Bose QuietComfort 35 vs Sennheiser PXC 550: Which noise-cancelling headphones are best?

As noise-cancelling technology becomes more effective and affordable, wireless noise-cancelling headphones are becoming more popular. The trend is fuelled by manufacturers such as Bose and Sennheiser, whose headphones are now more comfortable, attractive and practical than ever.

The Bose QuietComfort 35s and Sennheiser PXC 550s are quality headphones sold at around the £300 mark. So, if you worship good quality sound but don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount, either of these headphones makes a sensible choice.

That said, if you’re a savvy shopper, you’ll want to know the difference between the two. Luckily we’ve got hands-on with both models and know exactly how they compare.

Bose QC 35 vs Sennheiser PXC 550 at a glance    

  • Bose QC 35 headphones shut out noise more completely
  • The Bose headphones look better and feel more comfortable
  • The Sennheiser headphones have added features for a personalised listening experience

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Buy Sennheiser headphones >> 

Bose vs Sennheiser: Design & comfort

The Bose QuietComfort 35s have metal earcups and a plastic frame. Despite the metal, they’re not too heavy, weighing in at 234g. The design is built to be durable and worn for long stretches without causing discomfort; just what you need from a wearable.

Bose QC 35 Headphones

The Bose QC 35 headphones are available in two colours: silver and, my personal favourite, black

It’d be going too far to call these bulky headphones stylish, but Bose’s done a good job of preventing them from being in-your-face. The understated curve of the earcups, coupled with the barely noticeable side buttons, gives these headphones a sophisticated look.

What’s more, the QuietComfort headphones are aptly named. The inner earcups are super comfortable thanks to the soft leather padding that snuggles your head.

Whereas the Bose headphones look sleek and grownup, the Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones are odd-looking. For starters, the earcups are egg-shaped. There is some logic behind this: the oblong of their outline is meant to follow the curve of your ear, thus making them more comfortable. But, the longer shape makes the ear cups stretch down the side of your face. As a result, your visage looks awkward and off-kilter.

Also, the padded leather cover on the headphones might be soft, but it doesn’t quite match the Bose QC 35 for snugness. The off-putting earcups and more obvious side buttons make the Sennheiser design underwhelming.

Sennheiser PXC 550

Sennheiser PXC 550s (only available in black)

Bose vs Sennheiser: Audio quality

The Bose QC 35s are astonishingly good at cancelling out external noise. With active noise cancellation (ANC) turned on, you’re left alone with your thoughts and music, safe from any interruptions.

The ability of the headphones to keep sound pure and free of interference is complemented by the audio quality. A digital equaliser in the headphones removes any overpowering elements from the noise you’re hearing to make sound smooth. For those who prefer their sound raw, this will be put-off. But I like that it makes for easy listening, especially when playing music for several hours non-stop.

Sennheiser’s PXC 550s produce a much better quality of sound than older Sennheiser models. The bass is solid and comes with a kick that adds an edginess to music tracks. Despite the bass kick, the sound isn’t too intense. By reaching a middle ground between strong trebles and neutral tones, Sennheiser has created a sound that’ll please most.

The sticking point with the Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones is noise cancellation. The ANC isn’t as effective as it is on the Bose QC 35s, so expect some noise interference. This is particularly noticeable when travelling on a loud train or walking along a busy road.

Bose QuietComfort 35s

Bose QC 35s looking sophisticated

Bose vs Sennheiser: Battery life

The Bose QC 35 headphones will last for 20 hours once taken off charge, so you won’t need to worry about them cutting out on long-haul flights. If you do get low on battery, there’s a cable in the box that connects the headphones to your phone. The cable slows power loss because the headphones are no longer maintaining a Bluetooth connection. Unfortunately, connecting via the cable does cause a loss of sound quality.

The Sennheiser headphones have a longer lasting battery, which gives you 30 hours use from a full charge. Although this is a terrific lifespan for Bluetooth wireless headphones, you might get caught out when your battery does finally die.

Why the surprise? Well, these headphones lack an audio battery indicator – a voiceover that warns your battery is getting low. Aside from some inconspicuous lights under the right earcup, there’s nothing to alert you to your battery’s impending doom.

Bose vs Sennheiser: Extra features and what’s in the box

The Bose QC 35s are thin on extra features. Although, they do double up as an excellent headset. The in-built mic lets you send voice commands to your smartphone and talk to your AI assistant. Meanwhile, the ANC means that if anyone does phone you, their voice comes through crystal clear.

The Bose headphones come in a leather travel case, which they’ll fold into for transportation. Also in the case is a two-pronged charging pin, a USB to micro-USB cable and a 2.5mm/3.5mm cable. This gives you plenty of options for charging your headphones, although you’ll likely use the USB cable most often.

The best thing about the Sennheiser PXC 550s is that they come packed full of extra features. For starters, you have two ANC modes: one for full-power noise cancellation and another that scales ANC. The scaling mode will ramp up the ANC when there’s a lot of background noise, and reduce it when the noise dies down. As a result, the ANC puts less pressure on your ears.

On top of this, there are three digital signal processor (DSP) modes to choose from on the Sennheiser headphones: speech mode, movie mode and club mode. Each mode tweaks the way you hear sound in the following ways:

  • Speech mode: Enhances the clarity of speech, which is helpful when watching a film or trying to decipher the lyrics of your favourite Nicki Minaj rap
  • Movie mode: Expands the soundstage to make your audio more dramatic
  • Club mode: Boosts bass and room reverb effects when you’re ready for a solo rave

And if this wasn’t enough, the Sennheiser earcups respond to your touch. For example, swiping the earcup lets you skip tracks or change the volume. Meanwhile, double-tapping the earcup pauses sound so you can listen to announcements (or eavesdrop on the people next to you).

Sennheiser PXC 550 Headphones

Sennheiser PXC 550s looking very hood

Should you buy the Bose QuietComfort 35 or the Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones?

The Sennheiser headphones don’t match up to the Bose QC 35s when it comes to design, comfort or audio quality. As these are the key criteria for any music gadget, your best choice is Bose.

However, there’s a lot about the Sennheiser model I do like. The battery life is impressive for wireless headphones and extra features, such as the three sound modes, make these headphones user-friendly. Where the Sennheiser PXC 550s fall down on the basics, they make up for in fun features that experiment with the way we interact with wearables.

Neither of these headphones will disappoint you. The production quality of the Bose QC 35s is brilliant and the sound quality is so good you’ll never want to use headphones without ANC again. The design of the Sennheiser PXC 550s is a bit pants, but the sound quality is better than older Sennheiser models and the extra features are impressive.