Sennheiser Momentum In-Ears Review
Thanks to Sennheiser for the sample
First Impressions: Ooooh what a pretty looking little case, how much does anyone want to bet it’s massively over engineered? Oh and there we go, indeed once more Sennheiser have produced an example of just how to ever engineer a case. Thankfully it seems the bit in the middle comes out, yey!!! A case from Sennheiser that is actually usable, cue the angels signing Hallelujah. Okay, clearly Senn are trying to go in a new visual direction. I’m looking at these and thinking wtf is with the weird little cable loop thing?
In the ears they go and lo and behold they sound good. I might even go so far to say very good. That will shock no one, has Senn ever made something that sucked? I’m thinking acoustically these feel like the slot halfway between my much love IE7 and the CX985. It’s a fair whack cheaper than they however. Something about them as also making my mind cast back to the MA-750, perhaps it’s the treble. How curious. Burn in time.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.
Lows: Seriously good. Senn often do good bass if sometimes a bit over blown. Here it is rather elevated as you would expect but it’s even more elevated than is usual. The quality though, absolutely first class. It’s really quite warm, smooth and rolling to the ear. There is a hint of softness to it but only just. While it doesn’t feel as controlled and lithe as its competition I find my ear quickly acclimatising to it. I’m not normally one for particularly bassy things but they really are walking an incredibly tight line, the quantity is really large but it “feels” only a little over inflated. Its only when you swap to something else that it hits you just how bassy it really is. Its tone and agility are perfectly blended. Then I hear something else and the Momentum seems like it must be a bass cannon but it just does not give this impression in use. Side by side with the MA-750 and the Momentum’s seem so vast, there is tons more bass, I know this but yet after a few minutes with the Momentum’s it feels almost natural. Am I going mad? I think it’s just that the bass has such a playfully rounded tone. Still, the more I A/B with things the more it is clear the bass here is humongous, we’re talking IE8 levels of bass.
The bass may be good but the more time I spend with it the more I find it a bit much. It’s too ever present and while it doesn’t impinge on the vocals clarity it is just so much bigger. I know a bit much bass isn’t a problem per say, it’s a balance choice and given the Momentum is aimed at a mainstream crowd this quantity will be quite welcome.
Mids: I like very much the tone of the vocals. It reminds me a bit of those from the IE7, right up until I put the IE7’s in my ears. They do share a similar tone and nature but they are much more prominent on the 7 and more flowing. The clarity is still there on the Momentum’s but I keep yearning for them to stand up and match that bass. I know the mids are so good in those fleeting moments when the bass isn’t playing but then some poppy track comes one and BOOM. The bass reappears and punches you in the side of the head.
The quality of the mids, well that I can’t fault. Comparing to the DN-900 the 900 sounds so plastic and forward. The Momentum is so effortlessly smooth and clear. God this is where they remind me of the IE7. They flow like single cream, that slightly thick, cloying viscosity yet you find it so richly indulgent you just want more. It tends to suffer a bit if you ask of it breathy, it just can’t really without softening and thickening a touch. Like putting cream on a sorbet. Its just not really a pairing that comes naturally. Stick to rich or to mediocre poppy vocals and its rather shines. If only there was more of it.
Highs: Sennheiser has at times a love/hate relationship with treble. On things like the HD600 and IE8 its outstanding. I have long felt the highs on the IE8 are one of the very best in any IEM ever. Then you move to something like the old CX95, the same V shape as the 8 but the highs are brittle and aggressive. The Momentum then, it steals away a little space in between that of the IE8 and the 7. The highs are rather reduced from the bass matching levels you’d expect and its quantity is much nearer the mids. This lends itself to the warmth and richness of the Momentum range. The highs do cut quite cleanly through but always have a little reticence to them. Next to the MA-750 that dazzle and delight, the Momentum’s feel darkly sumptuous like a dark chocolate dipped in honey. That sweetness highlighting the darkness and depth to give you something more than either on their own.
Still its not all good. Its slight subdued behaviour is in part because its just not abounding in finesse. Its quality is good, a few years ago would have been stunning for the money but with the likes of the 750 around. If you’re a huge treble junkie forcing the Momentums to do fast, aggressive and abundant treble (especially out of a phone) it just feels unwieldy. It hasn’t the agility to delicately shimmer, it’s too heavy and too over powerful to convey that airy delicate shimmer I’d have liked.
Soundstage: Like you tend to get from dynamics and especially from Sennheiser, these sound big and grand. They offer a lovely sense of scale and pomposity and follow it up with seemingly endless power. Breadth, depth and height are all exemplary. Instrument separation and placement however are rather more fuzzy and ill defined. These are all about the organic whole, not the individual components of that whole.
Fit: Great. I wore them up just fine as was down. The angle they have the stalk at worked absolutely perfectly for me. Wearing up though did make the mic/controls sit rather high.
Comfort: With the initial silicon tips I got a very tight seal and I very quickly slapped on a pair of foam tips that were on my desk. Not entirely sure what they came from but they fit perfectly. Again it’s that angled stalk, it worked seamlessly with my ears.
Cable: Meh. Its fine, slightly flattened but not enough to be annoying. It’s a perfectly reasonable cable that is pretty ordinary. Aside from its slightly flat shape and that from the Y splitter its becomes two tone, red and black.
Microphonics: Wearing down I did get quite a bit sadly, the neck synch helped greatly but I dislike them. Worn up though, as usual gave more or less none, the mic is so high up it never caught on collars.
Amped/Unamped: In the real world these will pretty much never see an amp. Sennheiser are making a big deal about its phone compatibility so it’s very clear that’s where they see these. As such they have made them very easy to drive. Slapping them into my Nexus 5 they were exceedingly easy to drive crazy loud. The bass felt like its bottom end was rather diminished and the highs got rather less refined too. It was no night and day change but it nevertheless made me slightly sad. It still sounded good but it’s a shame most will never drive them to their fullest abilities.
Isolation: Very good for a dynamic. I know it helped I used foam tips but a vast leap from the IE8 and 7. Would do easily for normal commuter activities. Maybe a not quite up to daily Tube use but for those Tube commuters who want a load of bass, this might actually do the job. Oh and so easily enough to get you killed if you don’t look where you’re going near roads.
Build Quality: Its clearly not and hefty as the CX985 was. The design is weird with its wire loop but it feels solid. Knowing that it comes from Sennheiser is also pretty much a guarantee it’s a well-made product. Oh, 2 year warranty too.
Phone Use: The Momentum I have here is the “Galaxy” version. It comes with the normal play/pause/skip track button and……. volume controls!!!! Yey!!!! I don’t know about you but I’m always changing the volume. So for me it’s a really handy thing that I get very used to being there. Gave someone a call, as you would expect I heard them perfectly. Even though I was wearing the Momentums up, the mic sitting very high, I was told I was perfectly heard at the other end.
Accessories: You get just 4 pairs of silicon tips, pretty Spartan by some but sufficient. Then, you will never guess what, a case. Yes a case from Sennheiser and you know what that means, a massively over engineered case to the point of being useless. Now this time we have that sort of still, the way they arrive in their little cable wrap thing is never going to happen again in the real world. The weird thing is, you can simply pull out the cable wrap thing and you know what that means. It means you actually have a case that is functionally useful!!!! And from Sennheiser!!!!!! (see past Senn reviews for why this is so astonishing.)
Value: Today I can see these only from Senn direct in the UK so its £90 or on Amazon Germany 99 Euro’s or on Amazon US US$100. I’m a little surprised as traditionally Senn’s are cheaper in the EU than the US but not with those pricings. Clearly if you’re in the UK buy them Germany and only pay £78. Or if your Xmas shopping in New York get a pair there for £62. At £62 these are VERY good value. Sure they are over bassy but they come with android phone controls that work and have fantastic bass quality. The nearly 50% increase to the UK price somewhat sticks in my craw. Going head to head with the MA750 both are great but unless the android controls really matter a lot to you I’d be edging towards the 750 in most scenarios. Still the Senn is a great product and and I am certain would please anyone receiving a set Christmas morning.
Conclusion: The elevated UK pricing aside I really like most things about the Momentum. It’s clear that the Momentum range is a marketing invention rather than anything else. Sennheiser are the quintessential old guard headphone company. They some years back launched the IE range as their way of joining the then top end IEM world. Up until that point Shure, Westone and Etymotic pretty much owned the market. Then Ipods became ubiquitous and people began to realise that ibud’s were utter crap and were willing to pay for better. I think we can all agree that the IE range was a success at tapping the audiophile market. Then Beats came along and did expensive headphones that were, shall we say “style” focused. Others such as B&W showed the world that you could have good looking things but actually sounded good too and I think, the Momentum range is Sennheisers offer to this segment. The on and over ears have by all accounts been a success and now that brand has come to IEM’s.
Momentum’s have a certain reputation for richness and warmth with a big, hearty bottom end on them. These very much fit that stereotype. It’s not trying to be flat or sonically pure or in anyway pretend it’s not all about having a good time. You keep that idea in mind and then I don’t see how anyone could fail to be pleased by these. They are shamelessly bassy and its quality is sumptuous. Massive yet controlled and so very articulate. Just the right amount of softness to it to soothe the ear and yet the perfect amount of power to convince there is a tiny sub somewhere punching you in the chest. If you like that sort of thing.
Then on more genteel and soothing tracks the mids offered up here are very convincingly sultry. They flow so smoothly and just that hint over liquid that makes vocals seem that bit better than when sung. Sure it’s not all perfectly truthful or analytical at all but it is why you would buy these. Then the highs, ahh ,they are decent. Clean but you know I’m just not feeling it. Yes the detail level is fine but when things get too cluttered it struggles to keep up with the best. Technically it’s a bit so so.
So, would I buy these? Maybe. I found their sound signature very flavoured but immensely enjoyable and immensely easy on the ear. I could and did listen to them at volume for several hours and never felt like my ears needed a break. Organic and natural feeling even though they are over bassy yet never feeling forced. The huge bass felt like it belonged there in a way that makes little ration sense, I know it was way too much, but it never “felt” like it was. Everything just sounded so good on them. Even things that I know were wrong or lacking, they managed to gloss over things in the most pleasing of ways. I realise it’s not logical but nevertheless they are eminently enjoyable.