With my recent journey to Singapore to road test the new Harley-Davidson Streed Rod 750, I was finally given the opportunity to try out the latest Sennheiser PXC-550Noise Cancelling headphones on a long haul flight.
If you travel frequently, Noise Cancelling headphones are a must. They eliminate so much ambient noise and provide hours of comfort for back to back films. In the case of the PXC-550, the Bluetooth connectivity also offers an incredible headphone solution for your daily commute and life in the office.
Sennheiser sent over the PXC-550’s at the end of last year, replacing the outgoing PXC-450 model I’d been using previously and included in my Travel Essentials article. Obviously, I unboxed them straight away and began to get a feel for how they fit into my day to day life, but wanted to do a proper trip with them before putting together this piece.
The updated design is far more svelte than the outgoing model with a matte black/grey case and no visible buttons and a reduction in size overall. The headphones are powered by an internal battery that charges in roughly three hours and will give you between 20 and 30 hours of listening. They turn on once they’re unfolded and are controlled by touch on the RHS earcup. The left-hand earcup has NFC (near field communication) capabilities, and if you have a phone with the same functionality, a quick tap of it against the earcup will link the Bluetooth immediately. It’s a brilliant function, but be aware of strange glances from onlookers wondering why you’re hovering your phone around your head.
In transit, Bluetooth gives you a level of freedom you won’t believe you lived without before. My bike ride to the ferry is free of cords snagging on bike parts and limbs. If I want to change the track while cycling, a simple swipe of the RHS earcup will get the job done. I also enjoyed conducting morning phone calls during my ride and am constantly impressed by the clarity of conversations, even with a breeze. Conversations at the ticket office are conducted with a quick tap of the RHS earcup, which activates the talk through function, allowing you to converse without removing the headphones, before a quick tap back to your music. Onboard they mute the constant hum of the ferry engines and packed into their carry case, they are compact and light, fitting into your backpack or briefcase effortlessly.
In the office, they are sublime, providing excellent sound quality and clarity, comfort for a full day of listening and seamless phone call functionality. If I choose to silence my phone, I opt for the provided cable for direct connectivity to my laptop, instead of Bluetooth. If I am working and need to make or receive calls, I run my music through my phone allowing me to easily accept incoming calls with a tap of the right earcup. The music continues with journeys to the kitchenette located on the other side of the building. Sennheiser claims they’ll work up to 100m away from the point of connection and I’d say that number is pretty spot on.
For many of the reasons I’ve outlined above, the PXC-550 headphones excel in every aspect of travel. Conversations at the check-in desk or duty-free shopping can all be conducted without removing the headset and manoeuvring throughout the airport and passing through security without a cord is an actual game changer – a reason to invest alone. I found myself enjoying downtime in the lounge without music, merely using the noise cancelling feature and found it very effective.
Once on the plane, the power of the noise cancelling can really be appreciated, muffling everything from pilot announcements to crying children. When paired with earplugs, something I often like to do preflight, noise is non-existent. Once in the air, the headset connects to the plane’s in-flight entertainment system with the provided cord and adapter. If you leave that cord and adapter in a jacket pocket at home, as I did on my First Class flight from Singapore to Hong Kong, you’ll have to settle for alternative earphones for entertainment. Luckily for me, it was Bose. Had I been in Economy, however, the irony of having to use a $1 set of earphones to watch movies while a $629.95 set sat in the overhead bin, would have been too extreme to comprehend.
Personally, I feel the biggest drawcard for the Sennheiser PXC-550 headphones is comfort. They’ve reduced the earcup size and overall unit size considerably, which you’d assume would crowd the ear more, but it’s the exact opposite. I found after extended periods of wear (maybe 4-5 hours) with the outgoing PXC 450; my ear cartilage would begin to ache, forcing me to switch to earbuds. This isn’t an issue at all with the new PXC-550, which sat on my head for the entire flight between Sydney and Singapore.
Finally, the Sennheiser CapTune App, which works over Bluetooth with media stored on your device, is a geeky touch that allows you to tune your headphones to your personal taste or adapt them to various styles of music or for movie playback. It’s a little gimmicky but fun to have a play with!
$629.95 is a considerable amount to outlay on anything really, but when you break it down to cost per wear, or cost per hour of playback on a long haul flight, the Sennheiser PXC-550 headphones present excellent value, superb sound quality and market leading noise cancelling ability.
For more information on the Sennheiser PXC-550 headphones head to the Sennheiser website.