Sennheiser’s new flagship headphones, the third generation of its popular Momentum Wireless series, have been generating a lot of buzz since they debuted at IFA 2019 in Berlin in early September. Given the current state of wireless noise-canceling headphones, many (including us) were quick to ask: How do Sennheiser’s latest pair of cans compare to industry favorites like the Sony WH-1000xM3?
Well, we’ve crunched the numbers so you don’t have to. Here’s what’s great (and not so great) about each pair of headphones, and what might guide your shopping decision.
While both the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless and Sony WH-1000xM3 models offer simple, elegant lines, the Sony model takes on a more utilitarian exterior. The headband is lighter and covered in plastic, and the outside of each earcup is coated in a soft leather. The headband is thick, the earpads are plush, and the overall aesthetic is a pair of clean-looking headphones that seem purpose-built for serving your comfort and musical needs, rather than matching your outfit.
The Momentum, on the other hand, have a bit more style. They come with egg-shaped retro earcups and a metal headband with a thinner (and significantly less comfortable) leather-coated padding. These design choices may compromise their comfort overall, but they make them very striking to look at, and they don’t make the headphones so uncomfortable that they aren’t worth buying — it’s just that the designers didn’t have “comfort” as their top objective.
There are more clues that the latest pair of Momentum headphones are meant less for travel than the Sony model. Both pairs of headphones come inside cases, but Sennheiser’s case is more bulky and offers less protection for your cans on the go. The Sony headphones are better protected, and also fold completely flat for storage, making them easier to take along.
One of the biggest differences between the headphones is how you control them. The WH-1000XM3 have a touch-sensitive pad on the outside of each earcup, where the Momentum Wireless opt for buttons on the right earcup. Both serve their purposes well, but the Sony headphones offer a feature that temporarily lets you cup one ear to temporarily pipe in sound from the outside world — nice for when you need to order a drink or hear an announcement.
Both pairs of headphones have pressure sensors on the pads that will play or pause music when you take them on or off, but Sennheiser takes intuitive controls even further. The Momentum Wireless 3 don’t have a power button. To turn them on or off, you simply open or close the headphones’ hinges. This makes using them extremely easy; by the time you pull them out of the case and put them on your head, they’re paired and ready to go.
While both pairs offer high-quality noise-canceling, the Sony model wins a head-to-head battle on noise reduction, performing significantly better in loud environments like airplanes and on public transit. Still, the Momentum 3 are more than able to silence conversations and keyboard clicks in an open-plan office, and, like Sony’s model, they offer great transparency features that let you hear exactly as much of the outside world as you want.
The Momentum 3 are the better headphones for calls, with an array of microphones and digital signal processing that seems to pick up everything you want it to hear and virtually none of what you don’t.
Regardless of which pair you fancy, you’ll almost certainly have enough juice to get you through the day. Battery life is 17 hours on the Momentum 3 (relatively middling for headphones that cost $400, but still long enough for nearly everyone) and a full 30 hours for the WH-1000xM3.
The Sennheiser headphones are better at some things, but given WH-1000xM3’s superior battery life, noise-canceling, and nifty touch controls — as well as the fact that they cost $50 less — they take the win.
Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3
With aptX HD, great noise canceling, and excellent digital-to-analog converters onboard each of these headphones, you’re going to thoroughly enjoy whichever pair you’re listening to. On fidelity alone, however, we’d definitely go with the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3.
They offer a vibrant soundstage with tons of separation, a wide stereo image, and what can only be described as joyous tuning; they make anything you listen to sound great, and they make great songs sound even better.
While they have a much better EQ bundled into the Sony Connect app, the WH-1000XM3 are a bit more clinical and flat than the Momentum 3 — they just aren’t quite as dynamic or widely spaced, especially down low. Still, while the Sennheiser pair takes the win, Sony’s pair make virtually all music sound fantastic, and let you tune them to your heart’s content.
Winner: Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
These headphones are clearly meant for two different kinds of buyers. The Sony are for the business traveler who needs a Swiss army knife of sound, and Sennheiser’s pair are designed for someone who wants fantastic sound, great looks, and cares less about go-anywhere capability (though they are still capable).
While we love each of these models, if we were picking a pair based on all-around usability we’d go with the Sony WH-1000XM3 for a single, relatively rare reason: They cost $50 less. At $350, they are better than the Sennheisers in virtually every way that makes headphones more enjoyable but one: The sound. If we’re going on sound alone, we’ll take the Sennheiser Momentum 3. But that’s really not much of a surprise.
Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3
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