Sennheiser is the latest headphone maker to cut the cord, with the launch of the Momentum Wireless headphones, the company's first-ever set of Bluetooth cans. Modeled after the original circumaural (over-ear) Momentum headphones, the Momentum Wireless cans deliver the clean, detailed audio you've come to associate with the brand, as well as a sleek, timeless look. However, the $499 price tag will keep away all but the most deep-pocketed audiophiles.
Sennheiser knows how to make a great-looking pair of headphones. Instead of chasing the trends with glossy plastics and exotic materials, Sennheiser gives music lovers a look that is both stylish and timeless, albeit a little understated.
The headband frame is constructed from a sturdy, silver-colored stainless steel. The top of the band is bifurcated and covered by a lovely black leather with tan stitching. A dark-gray metal tag stamped with the word "Momentum" sits at the end of each side of the band.
The dark-gray matte-plastic ear cups are attached to the stainless-steel sliders via dark-gray ball joints stamped with the Sennheiser emblem. Each cup has a glossy, black strip of plastic running along its middle, leading to the squishy, black-leather ear pads. You'll find a micro-USB port for charging, an audio port and a microphone on the right cup, with a pair of mics along the left.
Complementing the tan stitching in the headband, the ear pads have tan cloth interiors. Thanks to the sturdy metal joints on the sliders, the ear caps can fold upward for easy storage in the black, cloth carrying case or the black, suede-covered hard case.
The headphones also come with a 55.1-inch audio cable, a micro-USB cord and an airplane adapter.
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Controls and Sensors
Most of the Momentum's controls reside on the right ear cap. You'll find a button for power/Bluetooth and a three-way multifunction slider for volume, track skipping and call functions.
To turn the headphones on or off, you simply hold down the power button for 2 seconds. As the name implies, the multifunction feature is a bit more complex. You hold the button while sliding it up to increase the volume, and make a downward motion to decrease it. When the button is in the center position, it can be pressed to pause/play a track or answer/end a phone call. Holding the button for a second rejects/transfers calls or launches Siri, Google Now or Cortana.
To skip ahead to the next song or switch between two calls, you press the button twice. A triple press will let you perform a quick battery check or play the previous song. If that's not enough functionality for you, pressing the button twice and then holding it lets you fast-forward a song, and three presses and a hold lets you rewind.
Though that might seem like a lot to remember, the headphones swiftly responded to my inputs, deftly switching songs and sending calls to voicemail. It would have been nice if Sennheiser had embedded a sensor in one of the ear cups to pause the music and disable the active noise cancelling (ANC) when the cans are removed from your ears, as you can do with the Plantronics BackBeat Pro and the Parrot Zik 2.0.
The Momentum headphones are seriously comfortable. It's like wearing a pair of goose down pillows on your ears. The thick pads nestled snugly around my ears, creating a tight, sound-isolating seal. I wore the headphones for the majority of my 8-hour workday, in plushy comfort.
However, I still prefer the Plantronics BackBeat Pro, as their circular shape felt much better around my ears than the Momentum's oval shape did. The Pro's pads were also softer than the Momentum's.
Those of us who treasure silent serenity will enjoy the Sennheiser Momentum's active noise cancelling. The over-ear headphones' NoiseGard Hybrid technology can block out ambient noise using two pairs of microphones to simultaneously reduce racket at the high- and low-frequency spectrum, creating a nearly quiet space.
In the office, I could still hear co-workers' conversations, but dialogue was muffled enough that I had to concentrate to understand what was being said. The Momentum blocked out more noise than the Plantronics BackBeat Pro, but neither held a candle to the eerie silence of the Bose QuietComfort 25, which continues to be the gold standard for ANC headphones.
The Momentum made my morning commute more manageable, significantly dampening the loudly proselytizing preacher on the 6 train. His loud admonishments faded to the background as distant murmurs. Still, the QC 25 turned my seat into my personal fortress of silent serenity. The preacher's persistent bellows on why everyone in the subway car was going to hell were muted instantly.
Although they're not the quietest headphones on the block, I like that the Momentum headphones lack white noise. Many ANC cans pump out white noise, which, unfortunately, results in a low hiss. Thankfully, this isn't a problem on the Momentum.
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I'm happy to report that cutting the cord had little to no effect on Sennheiser's world-renowned audio quality. The Momentum Wireless offered crisp details, generous soundstages, and warm highs and mids. However, although the bass was clean, it could have been a little punchier.
I heard nearly every syllable and breath on Michael Jackson's "She's Out Of My Life." The keyboard was clean and contained, and didn't distract from the artist's distinctive voice. On the Plantronics BackBeat Pro, I noticed the keyboard bleeding into the rest of the track, obscuring some of the singer's breathy delivery.
On Santana's "Europa (Earth's Cry, Heaven's Smile)," the bass guitar was a strong but low throb, almost like a heartbeat with crisp cymbals and a spacious soundstage. Though scintillating, the electric guitar was piercing on the higher chords. The BackBeat Pro, in contrast, delivered warm, inviting bass, but a slight hiss muddied the organ and took the edge off the guitar solo. I'd take the near precision of the Sennheiser cans to the sometimes cluttered presentation of the Plantronics headphones.
The Momentum headphones really impressed during Ludacris' "Woozy." I was enamored with the warmth of the saxophone and the piano's sharpness, which had a bell-like tinkle on higher chords. The bass was full and lush, which made the BackBeat Pro sound too boomy by comparison.
Sennheiser attempts to make the pairing process as pleasant as possible. To pair the headphones via Bluetooth, hold down the power button until the LED flashes blue and red. From there, make your chosen device discoverable, and select the Momentum from the list of available Bluetooth devices.
NFC is a little more straightforward: You just hover your compatible device over the headphones and hit Yes on the resulting prompt. In both instances, you'll hear a woman's pleasant British accent announcing when the phone is in pairing mode and when the connection process is complete.
The Momentum can save up to eight connection profiles at a time. Once the headphones have been paired with a few devices, they will attempt to connect with the last two paired devices when turned on.
Sennheiser claims that, with ANC and Bluetooth enabled, the Momentum Wireless can last up to 22 hours. I used the headphones over a weekend for 2 hours a day, after which there was more than 80 percent remaining. However, both the Bose QuietComfort 25 and the Plantronics BackBeat Pro have longer rated runtimes of 35 and 60 hours, respectively.
When the Momentum's battery inevitably dies, you can continue to listen to music with the audio cable minus ANC, similar to the BackBeat Pro.
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The Momentum headphones sound almost as good on phone calls as they do playing music. When I called my mother and brother on the cans, they both reported loud, clear audio. Still, both of them could tell that I was using a headset. I experienced similar volume and clarify on my end, but it sounded like I was talking to them while I was at the end of a long hallway.
You get what you pay for: The $499 Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones are nearly perfect. The design is timeless, albeit a tad understated, and the rich audio with the spacious soundstage is trademark Sennheiser. I also appreciated the quick wireless setup and the intuitive controls.
While they're not as elegant, the cheaper $229 Plantronics BackBeat Pro last longer on a charge and offer effective noise cancelling for the price. If peace and quiet are paramount, you should check out the $299 Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones. But if you're searching for rich, detailed audio without wires, you'll hit the mother lode with the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones.