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Sennheiser PXC 550 Review: The Best Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones For Travel

Life is a journey.

It’s not about a destination. Joy is found in all the small moments along the way.

And while I can’t bring myself to splash out extra money to upgrade my flights to first class, I do choose to pack quality items in my bags that will not only stand the test of time, but will also upgrade the journey of life.

Sennheiser PXC 550 wireless noise cancelling headphones are one of those. 

What is it about the Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones?

Sennheiser has been a leader in the audio industry for over 70 years. Their headphone designs are cutting edge, and sound engineering expertise is second-to-none.

But what is it about the PXC 550, that made me fall in love? I’ll tell you what, it’s not the un-sexy model name that is almost a tongue twister. No.

It’s the German engineering. The craftsmanship. The painstaking attention to detail. The dedication to the love of audio.

All of this culminates in a pair of wireless noise cancelling headphones that travellers have been longing for.

The best wireless headphones for travel

Favourite features for travellers

Foldable design
– space is a premium when travelling. The clever design allows the headphones to be folded for compact storage, and doubles up as the method for switching off power to the device, preventing the chance of draining the battery when not being used. The included carry case protects the headphones when not in use, and features a fuss-free pocket to store all the required cables and adapters. 

30 hours on 1 charge
– this is probably the key feature for any serious traveller. Flying across the globe on one charge is no small feat.

World-class noise cancelling – Sennheiser’s unique NoiseGard™ hybrid adaptive noise cancellation combines 2 different systems - using 2 microphones on the outside of the headset plus 2 microphones inside, to eliminate unwanted background sounds over a wide range of frequencies. All of this without noticeable deterioration to the quality of the sound. When switched to “adaptive” mode, the level of noise cancellation will automatically be adjusted to suit the volume of the surrounding ambient noise. That means less engine rumbling on a flight, and more music you want to hear. 

Touch controls
– turning up the volume or skipping to the next song can be done using simple intuitive gestures (such as “tap” and “swipe”) on the Touch Pad (located on the right ear cup).

– this allows you to easily communicate with others without removing the headphones, even with NoiseGuard™ noise cancellation turned on. Simply quickly touch the touch pad twice (right side). This is super handy when walking through the airport and you need to hear a boarding call, or just walking across the street and need to keep an ear out for traffic.

Built-in microphone – this is a Sennheiser headphone, so you know the microphone setup is not going to be run-of-the-mill. The unique VoiceMax™ technology utilises 3 microphones to filter unwanted background noise and emphasise your voice, which makes phone calls crisper and clearer than ever. 

Built-in microphones

Call Enhancement
– making voice calls in a busy location with a lot of background noise, such as a train station, can be difficult in the best of times. Call Enhancement improves the quality of the sound to give you an impression the person you’re talking to is in the same room. You can activate (or deactivate) Call Enhancement during a call by pressing the “Effect Mode Control” button (located on the lower corner of right headphone).

Easy battery check – although the headphones can last up to 30 hours on one charge, it’s still a good idea to check the battery levels occasionally to avoid getting caught. Simply tap and hold the touch pad (right side) for about 4 seconds. The number of beeps will determine how much battery is left (5 beeps is more than 80%, 4 beeps is 60-80%, 3 beeps is 40-60%, 2 beeps is 20-40%, 1 beep is 2-20%).

Use with dead battery – we’ve all done it before. I can’t count the number of times I’ve forgotten to charge my smartphone or tablet before a long flight. But never fear, the PXC 550 can still be used when the battery is flat, with the included high quality 3.5mm detachable audio cable. Keep in mind NoiseGuard™ noise cancellation doesn’t work when the battery is flat. 

In-flight adapter
– a standard 2-prong 2.5mm audio adapter, which is commonly used for airplane audio systems, is included with these headphones. That means not resorting to crummy headphones provided by the airline. Bliss!

Built-in limiter – speaking of flights, I’m sure you’ve experienced the jarring effect of an inflight crew announcement which for some reason is 50 times louder than the movie or music you’re listening to. The PXC 550 built-in limiter avoids sudden peaks in volume making the listening experience so much more enjoyable.

Micro USB cable – the Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones can be recharged using the same type of cable that is used for many Android-based smartphones, tablets and cameras, meaning 1 less cable to pack for your next adventure.

Pair 8 devices – if you have a computer at work, and a laptop at home, a tablet, a phone (or two), a Bluetooth-compatible home theatre system, an iPod, and any other array of music sources, it can be a pain to un-pair and repair devices. Fortunately, the PXC 550 supports up to 8 paired devices at one time. When adding a 9th device, the least used device will be automatically un-paired.

Favourite features for audio lovers

 support – this remarkable audio codec transfers audio via Bluetooth at a quality that is indistinguishable from the highest quality wired connection. Find out if your phone, tablet, laptop or other audio source supports aptX®.

CapTune mobile app – this free app for iOS and Android makes it easy to customise the equalizer settings to customise the sound, making it perfect for you. In addition, you can setup multiple “sound profiles” which to use for different listening scenarios – such as when you’re walking in the city or on a noisy flight.

3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter – this adapter is included which will fit most home theatre amplifiers as well as a wider selection of audio sources. 

Tips to get the most out of the Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones

  • If you have trouble pairing your smartphone using regular ol’ fashioned Bluetooth, try using the neat NFC support. Simply turn on NFC on your phone (find out if your phone supports NFC) and hold it up to the left headphone to instantly pair the device.
  • Use the “SoundCheck” feature in the CapTune app to automatically build your perfect unique EQ setting by testing several A/B variations.
  • If prompted for a password/PIN during the Bluetooth connection process the default number is "0000".
  • A full charge takes 3 hours. Ensure you fully charge the headphones before using them for the first time.  

Tech specs

For the audio connoisseur, here’s the specifications you’re looking for:

  • Impedance: Active 490 Ω / Passive 46 Ω
  • Frequency response: 17 - 23,000 Hz
  • Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 4.2
  • Weight: 227g 
  • For more specs, view the product manual

The Bottom Line

Sennheiser’s PXC 550 headphones might not have the sexiest sounding model name, but they sure pack a punch in terms of audio quality and noise cancelling. Adding in the CapTune mobile app to tune the equalizer to suit your personal preference, and all the cables and adapters in the box you could need for your next trip, you really can’t go wrong bringing along the PXC 550 for wherever the journey of life may take you.

Price: AUD$629.95

Where to buy: (Australia, USA, CanadaUK)

Here's what you have to say...

"I respond to every comment by private email. So please leave me comments, I love chatting to you" -
Posted by Mike Carlson on
Gotta say I totally agree with your assessment. The PXC 550 is scary good, as in "scary because I can't imagine doing without them now" :) Neighborhood dogs = gone. Rumble of air conditioner = gone. Turning up music volume louder than I'd prefer to drown out surroundings = gone. I can only imagine how they'll be on my next plan flight in October. Probably the best $153 (got them refurbed with a Blinq first-order coupon) I have ever spent.
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