By Lily Katz Review Source
Sennheiser usually pays little mind to gimmicks and marketing ploys and instead puts all of its efforts toward functionality and sound quality. The company takes that same approach to the Sennheiser PXC 550-II noise cancelling headphones, a long-awaited upgrade to the first-generation model. Active noise cancelling (ANC) performance keeps up with best-in-class alternatives from Sony and Bose, but for a reasonable price.
Sure, this isn’t the slickest set of headphones and doesn’t have cool software tricks, but that’s the charm of the PXC 550-II: simplicity and performance come first.
Editor’s note: this Sennheiser PXC 550-II review was updated on February 5, 2022, to add information about EQ with smartphones and the Shure AONIC 40 as an alternative.
Who should get the Sennheiser PXC 550-II?
Commuters and air travelers will appreciate the compact nature of the PXC 550-II and the good active noise cancelling (ANC) performance.
Remote workers should consider this high-value headset, again, for its ANC performance that blocks out noisy neighbors. The battery life can get you through multiple workdays before requiring a recharge.
What’s it like to use the Sennheiser PXC 550-II?
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II is easy to use, and places performance and functionality above design. All-plastic ear cups don’t appear premium, nor do the tenuous yokes but it all serves a purpose: to minimize the headset’s weight, which is imperative for day-long listening. If you’re concerned about durability, just reach for the included case. It’s not quite a hardshell design, but the reinforced exterior will protect your headphones from minor bumps in a bag.
The headband strikes a good balance of thin and comfortable, making the second-generation Sennheiser PXC 550 great for anyone with glasses. Though, I experience some discomfort at the crown of my head after two hours of wear. A metal reinforcement protects the headband from snapping. Synthetic leather covers the headband and is the same material used to wrap the memory foam ear pads, which are comfortable but heat up in warm conditions. You may remove the ear pads for easy cleaning and replacement, though the triangular shape means you have to buy a replacement from Sennheiser, rather than picking a cheaper third-party option.
Should you buy the Sennheiser PXC 550-II?
Yes, you should get the Sennheiser PXC 550-II because it’s a great value. Many of us are stuck at home, and constantly subject to noisy neighbors and roommates, and these headphones make it easy to block it all out. The low-frequency noise cancelling performance is impressive, and the sound quality makes any genre of music sound good—or at least how it was intended to sound.
The headset has its drawbacks too: the most glaring oversight is the microUSB input. However, it’s a small price to pay for one of the best headsets.