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Plainly music to the connoisseur's ears
APPLE'S choice to remove the traditional headphone jack from their latest iPhones will probably spur greater interest in the wireless headphone market, so it is quite timely that German audio giant Sennheiser has opted to launch its PXC 550 wireless headset at around the same time.
These over ear cans carry the same comfort offerings as previous Sennheiser headsets, with soft padding that cradle your ear. Each can is oval in shape, with an angular slant at the bottom tip, to serve as a physical indicator on which is the left and right cup.
Sennheiser has also relooked some of the more traditional access controls, and the biggest change is that the PXC 550 does not have a Power button.
Instead, users simply twist both cups outwards to power up. The flattening of the ear cups makes it easier for storage within the provided case, but it is also an effective method to shut down the headset, since most folks will flatten it before stuffing it into their backpack.
Two more folds of the headband also gives the unit a smaller profile, so it can even fit into a handbag.
Physical buttons are limited to the Bluetooth one, as well as a slider for active noise cancellation. There are two modes for noise cancellation, and the difference between the two is rather subtle.
The first, medium level setting is good enough to drown out the chatter of folks on public transport, and the second setting is probably for frequent fliers who want to drown out the intense hum of airplane engines.
Instead of making users push buttons to control their music or take calls, the entire right side panel is a touchscreen one.
Slide your finger up and down to vary the volume, and back and forth to switch tracks.
Tap the panel once to play or pause the track, and tap it twice to pause the music and disable noise cancellation, to speak to someone.
Tap once to answer and end calls, and tap and hold to reject the call. Double tap to place the call on hold, and slide your finger back on the panel to mute the call. These controls aren't new and they beat blindly fingering the headset just to skip a track.
Audio on this, and any Sennheiser headphones, is always superb, with a great layer of bass mixed with mids and highs, as well as sharp vocals coming through.
But if you are rather stringent when it comes to your music, and don't mind using the 3.5mm lightning connector dongle that comes with your iPhone, the new P9 Signature from Bowers & Wilkins is worth the hefty investment.
The British company, best known for home speakers, have crafted a pair of headphones that bear their Signature brand, and delivered a solid pair of cans.
The retro brown leather lends a nice aesthetic to the unit, with its sturdier leather wrapping the outside, and softer material resting on your ears and head.
Everything is built onto the brushed aluminium frame, which gives the unit plenty of heft. For those concerned about having something solid pressing against your ears, the cups are decoupled from the frame by a soft mesh that provides some suspension, even if you are resting your head to one side.
The double fold unit can be packed into a smaller case, but the thickness of the headband and large over ear cups, together with its large price tag, mean that this might be safer and easier for home use.
But where it truly shines is in its audio prowess, as the P9 Signature effortlessly projects a rich layering of acoustics, while delivering a solid bass. The sense of depth is evident on instrumental tracks, with a clear sense of where each note is emanating, and how it all mixes together.
The P9 Signature might not be as technologically advanced as other modern headphones that come with wireless features, but the company's focus has always been on music, and whatever it may lack, it more than makes up for in terms of audio prowess.
Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, Cable with remote
Charging time 3 hours
Frequency response: 17 HZ - 23,000 Hz
Impedance: Active: 490 Ohms/Passive: 46 Ohms
Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature
Drive Units 2x 40mm (1.6 in) Full range
Frequency Range: 2 Hz - 30 kHz
Impedance: Passive: 22 ohms