Sennheiser may have a wide-ranging line-up of headphones, but it's never offered anything like the Momentum before: a high-performance, audiophile-oriented headphone that's been specifically designed for use with phones and other portable music players.
Not surprisingly, it's rather pricey, but at least it looks like a sophisticated, premium item, with a leather-covered, brushed stainless-steel headband and nicely padded ear cushions. No, you won't mistake the Momentum for a mostly plastic Beats by Dr Dre or Ludacris model. It also doesn't sound like those trendy lines. Nowhere near as bass-heavy or pumped-up, the Momentum headphones sound crisp and clear with all types of music and movies. While they may not be perfect, they're easily among the best-sounding headphones in this price range.
Design and features
At first, the Momentum was only available in brown, but now it comes in a black version as well. Both have leather-covered ear pads and a leather-covered headband. The metallic-finished ear cups can be moved up and down on the slotted steel headband to conform to the listener's head shape and size. This is a closed-back design and offers moderate isolation from external noise.
One potential downside for some buyers is that the Momentum model's headband isn't hinged, so the headphones won't fold flat. Then again, hinges are usually a weak point in headphone designs and are prone to breaking.
When you put them on, the first thing you notice is that they're unusually light for full-size, over-the-ear headphones, weighing only 190 grams (6.7 ounces). Comfort is usually a Sennheiser strong suit, and at first, the headphones seemed very comfortable. But over longer listening sessions I found that the nicely cushioned ear pads put more pressure against the tops of my ears than the bottoms, and I was a little too aware of the thinly padded headband resting on my head. Of course, every head is different, so the Momentums may be perfectly comfy on your head, but I thought their comfort level was a tad disappointing.
In terms of extras, you get two cables, a 52-inch one with an Apple-compatible three-button remote and microphone, and a 56-inch-long "plain" cable. The Apple cable has a hinged, all-metal plug at the end that connects to your phone, so it can be set to be vertical or up at a 90-degree angle. The in-line remote is also all-metal, which, combined with the all-metal plug, adds a luxury feel that can't be matched by the usual plastic construction of the competitors' cables.
Both Sennheiser cables terminate in 3.5mm plugs at each end, and both cords feature connectors that can "lock" into the receptacle in the left ear cup, so there's no chance they will accidentally fall out. The Momentum headphones' impedance is rated at 18 ohms.
Other accessories include a beautifully finished, cloth-covered hard carrying case and a 6.3mm gold-plated adapter jack. The Momentum comes with a two-year parts-and-labour warranty; proof of purchase is required to make a warranty claim.
The Momentum headphones sound remarkably crisp, clear and accurate; they don't have the usual bass or mid-range emphasis that's common to many headphones designed for use with phones and portable music players. Yes, the Bowers & Wilkins P5 noise-isolating headphones are an obvious competitor, though the P5s have a smaller, on-ear design, while the Momentums are full-size and over the ear. In direct comparisons between the two models, in bass, mid-range and treble clarity, the Momentum headphones trounced the P5s, and not by a small amount. The P5s sounded thicker and muddier, the stereo soundstage was narrower and they were slightly less comfortable to wear.
Brian Eno's ambient tunes from his recent Small Craft on a Milk Sea album generated a huge, out-of-head stereo effect on the Momentum headphones, and switching between it and the V-Moda M-100 pair, the sound was very different. The M-100s were tonally darker and more subdued; there was a lot less detail coming from them. Ah, but those V-Moda headphones made a lot more bass than the Momentums. Not that the bass from the Momentums was lightweight or lacking in any way, the M-100s simply have more. While I felt the Momentum headphones' bass level was more accurate and slightly better defined, if you listen to music that sounds best with extra bass, you might prefer the M-100 model. It's a matter of taste.
I also watched a few movies and some of my favourite Mad Men episodes, and the Momentums' wide-open sound made it easy to forget that I was wearing headphones. In scenes with off-screen action, like phones ringing in other offices, the sound seemed to be coming from far away. That spacious quality may make the Momentum headphones especially attractive to buyers who want to wear them while watching movies.
The Sennheiser Momentum headphones will appeal to audiophiles or anyone looking for full-size, over-the-ear headphones that sound equally good with a wide variety of music genres. Build quality is superb, and the handsome design is a nice alternative to more hip-hop and fashion-oriented headphones like the Beats line. This much I can say for sure: the Momentum headphones are the most accurate I've tested for use with portable devices. However, that also means they probably won't be the right ones for buyers seeking maximum bass power and impact.
Setting aside the small comfort issues I encountered (you may not experience them), these are clearly among the best-sounding headphones in their price class. And for some, they may actually be the best.