Battle of the Beats

March 29, 2017

Shopping for an active noise-cancelling headphone? We’ve got you covered.

The demand for noise-cancelling headphones has steadily risen over the years. What started as a niche category is now one of the most requested products by users. And since most smartphones are ditching the 3.5 mm audio jack (yes, we’re looking at you iPhone 7), a bunch of manufacturers are now offering wireless capabilities.

But in the recent months it’s three active noise-cancelling headphones that became our favorites: The Bose QuietComfort 35, Sony MDR-1000X and the Sennheiser PXC 550. All of these headphones support Bluetooth connectivity to mobile devices, each touting its own active noise-cancelling feature.

Here’s a basic rundown of their specifications:

Design and comfort

All three headphones feature faux leather material as it primary exterior. With the Bose QuietComfort 35, it stuck with the same design aspect as their current headphone line. It’s coated in ‘Alcantara’ fabric, which gives it more resistance to wear and tear.

The Sony MDR-1000X follows more style evident of its more circular ear cups. The padded design does make it comfortable to wear, though the ear cup shape might not be comfortable for all, especially if you have bigger ears.

The Sennheiser PXC 550 includes a metal headband and the same soft padding for the ear cups, while I’m not a fan of the shiny metal parts, it’s more comfortable compared to the Sony MDR-1000X.

Features

The Bose QuietComfort 35 mainly features physical controls located on the right ear cup and would require a separate app on Android and iOS to perform other tasks such as updating the firmware.

Both the Sony MDR-1000X and the Sennheiser PXC 550 has more features, including touch sensitive panels similar to the ones popularized by the Parrot Zik. Sony has exclusive support for the LDAC codec that includes a higher quality audio output – but it would only work with Sony-branded audio devices and Xperia smartphones.


Noise cancellation

While the Sennheiser PXC 550 provided a decent active noise cancellation option – it still does not match the Sony MDR-1000X and the Bose QuietComfort 35. Bose still reigns supreme in the active noise cancellation front, effectively blocking outside noise. The Sony headphones does offer a way for you to choose the level of noise cancellation, but overall Bose is still my favorite.

Sound output

This is where it gets interesting. Having been playing all three headphones in the past weeks they all have their own pros and cons when it comes to the audio output. For testing I hooked up all headphones to my iPhone 7 using high resolution iTunes files stored in my music library.

Bose’s sound output were clear and subtle, but it did give enough clarity and bass that I was looking for. Sony provided a warmer and rounded. The Sennheiser offered a better experience overall, but a subtle difference compared to the last two headphones.

Conclusion

All three headphones – Bose QuietComfort 35, Sony MDR-1000X and the Sennheiser PXC 550 – are all priced at 1499 AED, making them all very equal competitors. In terms of choosing the ultimate noise cancellation headphone I’d still go with Bose. But overall I’m happy to choose between the three of them anytime.

by Victor
Tech Enthusiast and Movie Buff.