Ousting its predecessor to claim the Best Buy Award, the Brother XR9550PRW is our new favorite sewing machine for beginners. It's incredibly easy to use, a breeze to set up, and creates decently high-quality stitches, all at a relatively affordable price. It is a fantastic option for someone who is just getting started with sewing or for someone who wants a hassle-free sewing experience. However, its stitches aren't quite on par with the ones produced by the top models, though it does create a particularly high-quality buttonhole, but it more than makes up for its slight deficiencies by its value and ease of use and we highly recommend it.
Brother XR9550PRW Review
Pros: Great value, excellent buttonholes, easy to use
Cons: Stitches are slightly inferior to the top models, built-in light could be better
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
This model finished right at the top of the pack, outperforming its predecessor, the Brother XR9500PRW by a single point, matching the score of the Singer 7258, and finishing only a single point behind the Singer 9960. The XR9550PRW and the Singer 7258 are also priced very similarly, but we found that the 7258 has slightly higher stitch quality, making it a better option for more intermediate to advanced users, while the Brother is much easier to use, making it more appealing to novice users.
To determine which sewing machine is actually the best, we bought all the most promising products on the market, then compared their performance side-by-side. We split our testing process into four weighted metrics — Ease of set up, Sewing, Ease of Use, and Buttonholes, with the results of the Brother XR9550PRW discussed below.
Earning the most weight out of all of our metrics, our Sewing metric is responsible for almost half — 40% — of the total score for each sewing machine. We based this score on how well the XR9550PRW did with a long straight stitch, a zigzag stitch, and a scallop stitch, as well as how cleanly it could attach a zipper using the dedicated presser foot for that task. This sewing machine from Brother did quite well, receiving a 6 out of 10 for its solid performance, putting it close to the top of the pack.
The Brother did a decent job at the long straight stitch, producing a high-quality stitch on easier to sew fabrics, like cotton, but slightly bunching up the fabric and producing a looser stitch on harder fabrics, like polyester charmeuse.
This machine also did about average with the zigzag stitch, performing well on most of the fabrics we tested it on, but we did notice the bottom thread tension got a little on the tight side for some of the test fabrics, like denim or corduroy. Surprisingly, we felt that this model's predecessor, the Brother XR9500PRW had a slightly better zigzag stitch, but only by a very small margin.
This flipped when we moved on to the scallop stitch test, with the XR9550PRW scoring better than the older model. We thought this model did a particularly excellent job at making almost perfect scallops on polyester charmeuse, with only slightly inferior stitches on silk or cotton. However, it did do a slightly below average job sewing on the polyester chiffon.
For the final assessment in this metric, the Brother again scored quite well, doing a solidly clean job of attaching the zipper, using the included zipper presser foot.
Ease of Use
Following our series of stitch quality tests, our Ease of Use metric ranked next in importance, accountable for 30% of the total score for each product. We ranked and scored how intuitive the labels on the machine are, the quality of the thread cutter and built-in work light, as well as the ease of selecting different stitches and if the machine has automatic sewing or adjustable needle-stop positions. The Brother did exceptionally well in this set of test, earning one of the highest scores out of the entire group.
This sewing machine is absolutely plastered with helpful directions to make it exceptionally user-friendly. You select stitches using the key on the side of the machine and we particularly liked that they are all visible at the same time — this machine's predecessor had a panel that you had to flip back and forth to see the complete stitch library.
The directions for threading the bobbin are printed on a sticker and there are markings for the average tension on the tension adjust wheel.
We particularly liked that the backlit screen displayed the recommended stitch length and width based on your selection, as well as the letter of the presser foot that you should use for each stitch. If you do run into trouble, the screen will display an error code that you need to look up in the manual, but this is understandable, as the screen is only so big.
This sewing machine does have a work light built into it, but it is a little bit on the dim side and you will probably need some additional lighting to have a really clear view of your workpiece. The thread cutter, located at the back corner of the machine, is really convenient and easy to access — slightly more so than the ones that have a thread cutter mounted on the side.
This model also has a bobbin winder right on the top of the machine, with threading directions that are clearly labeled.
This model does have automatic sewing capabilities with adjustable speed and the needle will always stop in the down position, which can then be raised with the press of a button.
Ease of Set Up
Next, we looked at the difficulty associated with threading the machine, setting up the bobbin, threading the needle, winding the bobbin, and changing the presser feet for our Ease of Set Up metric, worth 20% of the overall score. The Brother XR9550PRW again proved its merits as an excellent beginner choice, earning a 7 out of 10 for its excellent performance, putting it almost at the top of the group.
This sewing machine is about average to thread, with relatively clear and easy to follow instructions printed on the side of the machine. The bobbin is even easier to set up and install, with clear instructions and a bobbin plate that is very easy to remove.
This has the standard semi-automatic needle threader — you loop the thread around the hooks, then pull the lever to thread the needle. The Brother XR9550PRW makes it quite easy to wind a bobbin and the finished bobbin is very evenly wound.
For the last 10% of the total score, we ranked and scored the ease in creating a buttonhole and the quality of the finished stitch. The XR9550PRW improved upon the score of its predecessor, earning a 7 out of 10 for its solid performance and putting it close to the top of the group.
This machine produced exceptionally high-quality buttonholes that are very clean and secure, with only the tiniest about of bunching at the top bar on some of the more finicky fabrics, like charmeuse.
Our only main complaint with this machine with respect to creating buttonholes is that it isn't the easiest to accurately line up the buttonhole where you want it, with the marks on the presser foot being slightly raised up and can cause a little difficulty when trying to match them up to the marks on the fabric.
This sewing machine is a fantastic value, earning it the Best Buy Award. The XR9550PRW should be one of your top choices if you are shopping on a budget.
If you are just getting started with sewing and are looking for an exceptionally easy to use machine that won't break the bank, look no further than the Brother XR9550PRW. It retails for the relatively affordable price of $200 and is our top recommendation for beginners or those who prioritize having an extremely convenient and hassle-free sewing experience.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer