Sennheiser PXC 550-II

General Information

Upgrade to a Smarter Travel Experience

Wedemark/Berlin, September 5, 2019 At IFA 2019, audio specialist Sennheiser is introducing the next generation of its acclaimed PXC 550 Wireless headphones. The new PXC 550-II Wireless builds on the exceptional comfort and sound quality of its predecessor to offer an even more sophisticated and intuitive experience for the frequent traveler. Upgrades include Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility and AAC codec support for superior wireless listening, while a new Voice Assistant button provides one-touch access to voice assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The headphones’ adaptive noise cancellation seamlessly adjusts to suppress ambient noise – even in challenging outdoor environments, thanks to a new Anti-Wind ANC setting.

Whether you’re relaxing in flight or staying in touch in the city, the new PXC 550-II Wireless has been created to upgrade every journey with unrivalled sound quality and wireless freedom,” said Dr. Christian Ern, Manager Portfolio Consumer Headphones at Sennheiser. “The original PXC 550 Wireless offered an exceptional premium experience that cosseted the user with a fusion of performance and comfort and made every interaction intuitive by anticipating their needs. The successor extends this experience by allowing voice interaction with digital assistants at a touch.


The new PXC 550-II Wireless builds on the exceptional comfort and sound quality of its predecessor, while a new Voice Assistant button provides one-touch access to voice assistants.​

Travel with superior audio

The new PXC 550-II Wireless is upgraded with Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility and support for the high-quality AAC codec. Alongside aptX(TM) support, these enhancements help to deliver uncompromised Sennheiser sound quality. Music and movies can be enjoyed with outstanding clarity, balance and dynamics, while support for aptXTM Low Latency ensures audio stays in perfect sync with onscreen media. And no matter where a journey takes the listener, the headphones’ active noise cancellation seamlessly adapts to ambient noise levels to provide the exact level of suppression needed – even in challenging outdoor environments, thanks to a new Anti-Wind ANC setting.

The PXC 550-II Wireless also features a triple microphone array that makes it easy to stay connected while on the move: Sennheiser’s expertise in microphone technology ensures unrivalled speech clarity when giving voice commands or making calls – even in busy locations.

Enjoy a smarter, connected experience
The PXC 550-II Wireless has been designed to anticipate the user’s needs and to make every interaction utterly intuitive: Take control via a touch pad on the right earcup to adjust volume, play, pause or skip tracks, or to accept calls at a touch. The headphones automatically turn on and connect via Bluetooth as they are unfolded. Similarly, the Smart Pause feature senses when the listener takes off the PXC 550-II Wireless and automatically pauses the audio – resuming without missing a beat when put back on.


The PXC 550-II Wireless has been designed to anticipate the user’s needs and to make every interaction utterly intuitive.​

As part of a new generation of smart, connected headphones from Sennheiser, the PXC 550-II Wireless seamlessly connects to personal devices to enhance the user experience. It features a Voice Assistant button that offers convenient, one-touch access to voice assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Sennheiser’s free Smart Control app also makes it possible to tailor the sound for a more personal audio experience: listeners can either choose from a selection of presets for different types of audio or customize the sound to their taste via the intuitive equalizer. The app also allows the user to adjust noise cancellation and keep the headphones up to date with the latest firmware.

Engineered for more comfortable journey
With up to 20 hours of battery life with headphones connected via Bluetooth and ANC switched on, and up to 30 hours when using ANC and a wired connection, the PXC 550-II Wireless can travel the world on a single charge. To ensure comfort during long trips, the advanced ergonomic design includes a padded synthetic leather headband, and rotating earcups that make it easy to achieve a perfect fit. Premium, lightweight materials such as the brushed black stainless steel used on the robust hinges and sliders prevent fatigue when wearing – and also help make the PXC 550-II Wireless effortlessly portable. With a fold-flat design and a compact travel case created to slip into a bag or airline seat back, it’s the perfect companion for travelling in style.

The PXC 550-II Wireless will be available from October 2019 for $349.95 (MSRP).

Latest reviews

Pros: Full-bodied, detailed, timbre-rich sound. Excellent noise-cancelling performance. Light and comfortable.
Cons: Lack of USB-C is apparently a big deal to some people. It's damn expensive at full MSRP.
Full disclosure: I loved the original PXC 550's. After a year-long search for the perfect on-to-go cans, starting at the 50x and 40x and MSR7 Audio-Technicas, to the Meze 99 Classics, and I was feeling like nothing was really getting there. On the ANC route the Bose Quietcomfort and Sony WM-X10003's simply didn't have the fidelity I needed to truly enjoy my music besides hearing that it was there. I'd read the PXC 550's were a little bright (Tyll's review said as much) but figured I'd give it a whirl, and was glad I did -- they were great. They were not as cutting-edge as the competition but the ANC I found ample enough to suit my needs, the comfort was good, and the music! The music sounded incredible, brilliantly resolving with ample linear bass that could come across as almost light but in keeping with the Senny house sound. (In fact I'd say the PXC 550's are really very similar to the HD800 insofar as sound signature, albeit a touch less guilty of occasional sibilance.)

Lo and behold, however, my pair started experiencing some connectivity issues. I sent it in to Sennheiser, who very kindly swapped it out for the newly refreshed sequel to the 550's. I was slightly concerned to be getting the II's instead of my coveted 1's -- why mess with greatness, if it ain't broke, etc -- but am really happy that I was given the update as it's just like the 550's except just a touch more refined, both in sound and overall aesthete, and the many strengths of the originals have been merely bolstered by the refresh. Nothing's been reinvented, but nothing needed to be.

The key changes are that this pair now has a button for Voice Assistant, instead of to change sound profiles (alternating bassiness, basically -- which I never used anyway), and the new model also has all the most recent Bluetooth and wireless codecs. It still has Micro-USB, and not the more-current-gen USB-C, though why this bothers people so much is somewhat beyond me. Maybe I'd feel different if my phone used USB-C and then I'd mourn the could-have-been of using one cable for all of my electronics, but as stands both my Kindle and now my headphones use the same USB port, so I'm cool with it, and whatever extra features USB-C would provide (faster charging, easier to plug in) I'm fairly indifferent to.

Onwards. As far as audio quality, it really sounds like pretty much the same sound profile as the original PXC 550's -- balanced. Great timbre/punch in the midrange. Snares sound like snare drums and not some idea of a snare drum. Crystalline highs, no murkiness (looking at you Sony), muscular yet defined bass (and now at you, Mezes). Sound-wise not much has changed except maybe, maybe an improvement in overall clarity. I'm not one who connipses over audio codecs and lossy vs lossless streaming -- I recently switched from an LG V40 to iPhone (for work) and didn't notice any difference between the two wirelessly with the original PXC 550's, despite the fact that the V40 was using the Latest and Greatest AptX whilst the lowly iPhone only provided BT 4.0. Like, really, no difference. And so now with the Model II using BT 5.0 it is, in theory, going to be an upgrade -- and really, maybe it is. For all I know that's what the change in 'clarity' is. And granted it's been a few weeks since I'd listened to the original PXC's, but even if there is an improvement it's a marginal one; there's maybe ever-so-slightly more of a black-ground to the music, everything is ever-so-slightly more pristine. It's not worth sweating over, except for the fact that video now has no perceivable lag between the audio when watching Youtube on my phone, let's say. (To provide further context: I am one of those that feels they can differentiate pretty clearly between DACs. I am not an 'objectivist' in the sense of measurements being the end-all-be-all metric of fidelity. Yet Bluetooth codecs just don't seem to make much of an impact at all to sound, in my estimation.)

A surprising improvement would be with the noise-cancelling. I've noticed that overall ambient sound dampening is much better than the previous model in that it does a really great job even tuning out voices and aberrant noise, not just more drone-y or atmospheric noise, which was more the previous model's forte. The Listen-Through mode (my favorite implementation of it among the ANC brands -- a double-tap on the touchpad and you're listening to your surroundings through the headphones' mics, another tap and you're back to the music: much better than Sony and Bose's methods of using similar features) is much more subtle and smoothly initialized than the old model.

So if you have the original PXC 550's and are thinking of upgrading -- wait 'til they're on sale; they're not worth the price of a full purchase as an upgrade. It's a shame that Sennheiser asks for so much for these because honestly if they were to undercut the Sony and Bose offerings by a little more, they could be real commercial contenders in the On-the-Go Noise Cancelling market. But Sennheiser isn't a household name with your average Joe or Joe-ette and so people are probably simply less likely to give it a whirl -- which is unfortunate, because as of now, the PXC 550 II's are the best portable headphones available on the market. (Yes, better than Momentums.)
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trellus
trellus
Since you have had both the original PXC-550 and then these newer PXC-550ii, can you comment on whether the newer ones get a little louder? I had the PXC-550 original for a short time, and I really, really liked the sound signature, but I wanted a little more volume -- on some content, I just needed one or at most two more "up" notches from my iPhone.
kdoof
kdoof
I honestly can't say positively, but I think it's approximately the same. On my phone comfortable listening for me was about 3/4 of full volume with the mark 1's, and that seems to hold for the mark 2's.

Comments

The original PXC 550s are some of my favorite headphones, period -- no buts or qualifiers necessary. They're great and I think the best travel headphones you can purchase these days. This sounds even better. I'll definitely be checking this out, will be interested in whether there are any changes to the sound signature.
 
While I don't doubt the sound quality will be great, it will be interesting to see how well the ANC compares to the TOTL Sony and Bose offerings...
 
While I don't doubt the sound quality will be great, it will be interesting to see how well the ANC compares to the TOTL Sony and Bose offerings...
With the NoiseGard(TM) ANC automatically adjusting to your environment, as well as user selectable strength options for maximum noise cancellation or comfortable light-strength ANC for low noise environments, we designed the PXC 550-II to perform well whatever you ask from it :)
 
I just tried the new EPOS Adapt 660, which is built upon the 550, intending to use them for Zoom meetings. They're marketed for that use and office work with video and audio conferencing. But I had to return them. Sound was actually pretty good (a bit muddy), and the microphone setup truly excellent, but the relatively small size of the earpieces and pads made my ears sweat immediately. That's not been something I experienced before to that degree with closed headphones like the Oppo PM-3 and KEF/Porsche Space One. Very disappointing.
 
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