Sennheiser PXC 480 Review

Some time has passed since Sennheiser released a high-end noise cancelling headphone.  Sure, we had the Momentum 2.0 , but the Momentum 2.0 was also a lifestyle headphone – with as much attention given to its looks as its sound.  But today, the brand new PXC 480 landed on my review desk.  At $299, it’s in direct competition with Sennheiser’s other noise-cancelling models, as well as flagship models from other manufacturers.  So how does it sound?

Sennheiser PXC 480 Review

Sennheiser PXC 480 Review

The PXC 480 comes packaged with a zippered case that holds the headphones, a removable headphone cable, a micro-USB charging cable, a 1/4” stereo adapter plug, and an airline adapter plug.

Construction is impressive, and a definitive improvement over the older PXC models.  While still comprised primarily of plastic, the feel is definitely more solid.

Comfort, too, has seen some advances.  While older travel models from Sennheiser led to ear fatigue within a matter of minutes, the PXC 480 remains comfortable for hours on end.  In comparison to its predecessors, this headphone sports deeper earpads and wider, thicker padding on the headband.

The 480 boasts 50 hours of battery life (all from an internal rechargeable battery!), and Senneheiser’s new-ish NoiseGard hybrid technology – essentially doubling the number of ambient mics for more comprehensive noise-cancellation.

Specs

Frequency Range:  17-23,000 Hz
Impedance:  45 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL):  109 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD):  <0.5%

The 480’s specs reveal a decent frequency range with just a little more low- and high-end detail.  The relatively-low impedance of just 45 ohms lends itself well to mobile listening.  Volume could be just a tad bit louder, but the naturally noise-isolation design of these headphones coupled with the active noise-cancelling tech, goes a long way in making up for the low Sound Pressure.  Distortion is low, perhaps even lower than the 0.5% that Sennheiser claims.  Or maybe it just sounds that damn good.

Low End

I was impressed by the low end on the PXC 480 right away.  There’s a fair amount of detail with a modicum of bass – not too overpowered, but still sounding natural, it’s the perfect amount of oomph in the low end.  Add to this an impressive sense of control, and the resultant sound is clean and precise, strutting a fine line between accurate and emotive.

Mids

The mids are home to the slightest bit of compression, seeming to pinch some vocals.  Instrumentation feels largely untouched, and most listeners aren’t going to fret too much over the sound in this part of the frequency range:  even with the distortion, the sound remains impressive, with plenty of detail.

High End

A tad bit bright, the high end delivers an adequate amount of detail while never going overboard.  The sound isn’t piercing, but it may also lack some finer nuances.  With such a relaxed character, this high end definitely compliments the natural lows and mids – but you may want to save the classical music for another pair of ‘phones.

Soundstage

Plenty of depth but poor placement give way to the impression of instruments tripping over themselves as they approach your ears.  In less-intricate tracks, the depth is enough to impress, but the PXC 480 may struggle to deliver the grandeur of an otherwise-impressive symphony.

Other Observations

Holy isolation.  Even without the active noise-cancelling turned on, the snug fit and pleather earpads do a fantastic job of blocking out ambient noise.  When stuff gets truly annoying, turn on the ANC and return to The Zone.

These headphones handle just about any genre equally well – except classical.  Not that the PXC 480 is necessarily bad for classical, but there are other headphones for the same price that would perform better with classical tunes.

Despite my best efforts (or my audio addiction?), I can’t run out the battery.  I’ve left the headphones on for almost two days now…the 50 hour battery life is no joke.

Recommendations

Perfect for the morning commute to the office, or that dreaded flight to Majorca, the PXC 480 is a peerless powerhouse where noise-cancellation is desired and accurate audio is a must.  Forget the noise-cancelling models from Audio Technica, Bose, or any other company – this is the high-end travel headphone we’ve been looking for.

As mentioned in our review, the only reason not to opt for this headphone is an obsession for classical music – in which case we might suggest the Audio Technica MSR7NC.  Sporting the same price of $299, the Audio Technica model forgoes the emotive bass found in the PXC 480 but offers much, much more high-end detail – perfect for those sparkling strings Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Final Analysis

The Sennheiser PXC 480 sports massive improvements over its predecessors With plenty of detail and a rich and natural sound, audio quality remains undiminished, despite the inclusion of a noise-isolating design and active noise-cancellation technology.  Forget the alternatives, folks – this may be the final word in noise-cancelling headphones for years to come.

Available at Audio 46 with complimentary Bluetooth Speaker for purchase over $100 http://audio46.com/shop/sennheiser-pxc-480/