Sennheiser tends to be our go-to manufacturer when recommending midrange upgrade headphones. You just can’t go wrong with a pair of CX300s or CX95s, thanks to their pleasing delivery and competitive pricing.
But Sennheiser has created a rod for its back. With headphones as good at the CX95s at the £80 price point already, what’s the point of the new CX550s?
Actually, as far as we can tell, the CX550s are pretty much identical to the CX95s, save for a silver (as opposed to bronzed) metal finish and slightly smaller 3.5mm headphone jack. Dull as it may seem, that means they, like the 95s before, are a five-star product.
For the uninitiated, the CX550s (and 95s) are well made from precision-cast metal and plastic, and they feel light but reassuringly solid and look classy when jammed into earholes. We rather prefer the new silver paintjob, too.
However, one grievance we have with the CX95 remains, and that’s the length of the cable. It’s ludicrous: frustratingly short when the extension is removed and unfathomably lengthy when it’s attached.
Once you get over such quibbles, though, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the sweet music, free from the bustle of the outside world courtesy of the CX550’s soft, sound-isolating earpieces.
Balance of talents
The CX550s are not ultra-accurate in-ear monitors like Etymotic’s designs, but what they lack in outright fidelity they more than make up for with a flagrantly enjoyable delivery. The performance is superbly balanced, with rich bass, powerful, dynamic midrange and crisp, detailed highs.
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While you’ll get deeper bass from the likes of Shure’s SE115s and more detail and insight from Ultimate Ears’ designs, you don’t ever feel as if you’re missing out on anything of consequence with the CX550s. Rather than deliver individual elements of sound in a remarkable way, their skill is to project music, pure and simple.
This makes them rather more forgiving than more accurate designs, so the compressed music files that fill your iPod will sound great through these.
As a result we can’t think of a pair of headphones with a better balance of talents at this price. Like the CX95s before, the CX550s are a great midrange upgrade headphone.