SENNHEISER PXC 550 Wireless
£238 • From www.currys.co.uk 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.