Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless Headphones Review
The third generation of Sennheiser’s premium over-ear, noise-cancelling wireless headphone is here. Matthew Jens listens in…
Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones
In-ear and on-ear phones may be making the headphone weather right now, but over-ear designs are where the major players in the head-fi world go to really make a statement. As many readers will know, Sennheiser has an auspicious history in this market sector, manufacturing market-leading designs for many decades.
Nowadays, the over-ear headphone market is comprised of two main segments – traditional wired designs and wireless noise-cancelling types. The former has traditionally been the province of so-called 'serious' audiophiles, with the latter more focused towards music on the move. However, wireless phones are beginning to raise their game now, and some are getting good enough for serious music use in noisy workplaces, or on trains, buses and aeroplanes. Sony and Bose have recently captured this market, and now it's Sennheiser's turn to try…
In the past few years, the German company has been trying to do precisely this with its Momentum models, of which this is the latest. Although the manufacturer officially dubs it “Momentum Wireless”, the audiophile community has come to call it “Momentum 3” because it's the third generation of the line. It reaches the market at $599 – slap-bang in the middle of the fray, ready to fight it out with the recently released Bowers & Wilkins PX7 and Bose Noise Cancelling 700.
Sennheiser's illustrious hi-fi and pro-audio designs of yesteryear mean that there can be no excuses made for its new Momentum Wireless. Its predecessor, although highly capable, was beginning to seem a little long in the tooth – with its micro USB and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity suddenly seeming to hail from a bygone era. This new model, therefore, has to both more flexible, better made and sound superior to the outgoing model. No pressure, then…
Much like its predecessors, the Momentum 3 is a made of premium materials, with solid matt steel arms and a genuine leather padded headband. Together these make for a lightweight yet classy feeling product, with tight engineering tolerances and a quality finish. Alongside this, Sennheiser has built-in some intelligent thinking so – for example – when folding the arms inward for storage, the power is turned off automatically.
The Momentum Wireless has a USB-C port, a new transparent hearing feature, a proximity sensor for pausing your music when you're not wearing the headphones, and Tile integration. The latter is an American company that produces small Bluetooth keyrings that pair with a phone app, which can assist in locating them. When activated, these keyrings will make a loud noise to allow you to find it hidden underneath your couch. This same technology is also in the new Momentum, which utilises its haptic vibration motor as well as a polite chime to ensure you can always find this pair of phones. It's a great feature.
The Smart Control app from Sennheiser allows plenty of adjustments, such as setting the level of noise-cancelling, tweaking the transparent hearing settings, and activating the single-band EQ. These options aren't stored on the app but in the pair of headphones itself. That way, preferences and settings – such as the EQ adjustments – transfer across to any source device you choose to listen to.
With no touch controls, the Momentum Wireless has once again made the welcome decision to go for buttons over an inevitably fiddly touch panel. Only this time, there's one more button than before – Siri and Google Assistant are now included, and have a standalone one-touch button for activation.
On the connectivity front, the new Momentum employs a Bluetooth 5.0 connection running SBC, aptX, aptX Low Latency and AAC codecs. Compared to the previous model's Bluetooth 4.0 connection, this newer revision helps to boost the listening range from being several metres away, to several rooms away. Bluetooth pairing is made easy with the included NFC chip. When you prefer a cabled connection, the Momentum also allows for audio input via its USB-C port, or via the included 3.5mm headphone jack.
Thankfully, all this gadgetry doesn't rob the Momentum of its comfort. While it shares a similar clamping force to its Bose NC700 rival, this pair of phones has the bonus of having thicker replaceable pads for its sizeable 42mm transducers, which come as a relief during longer flights. Even with more involved listening sessions, my ears didn't heat up to uncomfortable levels.
Sennheiser claims that the rechargeable lithium battery lasts 17 hours, which is a slight step backwards from the previous Momentum model, rated at 22. Both are a far cry from the 30 hours that the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 claims. Still, in real-world use, I didn't find the Sennheiser lacking in this department, and over the few weeks I was using this pair of headphones, I only charged it a few times. It really won't be an issue to most users.
Once I hooked up an iPad Pro and a Galaxy Note 10+ to the new Momentum Wireless, I was taken aback by three things – its clarity, power and soundstaging. For example, when listening to 40 Winks by Jonwayne, I found every single lyric to be presented with great clarity and transparency. Despite being quite a busy track, the samples, bassline and vocal components were all very easily placed in the mix. Each and every layer of this song was easily picked out and placed neatly on top of one another, without any muddiness or smearing.
Also, the bass on the Momentum Wireless is epic – indeed on this particular track, it might hit too heavy for some. Thankfully the built-in EQ makes it easy to tweak right back into place. This is a truly handy feature, and not one shared by other competitors in this price range – indeed it might just become an audiophile's best friend during a long-haul flight! Dynamic range is also excellent, making this headphone ideal for a wide range of musical genres. Even when listening to more gentle pieces such as unfold by Ólafur Arnalds, the fun and colourful tonal character of the proprietary Sennheiser transducers immediately came to light, with dollops of warmth and a particularly rich midrange.
With noise-cancelling switched on, even the most quiet and subtle details hidden deep within this song are communicated with ease. There are elements to the sonic signature that are very reminiscent of the older cousins in the hi-fi department at Sennheiser – such as the evergreen HD600 – except this is a Bluetooth version, with a killer thump in its bassline. The combination of power, clarity, speed and expansive soundstaging lead to a sonically immersive experience. This wasn't just for music, as I found well-mastered TV shows and movies a riveting experience too.
Compared to the Bowers & Wilkins PX7, I found the Momentum Wireless to have a more even and balanced sound signature, while the former sports a darker and meatier sound. The latter also offers a more immersive and vibrant audio experience than the Bose NC700 as well, which appears a little thin and lifeless by comparison.
When it's time to get down to business, the call quality of this headphone certainly did not disappoint, on either end of the call. When the phone rings, the music fades out, and the headphone will gently vibrate to notify you of the call. Combining this communication prowess with the capable noise-cancelling ability turned the Momentum Wireless into a compelling office companion.
One area that past versions of this design have struggled with is noise-cancelling; users sometimes claimed that they let too much noise into the earcup. This time around, it seems that the tech has had an upgrade. It includes three different levels of strength which are adjustable via the app. The sheer force of the noise-cancelling might not quite have the edge over its Bose NC700 rival. However, it's still competent enough to give you plenty of peace when on public transport or in a busy office, and is more than capable when onboard a flight.
While Sennheiser's new Momentum Wireless is priced directly on par with its competitors, it has a few tricks up its sleeve that the others don't. Having a built-in EQ will be a lifesaver for some, and being able to fold up into a compact little package is vital for the seasoned road warrior. With this in mind, although the headphone is now entering its third incarnation, it has come out swinging hard and fast – and shows no signs of slowing down. If you're looking for a premium noise-cancelling headphone and aren't entirely satisfied with the sound of the Bose offerings, this is an essential audition.
For more information, visit Sennheiser.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.
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