Introduction - What is the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless?
The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless is, rather as the name suggests, a member of the Momentum family of products that happens to be wireless. As the demand for mass market headphones and earphones increases, it has meant that it is now pretty much vital to ensure that any product targeted at the commuter and frequent flyer market has the hardware to work wirelessly.
The Momentum range has been a hit for Sennheiser and has been around for nearly a decade now. The original Momentum managed to take all the things that Sennheiser had long been doing very well, albeit in a sober way, and make it more interesting and appealing to people who had some desire for their on-the-go accessories to be a bit less prosaic than Sennheiser’s more sober day to day offerings. It did this extremely well and Sennheiser sold a boatload of them.
Fast forward to the 2020s and the Momentum has an all new technical loadout to ensure that it can keep on keeping on in a world of no headphone sockets. We’ve already tested some rather splendid products in the category and more are on their way. Can one of the senior figures of the headphone industry show all the hip kids how it’s actually done?
Specification and Design
Many aspects of the Momentum have been admirably consistent from the appearance of the original - a reflection of an ideal very close to Sennheiser’s heart that if it ain’t broke, it really doesn’t need fixing. The latest version is still a closed back, over ear design that is built around a pair of 42mm dynamic drivers. In keeping with all Sennheisers I’ve ever tested, there is no information at all as to what the drivers are made from. So consistent is this unwillingness to divulge further information that, in my more lurid moments, I wonder if there’s some dark and terrible secret about them (there isn’t, but I’ve been watching a lot of X- Files recently).
These drivers give a quoted frequency response of 6Hz-22kHz which isn’t as magnificently ultrasonic as some rivals claim but nicely heads off the standard range of human hearing and - in a manner similar to the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 - suggests that rather than chasing some notional Hi-Res capability, Sennheiser has focussed on performance with Bluetooth.
The Bluetooth fitment itself is comfortably up to the minute. The basic hardware is version 5.0 with support for all the usual additional formats including aptX, aptX HD and low latency and AAC for Apple users. You get NFC touch-to-pair and dual device pairing so you can listen to one source and take a call from another. Sennheiser has partnered this with their own take on movement based power management and if you lift the Momentums off your head, they will pause in order to maintain the battery life - more of which in a little bit. Playback via a conventional wired connection is also possible and a cable is supplied.
The Bluetooth fitment itself is comfortably up to the minute
All of this is partnered with a noise cancelling system built around accumulating data from four microphones. It has three stages and it is important to note that, in the Momentum, one of these modes is always selected - there is no off or passthrough setting. ‘Anti Pressure’ simply works to dull a little background noise when sitting at home. ‘Anti Wind’ is designed for use outdoors and further dials down background noise. ‘Max’ is intended to produce the most noise cancelling output that the Momentum can muster. This is partnered with a voice passthrough system that ensures you can hear what is going on at important points should you wish.
Last but by no means least is an EQ system. This is adjusted by moving a ball around the screen on the app which prompts the EQ curve to move in response. There is only a single point of adjustment with the app - boost the mids and the extremities reduce in sympathy and vice versa. It’s a little on the simple side but easy enough to use. There are some benefits to the performance itself too which we’ll cover off later on.
The app that ties all of this together is a good one. Available for Android and iOS it offers quick access to the various aspects of functionality and acts as the pairing point for the Momentum rather than the standard pairing menu for your device. The only oddity in this instance is that in the time the Momentum has been here, it has resolutely refused to work with the Essential PH-1. Connection is made successfully but audio cannot be transferred and after a period of time it disconnects again. Having embarked on trying the Momentum with every other Android device I can get my hands on, I feel reasonably confident in stating that this seems to be specific to the Essential and that any conclusions I reach are based around there being no sustained issue with Android.
Possibly of more relevance is the battery life. Sennheiser claims seventeen hours with Bluetooth and ANC running (they could hardly do otherwise considering that the ANC is always active). This isn’t bad but it’s only slightly better than 50% of what the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is capable of. How much this matters is going to come down to use patterns but where you can stuff a pair of PX7s in a travel bag for a week away and probably not concern yourself with charging them once, this might not be the case for the Momentum.
The design of the Momentum has not changed significantly since the original was launched. What Sennheiser has done over the time it has been in production is very clever. If you stick this newest pair next to the originals, they could only be from the same company and yet… they have dozens of little differences. Sennheiser only entered the ‘lifestyle’ end of the market after weighing up their options and they managed to do something very clever. This is a design oriented headphone that doesn’t leave me - a heroically unstylish man bearing down on his 40th birthday - feeling uncomfortable wearing them. They were a great piece of industrial design when they were launched and they remain so now.
They are also well made and practical too. The Momentum folds in on itself and Sennheiser has built the on/off switch into the folding mechanism so that if you’ve fitted them in the case you know they’re off. The case itself is a good piece of design although, it’s worth pointing out that the Momentum isn’t much smaller than the non folding PX7 is when placed in its case. It must be stressed though that neither of these headphones is exactly bulky to cart around. One final thing that is worth mentioning is that the disembodied voice that tells you what the headphones are doing that Sennheiser has selected is wonderfully clear and avoids the gently chastening tone that many of these systems have to them. As I get chastened enough by actual living souls, this is something that appeals to me.
If you stick this newest pair next to the originals, they could only be from the same company and yet… they have dozens of little differences
How was the Momentum tested?
The Sennheiser has been used with a Sony Xperia XA1 smartphone in lieu of the Essential as well an iPad Pro 11 inch for AAC testing. Material used has generally come from Qobuz and Tidal but some testing of stored content stored on a Melco N1A via Bubble has also occurred. The iPad has also been used to view content from Netflix, Amazon and NowTV. As such formats have been FLAC and AIFF with some on demand video.
More info: Audio Formats - What does what and what it all means.
Something I noted in my testing of the PX-7 is that it has effectively been designed to work as a Bluetooth device, over and above any other method and that the noise cancelling is no less integral to that. In the case of the PX-7, this has worked rather well. Given it cannot be turned off, the Momentum is even more bound to this principle and this is interesting because Sennheiser has, until now, taken a different approach to the use of noise cancelling. Their headphones first and foremost worked as conventional devices that could deploy noise cancelling when they needed it. Needless to say, I was interested to see how the change in approach prompted by the constantly active noise cancelling works in reality.
And do you know what? It works a charm. In the ‘Anti Pressure’ setting, the implementation is so benign as to be barely noticeable. It honestly feels more like Sennheiser has implemented a better level of physical isolation than there being any form of processing present. Sitting at home listening to the Momentum simply feels like you’re listening to a well sorted headphone rather than one running wirelessly or applying any processing to it. I imagine it took a fair bit of testing, tweaking and adjustment to make it work like this and it is a tremendous achievement.
This means that the Momentum isn’t a good listen ‘for a Bluetooth headphone’, it’s a genuinely good listen full stop. It captures the effortless flow of Robert Plant’s magnificent Falling in Love Again with effortless ability. It creates a vivid, tonally believable space inhabited by a convincing representation of Robert Plant. It’s helped by the noise floor when running wirelessly being so low as to be irrelevant.
This means that the Momentum isn’t a good listen ‘for a Bluetooth headphone’, it’s a genuinely good listen full stop
It’s capable of being great fun too. The magnificent Times Won’t Change Me by Circa Waves has the bounce and propulsive energy that it needs to make the hand claps and gospel piano sound right and not ridiculous. There is, in microcosm some of the same effortless ability to shift gears that makes the HD800S such an incredible listen. There’s nothing I’ve played on the Momentum that hasn’t sounded fundamentally right. That adjustable EQ is handy too. Very gently pulling the slider down in the midrange oddly has the effect of reducing perceived congestion and helping the sound become a little livelier.
So this makes it better than the PX-7 doesn’t it? Well, hang on because things aren’t quite so clear cut as that. Sitting on my sofa with limited background noise, the Momentum has the edge. Once the background noise levels start to creep up (in this case supplied by the Kudos Titan 505 pretending to be a Boeing 737), the PX-7 starts to demonstrate some advantages. The Sennheiser noise cancelling is good - the best I’ve yet heard from the brand - but the PX-7 is better. Depending on what the sort of travel scenarios you have in mind for your headphones, the Bowers & Wilkins undoubtedly works better in the noisier ones.
The rest of testing is trading blows while both being generally excellent. The Sennheiser is (for me anyway) more comfortable but the PX-7 is better at taking calls (you look like a complete idiot with both as you sit there intoning a conversation into free space though). I would also give the PX-7 the nod for viewing with the iPad and I think this is as simple as the use of the angled drivers giving a presentation that’s more believably coming from the screen. Across all these aspects, it’s irresistible force slugging away at immovable object; a demonstration of just how good this category has become.
It’s capable of being great fun too
- Sound great
- Look great
- Feel great
- Noise cancelling isn't as effective as some key rivals
- Short battery life
- Has a compatibility issue with at least one Android phone
Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Review
This then is something that comes down to personal preference. If you have £350 for a pair of wireless noise cancelling headphones, you can’t go wrong with either the Sennheiser or the PX-7 but based on how you plan to use them I think you can be happier with one choice than the other.
I’m going to call it this way. If you need wireless headphones for music in environments that are rarely enormously loud, the Sennheiser is the better option. In louder spaces, with longer stints away from chargers, the PX-7 starts to make more and more sense. I feel that these longer legs, better noise cancelling and better performance with video means that the PX-7 earns its Best Buy badge but the singular talents of the Sennheiser still warrant it coming Highly Recommended.
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