If you don't like Bluetooth headphones, it's about time to get used to them. It's been widely reported that the upcoming iPhone 7 will ditch the standard headphone jack, and other smartphones are sure to follow. In 2012, this would have been a disaster since Bluetooth headphones offered inferior sound that sounded like it was being filtered with white noise. But in 2016, things are a little different.
Two new high quality Bluetooth headphones have just been released - the PXC 550 ($399) by Sennheiser and the QC35 ($349) by Bose. Both have excellent features, but some are better than others when comparing the two. Though the sound on both of these headsets are great, pure audiophiles may still wish for wired headphones.
Bose has always offered headphones with noise cancellation, but this feature on the QC35 is frighteningly good. It's scary because you can definitely get hit by a car when walking through traffic with these. The Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones also offer great noise cancellation, but it is more balanced. There are different settings for the intensity of the outside noise reduction, and one can use the PXC 550 while walking in a busy neighborhood without having to worry about not hearing an approaching car.
The Bose QC35s are well-built and are made for big heads. The PXC 550s have a tighter fit and are better for people with smaller heads or ones who want to wear headphones while lying down and lifting weights. The QC35s rely on the user pushing small buttons to change tracks, volume, etc., while the PXC 550s try to make things easier by relying on different types of finger swipes. In theory, the touch and swipe controls make listening to your favorite songs easier, but you will find yourself accidentally changing songs or the volume without ever intending to.
The most important factor for a pair of Bluetooth headphones is, of course, the sound quality. This actually depends on which device you use. If you are an iPhone user, the Bose QC35 headphones are compatible with the higher-quality AAC sound compression that the iPhone offers. The PXC 550 headphones will have to revert to the lower quality SBC codec with the iPhone since they aren't AAC compatible. Most ears can't tell a huge difference between sound compression codecs, but the difference certainly exists.
If you are a Samsung Galaxy S user (or have almost any other Android phone), the PXC 550s offer the best sound quality, since they are compatible with the aptX codec, which these smartphones offer. In fact, aptX has become the most popular sound compression codec, and it's a mystery why Apple's smartphones don't support it.
The PXC 550s are designed for those who like balanced sound, but listen to EDM or Hip Hop and prefer thumping bass. It's not that the QC35s don't offer good bass; it's just that the bass feels like a "push," where the bass on the PXC 550s feels like a definite kick. However, those who listen to other types of music more may prefer the more balanced QC35s.
In terms of phone call quality, both headphones excel with advanced voice technology that allows for decent phone conversations in somewhat noisy environments. Sennheiser's headphones seem to make the other caller's voice slightly more compressed, but that could be because they were tested in an area with a less powerful connection. Either way, both companies have now set the bar for Bluetooth headphones that allow phone calls.
Both of these Bluetooth headphones are four-star quality devices that show just how far Bluetooth listening has come over the past three years. However, for $50 cheaper, the Bose QC35s are the best bang for your buck, especially if you own an iPhone.
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