CES 2015: Sennheiser Bolsters Momentum, Urbanite, and Wireless Lines.
Over the past two years Sennheiser has made great strides in establishing a strategic position as a premium headphone maker for the consuming public. First with their Momentum line-up as an adult headphone, and then subsequently with their Urbanite line for the younger, urban crowd. A good start, in fact, a very good start from my vantage point, but just a start. The question is: What would you do next if you were Sennheiser?
Every red-blooded headphone enthusiast I know, including myself, would love to say, "Make a new reference level headphone, damit!" But, when you step back and think about it, that's probably not the best thing for Sennheiser. They've made a good start with consumers, now is the time to push the gas pedal and keep penetrating the market. For Sennheiser, that gas pedal is their very substantial engineering skill.
I hadn't really thought about it all that much until I saw the embargoed press releases prior to CES, but the truth is the Momentum and Urbanite product lines were not completely fleshed out, nor were they without fault. If you're going to bet the company on these developing brands, you had better make sure your product lines are killer good and satisfy all comers. It looks to me like that's exactly what Sennheiser has done.
Momentum and Urbanite Improvements
Let's start with the Momentum full-sized version: This is a headphone that I liked very much when I reviewed it, but it did have a couple of bothersome issues. The fit was a bit off; ear-cups were a bit on the small size, and, for me at least, the pressure was greater at the top of the ear-pad than it was on the bottom. Additionally, the Momentum (and Momentum On-Ear) had no folding features of any kind, and was rather large when stored in its case.
The refreshed Momentum full-size headphone has directly and, from what I can tell in quick observation at CES, effectively addressed these issues. Both the Momentum and Momentum On-Ear now have folding mechanisms allowing them to be more compact for storage and transport. Though I didn't take a picture of it, the new dark-blue firm-sided case is much more compact and stylish than the previous case.
The new Momentum ear-pad is now larger in most dimensions allowing it to fit comfortably around your ear. The real-leather over memory foam ear-pads are wonderfully soft and supple; comfort is simply dreamy. The fit, for me, was much better than the previous version.
New this year to both the Momentum, Momentum On-Ear, and Urbanite XL are wireless versions of these headphones. Bluetooth 4.0, NFC pairing, and Apt-X codecs will ensure quick and easy pairing, and high quality audio. The Momentum versions also include Sennheiser's NoiseGuard(tm) active noise canceling technologies. After having just reviewed a significant sampling of wireless Bluetooth headphones I'm very much looking forward to getting the new Sennheiser models in to see how they fair.
Complete Refresh of Wireless Line
I've long been a huge fan of Sennheiser's RS series of wireless headphones for TV and movie listening duties. For a long time I tried to find something better and never found anything that even came close. I must admit, I kind of stopped looking and just began to advise folks to simply look at the Sennheiser line and pick the one that best suites.
CES saw Sennheiser completely refreshing their line of wireless headphones. I suppose that means it's time to hit the reset button on my opinion and begin to revisit the category. First stop, of course, will be an audition of Sennheiser's new line-up, followed by rummaging around for the next year trying to find something better. Ahh well, someone's got to do it.
All models in the line transmit 8-FSK digitally modulated 2.4GHz spread-spectrum RF. Each includes base stations upon which the headphones hang and charge, and headphones include volume up-down controls on the earpiece in addition to other controls that vary by model. Up to two partner headsets may be used with each model. All models, except for the RS-185 are sealed.
The RS 165 ($219) provides basic wireless functionality and a bass boost circuit. Range on this model is limited to about 30 yards. The RS 175 ($279) adds digital inputs to the base station, a surround mode, and transmission range of up to 100 yards. The RS 185 ($399) is an open acoustic design primarily intended for best fidelity and would be a good choice for more critical music listening. It features: defeatable automatic leveling control (keeps audio at roughly the same level), and a balance control. Lastly, the RS 195 ($449) is specifically designed to optimize speech intelligibility using multiple presets designed to reduce noise and enhance clarity.