Reviewed on Mar 21, 2018

Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.3
7.1
Mixed Usage
7.1
Neutral Listening
7.2
Commute/Travel
7.4
Sports/Fitness
7.3
Office
5.9
Wireless Gaming
7.4
Wired Gaming
7.0
Phone Call
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : Yes
Noise-Cancelling : Yes
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

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.

Test Results
Design 7.2
Isolation 6.4
Microphone 7.0
Active Features 9.0
Connectivity 7.4
Pros
  • Highly customizable sound.
  • Lightweight and sturdy build quality.
  • Comfortable and stable fit.
Cons
  • Mediocre noise cancelation.
  • Leaky at higher volumes.
  1. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  2. Update 2/16/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  3. Update 9/28/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
  4. Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.

Check Price

PXC 550 Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com
7.2

Design

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.

Style

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.

7.5 Comfort
Weight : 0.51 lbs
Clamping Force
:
0.97 lbs

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. For a slightly more comfortable pair of headphones, take a look at the Jabra Elite 85h or the Sony WH-1000XM3.

7.3 Controls
OS Compatibility
:
Not OS specific
Ease of use : Okay
Feedback : Mediocre
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : Yes
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : Adjustable
Talk-Through
:
Adjustable
Additional Buttons : Room Effects

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.

6.6 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 5 C

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.

6.3 Portability
L : 5.50 "
W : 7.13 "
H : 1.88 "
Volume : 73.7 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

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.

7.0 Case
Type : Soft case
L : 7.00 "
W : 7.63 "
H : 2.5 "
Volume : 133.53 Cu. Inches

They come with a decent soft case that will protect the headphones from mild water damage and potential scuffs and scratches. Unfortunately, the case will not shield them from hard falls or physical damage.

7.5 Build Quality

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.

7.5 Stability

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, although they're one of the best over-ear headphones for working out we've tested, and 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.

Headshots 1
Headshots 2
Top

Sound

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.

Sound Profile
Neutral
:
8.7
Bass-Heavy
:
4.0
Warm
:
3.4
Bright
:
8.4
7.1 Peaks/Dips
Peaks
:
1.89 db
Dips
:
1.53 db
6.9 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
0.64 dB

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.

8.1 Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
:
0.34
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
0.54
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
1.89
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
12.16

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.

4.3 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
5.31 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
4.43 dB
PRTF Distance
:
4.09 dB
Openness
:
3.9
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
3.2

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.

7.6 Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
:
0.213
WHD @ 100
:
0.171
6.4

Isolation

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.

6.1 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-14.53 dB
Bass
:
-4.07 dB
Mid
:
-16.47 dB
Treble
:
-24.36 dB

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.

7.2 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
38.4 dB

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.

7.0

Microphone

Integrated
:
Yes
In-line
:
Yes
Boom
:
No
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

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.

6.7 Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
:
LFE
:
293.44 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
:
2.68 dB
HFE
:
3517.32 Hz
Weighted THD
:
2.138
Gain
:
36.92 dB

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.

7.2 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
:
21.98 dB

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.

9.0

Active Features

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.

9.1 Battery
Battery Type
:
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
:
27.5 hrs
Additional Charges
:
0
Total Battery Life
:
27.5 hrs
Charge Time
:
2.1 hrs
Power Saving Feature
:
Yes
Audio while charging
:
Yes
Passive Playback
:
Yes
Charging Port : micro-USB

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.

8.0 App Support
App Name : Sennheiser Cap Tune
iOS : Yes
Android : Yes
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
Parametric + Presets
ANC control
:
Adjustable
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
:
Yes
Playback control
:
Yes
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

The Sennheiser Cap Tune app gives you an amazing amount of control over the active features. They provide lots of options, from smart pause 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.

Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless In-App Player

Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Parametric Equalizer

Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Room Effects

7.4

Connectivity

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.

8.7 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
4.2
Multi-Device Pairing
:
2 Devices
NFC Pairing
:
Yes
Line of Sight Range
:
145 ft
Default Latency
:
200 ms
aptX Latency
:
171 ms
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

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.

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.

0 Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line of Sight Range
:
N/A
Non-BT Latency
:
N/A
9.9 Wired
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
Yes
Detachable : Yes
Length : 4.4 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRS
Wired Latency
:
3 ms

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.

PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC / PS4 Analog
:
Audio + Microphone
PC / PS4 Wired USB
:
No
PC / PS4 Non-BT Wireless
:
No
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox Analog
:
Audio + Microphone
Xbox Wired USB
:
No
Xbox Wireless
:
No
0 Base/Dock
Type
:
N/A
USB Input
:
N/A
Line In
:
N/A
Line Out
:
N/A
Optical Input
:
N/A
RCA Input
:
N/A
Dock Charging
:
N/A
Power Supply
:
N/A

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.

In the box

  • Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones
  • Audio cable
  • Airline adapter
  • 1/8' to 1/4' adapter
  • Carrying case
  • USB charging cable
  • Manual

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 than the Sony WH-1000XM3. They also have a comfortable design that's slightly more well rounded than the QC35 or Sony WH-1000XM2 thanks to their tighter fit which makes them a bit more stable for sports. See our recommendations for the best wireless headphones and the best bass headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are a slightly better noise cancelling headset than the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. The Sonys have a more premium, high-end build quality and offer better noise isolation for traveling and commuting in noisy conditions. The Sonys are also a bit more comfortable than the Sennheisers. On the other hand, the PXC 550 Wireless have more connection options, making them a great choice if you have a lot of devices that you typically use your headphones with. The PXC 550 Wireless also give you a bit more control over their active features, and they sound a bit better with their default sound profile although both headphones can be EQed fairly easily thanks to their respective apps.

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless/HD1 Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are a better headset overall than the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless. The PXC 550 are more comfortable, have a better battery performance, and more features. They also sound better out-of-the-box than the HD1 Wireless. On the other hand, the HD1 have a better build quality that feels more durable. The HD1 also isolate better in loud and quieter conditions thanks to their superior noise cancellation and low leakage.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are bit better than the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless overall. The Bose have an easier to use control scheme and a more comfortable over-ear fit. They also have better noise cancellation and a more exciting sound that packs a more bass than the default Sennheiser sound profile. On the upside, the PXC 550 Wireless are a lot more customizable than the Bose. Their app gives them a lot more control over their audio reproduction than the QC 35 II, so you can EQ them to match your listening preference, even on individual tracks. They also have a longer list of features than the Bose and more connection options.

Sony WH-1000XM2 Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are a slightly better and more customizable wireless headset than the Sony WH-1000XM2. The Sennheisers have a more customizable app, although it's not as well-made or as sleek as the Sonys. They also have a bit more control over their features than the WH-1000XM2. Their default sound quality is also a bit more balanced with instruments and vocals than the Sony, although they do have less bass. On the upside, the WH-1000XM2 look more premium than the Sennheisers. They also have much better noise cancelation that can optimize for different environments and will be more suitable for commute and travel than the PXC 550 Wireless.

Jabra Elite 85h Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Jabra Elite 85h are slightly better headphones than the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. They feel a bit more comfortable and their physical button control scheme is easier to use than the touch-sensitive surface of the PXC. Both have similar sound quality, but the Jabras have more bass. The isolation performance of the Elite 85h is also slightly better, which will be good for commuting. On the other hand, the PXC’s EQ is better and offers better customization.

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are a better headset, with more features than the Sennheiser HD 4.50. The PXC 550 have a more comfortable fit, with touch-sensitive controls. They also have a better-balanced default sound quality, more control over their audio profile and noise cancelling, as well as a longer battery life with a twist to switch off feature that saves a lot of power. On the other hand, the HD 4.50 have a slightly better isolation performance, thanks to their tighter over-ear fit. If you have the budget, get the PXC 550; they're the upgrade to the HD 4.50 and do most things a little better.

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless and the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are very similar overall. On one hand, the Momentum 3 is better built, have a more retro look and a bit more bass-heavy sound profile, while on the other hand, the PXC have a more well-balanced sound, but are a bit bright. The noise isolation of the Momentum 3 is also better, especially against low-end frequencies like the rumble of engines. However, the PXC 550 have a better battery life and an in-line microphone. The PXC have a touch-sensitive control scheme while the Momentum 3 have physical buttons.

Sony WH-XB900N Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are better headphones than the Sony WH-XB900N, especially when it comes to audio quality. Their sound profile is flatter and more accurate, resulting in better audio fidelity. Their ANC feature is also slightly better as they don’t create as much self-noise. While they don’t offer as much battery life as the WH-XB900N, they take noticeably less time to charge, which might be worth it for some. The Sennheiser Captune app also offers a full parametric EQ, and the PXC 550 can be connected to 2 devices simultaneously. On the other hand, the Sony WH-XB900N have better wireless range and are more comfortable than the PXC 550. They’ll also be better-suited for bass-heavy genres than the PXC 550.

Nura Nuraphone Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless and the Nura Nuraphone are two good headphones but in very different ways. The PXC 550 will sound more neutral than the exciting-sounding Nuraphone. The PXC have a more traditional over-ear fit and are a bit more comfortable. On the other hand, their ANC feature isn’t great, and the passive isolation of the Nuraphone is better at blocking out noise, although their ANC is also pretty lackluster. However, the Nuraphone have a very unique app that lets you personalize the sound profile of the headphones to suit how you hear.

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear/HD1 On-Ear
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are a better headset overall than the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear, but since the Momentum are wired-only headphones, you cannot make a direct comparison. The PXC 550 are more comfortable and have a lot more features, like a customizable sound and noise cancellation. This makes them more versatile for most use cases and suitable for different environments, unlike the Sennheisers. They also sound better out of the box, but on the other hand, the Momentum are wired, so they have no latency when watching videos. They're also a bit more compact and portable than the PXC 550 Wireless. However, you can also use the Bose with the provided audio cable for the same use case.

+ Show more
7.1 Mixed Usage

The PXC 550 Wireless are above-average headphones that perform admirably for most use cases. They have a highly customizable sound to suit your individual tastes, and they isolate well enough for moderately loud environments. Their wireless design feels comfortable, stable and durable. Unfortunately, they don't excel in one particular use case, and the isolation can be a little weak compared to the competition.

7.1 Neutral Listening

Good for neutral listening. These headphones have a multitude of ways to enhance and customize their audio reproduction. Therefore, you could find a sound profile to suit your taste, but it might not be the most accurate representation of the actual audio. The default sound profile is decently balanced and should sound good enough for most listeners. However, the lack of soundstage may not be ideal for those who want a more immersive sound.

7.2 Commute/Travel

Good for commuting. The Sennheiser PXC 550 have a decent noise isolation performance. They're comfortable and give you a high amount of control over your audio directly on the headphones or through the app. However, they're not the best in very loud environments.

7.4 Sports/Fitness

Above-average for sports. They're not specifically designed for high-intensity activities, but they're stable enough to jog with. They have a comfortable fit and provide great control over your audio.

7.3 Office

Suitable for office use. They don't leak much at regular volumes and isolate enough to prevent the ambient noise of a lively office from seeping into your audio.

5.9 Wireless Gaming

Below-average for gaming. The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are comfortable, they have a good sound with a lot of bass and have a decent wireless range. Unfortunately, they have a mediocre-at-best integrated mic and a lot of latency which is not really suitable for gaming. On the upside, their cable is not os-specific and is compatible with most consoles and PCs.

Recommended Articles

LOG IN

JOIN RTINGS.com

Be part of the most informed community and take advantage of our advanced tools to find the best product for your needs.
Join our mailing list:
Become an insider

Unlimited access to full product reviews, test measurements and scores

test table UI

Product prices across the site on reviews, tables and tools

product prices UI

Additional votes for our
next reviews

Additional votes UI

Early Access
to our reviews and test measurements

Early Access UI

Create Discussion