Sennheiser Momentum Headphones Review

Sennheiser enters the lifestyle headphone market and quite an entrance it is too

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

4

Highly Recommended
Sennheiser Momentum Headphones Review
SRP: £260.00

Introduction

The sheer scale of the headphone market - something I have been banging on about for some time - was finally given some supporting numbers recently. At a recent press launch (ironically not for the Sennheisers), the sales figures for the UK suggests that 12 million over ear and in ear headphones will be sold this year. That means about 1 in 5 people in the UK will buy a new pair of headphones this year which is faintly astonishing. In an industry where most other categories are shrinking both in numbers and value, headphones are the exception. With this in mind, it is small wonder that new brands are arriving in the category daily.

More longstanding headphone manufacturers have also benefitted from this growth but have often found themselves playing catch up as categories and price points evolve. A good example of this has been Sennheiser. Their enormous range of headphones and earphones technically covers almost every meaningful price point that headphones are being sold at but against a wave of rapper endorsed ‘lifestyle’ designs, much of their output looks a little workmanlike. You can buy some Sennheisers in some lively colour finishes but in terms of styling and overall design, the effect is usually sober rather than chic. Sennheiser has not been ignoring this situation though and what you see here is the newest member of the range. The Momentum is designed to offer all of the standard Sennheiser virtues in a package that is a little bit more stylish than before. Can the company pull off such a balancing act?

Design

The Momentum belongs to the company’s portable range of models which varies in size from relatively tiny in ears to models that are effectively full size and can be used equally effectively at home or on the move. This has proved to be quite an effective balancing act and the Momentums come in at the upper end of this group size wise. The other defining characteristic of these models is that they are closed back designs which comes in handy when you are using them on the move and don’t want to be attacked by the people around you.

Sennheiser Momentum

To this end, the enclosures are closed back and just about cover the ear completely. These reasonably large enclosures each mount a single 40mm dynamic driver for audio and Sennheiser has taken considerable care in setting the drivers back from the ear. In a closed back design, this is extremely important in terms of trying to create a level of soundstage and space. The driver itself is behind a protective grill to help keep them safe.

As semi portable designs, the Momentums are fitted with a detachable cord that gives the choice between one with an inline remote and one without. Both cords are naturally fitted with a 3.5mm jack but a quarter inch adaptor is also supplied. I’m a big fan of detachable cords on portable devices as if you snag them while on the move, they will pull out rather than snap the cable but Sennheiser has undone some of this good work by making the connection a locking type which means that the cable would still be under great strain if you snagged it. What Sennheiser takes with one hand it gives with the other though and the device end of the connection has a lovely hinged jack connection that allows you to choose between a ninety degree fixing or a straight one or indeed any angle in between.

Sennheiser Momentum

Sennheiser also supplies a carrying case to keep your Momentums looking shiny and this is also well assembled and thought out. It does show up the main weakness of the Momentums though in that although this is a portable design, the lack of folding or hinges means that this is a fairly large pair of cans to carry around with you. The Beats range and other new arrivals like PSB’s M4U series are full size headphones that fold down into more compact ‘football’ sized packages for transport. As Sennheiser makes folding headphones, the decision to make the Momentum a fixed one must have been deliberate. They aren’t unmanageable to use on the move but if you travel light, the carrying case is unlikely to be a popular addition. The earpads do not fold flat which also means that having them around the neck is slightly uncomfortable as well but this should not be a huge problem.

Sennheiser Momentum

Where Sennheiser has got the design of the Momentum absolutely right is the styling and overall look. What they have done is create a headphone that (in my opinion at least) manages to look - dare I say it - cool, without being overly conspicuous or showy. There is a blend of retro and contemporary styling touches that have been combined in a very skilful and extremely appealing way. The last pair of headphones that I saw do this with the same degree of flair were the Harmon Kardon BTs and if I am honest, there are some touches on the Momentum that are nicer still.

What is most impressive about the Momentum is that nothing is there for the sake of the styling. The brushed steel lower section of the headband is lovely to look at but allows the housings to slide up and down for a perfect fit while keeping the headband itself rigid and lightweight. The steel badges on the enclosures look brilliant and finish the sliding mechanism off. The padding on the headband is fairly limited but the split design spreads the load evenly and keeps the weight down. The only slight annoyance is the exposed cabling between the enclosures and the headband which is a point of weakness but not a catastrophic one.

Sennheiser Momentum

The Momentum is available in two finishes, black and bronze/brown. The review pair was supplied in the latter and I think it looks fantastic and much better than in any of the pictures. As a 32 year old, advancing confidently towards middle age, some of the headphones I am sent for review do have me feeling somewhat self conscious when I wear them out (and for review purposes I wear them all) but the Sennheiser is a wonderful balance of style and subtlety.

Sennheiser knows how to screw headphones together and the Momentum is no exception in this regard. The fit and finish is absolutely in keeping with a £260 asking price and everything feels extremely solidly constructed. The leather has all clearly been part of an animal at some stage and the whole ensemble feels impressively robust. The non folding nature of the headband might make them a little bulkier than some of the competition but the tradeoff is that they feel very robust indeed. A final lovely touch is the all metal inline remote on the cord which makes pretty much everything else feel flimsy and insubstantial.

Setup

The Momentum saw use with the usual suspects for reviewing. It was used with my iPad 3, iPhone 4 and Lenovo ThinkPad, the latter with and without the aid of a Furutech ADL Cruise headphone amp. Test material included a variety of lossless and high res audio files as well as Spotify, catchup TV services and general web material. I have used the Sennheiser mainly at home but I’ve used it out on commutes to London and visiting the Supermarket (where I’ve worn so many different pairs of headphones, I can only assume the staff must think I’m a fairly capable thief or like the guy in There’s Something about Mary.)

Sennheiser Momentum

Sound Quality

Sennheiser might not always have made the most stylish headphones out there but they have rarely produced anything that didn’t sound competitive. The good news is that they haven’t thrown out this competence while designing the more stylish Momentum and this is still very much a product of their school of voicing and design.

This means that the voicing of the Momentum is different to many headphones in this category in that Sennheiser has put a great amount of effort into making the Momentum an accurate and impressively neutral performer. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that every studio should have a pair, the tonal balance feels right and manages to work with a wide variety of music. Much of this stems from the way that the Momentum has been voiced. Headphones - particularly in this category - can find themselves with the lower midrange and bass being augmented for more ‘oomph.’ The Momentum is almost completely flat from the top to bottom of its frequency response and this gives them a clarity that is so often missing from the competition.

Sennheiser Momentum

Flat response or not, the Sennheiser still has impressive bass response and low frequency material is given excellent extension that is felt as well as heard. This bass never dominates the rest of the performance though and the Sennheiser has exceptional detail retrieval across the midrange and upper frequencies. This detail gives voices and instruments a welcome realism and if you give the Momentum some high quality lossless material, the results are exceptionally convincing.

As a closed back design, the Momentum is not as effortlessly open and revealing as models that vent the enclosure but the well recessed drivers do a better job of presenting expansive music than some other closed rivals. If you listen exclusively to music in an environment where other people aren’t around and you don’t move about, a pair of open or semi open designs will still show them a trick or two but I’ve spent plenty of time listening to the Sennheiser domestically and I haven’t felt myself missing out on the charms of open backed models available to me. In terms of hybrid designs, only the Harmon Kardon BT and PSB M4U2 have proved as capable being used in multiple situations.

Part of this is down to the fact that like the Harmon and the PSB, the Sennheiser is very comfortable to wear for long periods. This is quite surprising given that the there is no lateral movement to the earpads, however the good but not excessive grip and impressive cushioning means that they are incredibly easy to wear for long periods of time. The more time I have spent with the Momentum, the more I suspect that this comfort relates to the infinite adjustment that the earpads have and the fact that they don’t fold means that they are extremely comfortable. There may be a method in the madness.

Sennheiser Momentum

There isn’t much I can fault the Momentum for sonically but they do have a problem shared with some of the other Sennheiser models that needs to be taken into account. The design is not hugely sensitive and this means that the internal amps of portable devices might struggle to drive them to high listening levels. They worked well enough with the iPhone 4 and iPad 3 but the newer versions are generally considered to be less capable in this regard (as more and more space is given over to batteries) and you may find that you max out the volume on some devices. Some rival designs are capable of going louder on the same amount of power which may or may not matter to you. Perhaps for this reason, the Sennheiser benefitted from being used with the Furutech headphone and performance improved further when I did so. There are cheaper options than the Furutech available for people that want to make use of this capability. As a final note, I found that calls made and received via the Momentum were clear and easy to follow although the relatively low placement of the microphone means it is best raised to the mouth.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Superb design and styling
  • Powerful and well balanced sound
  • Excellent build

The Bad

  • Relatively costly
  • Don't fold down
  • Not the most sensitive

Sennheiser Momentum Headphones Review

The lifestyle headphone market is a booming category in a thriving sector. Sennheiser has clearly thought long and hard about how they should go about entering this ultra competitive market and the result is a seriously impressive new arrival. Everything that Sennheiser does well is still present in the Momentum. They have a neutral but engaging sound quality that manages to do justice to a wide variety of musical types and file sizes.

They have managed to do all of this while creating what I feel is one of the best looking pairs of headphones on sale today. The Momentum taps into a design theme that breaks new ground for Sennheiser and one that I hope does very well for them. It isn’t cheap and there are dozens of competing models (some of which we’ve looked at and some of which we will in due course) but this is one of the very best of the type out there and needs to be checked out.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
.
.
7

Sensitivity

.
9

Design and usability

10

Sound Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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