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Sennheiser MM 550 bluetooth NC headphones review Vs. Bose QC15

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by doc-holliday, Jul 21, 2012.
  1. Doc-holliday
    Hey yall. This is my first post.

    I used opinions of people on this site to make my recent decision to purchase the Senn MM 550 NC headphones so I felt obligated to post my own review now that I have them out of the box.

    I travel fairly frequently and I needed a decent NC headphone. Eventhough Bose seems fairly unpopular on this site many agree Bose posess the best Noise Cancelling technology out there. This was (and still is) the other set of headphones I am still looking at however I think I have found what I am really looking for in the Senn MM 550. Here we go:

    Firstly, I was impressed by the light weight and the comfort of the 550 was not bad at all. I thought they felt similar to the qc 15 in that regard from when I tested them in the Bose store. The 550s have immediate other physical advantages over the bose in that they have: Blutooth, tak through, ability to work without batteries and ability to control your mobile device with controls on the side of the headphones via blutooth.

    In terms of sound.... the Senn's sound amazing. They have this "SRS" function on the side that really works great. There is a whole 1 page description on how this works in the manual but lets skip all that and lets just say it works. Sound is clear and crisp in the highs. Lows are not muffled or over exaggerated. It left an immediate impression on me after having heard the bose in the store. Someone posted on another thread that they "didn't notice a difference" with the SRS on and off and weren't sure what it did. Well i can certify that there is something wrong with the unit they purchased or with their ears as the SRS drastically affects the quality and I got sound out of compressed music such as ACC's and MP3's that I didn't think was possible.

    I do not have a set of QC15's at home so to be fair I have not done a side by side (and I still plan to) but these 550's just made an impact when I first hooked them up that I don't recall getting when listening to the Bose QC 15 at the Bose store last week.

    I do have a set of Bose Tri-ports here and did a side by side on those and there is just no comparison in the sound quality department. Highs, mids, lows. The Triports have less impedance and are louder especially in the bass but not nearly as crisp and the mids are weird to me in comparison and highs of the triports are not defined or crisp like the Senn's.

    All that being said (and the Tri ports being an old model now) I am still considering purchasing the Bose and doing a side by side and returning the one I like the least.

    The next point is the Noise Cancelling. The Bose blow away these 550's for sure in that regard. The Senn's seem to do a good job on cutting out the humm type noises. I tested them next to a loud window AC unit and it cuts the fan noise well and also next to a large server rack. They perform well in those conditions but I don't think they will fare well against crowds of people or places with banging etc. I will be using them on a flight to DC tomorrow which will be the real test for me (I will let ya'll know).

    But the Bose cut out a lot more sounds and give you that total silence feeling. The 550's allow other frequencies through aside from that fan low umm noise. The 550's sound quality is also affected by turning on the NC fairly signifigantly in the low's. I didn't get to test this specifically on the QC15 yet.

    Cost is high for both the qc15 and the mm 550. The 550's have been replaced by the 550x and I got them for $310 at B&H down from $500. (difference between 550 and 550x is a newly added comm protocol -- see Senn's website -- no other difference)

    The blutooth function worked extremely well to my suprise. See the 550's come with both a hardwire option or you can use it blutooth. Even using blutooth the SQ of the 550's far, far surpassed the Triports I have here and also much nicer than what I remembered hearing of the QC15s in the store. I plan on using this feature a lot more than I originally anticipated as the SQ is certainly acceptable with my ipad (little quiet when I use BT with my iTouch for some reason by quality still good). In contrast, when using a cheap usb Blutooth xmitter from my PC, the SQ was unacceptable so this feature is going to depend on the device you are using it with. I'll need to purchase better blutooth for my computer.

    I find myself really using the buttons on the side of the 550's a lot to pause and ff or rewind. It is a nice feature when using blutooth.

    Ok I think this is long enough for my first post. Other key bullet points real quick:

    -- Bose single aaa battery beats the Senn mm 550's proprietary battery in life by double.
    -- Trade off between having to buy an expensive spare battery from Senn (50 bucks) and the convience of being able to charge the Senn battery with any mini usb charger which is nice. The usb plugs straight into the battery which is nice since you can charge a spare with no need for an extra charger.
    -- Carry case of the Senn is just flimsy nylon compared to the Bose semi-hard case.
    -- 550s have talkthru feature when NC is on. Kind of neato but not really that hard to remove the cans to talk to someone but the feature is there vs the bose where it is not.
    -- Sound Isolation is great on both (both are closed cans obviously). There is virtually no bleed on the 550's so you won't annoy the guy sitting next to you even on high volume. Didin't test with the Bose on bleed sorry.
    -- I touched on this above but the bose wont function at all when the battery is dead but you can still use the Senn with the provided cable when the battery is dead (although aaa batteries are not to hard to come by to get the bose up and running again)

    My preliminary conclusion is that if you want far superior SQ (even when using blutooth) with okay NC the Senn mm 550 is for you (especially if you can get them on sale like I did). If ultimate NC is your goal, you should try out the bose.

    That being said, I feel it is only fair to do more of a side by side so I still plan to either buy the Bose and compare or bring my mm550's into the Bose store. I love these 550's and Im pretty much 95 percent sure Im sticking with the Senn's but either way I'll let yall know when I do the side by side. Because as I said I am just really impressed with the sound of these 550's as their biggest plus of all.

    I hope this helps anyone like myself who is trying to decide on the best pair of NC headphones for them.
  2. Doc-holliday
    Ok well it has been a couple weeks. I took these on a couple flights.

    I have oficially decided the 550 is not worth the money. The amount that the active Nc changes the sound became annoying for me. I would never use these with the nc on for music. Using them for movies on the plane worked out okay. And btw the higher pitch whine from plane of dc10 i flew on was barely affected but it did almost completely remove the duller louder low typical plane engine noise.

    I never got round to trying the bose again like i promised in store but those arent worth the 300 either imo.

    Im sending back the 550s. Ordered the ue triplefi 10 IEMs. Also ordered the able planet "350 dollar" Nc 1000ch for 65 bucks including shipping from buydig.com

    The able planets might work fine for my movies in flight or i will wear them on top of my IEMs with nc turned on for my music.

    Think that shld do the trick.

    Oh yea btw.. I still loved the sq of the 550s with nc off although the more i used them the more i felt the mids were "distant" sounding.
  3. Doc-holliday
    Ok maybe cuz im a noob no one cares about this thread but im gunna keep it updated anyway..... Maybe ill become headphoneus supremus posting on my own boring thread.... :xf_eek:

    Anyway just got those 65 dollar able planets in the mail. Rivals the bose. Sound great for cheapies (even though they r 350 retail). For sure try those instead of the bose qc15. For any possible slight percieved edge the bose has on the ap's it sure aint worth 235 extra clams. But the ap's sound better IMO. Oddly enough the APs are meant to have the nc on when u use them and sound BETTER and have more bass with noise cancellation turned ON. Opposite of the sennheisers. Active NC works well. Ill use the APs on planes and the hd 380s round town and home. Later.
  4. Armaegis
    Thanks for providing some honest insight into Bose. Not many people here give them credit where it's due. I've only auditioned them in the store, though I find myself agreeing with you on some points. 
    I haven't heard the MM550, though I've heard the PXC350 (I think that's the number). I do find the QC15 very good at NC, though I find the Senns in general better with distinct sounds/vocals while the Bose is better at background/machine noise. For the money though, I think the Audio Technica ANC7b hits a pretty good sweet spot in the NC headphone category while still sounding good. 
  5. Doc-holliday

    Thanx Armaegis i want to give those a listen too for sure. Although i must say i am set with these able planets for nc headphones. I know this is kinda like walking into a Ferrari dealership and recommending a Hyaundai to say this on here but i am shocked at how well these nc1000ch APs sound actually. Nice balanced sound. Seems like they were designed to be driven straight out of my ipad (iphone/itouch dont cut it without an amp).

    I literally bought them just cuz they were on sale for 65 bucks and i read the nc was pretty okay. But ive been laying here for 2 hours listening to them and what can i say.... Im impressed.

    Turns out i wont be using them as just glorified ear muffs over my iems on the plane.... :)

    Its only 65 bucks..... You cant go wrong just make sure u have the nc on when u use them. They sound dreadful with it off. Thx again for your comments.
  6. Armaegis
    I think the problem with many NC headphones is that the focus is entirely on the NC circuit itself and the amp section is overlooked. Several NC headphones have a steep rolloff in the sub-bass, which to me (from my amateur DIY point of view) could indicate poor input stage in the amp. 
  7. Doc-holliday

    You are spot-on and couldnt be more right on that. But I also think it extends beyond that. For example the Senn HD380 and the PXC 450 are essentially the same headphone - same driver, same shape, etc. Only difference is they decided to squeeze a NC circuit into the PXC as almost an afterthought design. At what cost? -- PXCs have poor bass even with NC off because of the alteration of the design. Ask Senn, they'll admit it.

    In otherwords instead of designing the best possible NC hedphones from scratch to get both good NC and the best possible sound they looked at what would be the easiest design route.

    I think that's why the able planet's seem to out perform the others IMO with NC turned on. Even though they are low end headphones, they at least seemed to be going for good sound with good NC at the same time.

    I guess I should write a review on a seperate thread, but might not be worth it cuz I think the AP's get treated worse than the Bose. Many won't give them a fair shake.

    Ive learned a lot about NC headphones in the last couple weeks. Armaegis I'll let you know if I get a chance to compare those Audio Technica's you recommended.
  8. cerealftw
    Anybody have the mm 500 and/or hd25s? Can anybody post a comparison, preferably mm 500 (ad2p) vs hd25 and (wired) mm 500 vs hd25s.

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