Sennheiser PXC 550-II Review
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II convinced us across the board with its first-class sound quality. It also cuts a fine figure in terms of operation, battery life, and comfort. In addition, good noise canceling is pleasant in practice.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 already impressed us with its balanced sound, good wearing comfort, and effective ANC. However, the German premium manufacturer is now stepping up with the PXC 550-II. In addition to detailed improvements in the design, Siri and Alexa are also supported at the touch of a button, the ANC has been revised, and the app offers many new functions.
- Balanced sound
- Comfortable to wear
- Automatic carrying recognition
- No high resolution bluetooth codecs
- Relatively fiddly operation of the ANC modes and voice control
The impeccably crafted PXC 550-II has hardly changed compared to its predecessor – that wasn’t necessary because this was already a successful all-around companion. The new headphones also come with circumaural, slightly oval ear cups made of high-quality plastic that can be rotated and folded in.
The rotation switches the receiver off at the same time. The headband is made of metal and, like the ear cups, has an artificial leather padding. This is very comfortable but not as elegant and breathable as the real leather features of the Momentum 3 Wireless.
Operation is via a slide switch and a button on the underside of the right handset: the former switches active noise canceling in three stages, the latter does the pairing and starts voice control.
You can regulate the volume, select tracks, and control the telephone functions via the touch-sensitive back of the right auricle. In addition to the USB and jack cable set, the equipment includes a fabric case, which can be folded flat. Still, it mechanically does not protect the receiver as well as the hard-shell cases from other manufacturers.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II is a practical test: This is what it sounds like
The PXC 550-II played its way into the top class of Bluetooth ANC headphones in our hearing test. The KEF Space One only surpasses the spatiality of Lars Danielsson’s Libera me. At the same time, no other listener in the test field was able to fan out the individual voices of the large string orchestra in the background of this outstanding recording.
With Toni Braxton’s record Secrets, too, the PXC 550-II did everything “right”: The different reverberations of the solo and choir voices were well resolved. All instruments can be located almost perfectly. The bass range is powerful, groovy, and not as superficial as the sister model Momentum 3 . Paul O’Brien’s Stockfisch recording also had a minimal lack of gloss in the voice.
Compared to the PX7 from Bowers and Wilkins, the PXC 550 II impressed with better tonal balance in all styles. However, only the English listener rendered the snare drum played with a broom by Esbjörn Svensson’s The Goldhearted Miner more finely. Although the PXC 550 II does not support high-resolution codecs such as AptX HD or LDAC, there was practically no change in the sound image in cable operation.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II: sound settings
Even if there were nothing to correct this sound image, this test would be incomplete if the sound adjustment options of the app were not discussed. The so-called “Sennheiser Smart Control” actually gives the Sennheiser PXC 550-II a kind of effects processor that can acoustically simulate rooms as well as frequency corrections.
First of all, there are three presets with the names “Club,” “Film,” and “Language.” “Club” showed a somewhat artificial spatiality, “Film” clearly too much bass – just “speech” can be helpful for telephone calls. We always preferred the position “neutral.” In addition, there is an operating mode called “director,” in which four presets for spatial stereo, reverb, and tonality can be selected.
We would have preferred a manually adjustable equalizer, and it should be submitted with the next update. However, in the current state of affairs, it is safe to say that influencing the sound is unnecessary – which, however, fortunately, is due to the very good sound properties of the PXC 550-II in practice.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II: The technology
The current PXC 550 supports Bluetooth 5 and multi-pairing but must be content with the codecs AptX, AAC, and AptX LL. As with the Momentum 3 Wireless, there are no high-resolution formats such as AptX HD or LDAC on board. Sennheiser should improve this not only because of the very good sound characteristics of the PXC 550-II.
The effective ANC now has two operating modes: A new addition is an adaptive mode that precisely detects the respective environmental conditions and regulates the noise suppression accordingly. It also has special wind suppression. As a result, the ANC is effective and has hardly any noise but cannot be adjusted continuously as with other listeners. In this regard, a Sony WH 1000 XM4 is still hard to beat. The talk-through mode, which is used to pass through voices from the environment, can be activated by tapping the sensor field twice.
The PXC 550-II also has a motion sensor that mutes the receiver when removed from the head.
Operation and practice
Like its predecessor, the PXC 550-II sits very comfortably on the head and is suitable for light sporting activities. The contact pressure is never annoying, but the ears tend to sweat a little more easily than the Momentum 3 with its real leather upholstery.
It is mainly operated via the touch-sensitive back of the right auricle: horizontal movements select the tracks, vertical movements control the volume. And by pressing the middle of the control surface, playback can be started and paused, and phone calls can be accepted or rejected.
In addition to the touch-sensitive surface on the right auricle, you control the noise-canceling and coupling via Bluetooth on the underside.
On the underside of the right auricle, there is also a small slide switch for the ANC modes and a button for Bluetooth pairing and voice control. Unfortunately, the elegant design of both is at the expense of usability: They are quite fiddly to operate with the receiver on. The button for voice control, in particular, could be more easily accessible and equipped with a better pressure point.
In the test, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II was clearly in the top class of sound with its excellent spatiality and great tonal balance. The wearing comfort is very good, and the operation succeeded with small drawbacks. The app currently has room for improvement, for example. Nevertheless, we can also give an unreserved purchase recommendation for the successor model of the PXC 550.