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Hands-on with Sennheiser’s MM550 stereo Bluetooth headphones

Around this time last year we went hands-on with the Sennheiser MM450 stereo Bluetooth heaphones.  They sounded great but were expensive, around twice the price of Nokia’s BH-905 and even more still than Sony’s excellent (but not noise cancelling) DR-BT50.  Sennheiser has updated the MM450 with the MM550 which, unlike the on-ear MM450, sports a closed back design. Just like the MM450, the MM550 is able to stream music over Bluetooth (A2DP), handle calls and offers playback remote controls (AVRCP).  I scored a listening session with the MM550 this week and here are my impressions.

Update: We’ve now written a full review of the Sennheiser MM550, or you can continue on this page and read our initial hands-on impressions.

Features of the Sennheiser MM550

  • NoiseGard™ 2.0 noise cancelling technology, available when using the MM550 either wirelessly or wired
  • Stereo Bluetooth A2DP, AVRCP and hands-free calling
  • TalkThrough – one press of a button turns on the external microphone so you can hear outside sounds without removing the headset
  • Neodymium magnets and patented Duofol diaphragms
  • SRS WOW HD™ sound enhancer
  • Large closed back ear cups
  • Direct cable option
  • Integrated track and volume controls
  • Collapsible and a carry case is included

Listening to the Sennheiser MM550

In the demo the MM550 was paired to a Motorola Droid and the pairing process was straightforward.  I was in a fairly noisy environment and the noise cancelling was turned on when I put on the MM550.  Outside noise was significantly attenuated although by no means silenced.  As with most noise-cancelling headphones I was able to hear people speaking around me but there was a notable difference between when the noise-cancelling was engaged vs disengaged.

When I pressed play on the MM550 it was immediately clear that this is a rocking set of cans.  The SRS WOW HD enhancer was switched on and, while I’m not a fan of that feature on Motorola’s S9-HD, on the MM550 it produces a superb  sound.  Basslines are solidly resolved, there’s an airy top end that creates a perception of openness and the soundstage is wide without sounding artificially stretched.  What’s great of course is that with the noise cancelling turned on, you can enjoy all of this at lower volume levels.  This is the kind of reproduction though that makes you want to crank it up to 11; a truly engaging, driving and yet non-fatiguing sound.

Interestingly all of that good stuff went away when I disengaged the SRS WOW HD.  I often find that headsets that have enhancers sound great in one state but not both.  Typically I prefer the natural balance of the headphones with the enhancer switched off, as long as the engineers have done a good job.  With the MM550 however the sound became empty and tinny with the SRS WOW HD disengaged.  Now admittedly I only spent a limited time listening to the MM550 but I honestly don’t think this was a perception issue as I switched between the on and off positions of the enhancer.

Other funky features of the MM550 include TalkThrough, which mutes the music and activates the external mic so you can hear outside sounds.  This worked well and is a very useful feature.  The MM550 is also collapsible for portability.  It’s not quite as compact when folded as the Sony DR-BT50, but the collapsing is a handy feature.  The MM550 also comes with a detachable cable for use as regular wired headphones, which makes them good travelling companions for travelers who want to make use of in-seat entertainment and other wired sound sources.

The Sennheiser MM550 is rated to give 20 hours of talk time, or 8h/10h of wireless music playback with/without noise-canceling engaged.  Although I would love to listen to the MM550 for that amount of time, I didn’t have the opportunity to test these claims.  I also didn’t try making any calls with the MM550.  I did however try all the playback and volume controls, which worked fine when paired with the Motorola Droid.

If you’re reaching for your wallet, I’ll warn you that the MM550 will retail at $499 so it’s unlikely to fit within all budgets.  If money’s no object though, for music lovers they’re definitely the best sounding stereo Bluetooth headphones I’ve heard.

Neil Berman

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Nov 10, 2010 - Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. Hi Neil

    thanks for this review. This is one of the few good reviews for this Headset on the web. It would have been nice to hear about the microphone quality during calls, but I guess I’m gonna try this myself ;-)

    Comment by Rainer | Dec 4, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Rainer, this was a quick hands-on and I was unable to make a call…BUT…we currently have the MM550 for a proper review, I’ll be publishing the review soon. In terms of the microphone quality, I can tell you that it is excellent compared to most other Bluetooth headphones. The only issue is that the mic is so sensitive that it picks up a lot of street noises, but it’s the first stereo headphone design I’ve used where callers can hear me properly when I’m outdoors. Neil

      Comment by theONbutton | Dec 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi,
    is it possible to use the microphone with a wired connection?

    Comment by Ulrich | Dec 8, 2010 | Reply

    • I’m also want to know if the microphone and the remote controls (play/pause and do on) work in wired mode. It would be really useful for those times when my phone/headphones are low on battery.

      Comment by Dan | Dec 13, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hi, thanks for the review. The concept of the all in one headphones is awesome, but no-one yet seems to get it. The missing links are.
    – is the pairing with a PC via BT both Headphone and Mic (for use with audio chat or voice recognition)
    – do the cables offer a microphone function for use with PC
    – noise cancelling is great on the headphones, but I have only ever seen one headset that has noise canceling on the microphone as well (ie a directional mike capacity). It should be a standard in these high end units (although perhaps a technical challenge when the microphone is back on the actual headset as it is here with the sennheiser).

    I spend a bomb about 5 years ago on a plantronics unit expecting that these things would be part of the package, but they weren’t.

    Can you comment on the sennheiser against points 1 & 2 (I know their mic is not directional cancelling).

    Cheers

    Comment by Stuart | Jul 15, 2011 | Reply


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