Chocolate-free gadgets and gizmos
Sennheiser PXC 250-II headphones review
What is it?
Portable travel headphones with active noise-cancellation technology.
Generally excellent sound quality, particularly at top and mid-range; lightweight, compact design; noise-cancellation features work well; decent battery life.
NoiseGard unit heavy, clunky and awkwardly positioned; lacks a little punch with the bass; not suitable for jogging or exercising.
The bottom line
A superb choice for the traveller looking for a pair of phones to bring out the best from movies, music and inflight entertainment while on the road.
One of the most frequently used sentences in a review of portable media players is, "You'll want to ditch the supplied headphones for a better third-party pair". So, what constitutes a better third-party pair, one that will let you enjoy the best your media player can offer?
For the past nine years my third-party replacement was Sennheiser's excellent PXC 250 portable travel headphones, complete with active noise cancellation technology. That's why I was excited to try the newest version of these phones - the aptly titled PXC 250-II.
Like its predecessor, the PXC 250-II has been designed with the traveller in mind. These cans are lightweight, designed to be folded and flipped down when not in use, and come in a rugged carry case roomy enough to also house your MP3 player. A pocket on the side is the perfect place for accessories, including the supplied in-flight adapter.
The phones themselves are a closed leather padded design that are comfortable to wear, fit discreetly over your head without drawing undue attention, and do a reasonable job of shutting out ambient noise even before you flick on Sennheiser's NoiseGard active noise cancellation technology.
The phones work perfectly adequately in passive mode, but once you flick on the switch, you'll find it hard to go back. NoiseGard is housed in a unit that sits in the middle of the headphone cord - it's quite chunky, and is powered by a single AAA battery, one less than the previous model. It also sports a volume control as well as on/off switch. Like its predecessor it works well, shutting out ambient noise beautifully. There's a slight audible hiss when nothing is being played, but critically this is still more relaxing than listening to the whine of engines or hubbub of a crowded cabin or carriage.
That hiss can't be heard once your music starts, and sound quality is generally excellent. If we're being hyper-critical, the bass isn't as heavy as we'd like it, but it still delivers plenty of punch. Mid- and top-range sounds are clear, and while it's not as powerful an experience as you'd get with an open-backed pair of headphones, the quality is still more than enough to help you lose yourself during long, tedious journeys.
The phones themselves are light and comfortable to wear, although your ears can start to feel hot after an hour or two of listening. Our biggest gripe - as with the previous model - is the placement of the NoiseGard unit. It's pretty heavy, so you always need to find somewhere secure to stash it. A clip is provided for attaching it to your belt, but if that's not practical it can be awkward finding the right place for it, particularly as it feels as if it should be placed closer to the phones end of the cord rather than in the middle. With this in mind, it may not be the perfect choice for those looking for a pair of headphones to take on a run or to the gym.
Despite these niggles, the sound quality offered by the PXC 250-II headphones more than makes up for the slight discomfort of wearing them. These are perfectly suited for the busy traveller, with their lightweight, fold-down design. And thanks to the efficient, effective NoiseGard technology, the PXC 250-II headphones will make those long plane journeys or tedious daily commutes much less of a chore.
Transducer principle: dynamic, closed
Frequency response: 10 Hz-21 KHz (-10dB/1kHz)
Sensitivity: 112dB SPL at 1kHz
Impedance: 300 ohm (active), 160 ohm (passive)
Battery life: up to 50 hours
Weight: 65g (minus battery)
Plug: 3.5mm jack, inflight adapter supplied
Cable length: 140cm