Time for a showdown. Sennheiser PXC 550-II vs PXC 550.
In terms of wireless sound quality, Sennheiser is running the game. Other companies may have them beat for comfort or noise cancellation, but the MOMENTUM 3 and MOMENTUM in-ears are still the best-sounding wireless we’ve encountered.
The PXC 550 is another Bluetooth active noise cancelling option from Sennheiser that has recently received an upgrade. Though overshadowed somewhat by the success of the Momentum series, the PXC 550-II is a great option for those who need more travel-friendly features without sacrificing sound quality.
In this comparison review, we take a look at the original PXC 550 (which can now be nabbed for a fraction of the price) and how the PXC 550-II improves upon it. Will it be worth your money to upgrade? Is there a significant difference in the performance? The sound? Let’s find out.
Sennheiser PXC 550-II vs PXC 550 Comparison Review
On the outside, the differences are purely aesthetic. The silver accents on the original are replaced by an all-black matte finish on the IIs. Personally, I like the silver better, but the new ones call slightly less attention to themselves. Also, the icon on one of the buttons has changed from a music note on the originals to an ellipses (…) on the II. This is due to the added voice control on the IIs, which I’ll cover below.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two internally is in the Bluetooth upgrades. The II gets updated to the faster, smoother Bluetooth 5, and supports several additional codecs. AptX is the only codec that the original PXC 550 supports. The 550-II supports AptX, AptX Low-Latency for lag-free movie watching, and AAC for higher quality with Apple devices.
So not only will the Bluetooth be more reliable on the new versions, there’s a decent chance that your audio experience will be improved by the extra codec support. The II’s also include Voice Assistant compatibility with Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant via the Voice Control Button. This button was previously used to select different listening modes (like Movie, Speech, etc.) on the original PXC 550. You can still select all the same listening modes on the IIs, but from the Sennheiser Smart Control App.
Aside from the software improvements, the driver, frequency range and most crucially, the battery life, are all the same as the original PXC 550.
Now, I’ll do some A/B comparisons of the two to look for subjective differences in sound and experience.
Disclaimer: because I’ll be using an iPhone, the Bluetooth sound quality should be better on the II simply because of the AAC support. The original PXC 550 will default to SBC with an iPhone, which is not known for its sound quality. So, to test for differences in the driver, I’ll first be using the included 3.5mm cable like a true audiophile.
With a wired connection and the noise cancellation turned off, the II sounded way better than the original 550. But by better, maybe I just mean louder. Both headphones need max volume when using the wired connection, and the II got up to a level that’s actually usable. The originals sound very weak and thin by comparison.
Bluetooth Sound Quality
I have reason to believe the sound of the driver itself is the same between the two. But man, Bluetooth 5 using AAC was able to transmit a much better signal than 4.2 and SBC. For Android users, this difference may not amount to all that much. But for iPhone users, the upgrade to the AAC codec should be a no-brainer. The II sounds way better with Apple phones.
While tough to test empirically, I didn’t notice any improvement in the noise cancellation from the originals to the II. This isn’t a terrible thing, considering the noise cancellation is pretty good and adapts to the noise of the outside environment. But the more I sit with both of these headphones, the more I feel the primary upgrade is the Bluetooth capability.
I stand corrected. The call quality is noticeably better on the mark II, on both ends. But let’s be fair, the difference isn’t huge. And actually, the call quality is probably only better thanks to Bluetooth 5 sending a better signal. So we’re back where we started.
So there you have it. The biggest difference by far is going from Bluetooth 4.2 to 5. If you’re an Apple user, this will bring you a very noticeable increase in sound quality. And if you’ve had any trouble with latency using the PXC 550, the II should alleviate that with AptX Low Latency comparability. But if you already have the original PXC 550 and don’t have an iPhone, I’m not sure if the upgrade will be worth the $150 price difference. Only you can decide.
Upgrade to the PXC 550-II at Audio46
Alternatively, check out the review we did about Strauss and Wagner’s Noise Canceling Headphones.
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