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Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless Hands-on Review: Solid Comfort, So-So Sound

Premium looks, but is the sound worth it?

(Image: © Future)

For

  • Comfortable design
  • Long battery life
  • Impressive noise cancellation

Against

  • Expensive
  • Mixed sound performance

Sennheiser has just unveiled the PXC 550-II Wireless Headphones, a new pair of headphones that look like the result of Sony and Bose having a baby.

Sennheiser’s latest active noise-cancelling headphones are set to arrive sometime in October and retail for a whopping $350, but we’re not so sure they’re worth it.

Design and comfort

The PXC 550-II sports a egg-shaped design on its cups and its band allows it to fold flat, similar to the Sony WH-1000XM3. The headphones are matte black, and just above the cup is a white Sennheiser logo.

(Image credit: Future)

Surrounding the cups is the noise cancelling switch, the Bluetooth button, the Voice Assistant button and the microUSB input for charging. You can pause or play and turn the volume up or down via touch controls on the right ear cup.

The earcups and the fit felt rather comfortable. They remind me of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s design, but I can’t speak to the comfort for certain until I get to wear it for more than 15 minutes. The PXC 550-II is a decent size, allowing me to hit at least three notches down the band before it could fit, so there was some leeway room.

The first thing I noticed when I put the PXC 550-II Wireless Headphones on was that the mic'd speaker in the Sennheiser booth was drowned out completely.

(Image credit: Future)

The ANC switch has three modes: off, medium and high. The noise cancelling was high when I tested it initially, but when I put it on medium, I could hear the speaker’s voice ever so slightly. What the ANC couldn’t block out was the music playing in the booth, but granted that was pretty loud, ironically thanks to Sennheiser’s speakers.

In terms of music performance, I enjoyed what I heard, and I had ballparked the price at $100 before seeing it, but when I saw the $350, I was kind of in shock.

The PXC 550-II Wireless Headphones delivered soft sound that wasn’t bright enough to catch my attention.

I listened to Hurt by Nine Inch Nails and the vocals were crisp and the guitar sounded thick, so it could have been sharper. In Bohemian Rhapsody, the opening vocals were soft and elegant as they should’ve been. The bilateral beats were immersive. But it could've used a little more treble on the percussion, as it sounded a little too muddy. The guitar and piano weren't as bright as they could have been, either.

However, Sennheiser has a free Smart Control app that lets you customize the sound, so it’s possible that it was set to something with a lower treble. We won’t know for sure until we get more time with them during our review. 

Features

According to Sennheiser, the PXC 550-II Wireless Headphones can get up to 30 hours of battery with ANC off and 20 hours of battery with ANC on, which is pretty solid.

(Image credit: Future)

A cool feature that Sennheiser boasts is the Smart Pause, which forces the PXC 550-II to pause whatever its playing when it detects that you’ve taken your headset off.

The voice assistant button actually gives you access to assistants like Siri, Google and Alexa.

As far as Bluetooth connectivity goes, it features Bluetooth 5.0 and supports SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX low-latency codec.

On top of all of that, Sennheiser offers a two-year limited warranty.

Outlook

We’re hoping our minds will change about the sound once we get the headphones in a more controlled environment, especially because it costs a whopping $350. For now, stay tuned to our IFA 2019 coverage for more on the latest and interesting tech.