- Table of Contents
- Active Features
In the box
Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are above-average and versatile headphones for most use cases. They have a great design, excellent active features, and a customizable sound that's suitable for critical listening. They're lightweight, comfortable and stable enough to take to the gym. However, they don't have the most immersive sound quality, and their isolation is not as good as the Bose QuietComfort 35 in louder environments.
See our recommendations for the best Bluetooth Headphones.
- Highly customizable sound.
- Lightweight and sturdy build quality.
- Comfortable and stable fit.
- Mediocre noise cancelation.
- Leaky at higher volumes.
Update 9/28/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 are sleek-looking wireless headphones with a premium appeal and a comfy fit. The ear cups and headband are both very well-padded, which make these headphones comfortable to wear for hours. They're lightweight yet the build quality feels durable enough to withstand a couple of drops without damage. Their design is also sufficiently stable to jog with, although they won't be the best for intense sports. They're not the most portable headphones, which can be a bit of a hassle to carry on your person but they fold up and come with a decent case.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 have a modern and sleek design that is not too flashy but will still stand out in a crowd. The slightly oval ear cups and wide headband are well padded with premium materials giving these headphones a high-end appeal. They're mid-sized over-ear headphones, but the headband has a relatively low-profile fit, so it won't stick out too much when you have them on your head. They have a very understated color scheme, which might not be for everyone but will definitely work for some.
The PXC 550 are one the more comfortable closed back headphones we've tested. They're incredibly well padded and the earcups are large enough to fit comfortably around most ears. The headband is also heavily cushioned and they're relatively lightweight. They're a bit tighter on the head than the QC 35 but they won't cause any fatigue or soreness even during long listening sessions. Unfortunately, the headband does not extend far enough to accommodate all head sizes and shapes.
The button layout provides a surprising amount of control over your audio but it's not always efficient or intuitive. Like the Zik 3.0, these headphones have a touch-sensitive control scheme that provides track skipping, call/music, and volume controls. There's a multi-purpose button that doubles as a Bluetooth sync and audio preset toggle. They also have a noise canceling switch that can place the headphones in "Aware" mode to be able to monitor your environment. This all feels a little confusing at times.
- 100% Avg.Temp.Difference
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless have a decently breathable design despite being closed back over-ear headphones. They still obstruct quite a bit of airflow so they won't be the ideal headphones to take to the gym or for more intense workouts. On the upside, the shape and size of the ear cups keep the outer ear relatively cooler than similarly designed headphones like the QuietComfort 35 or the WH-1000XM2.
The PXC 550 are moderately portable headphones. They're a mid-sized over-ear model with relatively large ear cups that fold but do not tuck-in neatly into the frame. This makes them decently portable but not the easiest to carry around on your person without a bag. The ear cups also lay flat, but that doesn't save much space so they're best transported in their carrying case to avoid damage.
Although the Sennheiser PXC 550 are lightweight, they feel solid. They have a good build quality that makes us of premium materials in its design. The headband is reinforced by a thin but wide metal frame and the earcups are made out of a dense plastic that's durable enough to withsand a few drops and tumbles without damage. The swiveling mechanism is firm but has a snap to turn on feature which may potentially fail after prolonged use. However, we've had no issues with our unit so far.
These headphones have a stable wireless design that won't easily fall off your head. The firm swivel hinges, combined with the wide headband, and broad ear cups prevent the headphones from swaying too much even during physical activity. They won't be the best choice for exercising or intense sports but the stability they provide is decent enough to jog with. The wireless design also removes the chances that the headphones will be yanked off your head because the audio cable got hooked on something.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are good sounding closed-back over-ear headphones. They have an excellent, well-balanced, and deep bass, an excellent and neutral mid-range, and a good treble. However, their bass is a tad south of neutral and may not be for the fans of heavy bass, and their delivery may vary slightly from person to person. Also, their mid-range sounds slightly forward and vocals and their treble could sound sharp and sibilant on S and T sounds if the source material is overly bright. Additionally, they have very good imaging, but like most other closed-back headphones, they lack a speaker-like and out-of-head soundstage.
The bass is great. Their LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 26Hz, which is very good. However, it's not as low as some other over-ears' like the QuietComfort 35 II, and WH-1000XM2. Low-bass is about 2dB below our target, and mid-bass is underemphasized by 1.8dB. Overall, their bass is quite even and well-balanced, but a tad south of neutral, so fans of heavy-bass may not be completely pleased with them.
The mid-range is very good. Low-mid and mid-mid are flat and within 0.75dB of our target. This ensures a clear and well-balanced reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. The bump in high-mid however, gives a bit of excess intensity and projection to vocals and lead instruments, nudging them towards the front of the mix.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 have a good treble. The response is rather uneven, and overall, a tad north of neutral. The 10dB dip around 4KHz, negatively affects the detail and articulation of vocals and lead instruments, but it is too narrow to be noticeable. The 10dB peak in the sibilance range, however (6KHz-10KHz), makes the S and T sounds sharp and piercing, especially on bright vocals and cymbals.
The frequency response consistency is about average. In the bass range, they performed quite consistently on our 5 human subjects, with little deviation between them. However, our one test subject who wears glasses experienced a 3dB drop in bass below 300Hz, and only in one ear. This suggests that under the right circumstances, the seal of these headphones could be broken with hair or glasses, and cause a noticeable drop in bass. In the treble range, the maximum amount of deviation below 10KHz is about 5dB, which is not bad, but is noticeable. This suggests that the treble performance of this headphone is also sensitive to positioning.
The imaging of the PXC 550 is very good. Their weighted group delay is 0.34, which is within good limits. The GD graph however, shows that the group delay response crosses the audibility threshold below 40Hz. This suggests that the sub-bass of the Sennheiser may be a tad slow, which could be due to poor seal, or their ANC system. Their treble will still be quite transparent though. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were quite well-matched in amplitude and frequency response, but left some room for improvement in phase matching. This could weaken the stereo image to a small degree, but won't affect the accurate placement of objects (instruments, voice, footsteps) in the stereo image.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 have a sub-par soundstage. The PRTF graph shows that the response doesn't follow our reference at all. They have low accuracy, no distance, but above-average size. Therefore, their soundstage will most likely be perceived to be of a decent size, but not speaker-like and in-front. Their closed-back design also makes their soundstage feel less open than that of open-back headphones.
The harmonic distortion performance is about average. The overall amount of THD is elevated throughout. At higher volumes, there is a rise in THD in the bass and mid ranges, but none in the treble range, which is atypical.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 have a decent isolation but they're not as good as some of the other noise-canceling headphones we've tested like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM2. They still provide enough isolation to use them while on public transit without being too distracted by the loud environment. However, they won't be the best headphones to block out the noise of a particular noisy flight. On the upside, they don't leak much even at higher volumes, but in very quiet settings, the level of leakage could be distracting to those around you.
The isolation performance is about average. The ANC (active noise cancellation) on these headphones seem to be adding low-frequency artifacts that could go as high as 60Hz. This rumble could potentially be heard in certain situations. In the bass range, occupied by the rumble of airplane and bus engines, they achieved 4dB of isolation, which is sub-par. In the mid-range, important for cancelling out speech, they achieved more than 16dB of isolation, which is good. In the treble range, occupied by sharp S and T sounds, the Sennheiser PXC 550 achieve 30dB of isolation, which is also good.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 has a decent leakage performance. There is little leakage happening below 1KHz, so it will sound quite thin. The amount of leakage from 1KHz onwards is not too loud either. At 100dB SPL and 1 foot away, the peak is around 55dB SPL, which is the same as the noise floor of most offices. Also, the high-treble leakage seems uncharacteristic of closed-back headphones and could be due to poor seal.
The integrated microphone has average quality. In quiet environments, speech recorded with it with sound relatively thin, and noticeably muffled and lacking in detail. However, it will still be decently understandable. In noisy situations, they perform above average and can separate speech from ambient noise in moderately loud environments, like a busy street. But they will struggle in very loud places, like a subway station.
The recording quality of the integrated microphone is about average. Its LFE (low-frequency extension), is at 293Hz, indicating speech recorded/transmitted with it will sound relatively thin. The HFE (high-frequency extension) of 3.5KHz means that speech will be noticeably muffled and lacking detail. But it will still be decently comprehensible, since speech intelligibility is mostly dependent on the 500Hz-4KHz range.
- 100% SpNR
The microphone is decent at noise handling. In our SpNR test, they achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 22dB, indicating the Sennheiser PXC 550 would be able to separate speech from background noise in moderately loud environments. But they may struggle in very loud places.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 have one of the most feature-packed apps that we have evaluated so far. They also have an excellent battery life, especially considering these are wireless and active noise canceling headphones. They will last up to 27 hours, they have versatile power saving features and do not take too long to charge. This means you will rarely be out of battery and in the worst case scenario, you can use them completely passively with the provided cable.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 have an excellent battery performance. They last well over a day of continuous, wireless playback and only take about 2 hours to charge. They have an adjustable auto-off timer to save power and can continue charging while playing audio, which is great if you're close to a power outlet, like being at the office. They can also play passively when the battery is dead.
The Sennheiser Cap Tune app gives you an amazing amount of control over the active features. They provide lots of options, from an auto-off timer to an adjustable Noise Canceling profile. The best feature, however, is the fully parametric equalizer, which lets you customize the sound to suit your taste for particular music genres, or even an individual track. The app is available for both Android and iOS with no practical difference between versions and it is one of the most complete companion apps we've tested. However, the sheer number of features and menus can get overwhelming at times, and there's a slight learning curve before you can use the app to its full potential.
- 10% Bluetooth
- 32% Wired
- 10% Base/Dock
- 22% Wireless Range
- 25% Latency
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless can pair simultaneously with multiple devices, support NFC and have an above-average wireless range. They also come with a regular audio cable that has an in-line microphone compatible with most consoles and PCs. This makes them a versatile option for almost any use case but like most Bluetooth headphones, when used wireless, they have a fair bit of latency which won't be suitable for gaming or watching a lot of video content.
- 79% Multi-Device Pairing
- 20% NFC
- 0% PS4 Compatible
- 0% Xbox One Compatible
The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless can pair simultaneously with 2 devices and support NFC. This makes them a rather versatile headphone when using Bluetooth. However, pairing is not as easy as the Bose QuietComfort 35, since you have to switch them off first and hold the power button when turning them on to put them in pairing. It can be a bit tedious when trying to pair to multiple devices but on the upside once paired they will automatically connect to the 2 last synced devices as soon as you switch them on.
- 13% Analog
- 9% USB
- 26% PS4 Compatible
- 26% Xbox One Compatible
- 26% PC Compatible
These headphones come with a 1/8TRRS audio cable with an in-line microphone that's compatible with the Xbox One, PS4 and PCs. You can also use the USB cable for audio over USB when connected to PCs or tablets.
- 4% Optical Input
- 22% Line In
- 4% Line Out
- 22% USB Input
- 4% RCA Input
- 9% PS4 Compatible
- 9% Xbox One Compatible
- 9% PC Compatible
- 2% Power Supply
- 13% Dock Charging
These headphones do not have a base/dock. If you want a versatile headset with a base that you can also use wired check out the SteelSeries Arctis 7 by SteelSeries.
The PXC 550 have an excellent wireless range indoors or outdoors. They reached up to 50ft when the audio source was placed in another room. This makes them good headphones to use around your home or at the office as they won't easily drop the Bluetooth connection even when there are a few walls between you and the source. They direct line of sight range is slightly shorter than some of the other Bluetooth headphones we've tested but should still be more than enough for most use cases and environments.
Poor latency performance. The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless have about 200ms of SBC latency and 171ms when using aptX. It's within the range of most Bluetooth headphones but won't be ideal for watching movies or gaming.
In the box
- Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones
- Audio cable
- Airline adapter
- 1/8' to 1/4' adapter
- Carrying case
- USB charging cable
Compared to other Headphones
The Sennheiser PXC 550 are a versatile wireless headset with great customization options and a good sound. They do not have as much isolation as some of the competing models within their price range, but they provide more control over their active features. They also have a comfortable design that's slightly more well rounded than the QC35 or Sony WH-10000XM2 thanks to their tighter fit which makes them a bit more stable for sports.
The Sony WH-1000XM2 are a slightly better-built alternative to the PXC 550 with a more premium looking design and better noise canceling. They have a good sound and a decent amount of customization options thanks to the new app support. However, they're not as customizable, and they're a bit bulkier and heavier than the Sennheisers. On the upside, they're one of the best noise canceling headphones we've measured, which makes them a good choice for commuters and travelers. So if you need the most isolating headphone for a noisy flight or a very busy commute, get the WH-1000XM2. However, if you want a more customizable headphone with a better battery life and slightly more ergonomic design, go for the PXC 550 instead.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are a minor update to the Bose QuietComfort 35 with a better control scheme. You now have a bit more control over the noise cancellation even without the app, and you get Google Assitant built-in. They're still one of the best noise-canceling headphones with a comfortable, easy-to-use design and a very good sound. However, they do not look as well-designed as the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless and their sound profile can't be customized due to their limited app. They also tend to be a bit leaky at higher volumes, so if you need a headset that has a customizable EQ, doesn't leak much and don't mind sacrificing a bit of comfort and isolation, then go for the slightly cheaper PXC 550.
The Beats Studio3 Wireless have a slick-looking design that's versatile enough for most use cases. They have an excellent wireless range and a good battery life with a quick charge feature. They're also a bit easier to use than the PXC 550 but have no customization options and slightly inconsistent sound and isolation performance. The Sennheiser headphones have more features and options than the Studio 3 wireless, but both perform similarly well for most use cases so your choice will depend more on your preference. However, the Studio 3 have no passive playback so if you're often on the road with no opportunities to charge, get the PXC 550 as they will be a more suitable option.
The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless is a sturdy and well-built headset that's a bit more durable than the PXC 550. They have a simple and easier to use control scheme and they're sufficiently versatile for casual everyday use. They also barely leak so you can listen to your music at higher volumes without distracting those around. However, for all the other categories the Sennheiser perform better. They're more comfortable, they have a better-balanced sound, and stronger isolation. If you really like the look and design of the Momentums, then they could be a decent alternative but the PXC are a better choice for most use cases.
Questions & Answers
QC35 and MDR1000X have superior noise cancelling compared to the PXC550. With MDR1000X you have the option of turning the ANC off, but with QC35 the ANC is always on. On the other hand, the QC35 has the best sound quality out of the three, but it requires a 1/16th TRS jack instead of a 1/8th (2.5mm).
If you don't care about being able to turn off the ANC, and can find a 1/16th jack adapter, then we'd recommend the QC35. Otherwise, the MDR1000X would be a better fit for you than the PXC550 because of their better ANC.
Before asking a question, make sure you use the search function of our website. The majority of the answers are already here.