Some headphones are built for kicking back on the couch and melting into the music. Others are built for the road, whether it’s a long flight or just cruising around the hood.
Sennheiser’s travel-minded MM 550 wireless Bluetooth headphones fit the latter category — they’re some street-ready cans that can handle the rigors of the road while offering solid sound quality.
The MM 550s have a closed-back design that’s light but sturdy, with a good amount of flex. They also have a slim profile and can fold up into a shape and size similar to a banana.
Unlike a banana, the Sennheisers come with 10 pages of instructions on how to operate them — I’ve rigged up A/V receivers with less verbiage. Suffice it to say, these headphones have plenty of features to maximize sound and minimize noise, depending on the listening situation, and some other handy bells and whistles.
When you put the MM 550s on, you feel their grip. These will hang on just fine on a bike ride across town. The build quality is solid, and could likely endure some abuse on far-flung travels. The earpieces are somewhat compact, so if you have large ears, it might even feel like they’re too snug for comfort.
On the right ear pad are the MM 550’s controls, including power–play–pause, track skip, volume, noise canceling, Bluetooth and the “SRS WOW HD enhancer.” On the left ear pad is a micro-USB charging port.
The wireless Bluetooth connection is simple enough to set up, and in my testing there were no hiccups or interference when pairing it with an iPhone. Using the headset to take phone calls was fairly painless, too, although I did hear some street noise while cruising down the sidewalk. Callers reported that they could hear me easily, but were also picking up ambient noises in the background. When you’re playing music and a call comes in, the MM 550s interrupt the music and return you when the call is terminated.
While some noise-canceling cans introduce hissing and other sounds, Sennheiser’s NoiseGard 2.0 technology does a fine job of blocking out external, ambient noises. The MM 550s blocked everything while I sat in a cafe and walked around outside.
However, while some other noise-canceling cans will block out 99 percent of external noise, the MM 550s only block 90 percent, which is noticeable on airplanes and other heavy-duty-noisy environments. One of the somewhat unique features is, when the noise canceling is in effect, you can press the “Talk Through” button to hear external sounds come through the cans, which saves you the trouble of taking them off to have a conversation.
The expectation has long been that you won’t get the same level of sound quality with wireless headphones as you would with get-gadget cans, and in this case, you have the option of wiring into an audio source to compare the sound quality. In both get-gadget and wireless modes, the MM 550s offered sharp and balanced sound, with enough bass response to handle hip-hop and other boomin’ tracks.
Since these are sealed cans, they offer some isolation from the outside world, even with the noise-canceling feature off. But as with many other “closed” headphones, they sound less lively and dynamic than most high-quality, open-air headphones. If you’re looking for more pizzazz, the SRS WOW HD enhancer delivers more in the higher frequencies and punchier bass.
At $500, the Sennheiser MM 550s are quite pricey, but if you have use for all the travel-handy features, they might fit the bill. The build quality and styling are top-notch, and the sound quality, while not superior, can be adjusted to your preferences.
Photo by Jim Merithew/
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