this evidence they make a very good case for remaining the very best noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones in the company.


  • Comfy, progressive, stylish design and style
  • Outrageously very good battery life
  • Fantastic seem and a initially-class tuning app
  • Active NC to rival Bose


  • Contact controls may well not match some
  • Volume gesture could be more granular
  • Non-consumer-replaceable battery
  • $fifty more pricey than Bose QC35

How to Invest in

The Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones cost $400 and can be ordered on the Sennheiser website.

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Notice: Sennheiser loaned the PXC 550’s to MacRumors for the needs of this assessment. No other compensation was acquired.

Source: Mac Rumors