Whether you prefer listening to music, podcasts, phone calls, YouTube, or anything else that can be accessed through our various personal devices, one thing is certain: quality headphones are a priority. Sure, you could buy some $20 flimsy headset at the mall and enjoy tinny audio that sounds like it’s passing through an empty sewer tunnel to get to you, but that can quickly lose its charm once you pass age 8 or so. For my real audio enthusiasts, true sound quality through top-of-the-line headphones is not simply enhancement, but essential. In this day and age, media can be enjoyed anywhere, but the phone and computer are two extremely popular mediums that practically require headphones. But what headphones really make the cut? After all, there’s thousands to choose from, all showcasing different perks and features that may seem overwhelming at first. Well, after being able to personally field test a pair of Sennheiser’s new PXC 550-II headphones, I can say that this pair is a real winner. Sennheiser has always been known for fantastic sound and noise cancellation with their wireless listening devices, and these headphones mark another success for the tech producer. Let’s inspect how all of 550-II’s features come together to create a pair of headphones that make listening to audio a full experience.
When it comes to first impressions, Sennheiser’s newest headphones aren’t here to play around. The design is sleek and pleasing to look at, whilst the adjustable size and ear pads provide a great deal of comfort whether you wear them for 15 minutes or multiple hours. The foldable design also comes in handy for travel, with its rotating cups to turn the device on/off and collapsible frame that make both the device and its carrying case compact and lightweight. When first opening and pairing the headphones, I noticed that there was an app made to control Sennheiser accessories, including the PXC 550-II headphones. After a quick install of Smart Control, I was able to open it up and adjust all of my audio settings to my heart’s content. There are five main modes: neutral, club, movie, speech, and director. Throughout my listening, I found myself most often returning to speech and director, although movie is great for watching television or films. I listen to quite a few podcasts and the speech setting is made to enhance intelligibility and make words more clear, which definitely showed a clear difference and came in handy. The director setting, on the other hand, allows the user to manually adjust auditory elements such as boost, spacial, reverb, and DLC. Although the club setting is advertised as the setting made for music, I personally prefer director as it gives more customization options.
And we can’t talk about these headphones without mentioning the noise cancellation, because they are pretty fantastic. The headset is already designed to cup your ears and keep sound out, so even without any official noise canceling enabled it manages to keep out a lot of day-to-day sounds if something is playing. But if you need something a bit more substantial, there are two tiers of noise cancellation to choose from as buttons on the right inner area of the headphones. The first level of noise cancellation does great, and you can choose whether you’d prefer it to be anti-wind or anti-pressure (I found the latter to be more comfortable). The second level is maximum active noise canceling, a setting that really means business and would probably come in handy on airplane takeoffs or similar loud events. But overall, the noise canceling in general is very good whether you play music or keep it quiet and doesn’t result in a noticeable ringing sound as some cheaper noise canceling headphones do.
The PXC 550-II passed all of the play testing that I put them through with flying colors, the only real issues ever encountered were a bit of difficulty connecting to the app at times and a few occasions of accidentally starting or stopping music due to the sensitive touchpad on the outside of the right ear cup. Otherwise, these headphones have proven themselves to be comfortable deliverers of dynamic audio to appreciative ears. The touchpad, although perhaps a bit more sensitive to touch than it may need to be, did come in handy a lot, as it offers a quicker way to pause/play, skip songs, and adjust volume with a swipe instead of a button. The bass is great for how light and relatively small the headset is, and you can really hear a lot of distant background noises in both songs and media that I couldn’t quite make out with other headphones. The instrumentation and vocals are very clear, especially when enhanced with app settings.
If you take a lot of phone calls, the headphones also work well for that, picking up your voice clearly and keeping the sound quality from the other side audible as well with no lag in between. The headphones are very good for watching movies and TV on the go, but music and spoken media are where they truly shine. With podcasts, YouTube, and similar talking-based entertainment, once the speech option has been turned on, it often sounds like the speakers are right in the room with us, and binaural audio especially stands out. And when it comes to music, there really are no complaints. All genres sound great when presented through these headphones, from pop to classical to showtunes. The headphones are good at ramping up the intensity and revealing the intricacy of the melodies without overshadowing the voices, if any are featured. The only real suggestion would be to add more audio customization options to the app such as an equalizer, but this may very well happen in future updates. In the meantime, if you like listening to anything on your phone, computer, or any other device, then the PXC 550-II headphones by Sennheiser are definitely something to look into. They truly provide high-quality sound for every audio occasion, plus a few features that are sure to leave you dazzled.
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II retails for $349 and is available for purchase at Amazon
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