Sennheiser PC 155 USB

The PC 155s currently sit at the top of the tree in Sennheiser’s PC headset range but there’s been no skimping on sound quality in comparison with its usual mid-to-high-end hi-fi sets. For £90, there’d better not be - but the company has looked at the market and gone one better, to produce a mean contender to Plantronics’ Audio 90 specialised PC set.

Physically, we’ve seen foldable and click-adjustable headphones, but never a set that was designed to bend to the shape of your head. The adjusters are present, but they reside right at the bottom of the band by the cones. The sides of the band hang inwards, giving the 155s a horseshoe look with the overhead pad made of the same felt-covered foam as the ear caps on the cans themselves. Those caps are thick enough to render the unit almost close-backed, with minimal sound leakage even though they don’t entirely cover larger ears.

On the sound quality itself, the 155s present a strong field of bass, primarily because the USB connector bypasses any soundcard so you’re not wasting resources from integrated audio on a PC. Although the soundstage is expansive, it won’t shatter your eardrums at high volumes like the Master HD 200 DJ set. Even so, cutting the bass and treble with the source direct controls is recommended.

To give the cans a thorough workout we selected the orchestral Master And Commander film soundtrack. The plucked violin and cello strings in the 10-minute introduction were sublime, and the cans gave them added weight but didn’t drown the tune in any way. Moving to dance, once again the “no-amplifier-necessary” trait was deployed with Song To The Siren by The Chemical Brothers, with sharp samples and party-hard bass as if you had two bookshelf speakers either side of your head. For vocals, Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger was well presented, with the instruments given equal bearing until the final renditions of “Gold” at the end of the song when Bassey’s soprano dominates- but those bongo drums poke out from the din. Depeche Mode’s I Feel You (album version) was given new life with the bass for Dave Gahan’s growling voice and the heavy synths and guitars combined. Although games sound effects were excellent, there was no need to have the headset turned up to high levels, as with most other music we heard, thanks to that bass.

We were happy to find the noise-cancelling microphone was also of good quality, folding up and down a good inch or two away from the mouth, but still catching your voice and little extraneous noise- after some adjustment. The cable length is a generous 3 metres but unlike the Master HD range, you’re supplied with an oval cable-tidy to keep it under control and the USB connector actually extends this by 20.2inches/51.2cm.

Unlike the Plantronics Audio 45 USB headset there’s no software to fiddle around with- you literally plug and go with USB and this didn’t fail in either the Pentium or AMD Athlon test machines. Although this is the culmination of what USB aimed for in the first place six years ago, it’s still a shock to see it working so effortlessly. In spite of USB working so well, you can still detach the USB unit and plug the 3.5mm jacks directly into the front speaker/mic terminals if you wish. The PC99 standard colours will match your soundcard (green for speakers, pink for mic). The inline remote uses a white swirl to illustrate the incoming volume in tandem with the PC settings and the mic can be muted with a switch from here to avoid any chance of feedback interrupting.

This quality comes at a price, sadly. Although it’s arguable that the quality’s not in dispute, Plantronics’ Audio 90’s noise-cancelling mic needs next to no adjustment and its volume as well as mute enable/disable can be controlled via the inline remote. Its sound, while more upfront and loud, can do a reasonable job of music and so cannot be dismissed if looking for a new headset and the PC 155’s pricetag is a turn-off.

Verdict

It's horses for courses. If you want a good all-round set with great music performance and money's no object, and USB's a convenience you see yourself using, then get these Sennheisers now. As we said, for the money, we expect top quality. If your budget doesn't permit splashing out though and you don't care about USB, then head straight for Plantronics' Audio 90s where music will still be well enough presented and the microphone's fully adjustable from the in-line remote. The fact that there's a cheaper option can't stop the PC155s from gaining an award though, if you're willing to buy in at the top of the range.