It would take quite a lot to have me give up my favourite headphones. Earphones come and go (though I have my favourites), but for headphones, it’s been a long time since I’ve used (or wanted to use) anything other than Bose’ QC 35 IIs. I’m fussy when it comes to things on my head. I want something light and comfortable, I don’t want cables, I want good audio quality and I want battery life that’s long enough to get through a flight.
Sennheiser promised me that it’s Momentum Wireless over-ear headphones would deliver in each of these areas, and so I took them at their word and took them over to Berlin for a week to cover IFA 2019 (which is the event they were launched at). So much stock did I put in their promises that I didn’t actually take any Bose gear at all. I used the Momentum Wireless cans on the plane, on the ground, and between events to handle my audio needs – about the only place they didn’t go was the gym because I didn’t want to stink them up, but otherwise, everywhere they went.
And, if I’m being honest, they did pretty well. There’s a few areas I didn’t quite like, but they were definitely few in number. On the whole, Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless headphones are a great set, and at just under $600, they’d want to be.
What are they?
Momentum Wireless are Sennheiser’s premium line wireless headphones, promising a “ground-breaking, premium headphone experience” with superior sound, cutting-edge technology and a modern-day design aesthetic.
I’m not sure that all of this is necessarily true, but that doesn’t detract from the overall product.Put simply, these are over-hear headphones with active noise cancelling and integration with your voice of voice assistant. Nothing remarkable in that. There’s many headphones that offer this, and most of them don’t cost $600.
Like most other headphones, Momentum Wireless lets you pair to two devices at once – e.g. a laptop and your mobile – to consume media, make and take phone calls, and drown out the background noise in unpleasant environments.
These functions Sennheiser’s gear does quite well. The active noise cancellation has a hear-through “Transparent Hearing” mode which lets you hear what’s going on around you without the background drone. If you picture the difference between having a conversation on a plane with background noise vs no background noise, you’re in the right place. Unfortunately, it does feel a little unnatural as you’re not directly hearing what’s around you, but rather a filtered version through your headphones. It can be a little disconcerting.
If you’re in a noisy environment – such as a data centre, where I tried them out – they do a good job at ditching the background noise (dull fan noises) while letting you maintain a conversation with someone else (or a phone call). That’s a worthy feature.
There’s also the premium leather construction, both on the ear cups and the inside of the head band which makes them rather comfortable for longer periods. I did find, though, that the ear cup design was such that things got a little warm in there while walking around, so these probably aren’t headphones you want to take to the gym or for more vigorous exercise.
How do they go?
There’s no glaring issues, no. I found the design quite elegant and comfortable, and while I wouldn’t call the design ultra modern – the matte steel arms look a bit retro, and they do stand out a little – they’re certainly enjoyable enough to wear.
One thing which might be confusing for new customers is the lack of a power button – these headphones power off when folded up, and power on when unfolded. Annoyingly, this means that if you take them off and leave them sitting on a desk (without folding the arms in) your headphones will go flat, leaving you without music when you might want or need it. It took a couple of cycles through this process for me to remember to fold them up when I take them off.
I also had a couple of issues with Bluetooth pairing between multiple devices – sometimes the Momentum Wireless headphones would get a little confused as to what they should be connecting to, but the limited user interface (there’s just one Bluetooth button and it only does one thing) means telling the headphones which device to connect to can be a bit of trial and error.
That said, this is hardly peculiar to Sennheiser’s headphones – Bose QC 35 IIs have the same problem, and it’s equally annoying.
One feature I really rather liked was the charging – unlike Bose, which still uses Micro USB, Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless uses USB-C meaning one less cable to carry around when you’re out and about (or, in my case, overseas).
Another useful feature – depending on your location – is the in-built Tile powered tracker. If you misplace your headphones, you can use the Tile app to track them down, and if another Tile user happens to walk past where you’ve left your Momentum Wireless headphones, then you’re in luck – you’ll get a ping telling you were to go looking.
Probably the only reason to genuinely look elsewhere is the price at $599.95 suggested retail pricing, Momentum Wireless truly aren’t cheap. Considering you can get headphones which much the same features and comfort for $350-$399, you’d want to get something extra from Sennheiser to make the price a bit more palatable.
Fortunately, the audio quality is truly excellent – as Sennheiser usually delivers – and for the audiophile, there’s few real comparisons to make. These are simply better than the competition.
How much better? Is it $300 better? That’s up to you. I’d suggest you’d really care about audio quality to make that leap.