Full of bier and weisswurst, I can finally report on the headphones that pretty much stole the IFA show for me – the Sennheiser PXC 550 II. Priced at a solid $349, this headphone’s impending release seems to be overshadowed by the more premium Momentum M3. However, as a conservative-looking successor to the original PXC 550, it succeeds on many levels – not least among them, the PXC 550 II’s impressive sound quality. But is this the right headphone for you?
Sennheiser PXC 550 II Review
I first saw the PXC 550 II on the crowded floors of the 2019 IFA show in Berlin. While all the normies were swarming over the Momentum M3 and the the Momentum True Wireless, I caught sight of a more subdued pair of cans, chilling alone in the corner. For a moment, those clean black lines and toned-down faceplates could be misconstrued for plainness.
However, once I got my hands on her, and gave her a good inspection, only one thing remained plain to see. The Sennheiser PXC 550 II, despite it’s lower price, offers the same level of quality as that found in the Momentum M3.
While certainly not as fashionable, and perhaps made with less leather and stainless steel, the 550 II feels lighter and more casual. It’s not just the perfect headphone to travel with – it’s the perfect headphone to go anywhere with.
Because, despite the slightly different looks, the PXC 550 II carries over much of the functionality that made its predecessor such a hit. Touch sensors, adjustable ANC, an AUX input, and the unique power-off mechanism still exists. Like its predecessor, the 550 II also sports around 30 hours of battery life.
However, the 550 II also offers updated Bluetooth technology, now coming hard with 5.0, and supporting both AAC and aptX HD codecs.
Perhaps the only downside here in terms of design appears in the charging port; the 550 II still rocks a micro-USB charging port and that will turn some folks off.
However, anyone interested in sound quality should put this small drawback aside and keep reading.
Sennheiser PXC 550 II Review – Sound Quality
The Sennheiser PXC 550 II delivers substantial, delicious lows. There’s also a mesmerizing and energetic bass impact that adds a sense of weight to the lows. As a result, most rock and hip-hop and electronic tracks sound fantastic when played through this headphone. But with that in mind, I have to admit that the low end never really detracted from other genres like jazz, classical, or pop. All in all, this feels like a fantastic low end – and maybe the best I have heard yet in a consumer headphone at this price.
In the mids, the PXC 550 II shows off some strong detail. There’s also a good sense of fidelity – no matter what I throw at this headphone, vocals and instrumentation here always appear refreshingly clear and accurate. And while not so different that it will incite panic among the original 550’s fans, the sound has changed, too. Presentation and a sense of nuance feel upgraded from the original sound, giving the 550 II the impression of a sharper, more contrasting headphone – and thus capable of a more realistic sound.
Brazen and beautiful in their detail, the highs, like the lows, feel a bit emphasized. However, thanks to that exceptional Sennheiser engineering, the sound never becomes too harsh or uncontrolled. Again, like the mids, the highs exhibit a certain clarity that shows through on any track. While almost obscene in its level of precision, this resolving sound still sounds subdued or slack enough to work well with older recordings, or lower-res tracks in my testing repertoire.
Roomy and relatively airy, the PXC 550 II exhibits an enlightening sense of depth. Spatially, the sound may feel just a tiny bit cramped. And this isn’t so much my first impression as something I’ve arrived at after thorough listening. To be honest, most listeners are going to swoon over a soundstage this open in a pair of ANC headphones.
ANC tech will block out every iota of distraction The ANC on the Sennheiser PXC 550 II feels upgraded from the ANC on the original model. It’s more expansive, with a greater blanketing effect, allowing you to hear your music better, without the odd distractions.
And when it comes to ANC headphones, those looking for the best low end and soundstage will inevitably find themselves choosing between the Sennheiser PXC 550 II and the slightly more impressive (but also more expensive) Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC.
Sennheiser PXC 550 II Review – Conclusion
Personally, few headphones besides the Lagoon ANC will come close to the Sennheiser PXC 550 II. If you wanted a duller sound with more bass (but not necessarily better lows), go with the Sony WH1000XM3.
For folks who want a more mid-high emphasis and a more substantial (but heavier build), the Sennheiser Momentum 3 comes to mind. Detail remains very close between these two models, and while my eyes might agree more with the PXC 550 II, I still remember my ears being rocked by the M3.
With it’s familiar design features and impressive, upgraded sound, the PXC 550 II feels poised to usher plenty of new, would-be-audiophiles into the Sennheiser camp. While this stellar earphone may seem mired in the shade of the more fashionable Momentum 3, its reserved good looks and no-nonsense dedication to premium audio will snag plenty of listeners – hook, line, and sinker.
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