Sennheiser PXC 550
If the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless are for the style conscious traveller, their cheaper PXC 550 siblings are for those that put functionality first.
They’re a much more Bose-esque proposition – understated in their design, lighter and more compact, with a longer battery life (a whopping 30 hours) than their prettier sibling. They lop £50 off the price too, and throw in responsive touch controls on the earcup to sweeten the deal even further.
Being from the same camp, you might expect the PXC 550s to offer a similar performance to their talented big brother, but there are a surprising number of differences.
While the Momentums go for a popular full-bodied balance, the PXC 550s are a little leaner. There’s still enough bass to make itself known, but it’s not the rich rumble you’ll get with the Momentums.
It makes for a clean, clear and precise sound, with a midrange that’s king. The treble sits on the bright side of neutral but keeps itself reigned in enough that it’s never annoying - if anything, it helps to give the PXC 550s an upfront and enthusiastic tone.
The Momentums do take them for outright expression and subtle detail though, as do the talented Sony MDR-1000Xs. And while the PXC 550s are pretty spacious and dynamically sound, we’d say their topped in this department too. They occasionally lack a little kick when it’s needed.
There are absolutely no grumbles when it comes to comfort – the 550s will cushion your ears for hours without worry – and the noise cancelling on offer here is almost on par with its Bose competition, and better than the Momentums.
The PXC 550s have a few tricks up their sleeve for those that like to tweak too. There’s a button on the right earcup that’ll let you cycle through effect modes for speech, ‘club’ and movie, but download Sennheiser’s CapTune app, and you can tweak the EQ more precisely, and save a number of custom modes for easy switching.
The PXC 550 are talented pair of headphones that really hold their own against their pricier sibling. A critical listen will want for a touch more detail and better dynamics, but pick these as your travel companion and you won't be disappointed.
A solid, feature-packed pair of headphones with great sound quality. Just not the best at their price.
Parrot Zik 3
On paper, the Parrot Zik 3s seem to have everything we’d ever want in a pair of headphones. They’re wireless, feature active noise cancellation, and they look pretty swish too (although that’ll be a matter of personal taste with the bright green and red pairs they sent us).
They also have a lot of cool stuff that many other headphones don’t, such as a wireless charging dock and fancy touch-sensitive controls on the ear cup.
Unfortunately, our first impressions are somewhat misleading. For a start, as stylish and well-made as the Ziks are (thanks to designer Philippe Starck, no less) they’re just not that comfortable to wear. The earcups fit a bit too snugly, the headband is a little too tight and the cushioning is practically non-existent. You certainly won’t be wanting to wear them for long-haul music sessions.
That’s probably a good thing, because the Ziks’ battery life leaves plenty to be desired too. Battery life only manages around seven hours at best – alright for a trip to Spain and back, but it isn’t going to get you over the Atlantic.
Their noise cancelling skills are pretty good though. Not Bose levels of good, but enough to seriously quieten your surroundings. What’s a shame is that with ANC activated, sound quality suffers.
It’s a solid enough sound either way, but the overall balance is much better with it off. Switched on, you lose some detail through the midrange, the bass sounds vague and indistinct and the clarity of the treble suffers too.
You can mitigate this slightly by downloading the app and using some of the preset EQs, but it’s tiring having to switch up your settings depending on the genre of music you’re listening to.
You could also use the included audio cable to firm up sound quality, but there are much better sounding wired headphones available for a lot less money.
It’s a shame as there are some well thought-out features here. The right ear cup is touch sensitive, for volume and playback commands, while taking the headphones off one ear will automatically pause whatever’s playing, restarting it when you’re ready.
If only these nice-to-haves could be teamed up with a few more of the absolute must-haves, and the Parrot Zik 3s could be on to a winner.
The Parrot Zik 3 headphones score well on style and features, but leave us wanting when it comes to comfort and sound quality.
With a title like Globe Cruiser, there’s no getting away from the market Denon’s AH-GC20 are aiming themselves at. And with their lightweight, collapsible design and reasonable price tag, they’re going the right way of grabbing its attention.
The fit is supremely comfy - the ear cups are spacious and the padding is soft enough so listening sessions don’t feel like a chore. You won’t feel like your head is in a vice either – the headband is tight enough to feel secure but nothing more than that.
There’s an attempt at a premium finish to the GC20s, with metal arms and a faux leather headband, to balance out the (actually nicely finished) soft-touch plastic ear cups. It’s only half convincing, but it certainly gives them a nicer look than its more plastic fantastic competition.
Unlike the Lindy BNX 60, the GC20s are perfectly listenable passively should their 20 hours of battery life not prove enough for you. Noise cancelling is the way you’ll want to listen out of the two though – it's not the most talented for actually blocking out noise, but it adds a touch more clarity, throws in added bite in the treble and puts some extra weight in the bass.
That bass will be a touch too overpowering for more neutral tastes though, and it does have an effect on separation, which makes the GC20s sound congested. Detail retrieval is probably passable for their price, but they don’t dig much deeper than surface level, and leave some instruments sounding a little processed and unnatural.
They stand back when ANC is switched on too, which means they aren’t always the most engaging. That’s bolstered by a pretty laid back approach to dynamics. Drums and cymbals lack punch and music stays largely one level, failing to rise and fall with volume and intensity.
A less critical listen will find plenty to like in these full-bodied cans though, and though they might not be the most exciting, they can be enjoyable all the same. If you can’t afford the best, and want a more consistent sound than the Lindys, these could prove to be a good halfway house.
Sound quality and noise cancellation would struggle against the best, but the AH-GC20s are well worth a look in at this price.