We take an indepth look at the new Sennheiser MOMENTUM Wireless headphones…
It says a lot about how far portable audio has come when a company as well regarded as Sennheiser release a new model at a fairly considerable price point and have its stand-out feature be Bluetooth connectivity. People are (rightly) serious about sound quality on-the-go these days, and the established brands are sitting up and taking note.
Whilst Bluetooth became ubiquitous amongst the overnight start-up headphone brands that appeared soon after the iPod’s arrival into the mainstream, bigger brands haven’t always been as keen. Bandwidth limitations meant that for best sound quality, a simple, traditional cable arrangement as in days of old was the best way to go. Updates to the core Bluetooth technology (we’re now on V4.0) have helped bring improvements in this area – but are they enough to rival more traditional designs? Practicality and portability are certainly important factors when picking a headphone, but ultimately sound quality should be top of the list of priorities. With their Momentum 2.0, Sennheiser are aiming to get all the boxes ticked. How have they fared?
The original Momentum were released amidst much fanfare in 2013, picking up a What Hi-Fi Product of the Year award amongst many others.
These headphones are an over-ear (circumaural) design, albeit one that utilises quite small cups. My ears nestled comfortably inside them and that’ll be the case for most, but a quick audition would let you know whether their relatively diminutive stature is right for you. The 2.0’s cups and headband are upholstered in luxurious leather. The rest of the frame is made from brushed steel and this pairing is perfectly matched. No doubt about it, these look and feel like a class act.
Hands on testing
Being both a Bluetooth headphone and featuring active noise-cancelling (great for noisy environments), the MOMENTUM 2.0’s needed to be plugged in to charge up before listening. Charging is via mini-USB, meaning replacement leads are easy to come by should yours go missing. Sennheiser recommend around three hours of charging to reach capacity. A 3.5mm cable (also provided) can be used with the 2.0’s – effectively turning them back into a traditional headphone. Very handy!
Controls are on the underside of the right hand cup, with the power button doubling up for Bluetooth connection duties also, with a small ‘rocker’ switch to adjust volume up and down – although this can also be done via your phone/tablet. The headphone offers a bit of assistance whilst connecting in the form of a friendly, female voice, providing relevant info like your connection status. I liked this a lot – it shows the thought process that’s gone into making this a ‘premium’ product. Connectivity was fast, my Samsung Galaxy S5 finding the Momentum in no time, and holding a solid link-up for the entire time that they were used.
First up for playback was the latest album from Bob Dylan, Shadows in the Night (ripped from CD in FLAC). Having spent a good deal of time listening to it recently (both for review here on the Tech Blog and as a fan) it was an obvious choice to try and see how the 2.0‘s would present familiar music. Right off the bat I was impressed, the scale of the soundstage was superb for a closed-back headphone, with instrument separation particularly impressive. Dylan’s weathered vocals were expressive and clear, as was the band’s playing. If I didn’t know they were Bluetooth headphones, I don’t think I’d have guessed, and that’s high praise given some of the sets that have come before them.
Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians was next up, an album that offers a great test of dynamics and timing. As the chord structures shift and sway throughout the record’s 14 tracks, themes are built up, torn down and revisited. Again, the 2.0’s gave an excellent showing. The separation in the often dense passages was brilliant. Tried against the Sennheiser HD700, the performance was special in its own particular way. The HD700 are an open-back model, and as such were able to give more width and space to the music, but the Momentum offered a more rounded, cohesive telling of the tracks. The sound leakage of the HD700 makes them almost entirely impractical for outdoor use, so to have a headphone compete so well on the HD700’s home turf and still be so practical, was outstanding.
Switching to the cable for comparison brought almost no difference to proceedings. I struggled and strained to hear anything that might give the game away and show up the wireless connection, but it just wasn’t there.
The noise cancelling worked well, making light work of the rush-hour traffic outside our busy shop front. Used for day to day travel, this would really be a great way to isolate yourself from the hustle and bustle.
What we thought…
Having owned and used many pairs of top-end headphones over the past few years, I can honestly say that the MOMENTUM 2.0 Wireless easily stand out in their price range and category. They gave a confident, assured and thoroughly enjoyable performance of everything I threw at them, and they were comfortable, practical and stylish, to boot. A real triumph for their manufacturer and something everyone should audition when considering how to get the best out of their music both indoors and out.
Author – Chris, Liverpool store