Looking for a deep dive into the amazing Sennheiser PXC 550-II NoiseGard Adaptive Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones?
Well, stick around because we have all your questions and more answered right here in our in-depth Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review.
Over the last couple of years, audio giant Sennheiser have slowly been gaining ground on Bose and Sony when it comes to the best headphones in class.
Back to basics…
By keeping things simple and focusing on what most consumers care about when it comes to quality audio equipment – great sound and functionality – Sennheiser have been able to produce an absolute world class set of over-ear headphones that really shine, and do so at a lower price than their top of the line competitors.
These may not be everyone’s favorite looking pair, and they lack some of the shiny software that Bose and Sony tout, but they are superb in their simplicity.
No surprises here, with all the usual suspects in the line up. The headphones themselves appear first, followed by a 3.5mm AUX cable, a carrying case, and the user manual/warranty instructions bringing up the rear.
Design and Functionality
Opting for a minimalist/sophisticated look, Sennheiser have decided to appeal to those who like an understated set of headphones. Matte black is the name of the game here, with faux leather covering the headband and the ear cups. The outer side of each ear cup offers a range of touch controls.
You would be excused for not noticing this feature at first glance, as there are absolutely zero visual indications they exist. More on this later.
Keep the sound in and the noise out…
The ear cups are an upside down egg shape, which offers a supremely comfortable and secure fit, and also does a great job of passive noise isolation. The headband balances a comforting amount of squeeze without feeling too tight, and the ample padding cushions as well as we hoped.
The control buttons and switches are all located on the right ear cup. First up is a three position switch that controls the and user controls. Next to this is a Bluetooth activation button that is also used to control voice commands. It’s not our favorite design choice, but it’s certainly not unusual for top of the line headphones.
Then we have the battery status LEDS, and the micro-USB charging port, and the 3.5mm AUX jack.
So, back to the touch controls then…
Let’s start by saying that these work flawlessly (not something that can be said about all the competition). A single tap to the center of the right ear’s outer panel starts or stops playback, sliding a finger left or right skips tracks, and up and down slides control how loud the volume is.
Sliding up or down also answers incoming calls, while a tap and hold will reject any call. A simple double tap will put the call on hold. When on a call, a forward/backward swipe mutes or unmutes the mic.
But our favorite function is the double tap to instantly disable ANC and mute playback, and also switch the headphones to “transparent hearing mode.” In this smart mode, the ambient mics subtly pick your surroundings and voices for easier conversation or for safety while in public.
Sennheiser have inbuilt some “smart” functions to make the user experience as smooth as possible. Just unfold them, and they automatically turn on and connect to Bluetooth (once you have paired them to a device). Removing them from your head will cause the unit to quickly power down.
The companion app – Sennheiser’s Smart App – has a few tricks up its sleeve also. Here you can switch between two types of Active Noise Cancelling.
On offer are “Anti-wind” and “Adaptive.” Unfortunately, these are the only options on offer for ANC, with no adjustment sliders available. In saying that, both modes do a great job, and we are not sure most consumers would need any more control.
The built-in EQ settings come with a bunch of presets like speech, club, and movie. There is also a “Director” mode, which allows control over the EQ. Things get slightly weird here, with the usual sliders not being present. Instead, you are presented with settings like “thump,” “voice,” “reverb,” or “rumble.”
To be honest, for the most part, we left the settings in neutral mode and found that this worked really well.
We spoke earlier about the sophisticated design. Well, that sophistication is not just aesthetic. The soundscape these headphones produce is, although little understated at times, gorgeously balanced with a certain “wideness” that is satisfying beyond belief.
We put these through the wringer with the FKJ live set at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. The control that these headphones produce throughout the entire frequency spectrum is breathtaking. The lower end is tight and punchy, with FKJ’s flowing basslines handled with warmth and care.
Furthermore, there were no signs of muddying, with each individual bass note flowing through easily. Real bass-heads might sometimes yearn for a slightly more intense rumble, but that can be arranged through the EQ settings in the app.
The mid and top end of the range is handled just well. The sax solo lines never got close to that squealing that can sometimes be attained through less worthy headphones. As we mentioned before, the “wideness” that is attained by these headphones leave a huge amount of room for the mids to also shine.
To sum up the sound…
About as close to perfection as we have found. And we have tested just about every top of the line set of headphones out there. They really are just that good!
Battery Life, Connectivity, and Microphone
Battery life on the PXC 550-II is not class leading but also nowhere near the bottom of the heap. During testing, we averaged about 21.5 hours while using them wirelessly with ANC activated, and almost 32 hours while plugged in with ANC turned on.
We honestly never felt like they were low on battery life, with more than two days of normal usage on offer. Of course, you can always just turn off ANC to greatly increase the battery life, and they will always work with ANC turned off and the 3.5mm AUX cable connected.
Bluetooth 5.0 is on display here, with support for AptX, AptX Low Latency, and AAC Bluetooth codecs meaning all bases are well and truly covered. We had no issues with latency or audio lags during music playback, watching videos, and mobile gaming. There is also Bluetooth multipoint support, meaning you can simultaneously connect to more than one device.
The best way we can describe the microphone system is very capable. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II has a triple mic array that works seamlessly with the ANC to deliver clear and crisp audio.
The ever present problem of too much background noise being amplified isn’t an issue here. The mics also do a pretty decent job in high wind and even in very noisy environments. Overall a good mic setup.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review Pros and Cons
- Next level sound quality.
- Extremely well priced.
- Fast charging capabilities.
- ANC that can challenge the class leaders.
- Beautifully and comfortably designed.
- Compact and sturdy.
- Long life battery.
- Auto switch off and be a little annoying at times.
Looking for Something Else?
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Also, take a look at our reviews of the Best Waterproof Headphones, the Best Running Headphones, the Best Neckband Headphones, the Best Headphones Under $200, and the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $200 currently on the market.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review – The Verdict
So, should you buy the Sennheiser PXC 550-II? Without a shadow of a doubt, our answer here is yes.
They are amazing value, have beautiful aesthetics (in our opinion), great functionality, decent battery life, and one of the most balanced soundscapes we have had the pleasure of reviewing. To say these are maybe under priced would not be a lie and a statement that is rarely made when discussing high-end headphones.
So, there is not much else to say – except that you should click right here to see the best deals available right now for the fantastic Sennheiser PXC 550-II!
Until next time, happy listening.