Sennheiser Momentum 1.0 On-Ears Review
First Impressions: Wahay! A Sennheiser box that’s straightforward to open, think that might be a first. Not there is anything “wrong” with their normal boxes, just they have the most infuriating habit of wildly over engineering them, making it not obviously apparent how you’re supposed to get into the damn things. Ooh pretty case thing. Wait, there is a baggy too? Ooh and two cables. A normal and a phone one, its kinda nice to get both. Personally it seems a little wasteful as surely you’re going to pick one and use that permanently?
Slapping them on my ears and you will doubtless be shocked, shocked I tell you, that these are really heavy in the bass. Waaa, a bass heavy Senn, noooo surely not, lol. You probably also won’t be shocked that these are acoustically reminding me of the Momentum In-Ears. I had figured the Momentum line would share a tuning style and it seems they do. That warm, lush bottom, broadly spaced mids and a little flare up top. It’s not quite as delicate a flare up top as the In-Ears, maybe a little burn in will settle that down? Let’s find out.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.
Lows: Sumptuous. As you already knew these are really quite large in the bottom end. Like its IEM kin its pushing toward the realm of more bass than I want, though I do think here it’s comparatively a little less. I suspect that may be down to my having trained myself to listen to the bass and so I think I’m a bit less susceptible to the mental trickery where by the rest of your ear feeling bass tricks you into thinking there is much more than strictly is. Still it’s quite a bit and given you feel it too it’s probably easily enough for all but the most crazy bassheads. I did notice that on the lower powered sources the bass took on a slightly more punchy character as more is found in poppy music. When you stepped up to more powerful ones it slipped to being more of a controlled, powerful but more articulated bass. I don’t know if that’s deliberate but it’ll appeal to both mainstream poppy listeners plugging into their phones and to more discerning listeners with more potent DAP’s. So power wise the rule is, the more you have the more controlled it is, the less the more aggressive it got.
Depth is good, as you would expect but it does dissipate more than what I’m used to with sealed IEM’s. I would that it were more linear as it descends but the headroom graphs say it is already, I can only presume my ears, therefore, are not getting a perfect seal. Such is a price to be paid with on rather than over or in ears.
Mids: Nice. They are in a clear bit of a valley but they are well articulated with good breadth to them. They tinge on the warm but they have a fair degree of air which contrast against each other well. If you pair it with a richly warm source you get mids that swing that way. Richer, more liquid and creamy. A crisp, snappy source and those mids dry right up, more breathy and cleanly open. It’s nice it’s so versatile. Detail retrieval on them is really quite good but it’s not the most readily apparent. With these being quite V shaped the bass and treble like to fight it out for the front of the stage. The mids can quite regularly feel like they need to get up off their backside and start belting it out. Still we knew going in these weren’t going to be midhead cans. It reminds me lots of their In-Ear brethren. Good quality, greatly versatile but too reticent to stand up at the front like they ought to, even on very midcentric tracks.
Strings are likewise great, highly versatile and a surprise hit pairing with Elgar’s cello concertos. There isn’t much bass and almost no treble to dominate so strings have a lovely dash of liquidity and a soupçon of dry twangyness. Hmm for all its mainstream pretentions the Momentum On-Ears makes for a really not bad classical listening headphone.
Highs: There is a really treble flare going on with the Momentums. Senn’s normally are quite V shaped and this while not as linearly dominant as the more usual Senn signature, they follow the “Momentum” sound signature. They have that big, rich and quite rotund bass, valley for the mids and then a lightning narrow flare for the treble that then gently decays away. It’s a good style to produce a heightened sense of clarity and yet not be too aggressive. The trail away adds to that delicately detailed impression. It makes it seem of the highest quality by being highly explicit in that spike but quickly rounding and softening to be smoother on the ear. While it is somewhat easier on the ear my ears still find it to be a little bit demanding. It liked to leap out and show off just how clever it can be. Yes dear that’s very nice but I would steer clear of bright and aggressive sources.
Outright quantity isn’t super-duper vast but it’s pretty elevated, its general refinement means despite its quantity I’m not sure treble heads would be quite satisfied with it. Quality wise though I don’t have much to fault. It’s well detailed, it isn’t directly abrasive and it does a convincingly metallic impact with a very well controlled shimmery decay. It’s more grown up than it is party beast treble. Nevertheless its quantity was pushing my tolerance limits.
Fit/Comfort: Hmm, well fit I felt was good but I did get a bit of bass trail off which would suggest a leak. I never felt that getting a good fit was a problem though. Comfort, hmm well it has a reasonable clamping force, which I absolutely accept is needed to keep them on your head when walking about. Still, it did somewhat squish my ears onto the arms of my glasses. It did after an hour or so began to make the backs of my ears hurt a bit. So while they do stay snuggly on your head when you walk about I’m not sure I’d be happy suggesting to glasses wearers that these are something you’d want to use at stretches of several hours at a time.
Cable: Both cables are rather thin feeling. Obviously they are removable and so replaceable if you kill them. One has no mic, the other does. It also has volume buttons but they didn’t like my Nexus 5, oh well.
Microphonics: Not really any but once or twice I did hear the mic catching on my collar.
Phone Use: Despite being Apple orientated the mic did work fine with my Nexus 5. The mic though was a little far from my face I was told I did sound a tad muffled. The mic really did like catching on the other side of my collars so I’m putting it down to that. I still could carry on a conversation fine so it worked sufficiently well.
Amped/Unamped: These got increasingly maturely natured the more power you threw at them. I just happen to have a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear here and out of that, the Momentums sounded really quite grown up. The highs especially grew in their refinement. The bass too was quite noticeably more even tempered and articulate. On the other end, the 1G Ipod Shuffles liked to make things more aggressively vigorous. More pithy, punchy bass, more sparkly and edgy treble. I’m pretty sure this will suit everyone. Those I’d expect to like more punch and dazzle are those I’d assume would have more basic sources and those who want more grown up refinement are the more likely to have superior amping. So I’d say it’s a win win for everyone.
Isolation: Hmm, it’s okay. I could I suppose be able to use these out and about. I wouldn’t though, less for my being interrupted but for the amount these would leak. It’s not like its terrible but I would never want to be THAT GUY sat on the bus irritating all around him. Given their grippy clamping force it’s maybe something that could suit a gym though I thing they look a bit too nice for that. They are suede for god sake. Maybe more sit in Costa or Café Nero and get some work done listening to soothing music.
Accessories: You get a not bad haul. There is the case, then a little baggy and the two cables. Can’t really imagine what else you could want for them.
Value: Their pricing seems a bit all over, I got them for just £66 from Amazon Spain. At the moment they are £106 on Amazon UK yet only US$100 on Amazon US. At that US price its greatly awesome value. The UK, well it’s not that they don’t sound good enough to cost that, they do with some ease but wildly differing prices irk me. Still that aside these are premium sounding and premium feeling product. This is possibly also due to the launch of the 2.0 versions. Given Senn has done this before I’d imagine the 1.0 and 2.0 version to sound near, if not identical. So could be a way to bag yourself a bargain as I feel I have done.
Conclusion: The pricing weirdness I don’t like, I did see that some colours cost slightly differing amounts too so it could be that the production run of colours hasn’t paired up too well to the sales of the respective colours. Still I got the blue for a bargain and I’m just fine with blue, the pink though, err I’m not so sure about. I’m also unsure about the new 2.0 versions. I am currently working on the assumption Senn has done as they did with the IE8 to IE80 move. It’s technically a new version but by all accounts I’ve seen they sound the same. I would therefore presume that the 1.0 and 2.0 versions also sound the same. It’s a guess but even if I’m wrong, I’m having absolutely zero with how good these ones sound.
Tonally they have a rich nature which works well for me though I do from time to time still find their inclination to get a little over expressive up top a teeny bit much for me. Yes it’s good, yes it’s refined, yes its shimmers beautifully but it’s that pin sharp spike that when subjected to hard or aggressive music I find tiring. I feel like it’s trying just too hard to keep pace with its low end and I wish it wouldn’t. The low end feels much more effortlessly agreeable. Rich, weighty, warm and there is a casual feeling about it. It’s just strumming away, no stress or strain. It’s just getting on with it as casually as you could please. The treble feels like it knows it isn’t quite as good but is ever the more determined to keep up and its gets a little ratty doing so. The mids, well they are like, well they remind me of Jane Horrocks character in Little Voice. At the beginning, when she is so meek and retiring yet with such potential if you can only eek it out. Elgar’s cello concertos do what they can in that regard but the mids just never want to take centre stage vocally.
In terms of balance and audience, as with the In-Ears Sennheiser have shown they can tailor things enough to win praise from the audiophile community and yet be mainstream enough to also cater to the taste of a mainstream audience. It’s a careful line to walk and they do it quite masterfully. For me I’d still like more mids and a smidge less treble but hey, given all the coverage the Momentum range has been getting it’s pretty damn clear the Sennheiser have a goodly bunch of winners on their hands here. The On-Ears 1.0, if you can bag a set at some of the low prices it’s been at then it makes for a most excellent bargain. Sure it’s not perfect, it clamps a bit hard, some colours are clearly acquired tastes but on the whole it’s an excellently build product that looks good and sounds even better.