Not as good as the competition, but can hold its own
Everyone’s different taste in music and listening styles effect what sort of headphones you want to buy. If you stand on a modern train and sit there, looking at the varying commuters and what headphones they are using you generally see a layout like this:
- Apple Airpods
- Generic Earbuds (either ATK for Samsung phones or the Apple Earbuds)
- Bose QC35 IIs
- Sony WH1000XM3
- Beats Studio/Solo Gen 3’s
- Misc cheaper ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) headphones.
(At least from my commute)
AirPods no question are fairly competent and solid earbuds for the price. They are on the higher side of the price spectrum without noise cancelling, but can provide a good user experience on the Apple Platform & can be seen everywhere. The Bose QC35 II cans can confidently be at the top spot (very closely contested by the Sony ANC headphones). However, a lesser seen but still strong competitor to the over the ear space is occupied by Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones; if you can get them on sale. These headphones haven’t seen a solid physical version upgrade in the last few years, but they provide an excellent audio experience for what they can offer. I managed to secure a pair on sale online, and have tested them with international travel and a lot of smaller commutes and the result has been much better than expected.
The headphones are light, and super comfortable. The cups through, even though they are over ear, may not sit well on larger ears so take that into account when wearing them. These don’t come anywhere close to the long comfort of the Sony headphones, as well as the pure bliss that is the ANC on the Bose QC35 II headphones but I would confidently say these sit in the middle of both. Not a titan in their own right, but able to hold their own. They come with a Micro USB cable to charge them (being older, this is to be expected but is still disappointing when the equivalent Sony headphones use USB-C).
Sound quality is also very decent for the money, getting these on special is a very worthwhile audio purchase. The sound is clear, with 3 effect modes to change the EQ on the headset (Club, Speech and Movie) but most of the time i leave mine of Club or Off depending on what I’m listening to. Podcasts sound great out of these, as do most types of music (my Rock/Hard-Rock/Metal preference pairs well with these headphones), and with the ANC mode on you hear practically nothing outside of whatever you are listening. I would comment though, that on an airplane if you have a window seat you will hear the plane engine still through the headphones. These don’t isolate noise 100% if your audible external noise is super loud and you are in a confined cabin space like a plane. The exception for this is blasting your music at higher volumes, but that isn’t recommended for the health of your ears.
The headphones can also be paired with Sennheiser’s CapTune App, which can help control the level of ANC manually, change the effect modes as well as control volume and de-pair the headphones. I will be honest, outside of connecting the headphones the first time and configuring them; I haven’t touched this app at all so it still stays on my phone but now they are configured they are great headphones to grab and go. Battery life is also quite impressive. With ANC on, I lasted through an entire flight from Sydney to LAX, then waiting in the lounge for 2 hours and then the flight from LAX to Omaha. Overall time spent from Sydney to Omaha was around 20 Hours of travel and I still had charge left at the end of the travel. The endurance on these is quite solid without ANC on as well, I find I’m getting at least 30% more battery life with the noise cancellation off, but since using them with noise cancellation on is so good; I’d recommend leaving it on and copping the battery difference.
The headphone’s greatest gripe through is the micro-USB charging. This is the biggest letdown for a user in 2019 who has Lightning or USB-C everything else in their bag and now you have to carry a Micro USB cable as well. For those who have larger bags this isnt an issue or for those who dont mind carry a plethora of cables, its ok. For folks who carry the headphones in the pouch by themselves, or just want to carry the headphones and don’t have a MicroUSB phone (which most phones these days either use Lightning if its an iPhone or USB-C if its an Android phone) and you are out of luck on charging them if you forgot. A next generation version of these headphones with USB-C and improved noise cancellation and a $50 price cut would definitely be a valid competitor to the Sony and Bose buyers of the world.
Grab one of these on sale, you wont regret it. Otherwise, save your hard earned Pennies, and buy the Sony headphones. They’re slightly better noise cancellation, they charge through USB-C and their price is justified for the quality of the sound & build.