In terms of headphones, one will associate Bose with the “business traveler” demographic. But Sennheiser’s making a pitch compared to that segment of the marketplace using its new PXC 550 Wireless, a “premium” over-ear Bluetooth headphone that also features active noise-cancellation. It’s a primary competitor to Bose’s QuietComfort 35 and costs $399, £329 or AU$630.
Sennheiser isn’t just touting the PXC 550’s sound quality, but its customizable sound modes (via the business’s CapTune iphone app for iOS and Android), touch controls, long battery life (30 hours) and strong headset performance to make phone calls.
Like the Bose, that is an extremely comfortable headphone, relatively lightweight at 8 ounces or 227 grams. Its ear cup design differs compared to the Bose QC35’s and it generally does not have as wide an opening as the Bose, partially because its ear pads are puffier (people that have big ears could find the pads sitting more on the ears than around them). I give Bose the comfort edge over longer listening sessions, however the Sennheiser isn’t far behind.
The headphone folds up for storage into an included travel case and appears well developed, though it generally does not have the premium design touches of Sennheiser’s Momentum II Wireless, which includes comes down in cost online since its release in 2015.
What differentiates the PXC 550 from the Bose is that it has those aforementioned touch controls on the proper ear cup and automatically turns on when you put the headphone on your own ears. After that it shuts down when you fold the headphone flat. Bluetooth pairing worked flawlessly for me personally, and I encountered only minimal Bluetooth streaming hiccups.
The CapTune companion software for iOS and Android enables you to tune the sound to your liking, tailoring it to the music you pay attention to. But to customize the sound, you either need to play files kept on your own device or utilize the Tidal Music service. The iphone app doesn’t support Spotify or other music streaming services at the moment. However, a tiny button on the proper ear cup lets you toggle through a few different effect modes, including club, movie, speech or no effect. That works together with anything you’re hearing.
The CapTune companion iphone app for iOS and Android.
I came across the sound quality and adaptive noise canceling very good. Bose is normally considered the gold standard in terms of noise cancellation, and I’ve yet to discover a headphone which offers superior performance for the reason that regard. This Sennheiser comes close, offering essentially hiss-free listening, despite having the highest degree of noise canceling engaged (you can adapt the volume of active noise canceling).
I used the headphone within an open work place, the streets of NY, and in the brand new York subway system, and the headphone did an extraordinary job muffling ambient noise (warning: you will ears will steam if you are using the headphone in warm environments).
The headphone folded in its travel case.
It’s also an outstanding headset to make calls, with multiple microphones, noise reduction technology that tamps down ambient noise so callers can hear you better, and a side-tone feature which allows you to listen to your voice in the headphones to avoid you from talking too loudly. It generally does not necessarily outperform the Bose QC35 as a headset, but it’s there with it.
Just like the Bose, the PXC 550 falls just a little short of the Momentum II Wireless, which gives slightly richer, more refined sound. In addition, it offers active noise cancellation but a lighter version of it.
I played some tracks from my Spotify library, then switched to Tidal and played several tracks at the best quality. I went with a set setting on the Sennheiser initially, then played around with a number of the preset EQs and made a custom EQ using the app.
Even with all of the tweaking, I came across the Bose QC35 offers slightly better clarity, tighter bass, and a bit more open sound. It is the smoother sounding headphone overall. The Sennheiser is no slouch, however. It offers more bass energy compared to the Bose and is pleasurable to hear, but it’s missing just a little sparkle and definition.
Of course, audio tracks is a subjective experience, plus some persons may just like the sound of the Sennheiser better. Sound quality may also change from track to track. Editor Ty Pendlebury and I had a wholesome debate about the headphones. Initially he liked the Sennheiser better after hearing some tracks by Mitski (he liked how her voice sounded better). However when I placed on Chairlift’s “Show U Off,” he leaned toward the Bose, citing its more open sound and smoother, more restrained bass.
It’s worth noting that it is a challenge to produce a headphone sound natural (accurate) and transparent when you introduce a whole lot of digital processing (Bluetooth plus active noise canceling). The PXC 550 sounds very best for a Bluetooth headphone, but if sound quality is what you’re after, the Momentum II Wireless may be the better choice. On the other hand, the PXC 550 is convenient and will be offering better noise cancellation.
The headphone features touch controls on the proper ear cup and NFC tap-to-pair technology for devices that support it.
You do gain something by moving to wired mode — a cable with a one-button inline remote and microphone is roofed — and audio tracks purists can change the noise canceling off. Having said that, there are better options that cost a lower amount if all you have to can be an over-ear wired headphone (Sony’s MDR-1A, for instance).
Ultimately I’m uncertain I’d recommend the PXC 550 over the Bose QC35, which costs $50 less, nonetheless it certainly is recommendable. It’s comfortable, feature packed, and performs quite nicely.