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The Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless is the top model of travel headphones with noise-canceling in the German headphone manufacturer's range. The headphones impressed us with a fantastic, clear sound, good active noise cancelation, and a comfortable fit. Also worth mentioning is the really excellent active noise suppression and clear communication quality when making calls.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II ANC Wireless Headphones Review
1. Overview - not finished
Type: Over-ear Noise Cancelling Headphones | Bluetooth: 4.0 | Battery: 30 Hours | Charging: 4 Hours | Drivers: Dynamic | Drivers-Size: 45 mm | Weight: 385g
The packaging is typical for Sennheiser. The actual product, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless, is generously presented on the front of the box where its four main functions are listed:
- Music & Calls.
- Touch control.
- Voice Assistant and Noise-Canceling, but also a “Sennheiser Smart Control” app for controlling the headphones.
The packaging itself consists of a solid and sufficiently thick cardboard box that supplies a carrying case, audio cable (3.5mm to 2.5mm), micro-USB charging cable, airplane adapter, and documentation (quick guide and safety guide).
Its design is modern, sleek, and appeals to the general public, but it can hardly be really exciting. And it offers everything in terms of equipment that is befitting and what one could wish. The matte black headphones are combined with the look of dark, brushed metal. The black leather upholstery tastefully rounds off the whole thing.
The PXC 550-II Wireless headphones look very compact for an over-ear and fit perfectly. The ergonomically shaped earcups and earpads embrace the ears’ natural shape by covering them correctly; the headband is also well padded and sits well on the head. The high-quality leather loosely covered, enclosing the ears and stretched tighter, is very pleasant. It has a matt finish and is pleasantly soft. The quality of both the leather used and the stitching is best.
Its craftsmanship isn’t as meticulous and authentic as that of B&W PX5. The Sennheiser PXC-II Wireless headphones use plastic. However, this model, which is mainly marketed as travel headphones, denotes plastic use’s positive side effect: At 227g (without cable), it is extremely light and comfortable to wear, even if worn for a long time.
You can use the PXC 550-II as a headset when making calls and as an interface to voice assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, Siri & Co. The elaborate microphone technology contributes to the best possible communication. The control buttons and a touchpad are located on the right earcup. If you take off the headphones, it goes into pause mode.
There is a “Voice Assistant” button on the right earcup, a micro-USB port for charging, and a port for analog audio. I was a little disappointed when I saw that the manufacturer only uses micro-USB here, as with the predecessor (Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless). USB-C would be desirable and more up-to-date. The other controls are hidden in the right earphone. Because these are operated by a touch panel. You can adjust the volume through swiping gestures, switch between songs, rewind or pause the music, as well as accepting a phone call by tapping on the panel.
A unique, helpful function is well hidden by Sennheiser. The headphones have an on/off switch hidden in the right earcup’s pivot joint; thus, it switches off when headphones are folded up. Conversely, as you unfold them, it turns on automatically. When the switch is turned off, the music pauses; conversely, the music resumes the playback when turned on.
In terms of wireless connectivity, the most important aspect of the PXC 550-II compared to its predecessor, PXC 550, is the upgrade to Bluetooth 5.0. It also implements the AAC codec for better Bluetooth sound quality, which is now available in addition to aptX and aptX LL.
Bluetooth sound quality
Sound quality is complemented by AAC with the well-known aptX and AptX Low Latency, which can minimize the time lag in Bluetooth connections. AptX Low Latency is the Bluetooth codec that reduces the latency the most and is the most helpful when watching movies on TV or playing games on your phone/computer. The low latency ensures that the picture and sound remain in sync.
The pairing is initiated by pressing the Voice Assistant button on the right earphone for 2-3 seconds with other Bluetooth devices. The fact that two devices can be connected to the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless at the same time is very pleasing. It’s practical when you are working on your laptop, and you don’t want to remove the headphones when you receive a call, as the headphones are connected to both the laptop and the smartphone. This automatic switching between the devices works very well. In total, the headphones can remember up to 8 devices.
As long as the smartphone and headphones are in the same room, the Bluetooth connection is excellent. If there are walls or really great distances in between, the connection will falter or break.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless headphones have a battery life of 30 hours. Playing with a medium volume and ANC on maximum setting, you’ll reach around 20-21 hours of playback, a value that’s very good for a noise-canceling headset. To achieve 30 hours with ANC enabled PXC 550 II requires you a wired cable.
If the battery then runs out, Sennheiser PXC 550 (2nd gen) can be charged using a micro-USB cable. Alternatively, the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless can also be used with the jack cable supplied.
To update the firmware and pair the headphones with your computer, Sennheiser prompts you to install the Smart Control app. The Sennheiser Smart Control app can be downloaded free of charge from any AppStore and connected to the headphones. Its use is to regulate the ANC, make equalizer settings, enable the “Smart-Pause” function, which pauses your headphones when folded or continues playing when they are put back on.
Since these are Bluetooth headphones for travel and the office, there is, of course, active noise cancellation, also known as Noise Canceling or ANC, on board. The technology does a good job here and effectively attenuates ambient noise. Our subjective test saw the top models from Bose and Sony well ahead of the Sennheiser. Nevertheless, the ANC is adequate and allows music to be heard at a low level in a noisy environment. Besides, it hardly changes the sound image. However, a disadvantage is the increased background noise that can be heard in silence and which is so concise on the Sennheiser PXC 550 II that it can be noticed and annoying when listening to music.
The ANC slider has three settings: Off, Smart Control, and max. These modes can be adjusted within Sennheiser’s proprietary mobile application Smart Control.
When set to Smart Control, you can use the app of the same name to choose between adaptive (standard) and anti-wind ANC mode. In connection with the Sennheiser Smart Control app, which is available for Android and Apple, the noise-canceling works adaptively. The level of noise suppression adapts automatically to the surrounding situation. An anti-wind mode is new here, which guarantees perfect music enjoyment and interference-free communication even in stormy surroundings.
It’s predecessor’s noise-canceling was one of the best that the market had to offer, yet PXC 550-II tops it. Unlike the Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless, the noise canceling’s strength can be varied using the app. There is also a so-called TalkThrough mode that allows ambient noise through to the user so that, for example, public announcements can be better understood. To activate TalkThrough, it is sufficient to briefly tap twice on the sensor field the earcup provides.
Although Sennheiser PXC 550-II does not really stand out in any aspect, it offers enough performance for its value. The sound of the Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless is perfectly balanced at a high level. The bass goes deep without artificial overemphasis. The mids are transparent, balanced, and finely resolved. The highs are also well resolved, clean, and never become obtrusive. That fits almost any music and many musical tastes.
In terms of sound, it is aimed at fans of transparent audio reproduction. The modest bass should leave fans of electro and hip-hop songs to crave for more, though it’s well-balanced well with the overall sound ensuring a robust foundation for most musical genres. Compared to Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless, the vocals can clearly differentiate, although they don’t convey the same authentic and lifelike character. Apart from these restrictions, we find sound dynamic and pleasant.
It is noteworthy that the Sennheiser are at their maximum at a much lower volume than the Sonys. As Sennheiser is a German company, the EU regulation might condition that headphones have a maximum SPL of 85 dB. However, this did not distract us from enjoying the headsets since we didn’t feel the need to increase the volume.
You can use the Sennheiser Smart Control app to adjust the headphones’ sound profile. You can either select one of the four presets (Neutral, Club, Film, Language / Language) or create a custom setting. For comparison, we chose the standard-setting, also known as neutral, for the acoustics.
We loved the balanced sound of the Sennheiser. Guitar riffs are strong and clear, the bass is audible but not overwhelmingly deep, and the vocals are full and clear. By switching to the Sennheiser’s Club setting, the sound improves slightly, the bass is more emphasized, and the overall sound has been given a spatial dimension.
With the Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless, the manufacturer has presented high-quality travel headphones that feature admirable noise canceling, good quality calls, and neutral sound. Like practically everything about these headphones, the ANC quality is really good, and the headphones’ low weight makes them comfortable to wear!
As befits high-quality headphones, there is little to complain about the Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless workmanship. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless are high-quality headphones with premium functions. Their compact frame and user-friendly design are aesthetic and tasteful, and to round off the whole package, PXC 550-II welcomes you with Sennheiser’s traditional sound signature.