NOISE cancelling headphones are pretty much a Bose monopoly across the world. Most audio companies worth their mettle make noise cancelling headphones, but they all struggle against the might and first-mover advantage that Bose has.
For testament, next time you are on a long-haul flight, notice all the people using their own headphones instead of airline hand-me-outs. This, however, hasn’t stopped other brands from trying.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 is a wireless headset with adaptive noise cancellation. Unlike active noise cancellation, adaptive noise cancellation gives preference to music but pushes up the noise cancellation when you are not listening to anything. The Sennheiser PXC 550 brings in some new features like touch pads on the earcups—useful for adjusting volumes to taking calls. Also, the headphones switch on when you straighten it from the bend flat storage mode. There is also NFC pairing, though I didn’t have a phone that supports this feature.
What is good?
The Sennheiser PXC 550 is one of the most comfortable headphones in the market. Sennheiser has been really good with the comfort of its headphones and this is crucial for a unit you will be using primarily for travel and that too for long hours.
On the right earcup, there are two buttons. One lets you choose between two degrees of noise cancellation and the other lets you toggle between effect modes. The first one is a bit hard to figure out unless you have the drone of a jet engine to drain out. But this also lets you switch off noise cancelling all together.
The audio quality of a Sennheiser is never in question. This is a wireless model but I still could not find any discernible difference with the headphones when it was wired (there is a chord in the box). I tried a good mix of music and was more than happy
with what I heard. The music quality is rich, but in a subtle and soothing sort of way—ideal for vocal heavy music. From Pink’s Kaari Kaari to Pavarotti’s O Sole Mio, Sennheiser PXC 550 is made to make you relax, feel the music, and almost be where the action was.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 is a full-fledged headset—so you can use it to make and take calls. This is where the touch panel on the right ear panel comes into play more. You can use this to pause your song, move forward
and backward, and also to accept or reject a call. However, you will need to learn these actions to execute them with perfection when the time, or the call, comes.
Sennheiser’s Captune app lets you do more with the music. On iOS, it takes control of iTunes and gives you options for preset equalisers and also lets you manage multiple connected devices. You can also create custom music settings as you like it. However, it works only with music on the device and can’t play stuff from the cloud. The battery on the Sennheiser PXC 550 is pretty good and a single charge can get you to New York and back from New Delhi, noise cancelling on.
What is not that good?
There is a bit of learning involved with this device. For instance, pairing is initiated as soon as the headset is switched on. It took me a while to get on top of this. Also, while it is easy to adjust volume with the pad on the earcup, I kept forgetting what needed to be done to accept a call and reject one. This is not bad, but will just take some time to figure out.
This may be the only headphone I have seen with the cable going into the right ear cup. Thankfully, this is a wireless set.
For sure, the Sennheiser PXC 550 is competition for the Bose QC35, which has a similar pricing. However, the PXC 550 offers more features at the moment, though making it a bit too complex for some users. But there is not much of a give-and-take between the two when it comes to audio quality. This is a good buy for those who want to try something really new with noise cancellation.
Estimated street price: Rs 29,990