Sennheiser's new PXC 350s are the latest additions to the Sennheiser catalogue and are essentially a cheaper version of the excellent PXC 450s.
These new high-end noise-cancelling cans retail at around £230, so although they're cheaper than their bigger brothers, they still have much to prove.
One of the things we loved most about the PXC 450s was their rock-solid construction. Build quality seen in this new model is as impressive as we were hoping for, and the £230 'phones are also nicely lightweight. Retained is the feeling of solidity, the comfortable earcups and the soft padded headband.
Also carried over from the 450s is the invisible positioning of the battery compartments, which reside inconspicuously behind the earcup bracket when being worn.
The thick, professional audio cable is both gold plated and detachable from the 'phones. But this isn't the only feature aimed at making your life easier. The 350's earcups can be swiveled, allowing flat packing in the supplied carry case, which is about the size of a hardback book.
Driving sound from each earcup is a dynamic transducer, coupled with a dual-layer Duofol diaphragm. Jointly they're capable of working within a frequency range of 8Hz-28kHz. The result is a very clean, powerful overall sound. As far as we could tell, the 350s and 450s are almost identical in tone: very crisp highs, punchy mids and balanced, powerful bass.
Bodyrox's club track 'Yeah Yeah' has a deep, gently reverberated kick drum that pounded into our skulls without distorting. We fired up some Pendulum next to make sure this sound was consistently good, specifically the track 'Tarantula'. Without deep, thumping bass, this track is lifeless. Thankfully, the 350s perform admirably well enough to recreate an in-skull club experience, though the tiniest bit more bass oomph would please those who primarily listen to dance.
But enough with electronically generated sound -- time for some cutthroat, no-one-left-alive metal, notably from Cannibal Corpse. This fiery onslaught of brutal death metal exploded into our head with all the unrestrained malice and energy that this band pumps from a stage, all recreated realistically by the 350s.
Next, KT Tunstall's 'Little Flavours'. Her clean steel-stringed guitars crisply escaped into our right ears while smooth bass lines permeated gently underneath. Safe to say we were impressed with the dynamic abilities of these headphones.
Notable also is the leak-free nature of these closed-back cans -- nearby colleagues heard not a single snare or the slighest wail of a guitar, even at full volume. Effective noise cancellation completely removed the vexing rumble of the air conditioner too.
While classics by both New York's 'gore metal' pioneers Cannibal Corpse, and the less torture-obsessed Tunstall sounded great with these 'phones powered-up, when the batteries die things take a different turn. The difference is akin to the difference between looking at a rainbow in colour and then in black and white -- although the sound still clearly exists, the overall feeling is a little dull and slightly washed out.
The useful TalkThrough feature of the 450s is the main difference between these and their older siblings. It was a button that amplified peoples' voices into the headphones so you could easily talk to those around you without stopping your music. If you want to hear your friends or colleagues and your music, the lack of this feature is unfortunate.
A ball bearing mechanism within the headphones' headband appears to have been replaced for the 350s. The result is a less fluid feeling when the headband is being extended to fit meatier heads. It's still a great design, but it's one of a few small design alterations made to keep costs closer to the £200 mark.
There's no question that these are superb headphones. Their hi-fi qualities vastly outweigh their cosmetic alterations, and the noise cancelling appeared to be only moderately reduced in performance over the PXC 450 model.
If you want the handy TalkThrough feature and improved noise cancelling, sell some old CDs and put it towards getting the model up. Otherwise, the PXC 350s are a stonking good set of cans for an attractive price.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday