Ever since Sony launched the WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds in 2019, they’ve been the “buds to beat” in almost every sense. With killer sound, battery life, and active noise cancellation, there is very little these earbuds don’t get right.
But personal audio tech — especially in the true wireless category — is on hyperdrive right now, and even the best don’t get to stay at the top for long. So now that Sennheiser has released an ANC-equipped second version of its pricey-yet-powerful Momentum True Wireless earbuds, the question is: Has Sony met its match?
We put these kings of true wireless audio head-to-head to find out. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Sony’s top-of-the-line true wireless earbuds started life selling for $230, which put the WF-1000XM3 in something of a sweet spot. It made them $19 cheaper than Apple’s AirPods Pro (another great ANC option) and $30 more expensive than the Jabra Elite Active 75t — a superb choice for non-ANC true wireless.
That price has been known to be even more competitive: Earlier this year, Sony temporarily dropped the price to $200.
Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2, at $300, come in at very nearly the top of the range for these gadgets. It’s the same price as the excellent Master and Dynamic MW07 Plus, which we’ve previously called the best sound you can get in a set of true wireless buds. As far as we know, only Bang and Olufsen’s sky-high Beoplay E8 cost more at $350.
Sony definitely has the edge here with a minimum $70 savings over the Momentum True Wireless 2, but perhaps Sennheiser can justify its higher price with better performance.
Design, comfort, and fit
As far as true wireless earbuds go, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are outliers design-wise. Their outer shell — the part everyone sees — is an elongated oval and it looks more like the first hands-free Bluetooth headsets that hit the market more than a decade ago.
For some, that makes them a bit hard to love. But there’s no denying that despite the clunky look, they fit very comfortably and their larger size actually makes them a little easier to insert and remove than other designs. Their touch/tap-sensitive surfaces are easy to use.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 maintain the same design as the first generation, but with a slightly smaller overall size. It’s a more common approach to earbuds these days with its compact, round shape. Still, despite the smaller body, the new Momentums still protrude from the ears quite noticeably. Comfort and fit are better now that the earbuds are smaller, but it’s not a significant change.
In a subjective category such as this, it’s always hard to declare a winner. Given that neither product has any glaring issues or any outstanding features, we’re calling this one a draw.
Normally an easy category to assign, the question of battery life gets tricky when comparing the WF-1000XM3 and Momentum True Wireless 2.
Sennheiser claims seven hours of battery life for the Momentum True Wireless 2, a number that would appear to best the WF-1000XM3, which only claims six hours. But there’s more to the story.
That seven-hour number is based on keeping noise-canceling turned off when using the Momentum True Wireless 2, as opposed to Sony’s number, which is based on having ANC turned on. Once you turn on ANC on the Momentums, their longevity drops to about 5.5 hours. Sennheiser doesn’t actually state this on its product page, so there’s a bit of buyer beware at play here.
Not only does WF-1000XM3 deliver better battery life with ANC turned on, but also with ANC turned off: The WFs can deliver up to eight hours, compared to the Momentum’s seven.
When you factor in the capacity of the charging cases, these gaps grow larger: With ANC off, Sony promises 32 hours of total listening time, and Sennheiser claims 28 hours. Turning ANC on, Sony delivers 24 hours, and we extrapolate that the Momentums will give you 22 hours, assuming that the ratio of recharges remains the same.
Whether you choose to use ANC or not, there’s no denying that the WF-1000XM3 can last longer if you need them to.
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this comparison, we picked the Momentum True Wireless 2 as the winner of the battery life category; however, that was based on a belief that Sennheiser’s claimed number of seven hours was an ANC-on value. Instead, it’s an ANC-off number.
Another tough one. Whether it’s the ability to summon voice assistants with a tap, control volume and playback, or instantly be able to hear the outside world, these two true wireless models are virtually neck-and-neck. Both have optional apps that let you customize controls, EQ, and more. Both can give you 90 minutes of listening time after 10 minutes of charging. Even their charging cases are remarkably similar in that neither offers wireless charging and both use USB-C.
However, there are a few small differences. The WF-1000XM3’s charging case is a tad smaller and more pocketable, and they are compatible with Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa (the Momentums don’t work with Alexa). But Sennheiser has given the Momentum True Wireless 2 an official IPX4 rating and the earbuds have built-in equalizers.
We don’t think these make for compelling reasons to go with one over the other.
We’re finally at the point where Sony’s once-dominant WF-1000XM3 are now paying the price for being one of the first true wireless earbuds with ANC. They’re still excellent, but Apple’s AirPods Pro are a bit better, and the Momentum True Wireless 2 are better still.
In some ways, Sennheiser was naturally better suited to take advantage of ANC. When you start with superb sound quality as Sennheiser has done, any level of ANC quality will only make it better. As it turns out, Sennheiser’s ANC isn’t just any level of quality — it’s very good.
Sony, you had a good run, and we recognize that if you hadn’t set the bar so high, others might not be as good today. But Sennheiser is very good — good enough, in fact, to take this round.
Winner: Momentum True Wireless 2
Here’s another category where Sony has reliably stood up to most challengers. But when we say “most,” we do not mean Sennheiser. Sennheiser’s original Momentum True Wireless were our instant favorites for sound quality when they launched and only the Master and Dynamic MW07 Plus ever posed a credible threat. This, despite the fact that Sony’s DSEE HX audio upscaling technology is usually touted as a game-changer for lossy digital music.
The Momentum True Wireless 2 didn’t do much to improve on the original’s superb acoustics, but they didn’t have to. With a level of detail across every audible frequency — including powerful yet balanced bass — the Momentums are true wireless audio bliss. Android users will also be happy to know they support aptX in addition to AAC, to maximize on their impressive capabilities.
Winner: Momentum True Wireless 2
Momentum True Wireless 2
If you’re looking for the current state-of-the-art when it comes to true wireless sound quality and ANC, it’s no contest: The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are amazing.
However, if the idea of saving some money while still getting excellent audio and noise-cancellation is appealing to you, don’t forget it wasn’t that long ago that the WF-1000XM3 were the king of the true wireless hill. And when it comes to battery life, they’re clearly more than a match for most (if not all) of the current batch of true wireless earbuds.
- The best true wireless earbuds for 2020
- The best noise-canceling earbuds for 2020
- The best headphones for 2020
- The best earbuds for 2020
- The best AirPods Pro alternatives