Sennheiser's Momentum Wireless prove to be a knockout combination of reasonably effective noise-cancelling, luxurious build and epic sound quality. They're perhaps not the best noise-cancelling headphones out there, but in terms of sound quality, they prove to be an irresistible pair of headphones.
- Rapid, forceful and detailed sound
- Fit comfortably
- Look and feel the money’s-worth
- Quite big
- Others cancel noise even more effectively
- Review Price: £349
- aptX low latency
- 42mm transducers
- 17 hours battery life
Sennhesier’s Momentum Wireless are a portable pair of noise cancelling headphones with aptX Bluetooth, tactile controls, ‘Smart Pause’ features and an emphasis on ‘superior’ sound quality.
Sennheiser has been predictably successful with its Momentum range of headphones – the wireless variants, in particular, have been on any sensible person’s radar and/or shortlist for a good while now.
This is a volatile and extremely competitive sector of the market, though, with everyone from Bose and Microsoft to Bowers & Wilkins and Sony ready to sell you a high-performance pair of big, wireless, noise-cancelling headphones.
So it’s just as well Sennheiser has delivered a brand-new pair of Momentum Wireless over-ear headphones (the third generation, in fact) – how else is it to maintain its, um, momentum?
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Sennheiser Momentum Wireless design – A big, bulky and comfortable effort
At first glance, there’s nothing untoward here. Sennheiser established its Momentum design vocabulary a few years ago – and those exposed steel headband sliders could belong to no other brand. If it’s a handsome mash-up of the industrial and the luxurious you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.
Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see there have been changes. For starters, this third version of Momentum Wireless are big – those sumptuously padded ear-cups are truly an over-ear design, and anyone with a notably small head might feel a little bit overloaded by the generosity of their dimensions.
The materials Sennheiser’s deployed here go some way to justifying the premium price – and that’s doubly good news, given there’s such an abundance of them. The ear-cups and (the covered part of) the headband are finished is super-soft, super-comfy and sheepskin leather (which is ethical, sustainable and all other words of reassurance). Inside the ear-cups there’s plenty of comfortable, and slow-to-warm memory foam.
There’s no off-the-wall design being tried out here, for which we can all be grateful. Headphones look the way they look, and it’s a brave and/or foolhardy company that tries anything radical with the form of a product like this. Apart from the supersizing, nothing about the way the Momentum Wireless look is going to confuse or appall anyone.
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Sennheiser Momentum Wireless features – Opts for tactile controls on the earcup instead of touch controls
Quite a few wireless noise-cancellers feature touch-controls on one or both ear-cups – Bose, most recently, introduced the feature on its 700. Sennheiser, on the other hand, isn’t getting involved. Instead, the Momentum Wireless feature a few physical controls and connections on their right ear-cup.
These extend to volume up/down, play/pause, Bluetooth pairing/summon voice assistant, and engage/disengage active noise-cancelling. The right ear-cup also includes a USB-C socket for charging, a 3.5mm analogue input for using the Momentum Wireless with a wire, and a patch for NFC pairing.
Bluetooth is of the superior aptX variety – and the Sennheisers also have aptX Low Latency, to improve sound/picture synchronisation when watching video content. Despite the efficiency of the Bluetooth codec, though, the Momentum Wireless have a battery life of a completely underwhelming 17 hours, although that does improve a little if you don’t engage active noise-cancelling.
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On the subject of noise-cancelling, there are three distinct degrees available via the Sennheiser Smart Control app. ‘Anti pressure’ is designed to offer noise reduction without the feeling of sinus pressure that active systems sometimes introduce; ‘Anti wind’ is specifically intended to reduce the noise of air-disturbance around the ear-cups; ‘Max’ is, well, maximum noise-cancellation.
In addition, there’s an algorithm Sennheiser’s calling ‘transparent hearing’ – this increasingly common feature boosts the external sound to keep the wearer in touch with their surroundings. The app also allows ‘transparent hearing’ to override music playback if the listener so requires.
It’s a clean, stable and attractive control app – which is by no means a given – and it also includes a little EQ adjustment too.
Each ear-cup features microphones for active noise-cancellation, voice assistance and telephony. And if you fold the Momentum Wireless flat (remembering to fold the left ear-cup first), they will turn themselves off. In fact, they’ll switch to ‘standby’ if the detect they’ve been taken off your head and place around your neck, thanks to integrated accelerometers.
Sennheiser Momentum Wireless sound quality – Outstanding sound quality
To put it in the simplest terms, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless perform outstandingly well. Listeners who don’t appreciate deep, swift and well-controlled bass, or who prefer a vocalist to sound muddy and indistinct, won’t find much to satisfy them here – but the rest of us will absolutely revel in the Sennheisers’ alacrity, drive, clarity and fidelity. They’re an excellent pair of headphones.
Even starting the test with a pea-souper of a recording like Elvis Costello’s How To Be Dumb doesn’t phase the Momentums. It’s picked apart expertly – every instrumental strand of the song is given its own space in which to operate, even though they integrate smoothly. From the (swift, substantial) bottom of the frequency range to the (crisp, textured) top, the Sennheisers offer straight-edged control, ample detail and real tonal subtlety.
It’s perhaps the midrange that’s the true star here. Costello’s inimitable vocal, all vibrato and sneer, is absolutely loaded with detail and nuance – there’s simply no misunderstanding his attitude. This combination of energy, insight and attack packs every recording you listen to with character.
And having seen off the complexity of Elvis Costello, the Sennheisers turn to the uncomplicated dancefloor attack of Steffi’s Continuum Of The Mind with similar relish. Management of rhythm and tempo is impeccable, the Momentum Wireless crunching through the low-end activity with complete authority – in the most straightforward terms of drive and attack, the Sennheisers have it in spades.
That’s not to say they’re a blunt instrument, far from it. Galt MacDermot’s Coffee Cold benefits no end from the Momentums’ low-level dynamic prowess, with layer after layer of harmonic variance revealed as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. These headphones are a brilliantly expressive listen – if there’s emotion embedded in a recording, they will tease it out.
Beyond the sound, the news continues to be good (if not quite as unequivocally so). The noise-cancelling, while effective enough, isn’t quite as accomplished as some rival headphones can muster. And as previously observed, this third generation of Momentum Wireless is, physically, the biggest yet – so make sure they’re not too big before you fork over the cash.
In every meaningful respect, though, these are headphones that comfortably maintain Sennheiser’s position at the forefront of the market.
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Should I buy the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless?
You’ve never had such a wide choice of wireless, noise-cancelling on or over-ear headphones between, say, £250 and £350 before. There are quite a number of very viable alternatives to the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, and some of them bear very strong consideration.
Sony’s WH-1000MX3s, for example, are extremely well regarded by almost everyone (not least this website). They sound great, are comfortable, cancel noise very effectively and feel built to last – and, because they’re relatively long in the tooth by the standards of this part of the market, they can be had for comfortably less than £300. They are worthy of thorough investigation.
Microsoft, too, have a significant dog in this fight. Its Surface Headphones may not be absolutely the last word in sound quality, and may be relentlessly grey, but they are about as effective a noise-cancelling proposition as you’ll ever hear. There’s something almost supernatural about how completely they’re able to isolate the wearer from the outside world, and without applying that sinus pressure through the ears that other, less capable, noise-cancellers indulge in.
And then there’s the new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 – crazy name, completely sensible and quite good-looking product. Bose has been hard at work on the aesthetic of these headphones, and they’re about as discreet and stylish as a massive pair of headphones ever can be. On top of which they have touch control, great sound and very effective noise-cancellation.
All in all, it’s getting pretty difficult to choose a pair of over-ear wireless noise-cancellers that don’t have plenty to recommend them. Getting the pair that’s perfect for you, though… that could take a little while.
Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless prove to be a knockout combination of reasonably effective noise-cancelling, luxurious build and epic sound quality. They’re perhaps not the best noise-cancelling headphones out there, but in terms of sound quality, they prove to be an irresistible pair of headphones.
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