When it comes to headphones, one tends to associate Bose with the "business traveler" demographic. But Sennheiser's making a pitch to that segment of the market with its new PXC 550 Wireless, a "premium" over-ear Bluetooth headphone that also features active noise-cancellation. It's a direct competitor to and costs $399, £329 or AU$630.
Sennheiser is not only touting the PXC 550's sound quality, but its customizable sound modes (via the company's CapTune app for iOS and Android), touch controls, long battery life (30 hours) and strong headset performance for making phone calls.
Like the Bose, this is a very comfortable headphone, relatively lightweight at 8 ounces or 227 grams. Its ear cup design is different than the Bose QC35's and it doesn't have as wide an opening as the Bose, partially because its ear pads are puffier (those with big ears may find the pads sitting more on their ears than around them). I give Bose the comfort edge over longer listening sessions, but the Sennheiser isn't far behind.
The headphone folds up for storage into an included carrying case and seems well built, though it doesn't have the premium design touches of, which has comes down in price online since its release in 2015.
What differentiates the PXC 550 from the Bose is that it has those aforementioned touch controls on the right ear cup and automatically turns on when you put the headphone on your ears. It then shuts down when you fold the headphone flat. Bluetooth pairing worked flawlessly for me, and I encountered only minimal Bluetooth streaming hiccups.
The CapTune companion app for iOS and Android allows you to tune the sound to your liking, tailoring it to the music you listen to. But to customize the sound, you either have to play files stored on your device or use the Tidal Music service. The app doesn't support Spotify or other music streaming services at this time. However, a small button on the right ear cup allows you to toggle through a few different effect modes, including club, movie, speech or no effect. That works with anything you're listening to.
I found the sound quality and adaptive noise canceling very good. Bose is generally considered the gold standard when it comes to noise cancellation, and I've yet to find a headphone that offers superior performance in that regard. This Sennheiser comes close, offering essentially hiss-free listening, even with the highest level of noise canceling engaged (you can adjust the amount of active noise canceling).