Whilst Bose stays the highest identify relating to noise-cancelling headphones, it is been seeing some awfully robust pageant from the likes of AKG, Apple, Bower & Wilkins, Sony, and others. You’ll be able to upload Sennheiser and its $349.95 PXC-550-II headphones to the combination, which ship a sublime design with integrated Amazon Alexa enhance, robust audio efficiency, and one of the crucial best possible ANC (lively noise cancellation) to be had. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are nonetheless an total higher pair, so Bose does not wish to fear an excessive amount of, however its once-dramatic lead over different competition is narrowing, and there are causes you could favor the Sennheiser PXC 550-II.
To be had in black, the PXC 550-II headphones have a matte end with leatherette accents at the scarf and the circumaural (over-the-ear) earcups. There are touch-sensitive controls at the outer panels of the earcups, however you would not realize it from taking a look, because the panels are clean. The earcups themselves are ear-shaped, which permits for a good, protected have compatibility that blocks out a good quantity of ambient room noise passively.
The earcups are somewhat relaxed, regardless that now and then they felt a little bit tight across the ear, and regardless of changes, I may just really feel further force from the headscarf. This is not to mention the have compatibility is uncomfortable—the padding is beneficiant—however it is conceivable to put on the headphones in some way that exerts extra force than is perfect, and getting the proper have compatibility took a bit of extra effort than I usually want.
The fitting earcup properties a three-way transfer (On, Consumer Mode, and Off) for ANC—extra on that within the subsequent segment. Positioned subsequent to this transfer at the facet panel is a Bluetoth pairing button that doubles because the voice assistant button. And close to those are standing LEDs, in addition to a micro USB port for the integrated charging cable, and a mini jack for the integrated audio cable.
The on-ear controls are intuitive and responsive. A unmarried faucet in the course of the proper ear’s outer panel performs or pauses song, ahead or backward swipes skip tracks, and up and down swipes modify quantity. It is usually the gestulre you’ll be able to use to respond to incoming calls, whilst keeping your press for a 2nd rejects them, and tapping two times places them on cling. When on a decision, a ahead/backward swipe mutes or unmutes the mic. A handy guide a rough double faucet disables ANC and mutes song, and places the headphones in Clear listening to mode, through which the ambient mics subtly select up your voice and your atmosphere for more straightforward dialog.
The headphones do quite a few issues robotically. Opening them from the folded place robotically turns them on and places them in pairing mode. As soon as paired, getting rid of them out of your head in an instant powers them down. If that sounds nerve-racking, take into account that the prolong is not long. That stated, we did have some mysterious occurrences now and again—in a single example, the headphones had been off my head sitting subsequent to me, and randomly started to play song. Now not best did I believe they would been powered down, however I additionally did not contact them (or my telephone) when this came about.
Sennheiser’s Sensible App comes in handy, if now not enchanting. Right here, you’ll be able to transfer between Adaptive or Anti-Wind ANCs; those are the 2 possible choices for ANC mode, regardless that there aren’t any additional changes as opposed to switching between the 2. There may be EQ, which has presets like Film, Membership, or Speech, and a customizable surroundings referred to as Director. However as an alternative of permitting you to regulate 5 bands of EQ like we usually see, Sennheiser has you make a choice from preselected micro settings, after which you’ll be able to mix ‘n match them. So, you’ll be able to choose the settings like Thump, Rumble, or Voice and mix them, if you wish to have, with more than a few spatial results that most commonly sound horrible, and added reverb that still sounds susceptible. We propose leaving all EQ off (in Impartial mode), apart from possibly including in both the Thump or Rumble choice if you wish to have further bass intensity.
Amazon’s Alexa voice assitant is in-built, however it’s not hands-free. A button-press is needed, in addition to setup within the Alexa app, however it is a fast topic of signing in and including the PXC 550-II as a tool. The mics picked up all of our instructions simply and the reaction time for more than a few movements was once fast. The inclusion of Alexa does not really feel like an afterthought, however it is nowhere close to as seamlessly built-in as it’s at the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
The headphones use Bluetooth 5.0, and enhance AptX, AptX Low Latency, and AAC Bluetooth formats. Along with the aforementioned cables, they send with an plane jack adapter and a zip-up protecting case that they fold down flat into.
Sennheiser estimates battery existence to be more or less 20 hours with ANC and wi-fi on, or 30 hours with ANC on whilst the use of the audio cable, however your effects will range together with your quantity ranges and your mixture of options.
The ANC transfer will give you 3 modes—most, consumer surroundings, or off. The consumer surroundings is actually only a selection between both the usual ANC or an anti-wind ANC surroundings. In most mode, the headphones are somewhat efficient—there is not any noticeable added hiss, even if the use of the ANC in a quiet room. Past that, the circuitry tamps down quite a lot of frequencies moderately dramatically. With regards to natural effectiveness, we might have to place those close to the highest of the class, after the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, however forward of maximum others we take a look at. The circuitry does rather well with low-frequency rumble, such as you listen on trains and planes, however even does a forged activity with the human voice, or basic place of work noises like keyboard faucets. The ANC additionally turns out to have very little impact at the sound signature, which is not at all times the case.
The anti-wind surroundings comes in handy if you happen to occur to be dressed in the headphones out of doors on a windy day, however we discovered the principle most ANC surroundings to be by means of some distance probably the greatest. Adaptive mode makes use of much less ANC in quiet environments and extra when in a loud surroundings, whilst Most simply is going full-level ANC always. The adaptation in a rather quiet room is notable—Max ANC tamps issues down greater than Adaptive mode does.
The MEMS mic array gives forged intelligibility. The usage of the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, shall we perceive each phrase we recorded. There was once nonetheless the standard Bluetooth fuzz across the edges, however the sign was once robust and crisp, and for sure higher than moderate for the Bluetooth headphone mics we’ve got examined.
Internally, each and every earcup properties dynamic 32mm drivers turning in a frequency vary of 17Hz to 23kHz. One notable side of the PXC 550-II’s audio efficiency is that the headphones do not get very loud. This is not an issue—the drivers definitely ship sufficent energy, however at most quantity on an iPhone 8, the audio wasn’t just about as robust because it ceaselessly is on different headphones we take a look at. However the reality is maximum different headphones get too loud.
In Impartial mode on tracks with intense sub-bass content material, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the headphones ship robust low-frequency reaction. At peak quantity ranges, there is not any distortion, and at extra reasonable volumes, the bass nonetheless feels powerful whilst the highs are crisp and brilliant.
Invoice Callahan’s “Drover,” a observe with some distance much less deep bass within the combine, offers us a greater sense of the PXC 550-II’s basic sound signature. The drums in this observe get some further bass intensity, however not anything excessive—they’ve a pleasing roundness to them. There may be some notable boosting within the high-mids and highs that now not everybody will love—it lends Callahan’s vocals some further crispness and a few added brightness to the guitar strums, however it may well additionally, now and then, make issues sound a little bit overly sculpted. There may be a very good stability right here between the lows and highs, however the sound signature is for sure extra sculpted than flat.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church within the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives sufficient high-mid presence for its assault to retain its punchiness, however the vinyl crackle and hiss additionally take hold of your consideration—the highs are considerably boosted. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with gusto, however now not the kind of loopy intensity that true bass fiends shall be looking for. There may be sculpting around the frequency vary right here, however the lows by no means threaten to overhaul the stability of the combination. The vocals in this observe are delivered with superb readability, regardless that there may be possibly a slightly of added sibilance right here and there.
Orchestral tracks, like the hole scene from John Adams’ The Gospel In keeping with the Different Mary, sound superb during the PXC 550-II. The lower-register instrumentation has a strong, wealthy presence within the combine, however does not sound unnaturally boosted, whilst the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals have a crisp, brilliant edge to them. Once more, this isn’t essentially probably the most flat, correct sound signature, however the boosting and sculpting is tastefully carried out in order to not dissatisfied the whole stability.
Sennheiser’s PXC 550-II headphones face wholesome pageant from the aforementioned frontrunner, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, in addition to from pairs just like the $300 AKG N700NC M2 Wi-fi and the $400 Bowers & Wilkins PX7. For much less cash, the brand new true wi-fi $250 Apple AirPods Professional additionally ship a forged ANC enjoy, for many who need noise cancellation from an in-ear design.
Sonically, we adore the PXC 550-II’s sound signature. If there is a flaw within the audio, it’s possibly a little bit too sculpted within the highs, however there are worse sins, and usually talking, those headphones sound superb. In truth, a lot of customers will favor this sound signature to that of the Bose fashion. The Alexa compatibility could also be much less compelling right here than it’s with Bose, which has hands-free get entry to, however if you happen to worth audio efficiency above all else (and nonetheless need top-notch ANC), the Sennheiser PXC 550-II may well be simply the pair for you.
The Backside Line
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II headphones ship superb noise cancellation and robust audio efficiency in a user-friendly design.
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