Sennheiser PXC 550-II - Our Review
Over Ear, Closed-back
4.2 / 5
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of positive things we can say about the Sennheiser PXC 550-II. It’s a great upgrade to the existing system. It’s simple Bluetooth 5 connectivity is easy to manage, and even the most technophobic of users can get used to it in very little time. The built-in voice assistant control is a nice touch, too.
You can control pretty much everything you need to from the cans themselves, or through the app. This app is pretty well-designed. Sennheiser does well in innovation on this level. We should also point out that, again, the ear cushions themselves are super-comfy. You may find them worthwhile buying if, for example, you’re going to use them for long periods of time.
Speaking of which, the battery life is impressive. 30 hours per charge isn’t something you should sniff at. That’s without ANC mode, and with noise cancellation on full blast, you can expect a formidable 20 hours, too. Again, this is a rate that’s well worth holding out for.
However, there are a few issues with the Sennheiser PXC 550-II which bear repeating. It offers fantastic clarity for bass and captures all the mid-range nuances you could hope for. However, if you are listening to high frequencies, or really depend on your trebles, you might be disappointed. It handles them fine, of course, but we were really expecting more for the price.
The price, too, might put a lot of people off. Sennheiser tends to do really well on the pricing front but given that we do have some performance concerns about the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, we can’t say that it’s actually the best value for money. Therefore, your mileage may vary. If you like the brand, and are looking for a reliable, comfy set of cans with modern engineering built-in, these headphones are well worth a look.
If you know even a little bit about sound engineering and everything that comes with it, it’s likely you’ll recognise Sennheiser as a brand. The company has come on leaps and bounds in terms of wireless tech over the past few years, and as a result, one of their latest headphone innovations – the widely-anticipated Sennheiser PXC 550-II – seems to be picking up plenty of steam. Reviews for the tech started flooding in late last year. Since that time, the public has had the chance to get used to the tech, and frankly, so have we.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 line is one which picked up plenty of praise a few years ago. People seem to flock to this brand not only for the sound engineering, it seems, for the sleek designs their tech appears to be built into. That’s all well and good, but as we all know, it’s what’s inside that counts. We’ll refrain from any further cheesy clichés as much as we can, don’t worry.
So – the Sennheiser PXC 550-II – it looks good, it supposedly performs well – but is it really worth the price tag? We’re not going to probe deep into specific pricing here, as it will likely vary from outlet to outlet. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that these headphones are, on the whole, a premium choice. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what we can expect.
Naturally, as mentioned, Sennheiser leads with very solid-looking tech. These are headphones which look like they mean business, and frankly, for the price tag, they had better follow through! They do appear to be inspired by some of the leading looks and comfort styles that bigger names in the business elsewhere are pushing ahead with. There’s been a bit of a swerve into chunkier, classical headphone aesthetics in recent years. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but it’s interesting to see which direction innovators and designers seem to be drifting towards.
But we digress. Right out of the box, you can tell that the Sennheiser PXC 550-II is built for comfort. There might actually be more cushioning here than the headphone itself. That’s not a bad thing, of course, as even some of the best cans on the market can feel tight and pinching at the best of times. What concerns us about overly-cushioned or comfortable headphones is, however, that there’s more focus on comfort than on internal tech.
We do tend to expect more from Sennheiser in this respect, however, so initially, we weren’t feeling too nervous. If anything, it’s a solid, stylish look. It’s not too in-your-face, and compared to other wireless headphones on the market, it doesn’t make you take a step back. Once again, we don’t think the look of headphones should make you do a double-take.
If anything, they should be subtle and sleek. That’s pretty much where Sennheiser PXC 550-II shines, at least to begin with. The company’s refined some of the marks from the first model in the line, and while the II may not be the leading name in Sennheiser wireless audio right now, it does have a firm place in the line-up.
You can generally depend on Sennheiser for great-quality headphones. The brand is often seen as something of a firebrand in the market, particularly as they often seem to undercut on pricing. By this, we mean that they follow the latest trends and offer solid innovations – but how do they make their money? The brand offers great quality tech for low pricing, on the whole.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II is a solidly-built pair of headphones. You could probably drop them from a fair height and still be able to listen to distant tunes. Its understated look does help in this regard. There are no really fiddly bits and pieces, or awkward design choices and jutting shapes to get damaged. If the cushion is going to help your ears, it’s going to help the durability of the headphones, too. However, we probably wouldn’t recommend you throw them against a wall for obvious reasons.
The plastics are nice and tactile. They are generally pretty soft to the touch, which does add to the overall comfort, too. This is a well-built, robust pair of headphones, though they are actually pretty demure at the same time. The leather is synthetic, but likely won’t wear easily. We’ll come to comfort shortly.
You can fold these headphones flat, too, which means it should be pretty easy for you to carry them around without daring to do any damage. We think, naturally, this is a major plus point. On first impression, and through wearing, we feel the Sennheiser PXC 550-II does more than enough to satisfy on the manufacturing front.
Before we even get to sound quality, we need to have a chat about comfort. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II, as mentioned, seems to be all about the cushion. That’s not a bad thing per se, but as we’ll explore later on, you can have too much of one thing, and not enough of the other. These headphones are soft and squishy, and the cups aren’t so big that they will make you feel crowded. It’s also a pretty low weight on the whole, as less than 230g is unlikely to cause you many headaches.
The design is pretty ergonomic in its approach. Sennheiser does seem to understand that users want more than just great sound quality. Therefore, it’s unlikely anyone wearing the Sennheiser PXC 550-IIs for long periods should experience much fatigue. It’s certainly comfier than many other wireless headphones at the same level.
It’s also a fairly easy system to adjust, meaning that small and larger heads shouldn’t have much of a problem getting them to fit. Again, this is pretty refreshing, especially given that some of the best-performing tech can tighten pretty sharply into your head. It’s a positive mark from us in this regard.
Sennheiser headphones never seem to be too sharp or too chunky. They walk a nice line between durable and comfortable. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II system is no different. It’s the latest in a long line of designs from a brand which clearly puts long-term listening comfort at the top of their priorities.
Of course, when it comes to actually buying the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, you’re likely going to want to look at the features. Who buys a pair of wireless headphones just for comfort? Rather than purely being an expensive pair of earmuffs, these headphones possess an impressive amount of sound engineering which should compete well on the wider market. For a start, it is Bluetooth 5.0-ready, and frankly, we wouldn’t expect anything less. Would you?
You can use the right cup to control Bluetooth connectivity, and you can also manage noise cancellation easily enough from the outside of the unit, too. This is generally pretty easy to configure. You should get around 20 hours of use out of the Sennheiser PXC 550-II when you have the ANC powered up, but you’ll probably get an extra 10 hours if you stick to default mode. Use it wisely. Another good selling point for the ANC system here is the fact that you can tweak it. You don’t have to just choose between on and off. You can choose to switch it on fully, to deactivate it, or go for a midrange option. This is likely to set the technology apart from the pack. However, we’re not quite done yet.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II possesses some powerful driver tech in each ear, meaning that if you’re in the market for powerful sound with plenty of clarity – and who isn’t – you’re in luck. 32mm drivers should give you a good enough quality in sound for it to make a difference to your listening regime. If you are really invested in your latest tech, you’ll be glad to hear that there is voice assistant technology built-in, too. This means you can control your favourite virtual helper, be it Siri, Alexa or Google, right from the comfort of your cans. It’s a nice touch that more and more headphones and audio systems are leading with. Frankly, it’d be disappointing if this feature wasn’t included.
Sennheiser also lets you connect these headphones through Smart Control, which is a smartphone app you can download for free. Of course, your own tastes and interests may vary, but we feel it’s a nice little addition to the hardware. Through here, you can make little adjustments to the quality of sound you receive, meaning that if you want to tweak noise profiles or internal EQ, you absolutely can. For the price you are expecting to pay, we would expect nothing less.
The hardware also boasts what the manufacturer refers to as a triple microphone array. This helps when you want to use your cans for speaking to people as well as for entertainment. Therefore, we dare say it’s a good investment for anyone who needs to conduct business on the go. This microphone array is pretty impressive, and it’s another little touch which helps to push Sennheiser to the front of the innovating pack.
But with all this in mind – how do the headphones actually perform? Are all of these buzzwords really worth the money?
Naturally, the way your headphones perform will vary depending on what it is you listen to. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II system, at least, lets you tweak your listening pleasure through smart app, meaning that if you want to swap between classical opera and death metal, you absolutely can. However, the overall performance of the Sennheiser PXC 550-II might flatter to deceive, at least in the first instance.
It’s a great performer when it comes to low frequencies. If you are craving bass, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II will give you all the deep tones you need. Some perfectionists may feel the headphones could go even deeper, but for our tastes and money, you can more than enough bang for your buck. The phones do also perform well enough when it comes to higher frequencies, but for a system of this calibre, from a brand of this level, we expected maybe a little more adaptability. On the whole, the treble experience is actually a fair bit better elsewhere.
Mids, however, tend to be pretty appealing. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II system seems to pick up on various movements and moments in audio that lesser units miss out on. Once again, you can tweak all of this as you wish, through the smart app. The ANC system works very well, too. You can genuinely tell the difference between activation and non-activation. That, naturally, is what you should be paying for as standard. However, anyone in real doubt about ANC or any other kind of noise control will likely be pleasantly surprised. It certainly stands out amongst plenty of other pretenders to the throne.
However, the mixed experience in terms of bass, mids and trebles will likely bother some people. The balance isn’t as smooth or as steady as you might expect from a brand of this stature. Certainly, there are other headphones out there in the same line which will give you more for your money. However, if you are less worried about the quality of your high frequency sounds than some audiophiles, you will likely still have a great time.
Value for Money
Of course, we need to think about the financial aspect, too. As stated, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II system tends to retail for a lot more than others in a similar line. That means you are likely investing in leading sound engineering and ANC, on the whole. However, despite the ease of use and the solid performance overall, is the Sennheiser PXC 550-II really going to be the best option for this amount of money?
Sennheiser is a brand that many people will associate with great value headphone technology. To many people, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II is probably no different. It builds on a lot of what the predecessor system had to offer. Its integral voice assistant controls and long battery life are likely to appeal to most people looking for dependable tech. This is all without considering the comfort levels. If you hadn’t realised already, this is a very comfortable pair of headphones indeed.
However, for the money you are likely to pay, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II may not offer you the best fit. Anyone likely to buy the Sennheiser PXC 550-II will probably be familiar with the brand. The sound engineering is here, but with wobbly trebles, and with issues trying to reach the higher frequencies, we feel engineers maybe could have done more to iron things out before asking for this price tag.
- Great brand, understated design, very comfy and adaptable
- Easy to control and get used to through app and on-board functions
- Trebles are not as clear or as powerful as mids and bass
- The price tag may put some people off
- Well worth buying if you like the brand and own original Sennheiser PXC 550s, it is a marked improvement