There are two major audio titans competing for the top spot in the active noise-cancelling headphones category: the Bose 700 and Sennheiser Momentum 3.
Since its late-summer launch, the Bose 700 (much like its predecessor, the Bose QC35 II) has remained the gold standard for noise neutralization in wireless headphones, thanks to next-gen ANC technology that also elevates sound performance and call quality. But that isn’t the only reason why it’s currently our number one pick for the best noise-cancelling headphones.
The Momentum 3 has been several years in the making and holds up many of the series’ signature facets, from the sleek aesthetics to the superior audio quality. Sennheiser’s made improvements to its noise-cancelling circuitry as well, while adding some modern features into the mix (e.g. adjustable EQ, Tile integration). On paper, the headphones definitely sound like a worthy rival.
So, is Sennheiser’s latest noise-canceller enough to overtake the current market leader, or does its shortcomings place it a few brackets below Bose’s flagship product? We’ve taken both ANC models for test drives to determine which one justifies their super-expensive price tag.
Bose 700 vs. Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless: Specs compared
|Header Cell - Column 0||Bose 700||Bose 700 vs. Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless|
|Size||8 x 6.5 x 2 inches||7.8 x 6.7 x 1.78 inches|
|Weight||9 ounces||10.6 ounces|
|Battery life||20 hours (ANC on)||17 hours (ANC on)|
|Special Features||Active noise cancelation, transparency mode, adjustable noise cancelation, tri-digital assistant support, Bose AR-enabled||Active noise cancelation, transparency mode, customizable EQ, smart controls, tri-digital assistant support, Tile integration|
You’re looking at two handsome, deluxe pairs of noise-cancelling headphones. Neither Bose nor Sennheiser cheap out on materials, so you can expect great build quality. These are two brands that also know their way around attractive designs.
You have to applaud Bose for thinking outside of the box and conceptualizing the 700’s unibody frame. The curvature of the headband is an eye-grabber that blends perfectly into the earcups, which have indentations that connect the extenders to form one complete design. You won’t see any screws, bolts or hinges here. The plastic around the ear cups is sturdy and has a nice shine effect, especially when wearing the headphones in bright settings. Overall, the 700 is a stunner.
If the Momentum 3 looks nearly identical to its predecessor, that’s because very little was changed to the design. The headphones still flaunt the same matte black casing on the ear cups, along with stainless-steel joints and genuine leather around the earcups and headband. Any visible modifications require inspection; the leather is smoother and micro-USB has been swapped out for USB-C.
In terms of colors, Bose has Sennheiser beat. You can keep it classy and simple with Black or Luxe Silver. If you want of bit of extra flair, there is Soapstone, which is a sultry mix of white and rose gold. Or you can go the exclusive route and pay $100 more for the sick-looking Black/Copper version that comes with a charging case promising 40 extra hours of battery life. That one is sold only at Apple.com (opens in new tab). Sennheiser plays it safe with two plain colorways: Black and Sandy White (the latter of which is launching March 2020).
Winner: Bose 700
Plush padding doesn’t always equal pleasant comfort. Those who love to sport their headphones for long durations will find the 700 and Momentum 3 stifling on the skull after the 1-hour mark. The headbands on these two models apply extra pressure, but the 700 is less encumbering due to its lighter weight and slimmer profile; you’ll definitely feel the Momentum 3 coming down on your head. Loosening the 700’s headband just a tad does ensure better comfort and makes using them on longer flights more satisfying.
Bose’s ear pads are slightly comfier. The cutouts offer plenty of room for your ears, while allowing enough air to come in and limit moisture buildup. The soft leather also has a smoother texture that feels gentle on the skin. Sennheiser’s leather might feel more premium, but it is also firmer and traps more heat, which creates a clammy listening environment.
Fit is where these cans meet right in the middle. The 700 and Momentum 3 have their own unique sliding mechanisms that allow for seamless adjustment and maximum stability. In other words, you’ll be able to chase down buses or powerwalk through rush hour traffic without worrying about slippage.
Winner: Bose 700
The Bose 700 presents a mixture of modern and traditional controls. On the right earcup are power/pairing and digital assistant buttons, whereas the left earcup houses a single button for cycling through the different listening modes (ANC and Transparency). Each has a nice click to it and responds quickly to intended commands. What works even better is the touch panel on the right earcup that registers slide (up and down for volume adjustment) and tap (2x for playback) gestures accurately.
I’ve criticized Sennheiser for flanking large buttons on its beautifully constructed headphones. Why? It takes away from the Momentum 3’s sleek appearance. Nonetheless, this does help to identify and locate them more easily. If only the multifunctional button was as responsive as the volume buttons and ANC/Ambient Listening toggle. There were instances where I had to press it 3 to 4 times to pause music. Just recently, I encountered the same issue when trying to answer/end calls. On-ear detection was the most reliable control on these cans.
Digital assistant support is becoming a standard feature on current headphones. Granted, only a few support the big three: Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. These are two of them. For those who love to call out voice commands and have their mobile devices spit back results in a jiffy, you’ll find the 700 and Momentum 3 demonstrate terrific speech recognition. Only when using the latter did I notice some lag on MacOS; Siri was acting up a bit on my MacBook.
Check out each brand's skill among the best Alexa skills and best Google Assistant commands to pick which voice assistant you want enabled.
Winner: Bose 700
Active noise cancellation
I want to preface my argument by saying that I like the Momentum 3’s noise cancellation. It’s very intuitive and is an upgrade from what the Momentum 2 offered. Regardless, it’s not on the same level as Bose (or Sony). The 700 is still the big-meal ANC ticket.
There are many reasons why critics are smitten over the 700’s noise reduction and it begins with Bose’s all-new adaptive microphone system. This advanced circuitry employs six of the headphone’s eight mics to analyze the general noise coming from your surroundings and minimize it at the highest possible level. It also amplifies your voice on phone calls and boosts audio quality.
Using these cans for the past six months, I can attest to their phenomenal sound-silencing capabilities; I’ve yet to encounter a crying baby or police siren that has thrown my focus off when listening to music with these on my head. You’ll get the most service out of the 700 when airborne, as cycling through the different ANC levels helps combat the many distractions you encounter on flights without compromising audio output.
Sennheiser put in a valiant effort here, programming three different ANC modes into the Momentum 3 that combat different levels of ambient sound. Anti-Pressure might be the lowest mode, but it happens to be the best at balancing audio and noise cancelation. On occasion, a whisking taxicab would catch my attention when jamming out to Spotify playlists. What I cherished most was how the audio remained neutral. Selecting Anti-Wind (medium), and Max (high) does increase ANC performance. At the same, it also overemphasizes the low end, which muddles the bass on certain songs.
The two models have their own ambient listening modes, so you can hit a button and open up the soundstage to hear the commotion around you. They’re both serviceable in that you can spark brief conversations with people on the go without removing the headphones. If you’re thinking of doing so in rowdy establishments like Whole Foods, then the Bose 700 makes sounds more transparent, so you’ll be able to hear clearly what color is being called on the checkout line.
Winner: Bose 700
After an hour listening to each pair of headphones, I started to pick up on the differences in audio quality. The Momentum 3 has a bright sound profile, while the 700 leans towards the warmer end of the spectrum. I enjoy both, but there’s no denying that Sennheiser is the more refined sonic option.
Listening to orchestral pieces like Ahmad Jamal’s “Wave” was like being right in front of the stage at the Blue Night Jazz Club on a Saturday night. The Momentum 3 does such a great job with instrumental separation, giving every musician a moment in the spotlight, while bringing closer attention to sounds that normally go silent on most other headphones; pay attention to steady hi-hat. You couldn’t ask for more emphatic-sounding strings than on Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.,” which the Momentum 3 reproduces in a lovely way.
Noise cancellation can either give bass a steady boost or distort it. Since the Momentum 3 is already fine-tuned, you will still enjoy full-range sound on the lowest ANC mode. The fact that I was able to hear Kanye West clearly in his synthesized glory on “Love Lockdown” speaks for itself. Again, just be mindful when switching to higher ANC modes that it can muddle the low end. This mainly applies to bass-heavy genres like EDM, hip hop and rock.
The 700 won’t match the depth or loudness of the Momentum 3, but neither is it a slouch on the audio end. Bose’s new drivers give bass more prominence and widen the soundstage, so your ears can hear distinctive elements across all music genres. The fuzz-bass introduction on "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" sent a throbbing sensation through my body that triggered a rhythmic toe-tap once the conga drums and horns surfaced. Curtis Mayfield’s mellifluous lyrics sounded heavenly. Bass response was also punchier the higher I adjusted the ANC levels.
R&B records like Maxwell’s “Bad Habits” was where the 700 started to show chinks in its audio armor. The crooner’s voice had a distant presence that squandered the song’s intimate vibes. Jumping into Beck’s “Loser,” I realized the bass on these cans is more emphasized than necessary; the electric guitar and drums come on heavy and blanket the vocals.
Winner: Momentum 3
Apps and special features
The 700 and Momentum 3 have their own companion apps that are easy to navigate, look clean, and enhance the listening experience. Bose Music is the more appealing option, as it offers adjustable ANC and AR support. Really, the 700 works with a series of AR apps under the Bose AR platform that tailor audio to your hearing and deliver immersive, compelling sound based on the content you’re watching.
You can use the ANC slider to adjust between 11 levels of noise cancelation, while setting three of your favorite levels to the headphones. This gives you a better sense of how adaptive Bose’s technology is with different frequencies. There is also a Self Voice mode that increases clarity on phone calls, along with a timer function and playback controls.
Sennheiser Smart Control has its own set of tricks, but the killer feature here is the built-in EQ to personalize audio and save sound profiles. It’s useful for when the bass levels become too harsh on higher ANC modes, which you’ll also select in the app. Other functions available include toggle controls for on-ear detection and tone/voice prompts. Unfortunately, the app is buggy as hell and presents several problems, from failed connections to sending the soundstage out of whack.
I love that the Momentum 3 comes with Tile integration, which makes locating misplaced headphones simpler. Bose does have a “Find My Buds” feature, but it seems to only work with the brand’s SoundSport Free wireless earbuds.
Winner: Bose 700
Call quality and connectivity
Bose headphones are reputable for their good call quality. The 700 is no different. All the extra hardware makes a huge difference, as four of the eight mics work together to enhance clarity and noise neutralization. My fiancée and friends managed to hear me loud and clear when chatting outside. Only when I encountered wind was there some interference, but not to the point where I couldn’t make out conversations. Using the 700 indoors made my voice more audible.
Sennheiser should seriously consider working on its call quality when developing the Momentum 4 because the Momentum 3 doesn’t get the job done. Most of my calls sounded distant and muddled on both ends, plus there was a lot of background clatter that interrupted my calls. Being indoors was a slight step up, but it required speaking in completely silent settings.
One guarantee you get with both of these headphones is stable Bluetooth performance. Each one utilizes Bluetooth 5.0, which affords you multiple perks such as extended wireless range (up to 800 feet), faster connectivity, and multipoint technology (connect to two devices at once). It all works great no matter what cans you choose. The Momentum 3 does support NFC, but it’s wonky and not worth the attempt.
Winner: Bose 700
Despite barely meeting the standard battery life for wireless ANC headphones, the Bose 700 wins this round for having the longer-rated battery (20 hours) with noise cancellation on. We’re not going to overlook the fact that this is the same amount as the QC35 II, and nearly half of what the Jabra Elite 85h (36 hours) offers.
Still, it’s more than what Sennheiser rates the Momentum 3 (17 hours). My estimated playtime with the headphones around about 19 hours, which was sufficient enough to keep me entertained on coast-to-coast flights. Netting 3.5 hours on a 15-minute charge was also clutch when forgetting to refuel before rushing out the door.
The Momentum 3 has a few issues that drain the battery quickly. Before downloading the latest firmware update (please do), I noticed the battery percentage dropped nearly 50% in a matter of two hours. It didn’t take long for me to realize two things: the headphones don’t have a power button or power save mode, and you have to collapse the hinges to turn them off. Well, the feature didn’t work so well and would occasionally continue to play music. The update didn’t help much either, as the battery life was still shorter than what Sennheiser advertised. My playtime with the Momentum 3 was capped at 14 hours.
Winner: Bose 700
At $400, the 700 and Momentum 3 don’t exactly fall into the cheap noise-cancelling headphones category.
You’re going to spend big on either model. The question is which offers the better value? It’s easy to make that decision when homing in on one or two major attributes (e.g. sound, noise cancelation, battery life). I suggest making the decision on some of the smaller, but still beneficial, factors.
That being said, your money is best spent on the 700 based on reliability. It operates flawlessly for the most part, and you’ll appreciate basic features that often go underappreciated like Bluetooth 5.0, quick charging, and simple controls. The Momentum 3 sounds amazing, but its finicky functionality might make you second guess the purchase.
Winner: Bose 700
This was a no-brainer halfway through the competition, as the Bose 700 outperforms its retro-looking rival in nearly every category. Adjustable noise cancellation. Dynamic audio. Future-proof features. Longer (though still subpar) battery life. Svelte, sexy aesthetics. The pros outweigh the cons by a mass margin. Ideally, no one wants to drop four Benjamins on a pair of noise-cancellers, but the Bose 700 is one of those impulsive buys that you’ll find was well worth spending some of your tax refund on.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Bose 700||Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless|
|Active Noise Cancelation (20)||20||17|
|Special Features and Apps (10)||8||7|
|Call Quality and Connectivity (5)||4||3|
|Battery Life (10)||7||6|
|Total Score (100)||87||78|
Despite some improvements, the Momentum 3 doesn’t bring much new to the table, at least not enough to warrant that expensive price tag. Sennheiser fanboys will find the audio performance here far superior to what the 700 delivers. The built-in EQ adds to its sonic value, placing these cans in the same company as the WH-1000xM3. Noise Cancelation is highly effective as well, though the higher modes can compromise sound. Then there are the bugs. For a company that takes its sweet time releasing audio hardware, it’s both disappointing and surprising to see just how unpolished some of the operations are on the Momentum 3.