Why I Love My Sennheiser PXC 550 Travel Headphones

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A Review, Really?

I know, I know. You don’t come to my site to read reviews of products.

But Daddy’s got to put bread on the table, and sometimes that means a little compromise.

The good news is, I promise this won’t be a dry product review.

sennheiser pxc 550
Read on. You know you want to. Image courtesy of Sennheiser.

My Murtaugh List for Travel

If you’ve ever seen the classic Lethal Weapon movies (or the How I Met Your Mother episode that references it), you’ve probably heard the phrase:

I’m too old for this shit.

Murtaugh, a long-suffering cop on the verge of retirement, continually points out the many things he is too old to be doing.

i'm too old for this shit

There comes a point in every traveller’s life that they must ‘retire’ certain things that were more acceptable when they were younger and poorer.

Really, it doesn’t just apply to travellers. I’m sure there are plenty of 30 somethings out there who no longer see the appeal in all night drinking, sleeping until 1 pm, or eating microwave meals from a convenience store.

Not me, I love that stuff. Forever young.

What I’m saying is that, as I’ve matured as a human being and a traveller, I’ve found some things I just don’t need in my life anymore.

1. Crowded Dorm Rooms

I’ve always been somebody who puts a lot of value on personal space, which is weird when you consider I’m the eldest of five and spend most of my time living in China.

To me, a good night’s sleep needs a comfortable bed and some quiet – neither of which you’re likely to get in a ten-bed dorm full of early rising Norwegians and night owl Koreans.

There was undoubtedly a time where my budget didn’t allow me the luxury of private rooms, but now that I’m in a relationship and making grown-up money, the idea of ‘slumming it’ in a dorm fills me with something akin to mild anxiety.

backpacker
No, Hans, you can’t borrow my toothbrush! – Image courtesy of Thomas8047

Do you hate all dorms?

This isn’t to say all dorms are created equal. I’ve had the pleasure of staying in some fantastic dorm accommodation in my travels.

Space Inn in Taipei, YHA City Center in San Francisco, MNL Boracay, and Pineapple Guesthouse in Phuket are all fantastic properties in which I’d be glad to spend a night in the future.

But run of the mill, $5 a night, dog-eared novels in the common room, ‘free Continental breakfast’ joints with one tired looking backpacker manning the front desk? Pass.

Hard. Pass.

2. ‘Backpacker’ Party Destinations

I’ve made my feelings about Boracay clear in no uncertain terms, and that general disdain extends to other crowded, touristic, party destinations such as Bali, Phuket, Koh Phangnan, and certain parts of Fiji.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure the shy, generally unattractive person writing this post would ever have liked that scene, but he’s certainly too old for it now that he can afford a good craft beer and a private villa someplace prettier.

bali indonesia
Not Pictured: Hordes of drunk Aussies. – Image courtesy of Thomas Depenbusch.

3. Long Haul Buses

There’s something romantic about the idea of packing everything into a backpack and making your way through off the beaten path destinations in a battered public bus.

There’s also something romantic about living in another historical era, but that doesn’t mean I want tuberculosis.

I’m past the days in which I’ll endure twelve hours on an over-crowded bus just so I can save $50.

I’ll cover that expense if it means reaching my destination at a sane hour and without having to have a stranger rub up against me for the entirety of my trip.

lonely planet
No! Bad backpacker! – Image courtesy of Bjorn Grob.

4. Lonely Planet

When I first got into this travel blogging gig, I had this vague aspiration of someday writing for Lonely Planet.

Then I realized that the vast majority of the ‘writing’ is just stringing together a sentence or two about each destination using information that is already out of date by the time they go to print.

Wait. You hate Lonely Planet!?

Not at all! Lonely Planet as a brand has a lot of merits.

I’m a big fan of their site and of their other publications, but their guidebooks that act as gospel to so many first time travelers are just beyond a joke now.

The problem with Lonely Planet

In a digital age in which information can be updated at a moment’s notice, it seems the height of lunacy to plan your trip based on a book that might already be a year out of date by the time you hit the road.

And don’t get me started on some of their laughable recommendations in cities I know well.

Their ‘journalists’ are afforded precious little time and money to do their research, so you’re rarely going to find anything in their books that you couldn’t find yourself.


Okay, we get it

Okay, you’ve got a lot of anger, Chris. We get it. You hate ‘the backpacker thing’. What’s the point of this post?

Ah, you’ve caught me mid-tirade again! My apologies.

I promise this all has a point.

You see, there’s a fifth thing that I’m too old for: cheap, shitty headphones.

5. Cheap, shitty headphones

It may seem like a weird thing to be hung up on, but your headphones are likely to be one of your closest companions on an extended trip.

They’re how you listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts during a long layover.

They’re how you drown out the tortured wailing of that toddler three seats over on a red-eye flight.

They’re the prop you use to avoid awkward conversations with the no-doubt lovely old lady next to you on the train.

For something so integral to one’s sanity when traveling, it seems crazy to leave it in the hands of a cheap pair of ear-buds that hurt, reduce audio quality, and constantly tangle like mating eels.

baby-tears-small-child-sad-47090
Shh! I’ve got important napping to do. Image courtesy of Pexels.

A flawless segue a PXC 550 Headphones Review

Yes, dear reader, this is where the PXC 550 Travel Headphones come in.

As I sit here in a trendy Beijing cafe typing this post, I do so without having to hear a single bar of the awful K-Pop blaring over the speakers.

I can’t hear the chattering of the expat couple behind me or the clattering of hapless kitchen staff struggling to meet orders.

In fact, I can’t even hear Richelle. She has to wave her hands at me from across the table like a frantic mime.

There’s no cord to tangle up, the audio quality is tremendous, and I’m in my own little cone of Christopher Tin’s heavenly Mado Kara Mieru.

Bliss.

Why I Love My Sennheiser PXC 500 Travel Headphones

Let me count the ways!

1. Noise-Canceling

Noise-canceling headphones are a godsend when you’re on a long flight surrounded by coughing, snoring, shouting, crying, and random loud conversations.

The comfortable headset comes with adaptive NoiseGard noise cancellation that turns a dull roar into a muffled hiss, making it super easy to just zone out and enjoy a bit of My Dad Wrote a Porno.

Don’t take my word for it, Richelle of Adventures Around Asia loves them too!

“I love that they don’t hurt your ears. They are ear-shaped!” – Richelle, Adventures Around Asia

girl working on a laptop
She looks better in them than I do.

2. Flawless Sound Quality

Like transitioning from a cassette tape to vinyl, you notice an immediate difference in audio quality when you switch to a decent set of headphones.

The sound is crisper, clearer, and (dare I say it?) sweeter than anything I’ve had from a $15 pair of earbuds.

sennheiser pxc 550 3
It’s like wearing a pair of cushions on your head. Cushions that play Avicci.

3. Cordless

It seems like the very definition of a First World Problem, but headphone cords have become my nemesis.

Whether they’re tangling with my other cables in my backpack or randomly getting caught on something and tearing out of my ears, cords are just the worst.

They’re the opposite of Batman.

tangled earbuds
Triggered – Image courtesy of wiltons3

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Travel Headset does away with all of that nonsense. While you can plug into your laptop, phone, or PC using the included headphone jack, their Bluetooth functionality means you can tuck your phone away and just enjoy the tunes.

No snags, no Chinese air hostess telling you to turn your phone off, nothing!

4. Hands-Free

You’ll no longer need to fish out your phone to switch tracks or pause. A simple swipe or tap on your headset flawlessly switches to the next track or pauses.

The headset is also ready to go for phone functionality, with a built-in microphone that filters out unwanted background noise to ensure you’re always heard.

No longer do I have to look like a nerdy gamer with my fold-out microphone!

5. Easy to pack

A headset is obviously a bit larger than a little set of earbuds that you can cram into your pocket.

My Sennheiser headset does, however, fold up neatly into a carry case that easily slips into my backpack.

Able to hold 30 hours of charge, you can charge it overnight and then let it sit in your pack until it’s time to tune the world out.

sennheiser pxc 550 2
Don’t they look snug and comfortable in their little home?

A Little Bit in Love

As you can see, I’m absolutely rapt with my PXC 550 headphones.

It was one of those things I didn’t even realize I needed until I had it.

Like the first time I realized my Kindle meant I’d never need to lug 5-6 paperbacks on the road again.

Or when I got glasses and realized people weren’t naturally blurry.

They’re an investment, no doubt, but one I’d be glad to make all over again.

In fact, Adventures Around Asia found a pair of them in her Christmas stocking in 2017. I’m a good boyfriend!

guy working on laptop
I stole this laptop so I could take this photo.

 

Your Say

  1. What is the one travel item you didn’t realize you needed until you had it?
  2. What makes your “I’m too old for this shit” list?

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31 comments

  1. 1) My son. As cheesy as it sounds. I was never someone who NEEDED to have kids. But he’s my best friend.

    2) Shared toilets in hotels/hostels/guest houses. Never doing that again!

  2. I’m glad that these headphones make listening to My Dad Wrote A Porno safe in the sense that people around you can’t hear but can they deal with the ridiculous laughter it induces? I used to listen to it on my daily walk but people were staring at my reactions and I had to stop.

  3. 1. Roll-on deodorant. Why did I travel for years lugging around those enormous Rexona canisters that run dry in two weeks!? One stick of roll-on lasts for months and takes up way less space.
    2. Not being able to use a squat toilet properly – I’m not that skinny and have knees like an arthritic 70 year old. So trying to use a squat in Myanmar, I was literally too old for that shit ?

    • I want to get on the roll-on train, but I just don’t feel like it actually contributes much in the way of overall odor. It definitely minimizes the B.O., but I want the sexy reek of my Lynx Africa 😛

      Squat toilets are just not worth the effort. Unless it’s a dire emergency, I’m holding it until I can get someplace with a proper toilet.

  4. 1. I travelled a lot on my own. I liked my solitary life. I did what I wanted to do, had lots of adventures BUT travelling with my Chinese girlfriend has changed that. She is the one travel item I didn’t realise I needed.
    2. I’m too old for this shit realisation was this summer. Back in the UK. I rented a car and dropped it off at Heathrow. No more dragging bags onto over packed trains. Then through Paddington station and the horrors of the underground to terminal 5 or where ever. Renting cars that’s the new vibe.

    • Oh yeah, I can’t stand having to haul a bunch of luggage about on public transport. If a taxi/DiDi/uber/rental car is an option to get to the airport, I’ll take it every time. Nothing worse than being a sweaty mess before you’ve even got on the plane.

    • They’re amazing, aren’t they? I don’t use any of the other features they try to bundle with it, but having a full library of good books to read in my back pocket is enough.

  5. 1. Visa prior to arrival in Vietnam ?
    2. I’m too old for being a punk teen kid who thinks they are too old for the real fun things in life!

    • Oh God! How did the visa situation in Vietnam pan out?

      It’s weird how most of us went through an ‘I’m too cool for X’ stage in our mid-twenties, only to rediscover our rampant nerdism in later life.

    • We should all be so old someday, haha

      I tasted First Class when I worked with Emirates back in 2015, but I haven’t been able to justify the cost (or score a partnership) since.

  6. Bus travel too, I’ve been doing it up until earlier this year, whenever I went back to England, but no more, nevermind the sitting 16 hours on a crammed bus, there’s just the unpredictablity of road travel, and the fact we have to make a ferry crossover, that you could be 5 hours late or early..

    Also, can’t do budget airlines anymore.

    • Yeah, I’m the same with budget airlines.

      If I don’t get a meal and personal inflight and the difference in price is only $100 or so, I’ll cough up to fly a reputable airline.

  7. I didn’t realise I needed a kindle. A friend gifted me one this year and why oh why didn’t I get one sooner!!! It’s so light, holds so many books, I can send documents to it and I can read in the dark when insomnia hits or if I’m out camping. I love it so much!
    My “too old for this shit” is definitely dorm rooms. It was tolerable in my 20’s but not anymore. Long haul bus and train trips are also out if I can avoid it. The biggest one though is deciding I’m too old to be putting up with and engaging in boring small talk. I want to talk about what stirs your soul, the universe, consciousness, your fears and transformational experiences….and of course the amazing places you’ve travelled to. I don’t care about pop culture, how drunk you got last night and who you hooked up with. I want real connection…. Or a good way to drown out the noise that annoys me 😉

    • Isn’t the Kindle a lifesaver when you devour books like we do? I remember trying to cram 4-5 paperbacks into my backpack when I was headed off on a long trip, and it was just insane. Now, I can have a 13 book fantasy series queued up to keep me company on long layovers and bumpy train rides.

      I feel you on the boring small-talk thing. That’s part of the reason I’d rather just tune people out with my headphones when I’m not feeling like I can expend the effort to make small-talk haha.

  8. I’m likely in a minority with my “I’m too old for this shit” thing, as I don’t really have one.

    I’m lucky to be young enough that I’m still fine with trading in many of the quality-of-life luxuries that people come to consider necessities, rather than optional extras, as we accrue years on our clocks. The thought of trading most of my personal space, privacy and amenities in order to save a few dollars sounds almost logically infallible to me now, “All I have to do is exert a little willpower and I can save myself (sometimes a considerable amount of) money? Hell yeah!”. To affirm my youthful disregard for comfort: my decision to give up a bathroom, thick walls, central heating, electricity and water in order to move my life into a camper-van (@notapedovan on Instagram) is clearly illustrative of the power being young when it comes to accepting discomfort in return for the freedom to explore the world.

    In the specific arena of headphones and audio as a whole, having quality audio gear when you’re listening to everything from music, to movies or podcasts makes a huge difference. Not just in the clarity of reproduction, but in the way the sound is represented through the separation of elements; allowing you to pick out individual instruments in a song, or to hear sound effects in a movie sound seem as if they’re closer or further from you respective of their point of origin in the film. Plus, I can imagine the bliss of being able to turn on the noise cancelling and escape from the person having a loud conversation with their phone on loudspeaker nearby (WHY?!), or the toddler who decides that taking their vocal cords for a spin over a 9 hour flight is a great idea.

    Considering the two perspectives here, I’m enjoying the benefits of being blasé about the little comforts in life right now, for as long as giving them up enables me to do more with my time, I feel like I’m getting out ahead. However, I am also looking forward to getting better in touch with my own preferences as I venture the world (however different it may be) in coming years, and finding genuine satisfaction in avoiding my own selection of problems that make me grumble to myself: “I’m too old for this shit.”

    • I can definitely appreciate trading in creature comforts for rustic charm or freedom when it is something I really want to do.

      Some of my favourite travel memories have been sleeping on the hard floor of a Borneon longhouse with nothing but the glow of my phone for light and entertainment, sleeping out on the roof of a Namibian desert house and being unable to sleep because the stars are just too beautiful to miss, and being rocked to sleep on the decks of a boat out among the Komodo Islands.

      I’m definitely not somebody who needs luxury, but I’m lucky enough to be at a point in my life where I am able to ‘trade up’ to something more comfortable if the alternative isn’t offering me anything unique. I’m all for roughing it when it isn’t just roughing it for roughing it’s sake.

      Something like your upcoming camper van adventure sounds like heaven to me, and I’m beyond excited to have two weeks of sleeping on tatami mats in little mountain ryokans on the horizon. Japan can’t come quickly enough.

  9. My ‘too old for this shit’ is lugging around bags without wheels. Now I only take one carry on case on wheels.
    Also agree with taking long distance buses, no more of that for me ever again.

    I completely agree with the noise cancelling headphones as an essential travel item. Cannot believe I took so many flights using the airline provided ones!

    • I’ve not yet mastered minimization enough to be able to make do with just a carry on bag, haha. I’ve got my wheeled carry on, but most of my stuff still gets checked in an unwieldy backpack.

  10. Things I didn’t realize I needed until I had them: packing cubes (instead of a giant mess), a toiletry organizer (instead of plastic bags), a decent travel backpack (instead of chronic back pain), and these headphones (so I can stop stealing them from you).

    • I still need to see the light when it comes to packing cubes and a toiletry organiser. My backpack is still an orgy of ruffled clothes, mismatched socks, and leaky toiletries.

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