SENNHEISER PXC 550 Wire­less

Computer Shopper - - HEADPHONES -

£238 • From www.cur­ VER­DICT

Great sound qual­ity goes hand in hand with por­ta­ble de­sign, de­spite stiff com­pe­ti­tion

WITH AC­TIVE NOISE can­cel­la­tion, Blue­tooth, and a host of other fea­tures, the PXC 550 Wire­less prom­ise to muz­zle the roar of mod­ern cities and put your mu­sic cen­tre stage.

They’re not built as solidly as some over-ear headphones, but as they weigh only 227g, it’s hard to be too crit­i­cal; that’s even lighter than our favourite ANC headphones, the Bose Qui­etCom­fort II (Shop­per 362). Bat­tery life is high, too: around 20 hours on Blue­tooth and 30 hours on a 3.5mm wired con­nec­tion, both with ANC en­abled.

Clev­erly, swiv­el­ling the PXC 550 Wire­less’s ear­pieces around from their flat­tened po­si­tion (which they’ll need to be in to fit in­side the bun­dled carry case) will au­to­mat­i­cally turn the power on. A three-po­si­tion slider on the right ear­piece tog­gles be­tween two lev­els of ANC (one is set to max­i­mum, the other con­trolled within Sennheiser’s CapTune app) and al­lows you to turn off ANC com­pletely.

It’s mostly well de­signed, then, but the head­band could have done with be­ing able to ex­tend a bit fur­ther. You’ll start feel­ing it if you have par­tic­u­larly big hair or an cra­nium of above-av­er­age pro­por­tions.

Com­fort qualms aside, the PXC 550 Wire­less sound very good in­deed. There’s a lovely firm bass un­der­pin­ning pro­ceed­ings, and the crisp, de­tailed mid-range and tre­ble do a great job of un­pick­ing even the dens­est, most clut­tered of record­ings. There’s a good sense of depth and width to the sound, too, which is es­pe­cially pleas­ing given the closed-back de­sign.

If there’s a chink in the PXC 550 Wire­less’s ar­mour, it’s that there’s a no­tice­able spike in the up­per mid-range, which can cause prob­lems. This fre­quency lift ac­tu­ally helps with a lot of al­bums, adding an extra snap to per­cus­sion and a touch more pres­ence to vo­cals and cer­tain in­stru­ments, but it can also veer into harsh­ness. On oc­ca­sion, we ended up reach­ing for the vol­ume con­trol and, worse, for the fast-for­ward but­ton.

ANC isn’t as ef­fec­tive as it is on the Qui­etCom­fort 35 II – which is, to be fair, the gold stan­dard – but set to max­i­mum, it does a de­cent job of qui­eten­ing the rum­ble of pub­lic trans­port and white noise of every­day life. It also adds a bass boost and slight thick­en­ing of the lower mid-range fre­quen­cies, which makes the PXC 550 Wire­less’s sound sig­na­ture even bet­ter.

We no­ticed an odd ef­fect when us­ing it, how­ever: noise-can­celling cir­cuitry can be over­whelmed by the pres­sure changes of trains zip­ping into and out of tun­nels, as well as cer­tain deep, loud rum­bles. This man­i­fests it­self as an ul­tra low fre­quency thump­ing, which can be­come be quite dis­tract­ing.

If any­thing, the most at­trac­tive as­pect of the PXC 550 Wire­less is the price. Bose’s Qui­etCom­fort 35 II is un­doubt­edly a su­pe­rior pair of ANC headphones, but they cost a full £100 more. That makes the PXC 550 Wire­less a very good deal, de­spite the rough edges.

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