Sennheiser PXC 250 Headphones

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Not as good as other options - but decent for the price

Mar 2, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Comfort, lightness, acceptable sound (with battery), moderate price

Cons:Poor sound without power, clunky battery and cabling, "ear pressure"

The Bottom Line: Personally, I'd spend some more money and get the Panasonic RP-HC300, of which I am a big fan.


You may have checked out my profile, and may wonder why I seem to have a fixation on noise “canceling” (let’s switch to “reducing” right away) headphones. Two words: business travel. Noise reduction makes air travel far more relaxing. A lot of the tiredness that comes from air travel comes from the noise one is exposed to in the plane.

Having gone through my share of noise reducing headphones, I itched to try out the product of a company known for building excellent headphones, and also known for actually having been one of the pioneers of noise reduction technology for aircraft pilots.

The Sennheiser PXC 250 is –like most Sennheiser designs- plasticky yet high quality in look and feel. The headphones themselves are very light and very comfortable to wear. Less impressive is the cabling – thick and not too subtle, so it tends to stick out, and then there’s the external metal cylinder that houses the battery and the noise reduction circuitry. It comes with a beltclip, but it’s still in the way when you sit, especially with the cabling. It’s the price to pay for a noise reducing design as light as the PXC 250s, since obviously you can’t house battery and circuitry in roomier, yet heavier and bigger, headphones, as the top line Bose and Panasonic products do.

Having established that the comfort of the headphones themselves is top notch, let’s listen to some music and explore the sound quality. The Sennheiser exposes 2 utterly different personalities: powered on (that means with NR active) the sound is rich. Full base, good highs. A bit on the boy rocker side for those of us who tend to like neutral musical sound. Powered off, however, the sound collapses: utter lack of bass and restrained highs lead to a very tinny and unsatisfying sound. Power off is not an option except in emergencies when you run out of batteries, really. But therein lays an advantage of the Sennheiser design: at least you do get sound without power, unlike with the top line products from Bose and Panasonic.

Next up is the evaluation of noise reduction. It is OK in planes. Given the fact it is not an in-ear design, or design that cups your ears, it has comfort and lightness as a pro, but is naturally hampered when it comes to noise reduction, since it just sits on the ear. But the design works well, noticeably reducing bothersome airplane engine noise. However, I must say I felt a “pressure” in my ears that I did not get from other noise reducing designs. Sure, white noise and some hiss in there with every noise reducing design that in itself is no big deal. But I think the Sennheiser compensates for its “open design” by injecting counter-noise at higher volumes, which may explain the added sense of pressure. I can best describe it as the feeling you get when you’re listening to loud music, but in the case it sets in at a lower level. And no, I don’t listen to very loud music. In fact, I must say I felt some discomfort after the flight, which hadn’t happened before, but it may have been something else, it was an awful flight where my ears popped repeatedly.

The only thing left to do is compare the ~$75 Sennheisers to ~140+ Panasonics or ~$300 Boses. Personally, I’d get the Panasonics, but they’re big (like the Bose) and cumbersome for travelers. Or you can go for good in-ear designs – if those fit well you’ll get good results without really needing active noise reduction. My favorite travel headphones are the Shures. But as far as noise reduction headphones go, I think Panasonic’s RP-HC300 offers the best overall combination of price with excellent sound performance. The Sennheiser’s are in a somewhat awkward in-between state as far as my preferences are concerned, excelling at nothing in particular. Then again, they’re a lower price than the headphones I have to compare them against, so they do deliver good results at that price level.


Recommend this product? No


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