Life at the top of the ever-rising pile of true wireless headphones can be a fickle, short-lived affair. Just a few months ago, we were praising Master & Dynamic’s MW07 as the best true wireless headphones we’d heard yet, and suddenly they’ve been usurped by a new challenger. While the speed of evolution in true wireless earbuds may be surprising, that Sennheiser’s first entry into the space would take the top marks in performance really isn’t.
Sennheiser’s Momentum true wireless earphones now stand alone as the best-in-class true wireless buds for sound quality, while adding seamless setup, impressive features, and rock-steady connection to the mix. That’s not to say they’re the best choice for everyone, though, and at $300, they’ll be a tough sell for many. Below, we’ll help you suss out whether Sennheiser’s sterling new true wireless buds should (or shouldn’t) be on your short list.
Out of the box, into your ears
Bobbing right at the high-water mark for true wireless pricing, you’d expect the Momentum to offer a premium experience from the get-go, and while the packaging is decidedly minimalist, they deliver. Google’s Pixel Buds helped make fabric cases sexy (albeit without going fully wireless) and the Momentum’s pill-shaped charging case is reminiscent of that, layered in slick gray threads that would look right at home in the pocket of 007’s iconic gray three-piece suit.
Inside, the buds shimmer with Sennheiser’s signature silver logo along their end caps. Pulling them from their magnetic charging stands sets blue and red lights flashing along the matte plastic earpieces, signaling that they’re ready to pair. Choose them in your phone’s Bluetooth menu — and presto — you’re up and running. The Momentum also auto-pair shockingly fast after setup — so fast you’ll likely miss the British voice telling you they’re ready to play.
Accessories include four pairs of silicon eartips and a strikingly short USB-C cord for charging.
In the early days of true wireless earbuds (i.e., about two years ago), all we really wanted was a pair that delivered decent sound and stayed connected, but, oh, how times have changed. Thanks in part to Apple’s well-designed (and immensely popular) AirPods, folks expect more from true wireless earbuds, including features like seamless pairing, auto-pause when pulling the buds from your ears, and quick charging for a jolt of juice when you really need it.
Gorgeous audio performance that, in the simplest terms, just sounds like Sennheiser.
The Momentum deliver all of that, and more, including an increasingly common feature, transparency mode, which allows you to pipe in ambient sound while you jam out. Advanced features like Bluetooth 5.0 and Bluetooth LE 5.0 allow the Momentum to offer no notable video lag, unshakeable wireless connection (we never had a single stutter throughout testing), and a perfectly drawn stereo image that shrugs off the wobbly stereo channels of so many cheaper models.
Unlike the Master & Dynamic buds mentioned above, the Momentum opt for touch controls to navigate playback, which comes with both pros and cons. Through basic touches, you can do everything from song skip and volume control to call reception. You can even call up your go-to assistant with a quick tap on the right bud (a held tap raises volume), though we found ourselves doing so accidentally more than we’d like.
Touch controls always have their unresponsive moments, but in general, the system works well. Making sure we used the entire pad of our finger, rather than just the tip, made for the best contact and consistent response. Sennheiser’s Smart Control app offers further options for control, including Transparency Mode settings and digital EQ to dial in your sound.
That’s all good news (especially at this price), because the one place the Momentum don’t fully deliver is battery life. At four hours of playback per charge, they fall below our favorites like Jabra’s Elite Active 65T and Apple’s own AirPods, both of which cost a lot less. What’s more, the case itself only offers two extra charges (Apple’s offers five) for 12 total hours, meaning you’ll have to keep it plugged in fairly often, which further irked us that Sennheiser didn’t throw in a longer cable.
On the run
When it comes to the fit, the buds didn’t squeeze into our ears as tightly as shown by the models on Sennheiser’s website but swapping out the default eartips for larger ones resulted in a tight seal, allowing for a firm fit, and just as importantly, full bass and a less snappy treble response.
The Momentum have a lot of fun with the fine details in more complex tracks from the likes of Radiohead and Beck
The buds are light enough to stay tight with this method, working well for basic workouts like a morning jog. While they aren’t the most comfortable we’ve put in, they work fine for longer listening sessions, too. At this price, we wish Sennheiser would’ve added full water-proofing, but the headphones do offer IPX4 splash-proofing, so as long as you aren’t positively dripping, they should hold up.
While far from perfect, none of the Momentum’s pitfalls amount to an Achilles’ heel, and that’s all the more reinforced once you hear the luscious sound these earbuds serve up. Smooth and brawny bass, a rich and ruddy midrange, and whistle-clean treble, the Momentum offer gorgeous audio performance that, in the simplest terms, just sounds like Sennheiser. While that might be a natural expectation for the brand, in the world of true wireless headphones, it’s saying a lot.
Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of the Momentum sound is the overall clarity, which is achieved in part thanks to Bluetooth add-ons like aptX, alongside a clean connection with virtually no audible signal noise. Within that construct, the Momentum thrive, delivering fuller detail — especially notable for vocals — and better instrumental definition than any pair of true wireless earbuds we’ve heard yet.
Auditioning the Momentum using our go-to testing playlist dug up plenty of thrilling moments, from the edgy, unsettling string bows of The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, to the warm and glittering acoustic collage of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide, to the buzzy electric distortion in Maybird’s Turning Into Water, in which the guitars practically dripped with glossy goodness. The earbuds also have a lot of fun with the fine details in more complex tracks from the likes of Radiohead and Beck, where each minute synth warble or electronic saw wave is given both the space to exist and the dynamic expression to grow.
These moments are made more accessible thanks to the Momentum’s impressive stereo image, which can’t compete with over-ear headphones, but holds its own with even some wired earbuds to dig out a clean soundstage that drops instruments and vocals neatly in space, both vertically and horizontally.
The only minor gripes we had came from the far ends of the sound spectrum. The treble register can occasionally get more wiry and snappy than we’d like, but it’s a nitpicky critique for the most part, and the issue was made much less apparent after we found the right eartips for our canal. On the opposite end, while bass is both rigid and musical, it sometimes gets just a little pushy, though thankfully, it never clouds the rest of the soundscape.
On that note, we think the Momentum will do a great job pleasing both bassheads and audiophiles alike. A great example would be the dazzling job the Momentum did with The Weeknd’s Starboy, which perfectly straddles the line between powerful and overbearing for a thrilling burst of smooth vocals and tight beats.Our Take
While they’re certainly no bargain, Sennheiser’s Momentum are the best-sounding true wireless earbuds you can buy, setting a new high-water mark in the ever-evolving genre. For that reason alone, the Momentum deserve consideration from anyone looking to dive into the convenience offered by true wireless design, without having to sacrifice the kind of sound performance for which Sennheiser’s storied library of headphones is famous.
What are the alternatives
There are scores of true wireless models available, but luckily for the sake of brevity, only a few we really like. For a much cheaper option (and similarly scaled-down sound performance) Apple’s AirPods are a fine choice, especially since they offer a major battery bump. For those who truly treasure sound performance, though, we recommend checking out Jabra’s Elite Active 65t, which don’t reach the heights of the Momentum’s performance, but do offer more battery life and a more rugged design for quite a bit less money.
How long will they last?
This … is a tricky question. With the latest Bluetooth protocols and excellent build quality, we expect the Momentum to hold up for years to come. The caveat is that we also expect a new Qualcomm chip to help earbud makers seriously increase battery life in the next year or so to dig up as much as double the playback time per charge.
True wireless tech is always advancing, even more rapidly than other tech segments. On the other hand, waiting for the “next-gen” is an exercise in patience (and sometimes futility), and we’ve no idea when the advances will come or what the next models will be like.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for the absolute best sound in true wireless audio — and you don’t spend hours and hours away from an outlet — Sennheiser’s Momentum are the new buds to beat. Just make sure you’ve got your credit card handy.
Updated 12-9-2018: Updated to clarify the Momentum offer an IPX4 splash-proof rating.