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Sennheiser PXC 350
Who hasn't heard of the Sennheiser brand? Stand up so we can see you, as you would seriously be one of a kind. Especially if you're into any kind of multimedia or audio, you would have definitely held, heard, or seen Sennheiser headphones. The brand is now resolutely in India, and gung-ho about promoting its products.
As for the noise cancellation game, Sennheiser has led tournaments and won them in some cases. This new offering, the PXC 350, is a notch below the ultra high-end PXC 450 that we reviewed some time ago. But it sure looks as good and worthwhile as the rest. Its actual effectiveness is what I intend to check, and tell you about. So read on.
Open the gray box and you get a plastic mold holding the cans firmly in place, along with a black carry case bearing a Sennheiser leather patch in the center. A compact and easy-to-read manual is included, besides converters for different applications. Black is the predominant color. Hard plastic forms the outer covering for the drivers and headphone, while a soft black cushion lines the inner surface of the band and form comfortable ear pads for the large oval cans.
The left and right ear cups both have slots for battery insertion, so that's a first. The active NoiseGard circuit on the left cup gets activated by an on/off slider switch placed on the bottom. When slid on, a small red LED is exposed. Such are the small design fancies that impress in their own way.
NoiseGard is a proprietary name given to the same technology that all these headphones use. Basically, sound up to 1 kHz is filtered out by an out-of-phase wave generated by the circuit. The reference for this wave is the background noise around your ears, which is picked up by mics in the circuit.
Sounds fancy? You bet, but this same technology has certain drawbacks, which I will mention only if I encounter them in the course of my test.
Cheaper models just don’t seem to get it right, but that is another story – Sennheiser prices are not low. To quickly run through the specs: this is your basic dynamic transducer type, with a closed-back, circumaural design. The rated frequency response is quite vast at 8-28,000 Hz, though 108 dB SPL for the sound power sounds good. The amp THD is at 0.10% which seems quite high, but other brands do not even provide this rating, which should give you a taste of Sennheiser’s professionalism.
We plugged the headphones into my main PC at my desk, probably the noisiest place in the world. The music reference was an assortment of MP3s, FLAC, and also good old jazz CDs. Before even starting the circuit, I found the passive noise cancellation quite phenomenal. At least 30 dB of background was reduced, leaving just low hums and vocal murmurs.
Still in off-mode, the bass was nice and round, and in perfect tandem with the timing part of things. Mids and highs too were very sweet-sounding, with a nice laidback feel to the overall sound. This is signature Sennheiser: the sound is never in your face, it’s just powerful and pure.
On the flip side, I have to say that the highest volume wasn’t as loud as in some other models I have checked in the past.
Coming to the NC circuit: we turned it on, and lo! You feel five pounds lighter in the head. Especially when the music is off, the peculiar feeling of not hearing any background noise is a subject that deserves an entire article to it. But these circuits are always noisy, and this was no exception. I'm afraid I will have to reduce points because the amp hiss and a high-frequency hum was clearly audible.
The music was perceived as sharper when in active mode. But insistent chatter and irritating giggles never quite went away; even this baby could not eliminate that kind of noise.
All in all, I like these headphones a lot for their build quality, ergonomic design and sound. Ironically, they appear to sound better in passive mode. In active mode, the low buzz of background noise is definitely abolished, but the inherent noise of the system is a turn-off. At Rs 19,900 (MRP) it’s a tough call, but if you are an audio purist you might want to check these out.