Sennheiser Momentum Review

It’s never an easy decision to spend $350 on a set of cans, but if you’re going to, you could do a whole lot worse than the Momentum – we see people do it every day.
It’s never an easy decision to spend $350 on a set of cans, but if you’re going to, you could do a whole lot worse than the Momentum – we see people do it every day.
It’s never an easy decision to spend $350 on a set of cans, but if you’re going to, you could do a whole lot worse than the Momentum – we see people do it every day.

Highs

  • Clear with solid range
  • Balanced sound for all genres
  • Noise isolation works well
  • Lightweight
  • Thoughtful and elegant design

Lows

  • Not foldable
  • A little pricey

In an era where celebrity-themed headphones and mobile devices reign supreme, Sennheiser has had to figure out where it fits in. As a company already in audiophiles’ good books, there is an opportunity to show they can play the style and substance game better than their flashy competitors.

This is where the Momentum over-ear headphones come in. Sophisticated, elegant and made with stainless steel and leather, you won’t confuse these with the plastic of Beats by Dr. Dre or Soul by Ludacris. That might help justify the $350 price tag, but the real value comes in performance, where the Momentum is able to take music from any genre and make it sound like it should for headphones in this range.

Not to be confused with the $1,000-plus headphones Sennheiser is known for, the Momentum aim to cater to more than just audiophiles. We happen to love all kinds of music, so we wondered if it could appeal to all music lovers out there. Taking that approach, here’s how it all sounded.

Out of the box

Sennheiser doesn’t do cheap packaging, and anyone who has bought a pricey pair from them will probably attest to that. Cutting the red ribbon to open the box is a little like the ceremonial ribbon-cutting photo ops you see in local papers, only in this case, you actually get to be the beneficiary.

The box opens up like an oversized jewelry box, albeit with another red ribbon at the bottom ensuring that it always stays open on an angle. The neatly padded interior foam is something you’ve seen before, though the manuals packet on the left that says “The Pursuit of Perfect Sound” might attract your attention first. On the right, you see the case you’re expected to keep the Momentum in – a hard shell fabric case accented by red stitching around the edges.

We zipped the case open and there they were; black with red cables (the brown version came to market before the black), and snugly in place. We pulled them out, then removed a Velcro piece to discover an accessories compartment inside. Aside from the standard 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cable with playback controls and microphone, you get a secondary cable with no controls, and a separate ¼-inch gold-plated adapter.

Features and design

Sennheiser clearly wants the Momentum to be a classy headphone, yet fashionable enough to appeal to a broad demographic. The stainless steel headband is covered by neatly-stitched leather, as are the earcups, which have soft, malleable leather pads that feel good when pressed over your ears.

While the level of bass might not be enough for those who love music that revels in it, we didn’t mind so much.

Adjusting for size requires moving the ear cups up or down a slit along the lower end of the headband. Movement is smooth but sturdy, so that there’s no chance of the cups sliding back to an uncomfortable position after prolonged use. This design choice also means there’s no rotating mechanism to allow the Momentum to be folded up for compact carrying or travel.

The left ear cup is home to a 2.5mm jack for the included dual-pronged cables. Rather than making it too obvious to note which is the right or left side, the plug is usually the best indicator, but there are markings for both sides on the inside of the headband.

The red cables leading from the top of the ear cups and into the leather-covered headband may give the Momentum a stylized look and a touch of color, but we aren’t overly fond of that design choice – it just feels like they protrude too much.

The headphones’1.2-meter cable is nicely thought out. When you plug in the 2.5mm side into the left can, a slight turn “locks” it into place, so that it won’t come out accidentally. The 3.5mm plug at the other end has a hinge that lets you plug into your device straight-on in or bend it up to 90-degrees, adding a level of versatility to something we tend to take for granted. And in keeping with the higher-end feel of the headphones, the playback control piece is also metallic with Apple-ready volume buttons and play/pause on the front, along with a microphone on the back for hands-free calls.

Using thin, yet strong stainless steel means the Momentum have a thinner profile than some of the plastic celebrity or DJ-inspired models, and the oval-shaped cups were ergonomic enough not to pinch our ears after listening to a full album. At no point did we feel we were wearing something cheap and fragile.

Comfort

At 190 grams (6.7 ounces), the Momentum never felt heavy when worn, which is impressive given the materials used to make them. It helped that the desired size we chose never shifted, even after hours or days of repeated use. Though there’s always going to be a level of fatigue after wearing any set for a while, these never felt like a burden.

Audio performance

Upon first listening to music on the Momentum, we were pleasantly surprised – and not because we didn’t think Sennheiser could do it, but because they didn’t come off as a pair of watered-down cans meant for the masses. Where celebrity-infused headphones go heavy on the bass and cut corners on the mids and highs, the Momentum always sounded as if they had been specifically voiced for the track we were listening to.

Still, we were a little surprised at just how much balance and crisp sound came through on our first test. We instantly noted that the bass wasn’t as artificially pumped up as that of Beats or Street by 50 Cent, and that kept the mids and highs coming through with detail and definition. Whether it was listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” or “Fire We Make” by Alicia Keys, we never experienced that muddy sound that comes part and parcel with headphones that dial down the treble or oversaturate the bass.

Sennheiser-Momentum-review-headband-slideTo get a sense for what the Momentum are capable of, we listened to tunes from no less than 10 different genres – hip hop, R&B, classic rock, alternative, house, 80s, 90s Euro dance, smooth jazz, movie soundtracks and little bit of Latin. We also threw in some live tracks to get a feel for how well the Momentum delivered that “you are there” effect. The mix of instruments and arrangements in all of those give them unique sounds, but we were pleased to see that the headphones managed to handle them all without any glaring weaknesses seeping in. While the level of bass might not be enough for those who love music that revels in it, we didn’t mind so much.

Vocals benefit a great deal from the Momentum’s considerate treatment, primarily thanks to their knack for delivering rich and lively tones that are neither artificially enhanced nor buried beneath the melodies. The Momentum don’t deliver a wealth of subtleties or jaw-dropping depth in the same way some of Sennheiser’s more expensive models do, but we still think they excel for their price point. They aren’t really designed for kicking back and listening to uncompressed music files on a high-end system (though you could do that), but they are particularly well suited for carving out the best possible sound from low-powered mobile devices such as phones, tablets and laptop computers.

…the Momentum always sounded as if they had been specifically voiced for the track we were listening to.

In that respect, the Momentum were perfect for watching TV shows and movies on any of those devices. Dialogue and background sounds were rendered with plenty of depth and space – we got a strong sense for which direction background sounds were coming from. This was a welcome effect, considering bass-heavy cans tend to mute those sorts of spatial cues.

The Momentum do offer some decent passive noise isolation, but without active noise cancellation, watching a show or listening to low-level music in a crowded or loud environment was a bit challenging. The good news is that the Momentum hold together well at high volumes, so if noise is a problem, you can always out-muscle it.

Conclusion

Sennheiser’s Momentum mantra is “the symphony of perfection” and “the pursuit of perfect sound”. It would be a stretch to consider them “perfect,” but that’s ok – they’re not targeted at audiophiles, necessarily. But these stylish cans from Sennheiser do make a compelling case for quality sound in a trendy headphone in the increasingly murky world of flashy, celeb-backed headphones. It’s never an easy decision to spend $350 on a set of cans, but if you’re going to, you could do a whole lot worse than the Momentum – we see people do it every day.

Highs

  • Clear with solid range
  • Balanced sound for all genres
  • Noise isolation works well
  • Lightweight
  • Thoughtful and elegant design

Lows

  • Not foldable
  • A little pricey
Product Review

These triple-driver headphones sound gimmicky -- until you listen

1More has taken its penchant for multiple drivers into the big leagues with the Triple Driver Over-ear, which offer stylish design and an equally stylized sound signature for another great entry from the Chinese brand.
Home Theater

Learn how to calibrate your home theater speakers for sheer audio bliss

Make your home theater rumble just right with our manual speaker setup guide, a simple, step-by-step walkthrough to getting the most from your audio equipment without needing to rely on imperfect automatic calibration.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Movies & TV

‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler gets assist on LeBron James’ ‘Space Jam 2’

LeBron James has brought on Black Panther director Ryan Coogler to produce his upcoming Space Jam sequel, with Terence Nance attached to direct the film. Space Jam 2 is expected to begin production in 2019.
Product Review

The Sony UBP-X700 brings your 4K TV to life, without draining your savings

If you're after the best possible picture for your 4K TV, you're going to need a disc player. With a compact form factor, extremely easy setup, and great picture and sound quality, the Sony UBP-X700 may be just the ticket.
Home Theater

DirecTV Now: Everything you need to know

If you’re looking to ditch your cable or satellite subscription, DirecTV Now could be the perfect service for you. Our comprehensive guide breaks the service down feature by feature so you can see if it's right for you.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Home Theater

How to make your TV squeaky clean for not much green

Not sure how to clean the LCD, OLED, or plasma display that's the cornerstone of your living room? You don't need to buy expensive cleaning solutions to clean your TV -- we'll teach you how to do it with simple household items.
Smart Home

That's a lotta Alexa. Amazon drops smart subs, plugs, even a microwave

Amazon's hardware announcement likely means a whole bunch of new Amazon Alexa gadgets. From a microwave to stereo equipment, here are our guesses on which devices we'll see, which could total as many as eight.
Home Theater

Amazon’s horde of new Alexa-powered audio gear includes subwoofer, new amplifier

Amazon's quest to take over the world with its Alexa voice assistant just got a bit closer to realization, as the company has unleashed an army of new audio devices. We've got the low-down on all of them here.
Home Theater

Amazon’s Fire TV Recast promises over-the-air shows, DVR for all your screens

Amazon has set its sights on the cord-cutting crowd with a new over-the-air HD receiver and DVR called the Fire TV Recast. The box, which starts at $229, can record two programs at the same time and stream live content to Fire TV devices.
Home Theater

What’s new on Hulu and what’s leaving in October 2018

Our complete list of what's new on Hulu for October 2018, our personal favorites, and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on all the site has to offer -- and also ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming…