Mediocre wireless headphones are a dime a dozen. But if you care about premium-quality sound, then the answer has always been big and bulky. You won't mind that when you're sitting on the sofa at home or even commuting to work on the train, but those kinds of headphones don't fit so well in a backpack or suitcase on longer trips.
What can you do?
Sennheiser has drawn deeply on their German engineering credentials to craft a beautiful pair of noise canceling headphones that fold into a neat little package. They're so elegant I almost want to kiss them. But that's not the German way.
Mix in features like a 30-hour battery life, integrated microphone for calls, and touchpad controls, and now we've got the ideal travel headphones for work and play… and long flights.
I'll drill down deeper to give you the full story about the un-sexy-sounding PXC 550.
A Closer Look
Hands On Experience
I've been using these wireless headphones since late 2017. So, saying they are thoroughly tested would be a vast understatement. I've traveled tens of thousands of miles, and they're still performing just as strongly today as day one. These headphones are built to last.
Note: Sennheiser has released a sequel to this model called the PXC 550-II however, they haven't received the same glowing reviews as this original model, so for now, you'll be better off with the PXC 550.
Here are the best features of the Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones:
Space is a premium when traveling. This unit's smart foldable design enables compact storage and doubles up as the method for turning power off, preventing any chance of draining the battery when not in use. The included zippered carry case protects the headphones and sports a convenient internal pocket to store all included adapters and cables.
30 hours on 1 charge
This is probably the most critical feature for any serious traveler. Flying across the globe on a single charge, with juice to spare, is worth a standing ovation.
Impressive noise canceling
Sennheiser's unique NoiseGard™ hybrid adaptive noise cancellation blends 2 different systems - using 2 microphones on the outside of the headset plus 2 internal microphones, to eliminate undesired background sounds over a wide frequency spectrum. All of this without noticeable deterioration to the quality of the sound. When switched to "adaptive" mode, the level of noise cancellation will automatically be adjusted to suit the volume of the surrounding ambient noise. That means less engine rumbling on a flight, and more music you want to hear.
Increase the volume or skip to the next track with simple, intuitive gestures on the touch pad (such as "tap" and "swipe"), located on the right ear cup.
Removing headphones to talk to someone is a thing of the past. Just double-tap the touch pad (right side), and external sound flows in. Do the same to reverse. This is handy when walking through the airport trying to hear a boarding call, or just crossing the street and keeping an ear out for traffic.
Proprietary VoiceMax™ technology utilizes 3 microphones to filter unwanted background noise and enhance your voice, making phone calls crisper and clearer.
Making voice calls in a busy location with background noise, such as a train station, can be quite the challenge. Call Enhancement improves the quality of the sound to feel like the person you're speaking to is in the same room. You can activate (or deactivate) Call Enhancement during a call by pressing the "Effect Mode Control" button (located on the lower corner of the right headphone).
Quick battery check
Although the headphones last up to 30 hours on one charge, it's smart to check the battery levels before a long trip. Tap and hold the touchpad (right side) for about 4 seconds. The number of beeps will indicate how much battery is left (5 beeps is over 80%, 4 beeps is 60-80%, 3 beeps is 40-60%, 2 beeps is 20-40%, 1 beep is 2-20%).
Works with flat battery
Frequent travelers will know the feeling of forgetting to charge a smartphone or tablet before a long flight. But don't worry, the PXC 550 is usable when the battery is flat, thanks to the included 3.5mm detachable audio cable. Note: NoiseGuard™ noise cancellation doesn't work with a flat battery.
A standard 2-prong 2.5mm audio adapter, commonly used for airplane audio systems, is included with the PXC 550. Fly in style!
On the topic of flights, I'm sure you've experienced the unsettling effect of an inflight crew announcement, which for some reason, is 20 times louder than the movie or music. The PXC 550 built-in limiter avoids sudden peaks in volume, resulting in a more pleasurable listening experience.
Micro USB cable
Use the same type of cable to recharge the headphones as many Android-based smartphones, tablets and cameras. One less cable saves a little weight and space.
Pair 8 devices
If you have a computer or laptop at work, at home, plus a tablet, a phone (or two), a Bluetooth-compatible home theatre system, an iPod, smart assistant, and any other array of music sources, having to un-pair and re-pair devices is frustrating. Luckily, the PXC 550 supports up to 8 paired devices at one time. When adding a 9th device, the least used one will be automagically un-paired.
This exceptional audio codec transfers an audio signal via Bluetooth at a quality that is indistinguishable from the best wired connection. It just works out of the box. Find out if your phone, tablet, laptop, or other audio source supports aptX®.
CapTune mobile app
This free app for iOS and Android makes it easy to customize the equalizer settings just the way you want. It supports multiple "sound profiles" to use for different situations - like walking in the city or on a noisy flight.
Sennheiser have built an enviable track record in the audio industry since 1945. They created the first open headphones in 1968 and wireless microphones in 1982. Innovation has never stopped; it’s in the company’s DNA. And the PXC 550 continues that tradition of intense attention to detail and uncompromising style.
Is Sennheiser PXC 550 Right For You?
The Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones are designed with travelers in mind. If you love music or podcasts or make a lot of phone calls while traveling, these will be a natural fit. The headphones are intuitive regardless of technical expertise – simply flip open and use.
The PXC 550 is not for you if you’re on a tight budget. But if you were to splash out on anything that makes travel days more enjoyable, it should be this.
I wouldn’t recommend using these headphones if you’re super active, doing an intense cardio workout. They’re a bit heavy and will likely slip. You’d be better with internal earphones.
Pro Tips For Sennheiser PXC 550
- Speed up the initial pairing process by using NFC. Simply turn on NFC on your phone (find out if your phone supports NFC) and hold it up to the left headphone to instantly pair the device… couldn’t be easier!
- If you opt for a standard Bluetooth pairing, if prompted for a password or PIN, the default response is "0000" (four zeros).
- Craft your perfect EQ setting in the CapTune app with the “SoundCheck” feature. This also allows you to test several A/B variations.
- Resist the urge to play straight away, and fully charge the headphones before first use (takes 3 hours). The integrated battery will perform better in the long-run.
Sennheiser PXC 550 Specifications
- Weight: 227g
- Charging time: 3 hours approx.
- Impedance: Active 490 Ω / Passive 46 Ω
- Frequency response: 17 - 23,000 Hz
- Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 4.2, class 1
- Pick-up pattern (speech audio): 3-mic beamforming array
- Total noise attenuation: up to 30 dB
- Sound pressure level: 110 dB
- For more specs view the product manual.
- Travel friendly foldable design.
- Exceptional quality through entire frequency range.
- Long battery lifetime, perfect for extended journeys.
- Personal assistant support lacking, such as Siri or Google Assistant (addressed in version II).
- Not rain-proof.
- More granular battery status indicator.
Where To Buy Sennheiser PXC 550
Retail Price: $349.95