While Bose is still the industry leader when it comes to over-ear ANC headphones, several other manufacturers are rapidly closing the gap. Sennheiser is one of those companies, paying little attention to flashy gimmicks, preferring to focus solely on functionality and quality sound.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II fits this ethos perfectly. Performance and usability are first and foremost. However, the first version of the PXC 550 didn’t have the most effective ANC we’d ever seen.
Has Sennheiser managed to up its game in this department and further close the distance on more illustrious competitors?
Let’s find out in our in-depth Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review…
Design and Build Quality
Out of the box, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II gives off an air of minimalistic simplicity. The matte black finishing and lack of flashy branding and accents create a grown-up look that will likely appeal to more than it will put off.
They are full-size, over-ear headphones primarily designed with travel in mind. The upside-down egg-shaped earcups feature well-cushioned pads covered by a high-quality leatherette material. Various types of injection-molded plastic make up the bulk of construction materials used.
Although you might expect less plastic from such an expensive set of cans, the result is an extremely lightweight product. They are ideal for long listening sessions. Furthermore, they are some of the best travel headphones on the market.
Signature Sennheiser toughness…
Build quality and durability have been given plenty of attention. You can literally stretch the headband horizontal and twist it almost 180 degrees without any indication that they are near breaking point. You’d have to go to extreme lengths to break or distort them. Therefore, they are some of the most durable headphones on the market.
It’s also a foldable design, which allows the headphones to fit into the provided carry-case. The case itself isn’t a hard-shell design, but it’s got just enough reinforcement to protect from most knocks and potential drops.
The generously padded earcups are just about large enough to accommodate most ear sizes, and the plush leatherette material feels good on the skin. The clamping force exerted is enough to keep the headphones in position without causing any fatigue, even after extended use.
Likewise, the headband is also nicely padded and finished with the same leatherette material as the ear cups. Therefore, these are some of the most comfortable headphones you can buy.
Stay away from the rain…
Exercising with the Sennheiser PXC 550-II isn’t recommended. They do not have any kind of IPX sweatproof rating. But, if you were to use these for a light workout, they are remarkably stable headphones and should stay in place no problem.
Breathability was also surprisingly good considering they are closed-back, over-ear headphones. Yes, they do warm your ears a little, but not nearly as much as many other similar models we have reviewed.
Controls and Functionality
Like most over-ear headphones, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II houses most of its controls around the right ear cup. On the outer edge, you’ll find a slider to control the active noise canceling settings along with a Bluetooth pairing button.
Simple and intuitive…
This button will also activate Alexa voice assistance or your assistant of choice. Here you’ll also find the micro-USB charging port, status LED, and a jack for use in wired mode.
A touchpad on the outer surface of the right cup controls the rest of the functionality. Vertical and horizontal swipes and individual touches control volume, playback, track selection, mic muting, and call management.
If you think this sounds complicated, it isn’t. Once you’ve learned the various commands, it’s a frustration-free experience. It also looks a hell of a lot cooler than a bank of physical buttons.
There are also some smart features on the Sennheiser PXC 550-II. Open the headphones from a folded position, and they turn on automatically, going straight into pairing mode. Once pairing is complete, simply removing the headphones from your head and folding them turns the power off.
Sennheiser Smart App
If you want firmware updates, then you’ll have to download the Sennheiser Smart App. Here you’ll also have the ability to toggle between two ANC settings; Anti-Wind or Adaptive modes. You can also play around with various preset EQ modes such as Neutral, Speech, or Movie.
Unfortunately, you can’t adjust various EQ frequency band sliders to your liking, which is a far more useful tool than presets. To be honest, the presets don’t bring a whole lot to the party, and the headphones sound at their best when left in neutral mode.
You’ll also find a feature called Smart Pause in the app settings. Switch it on, and the headphones will automatically pause when removed and restart when replaced. We found this to be useful on multiple occasions.
Active Noise Cancellation
The ANC slider has three settings. Off, Adaptive, and Full. The adaptive mode does exactly as you’d imagine. Altering the level of ANC to fit the environment you’re in. As mentioned, you can change the adaptive setting in the app to Anti-Wind if you find yourself in a howling gale.
On the maximum setting, the ANC is very effective, with very little in the way of noticeable hissing. Passing vehicles sound more like electric cars, and plane engines are reduced to a mild hum. The ANC also does a great job of tamping down office noises such as human voices and keyboard tapping.
The Bose 700 headphones are the gold standard when it comes to ANC, but the Sennheiser PXC 550-II has really closed that gap. They are certainly among the best ANC headphones currently available.
Sennheiser claims a battery life of up to 20 hours when used wirelessly and 30 hours if used in wired mode. We found this to be pretty accurate. On the downside, charging isn’t the quickest taking three hours to fully recharge from empty.
Most companies have a quick charge feature that will give you three to four hours of playback on a 15-minute charge. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II also possesses this feature. But it isn’t that effective, providing barely an hour and a half. Something to work on there.
The PXC 550-II also uses micro-USB charging, which is rather outdated these days. Most competitors have made the jump to a USB-C connection, and it’s about time that Sennheiser did the same.
The PXC 550-II offers a completely different sound to their more hallowed stablemates in the Sennheiser Momentum series. Momentum headphones are famous for their powerful bass and low mid-range. The PXC550-II has a far lighter profile.
Deep bass is present, but it doesn’t carry the weight of the Momentum series. For some, this will be a turn-off. But Sennheiser has gone for a more neutral approach with the PXC 550-II, which is sure to appeal more to the audiophiles among us.
Balanced and clear…
Make no mistake; these headphones are not bass-light; they just present the listener with a more accurate rendition of the original recording. As a result, the overall sound profile is clean and clear, a good thing in our book.
One of the main reasons for boosting the bass in headphones is to deal with the excess ambient noise. As the PXC 550-II has very effective ANC, there’s no need to do this. This allows for greater focus on a substantive and richly-detailed mid-range rather than bass-heavy headphones allow.
If there’s one complaint with the sound profile, it would be in the treble range. The PXC 550-II can occasionally stray into sibilant territory if there’s a lot of cymbal action going on. They are definitely brighter than your average Sennheiser headphones.
But overall, it’s a very pleasing sound profile if you like your music to sound as it was intended. Having said all that, we are sure these are some of the best sounding headphones you will find.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review – Pros and Cons
- High-level ANC technology.
- Clean and grown-up styling.
- Excellent value.
- Highly comfortable.
- Occasionally sibilant.
- Limited maximum volume.
Looking for Something Else?
We continue to expand our audio and music equipment selection. So, have a look at our in-depth Marshall Stockwell 2 Review, our JBL Flip 3 Review, our Blue Yeticaster Review, our Monolith M1060 Headphone Review, and our Oontz Angle 3 Ultra Review for some amazing products you can buy in 2021.
You might also enjoy our comprehensive reviews of the Best Wireless Workout Headphones, the Best Karaoke Microphones, the Best Waterproof Headphones for Swimming, the Best In-Ceiling Speakers, and the Best Keyboard Amps currently on the market.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review – Final Thoughts
So, should you spend your hard-earned bucks on the Sennheiser PXC 550-II ANC headphones? It’s a no-brainer for us. They offer outstanding value for money along with top-quality ANC tech.
Bass-heads will probably want to look elsewhere, but if you’re into elegant and minimalistic styling and a clean and honest sound profile, then these are certainly the wireless noise-canceling headphones for you.
So, until next time, may the music make you groove.