Sennheiser, after moving a bit cautiously initially in the noise-cancellation (NC) headphone space, is now going all out in the battle against Bose’s QuietComfort 35 (Rs29,363). And that battle starts with the PXC 550 (Rs29,990).
At first glance, it is clear that the PXC 550 is a traditional Sennheiser headphone design because its lines are similar to their other headphones. The matt black finish looks classy and elegant, and does not require regular cleaning to keep them looking clean, the way some shiny headphones do. In comparison, the Bose QuietComfort 35 also has a classy matt finish, but it does not have the few chrome inserts to liven up the overall design that the PXC 550 does.
There is, however, a sense of solidity to the Bose design as well, though the headphones are extremely lightweight. Deciding the comfort level in terms of earcup sizes will be a subjective call, but the Sennheiser PXC 550 is slightly wider than the Bose QuietComfort 35. The former weighs 227g, while the latter tips the scales at 236g—there is not much to choose between the two.
Sennheiser features touch controls on the right earcup, which is a much funkier way of showing off to friends. The headphone also detects when the earcups are being worn—when you put them on your ears, the headphone switches on automatically, switching off when you place it flat in the carrying case, for example. Bose’s Connect app (free for Android and iOS) and Sennheiser’s CapTune app (free for Android and iOS) allow some amount of sound-setting tweaks as well.
Bluetooth pairing for both headphones is a breeze, be it for phones or with MacBooks. We did struggle a bit with the Bluetooth drivers on a Windows PC, but that could be an isolated issue.
NC offers the biggest comparison between the two, and will define the ultimate winner. Bose’s NC technology has, so far, been considered the benchmark in the headphone business. The QuietComfort 35 is carrying forward that tradition. The sound quality is excellent when the NC is switched on, and there is no hissing noise in the background, something that can be a problem with a lot of rivals.
Sennheiser gets quite close. There are multiple levels of NC settings available to the user, depending on how noisy it is around you. The music genres we tested this with did not exhibit any hissing or distortion intrusion, and did not struggle either in terms of clarity or bass response.
Needless to say, both headphones isolate you from the din around.
Bose headphones, irrespective of the family they belong to, have a trademark warm sound. And the QuietComfort 35 also retains that, something Bose loyalists will appreciate. It offers excellent levels of clarity, wide sound and tight bass that doesn’t spill on to other frequencies. There is just something very comforting about the Bose sound signature, be it in headphones or earphones. Sennheiser has also has retained the neutral sound signature with the PXC 550. Between the two, we prefer the slightly more powerful bass that the Sennheiser headphone can reproduce with the same music tracks. Though the QuietComfort 35 exhibits a bit more detailing (Sennheiser’s Momentum range offers that sort of detailing), the PXC 550 sound just comes across as livelier.
It is really too close to call. The buying decision, if you are upgrading from an existing Bose or Sennheiser headphone, should not be too complicated. But we’d stick our necks out and recommend the Bose QuietComfort 35, simply for the greater level of detailing that it offers.