Great performance, not so good packaging.
Mar 28, 2011 (Updated Mar 28, 2011)
Review by excaliburn
Rated a Helpful Review
Pros:Comfortable, great sound, superior noise cancellation
Cons:Expensive, poor packaging (check your pair first before opening)
The Bottom Line: The way to go with sound sealing noise cancellation headphones...if you can afford them.
Well, I guess you would EXPECT a set of headphones that costs $350 or so to perform well. The PXC-450s are more comfortable than the Audio-Technicas, sound better than the Bose QC-2s, and seal better than the Bose QC-3s. (And, if I can stray for a moment here, how do I get in on the Bose headphone "action"? How does a manufacturer like Bose get away with charging so much for such mediocre headphones and IEMs? They're not truly bad, but the QCs cost about as much as the Sennheisers and they're about two classes below the Senns.) If you can afford the price of the PXC-450s, they are the ones to beat. True, you will have to put up with a bit more bulk, but they fold relatively efficiently and have a decent (not expensive) carrying case. The Senn's sound quality is really phenomenal for a NC headphone, too. They won't play as loud as some home phones, but the NC reduces the need. (You really ought to be using an external, portable headphone amp anyway. Smartphones and most PMPs won't do justice to the PXC-450s. In fact, the Senns sound sort of mediocre themselves unless you give them a bit of power.) The talk-through feature is also very useful, though the button can be hard to find. I've used it a couple times on a plane and fumbled for it each time.
Recommend this product?
Now for my major nit...the packaging of the phones. As you may already know, many Senn models are constructed of plastic with a (painted? electrostatic? powder coat?) silver/gray finish. This is true of the PXC-450s. Senn unfortunately packages them in a box with one cup pressing aginst a clear plastic window. If the package is stacked, or shipped, without adequate protection for the front of the package, you get a rub mark on the cup where the plastic touches it. The silver finish comes off and you have a big dark mark. Of course, this is the most visible part of the product when you're wearing it, too. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but I think that when you pay $350 for a product, you ought to be able to scuff it up yourself, not open a new package to a pre-scuffed unit. I've returned two new units because of the scuff marks and kept the third only because there was LESS scuffing than the first two. It was still there, though. This is just plain silly.
Overall, the way to go for sound-sealing NC headphones.
Well, one of the advisors suggested I go into some more detail about these phones, so here we go:
You should be able to buy these for $330 to $350 on-line. This makes them mid-priced phones. (I consider expensive phones to be $400 and up.) Compared to the Bose QC-3s, which usually cost about $350, they are truly a bargain.
The cups are large enough to fit over just about anyone's ears, in contrast to the Audio-Technica ATHANC7, which squeeze big ears. The Bose QC-3s are, of course, on-ear phones and don't provide much sound sealing.
The ATHANC7s also have a lot of sound leakage, where the people around you can hear the sound from the cups. The PXC-450s don't seal quite as well as Ultrasone HFI-780s, for example, but they seal much better than the Bose and A-Ts.
Sound quality is typical Sennheiser, with somewhat muted mids, decent highs, and exceptionally tight bass. They remind me of the Senn HD-555s. They don't touch the sound quality of the HD-595s, though, or the HD-650s, so don't expect miracles.
Which brings us to an important point: these are noise-cancelling headphones. Whether you are an audiophile or not, you simply have to realize that NO noise-cancelling heaphones sound truly excellent. They can sound very good, as the PXC-450s do, but the very nature of the dynamic noise circuits is going to mess with the sound quality. After all, they are listening to ambient noise, generated an inverted signal to cancel it out, and doing it on a dynamic (basically automatic level control) basis. If, like me, you usually listen to headphones using a high-quality DAC and tube amplifier, these are going to suffer in comparison.
BUT...they sound a heck of a lot better than any other noise-cancellling phones I've ever used, so make the choice.
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