These headphones are very light, very portable on-ear headphones that can fold up to be even more portable, as shown here:
The headphones have an in-line volume control that also doubles as an on/off switch for its active noise cancellation feature.
In the box you'll also find a case and an airplane adapter.
The PXC 250-IIs seem to be very well made, but we're not so sure how that will translate into durability. The headphones are very thin, which typically means they're more fragile than larger headphones. Additionally, the cord guards aren't going to protect the cable very much.
The PXC 250-IIs look very well designed. Typically smaller headphones tend to look plasticky or cheap, but the PXC 250-IIs definitely don't fall into that trap.
The Sennheiser PXC 250-IIs had a decent frequency response, but it wasn't perfect. It had a fairly even kiel through the bass frequencies, but we noticed the frequency response was a slightly erratic towards the low end.
At about the the 5kHz point, the frequency response drops off significantly, dipping below our lower limits. We don't mind a dynamic frequency response, but changes exceeding a certain amount can give your playback oddly inconsistent volume levels. While the dip was a bit severe, it didn't drop too far below the bottom limit. Afterward, the response picks up again, just in time for the all-important 7kHz band (the attack on drums), before hitting one last peak at about 10kHz, which the frequency band that gives a punch to spoken sibilance and the brilliance of instruments.
Overall, it's not a bad response curve. It's not particularly dynamic for most of the spectrum, but when it is, it was a bit harsh.
Of course, turning on the active noise cancellation gives you a slightly different curve! Let's compare!
The low-end actually gets a bit more consistent when you turn the active noise cancellation feature on. The mids also get a slight boost, but overall, not much changes. This is one of those rare instances where the active cancellation actually gives you better audio quality.
The PXC 250-IIs are yet another pair of Sennheiser headphones with next to no distortion. This is what Sennheiser does best.
The PXC 250-II didn't have the most consistent tracking. The left channel was slightly louder in the lower frequencies and the right channel was better at outputting higher ones. The swings here aren't overly dramatic—you're only looking at a few decibels in either direction, which isn't particularly audible.
The PXC 250-IIs feature a pretty lackluster active noise cancellation feature. Switching it on will block out some additional bass noises—which you'll definitely notice if there's a low, droning sound somewhere—but it won't create a huge difference. Additionally, it creates some mid-range noise.
The Sennheiser PXC 250-IIs weren't great at keeping their sound contained. At a moderate volume in a quiet room, we could hear a whisper from the headphones; loud playback was definitely noticeable. If you're wearing these headphones in a quiet location, you should definitely be wary of your playback's volume.
We found that the Sennheiser PXC 250-IIs can only output about 104.92dBSPL before their distortion starts to become unmanageable. This isn't to say the headphones aren't capable of playing louder music, it's just the music won't sound as great as it should.
Initially, we thought the Sennheiser PXC 250-IIs felt a bit uncomfortable. The small pads take some getting used to if you aren't accustomed to the fit. Of course, ten minutes later we were used to them, and they were incredibly comfortable. The pads and their coverings are soft, the band is adequately padded, and the headphones themselves are very lightweight. We have no complaints here.
Over long periods of wear is where the PXC 250-IIs really shine. They're ridiculously lightweight, so they don't have the problem full-size cans do of feeling heavy over time. The cups also don't squeeze your head any more than they need to. Really we have no complaints here.
The PXC 250-IIs don't have many customization options. The ear cups swivel around and the band can extend, but that's about it.
The Sennheiser PXC 250-IIs' cable is just short of five feet in length. Typically portable headphones are around four feet long, but an extra foot of cable isn't particularly encumbering. Unfortunately, there's a bit less than four feet from the headphones to the in-line control pendant, which means it probably won't sit comfortably in your front pocket.
The headphones also come with an airplane adapter.
The PXC 250-IIs might have a slightly long cord and be a bit larger than the average set of in-ears, but they're still very, very portable. They're lightweight and can fold up like a pair of sunglasses.
Additionally, the headphones come with a case, so you can keep them separate from your coins, keys, and other headphone-harming objects in your bag.
The PXC 250-II doesn't have any tools to help with maintenance. You can remove the padding on the ear cups if you need to replace them, but it's difficult to fit the padding back on correctly.
The PXC 250-IIs don't require any batteries, which is great because batteries are annoying. The PXC 250-IIs pick up some easy points here.
The Sennheiser PXC 250-IIs have an in-line volume control slider. It functions as you'd suspect. Since most media devices also have volume controls, we don't find this a particularly compelling feature.
The ATH-ANC7s are certainly more substantial than the PXC 250-IIs, which makes them a bit more durable. What they aren't, however, is small. If you value portability, the PXC 250-IIs are a much better choice.
The ATH-ANC7s' curve is a bit more dynamic than the PXC 250-IIs, and its channels seem to be a bit more in sync.
Both sets of headphones had a small amount of distortion, but nothing too severe.
The PXC 250-IIs had a bit of an issue with tracking in the low end; the ATH-ANC7s had tracking problems with the high end.
The ATH-ANC7s both block out and create more noise than the PXC 250-IIs.
We thought both sets of headphones were roughly the same comfort level. The Denon AH-NC732s come with more sleeve options, though, so they're a better bet for ensuring a good fit.
These two headphones are on pretty even footing. If you want a lightweight, more portable set of headphones, the PXC 250-IIs are the better pick. If you want better active noise cancelling and don't mind lugging around a set of over-ears, the ATH-ANC7s will happily provide isolation and take up space.
As you can see, the two headphones have slightly different designs. The QC15s are over-ear headphones with an active noise cancellation feature that requires a single AAA battery. The PXC 250-IIs are a set of in-ears with no fancy-pants cancellation, and, as in-ears, are significantly more fragile than the QC15s.
The PXC 250-IIs have a much more even frequency response. Look at those scribbles on the QC15s' graph.
The QC15s have more distortion than the PXC 250-IIs. You might think it's because the QC15s won't work without their active cancellation feature enabled, which creates distortion. Even with its active cancellation switched on, however, the PXC 250-IIs aren't as bad.
The QC15s have some tracking wobble in the high end, but the PXC 250-II meanders a bit in the low end.
Say what you will about Bose: boy oh boy does their active cancellation feature work.
The PXC 250-IIs and QC15s are both very, very comfortable. The QC15s have a higher potential of getting a bit heavy over time, but their circumaural cups are probably a bit more comfortable than the PXC 250-IIs' small on-ear cups.
The PXC 250-IIs are better for audio quality or portability, but if you're taking your headphones anywhere noisy, the QC15s are by far the better option.
The PXC 250-IIs accomplish a lot, aesthetically speaking, with very little surface area. The AH-NC732s look a bit chunky and plastic by comparison. They are, however, probably a bit more durable as a result.
The PXC 250-IIs have a much more consistent frequency response.
Neither set of headphones has any distortion worth worrying about, but the PXC 250-IIs did have a minimal amount (1%) in the bass end.
Both headphones had some issues with their tracking, but the Denons are a bit more violently inconsistent.
The PXC 250-IIs don't isolate nearly as well as the AH-NC732s.
The PXC 250-IIs are more lightweight and comfortable, but that's not to say the AH-NC732s are necessarily uncomfortable. We don't foresee anyone having much of a problem with either.
The PXC 250-IIs don't isolate as well as the AH-NC732s, but they have better audio quality and less mass to weigh on your skull.
We thought the CX 300-IIs were a bit plain looking. If you want slightly more aesthetic value than a splash of color, the PXC 250-IIs are the better choice. We felt the PXC 250-IIs also had a slightly more durable construction.
The NC300s have a slightly more erratic frequency response. The left and right channel are rarely in sync, and there's significantly more sudden dips and rises.
No distortion in either set of headphones.
Both sets of headphones had very similar tracking.
The NC300s blocked out slightly more sound than the PXC 250-IIs.
We thought the PXC 250-IIs were more comfortable than the NC300s. They take a bit more getting used to, but they're lighter and the padding is softer.
The PXC 250-IIs cost a bit less and offer better audio quality. If you want some additional isolation, the NC300s might be a better choice, but if that's what you're looking for, there are really better options out there than either of these headphones, like the Bose QuietComfort 15s.
PXC 250-IIThe PXC 250-IIs are a great set of portable headphones. They're comfortable, not much heavier than a pair of sunglasses, and offer excellent audio quality for $150. Their main downside is their design isn't always conducive to portability. The cord is too short to put the in-line control pendant solidly in your front pocket—for some people, at least. For us, it just kind of hung there like a sinker, creating tension on the cord. Also, the volume dial on the pendant turned far too easily. Any time our pocket rubbed up against the dial, the volume would shift. This could have been mitigated somewhat by a longer cord—that way the pendant wouldn't have been swinging around in our pocket's mouth like a pit and pendulum—but alas, the PXC 250-II couldn't offer that.
Of course, this is just a minor gripe when considering the PXC 250-IIs performance on the whole. It had a decent frequency response, very low distortion, and average or above average scores on the rest of our tests. The active noise cancellation feature wasn't particularly impressive, but it did serve to cut on some droning noise.
If you want a very portable set of headphones, we'd recommend the PXC 250-IIs. They aren't perfect, but if you can live with the control pendant and their other minor annoyances, you'll get exactly what you're looking for.
Meet the tester
Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.
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