CES 2015: Sennheiser Bolsters Momentum, Urbanite, and Wireless Lines.

It's always a treat to spend a bit of time with Axel Grell, one of Sennheiser's chief headphone designers.

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.

For more info, check out the press releases for the Momentum, Urbanite, and wireless line.

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COMMENTS
Mr.TAD91's picture

As always Tyll, great article. I am anticipating Senn's new wireless models. And I think they're doing a great job so far with consumers from all walks of life.

I have a question for you. Answer only if you want to.

Have you ever heard the half-second before the song starts when using a high end rig through either headphones or speakers? (CREKK, or other sounds /subtleties captured in the microphone right before the sound engineer began recording?)

For example, in "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carleton I hear "CKKKE" right
before the song starts, then a breath, and what sounds like the very start
of a keystroke before I hear the first note played on the piano.

I've experienced this in a number of recordings - but all of them have been
digital. I have a rig from Japan that is apparently very rare.

Thank you,

Mr.TAD91

lpabarbosa's picture

... at a toy store! It's good to see your enthusiasm.

guerillaw's picture

Appreciate the on the ground updates. Any word don release dates?

Small correction: the high end is RS 195, you listed 185 twice.

tony's picture

Very good, you found someone to be your steady cam guy, finally !!
I love Sennheiser, they seem to have great turnout, good to see.

Camera images seemed crisp ( I went full screen without loss of detail ), your auto-focusing kept up nicely, 1080p finally, you must've got a new camera, ( not at all too jiggle-cam-ish) and something that can be single-handed.

Being a one-man operation is difficult, you do it well, as good as I've seen. On top of it all, you seem to be doing it ab-lib style, creating your own script on the fly, brilliant stuff.

The Auto Industry people need this kind of thing, as does your Editor In Chief; JA , all those Stereophile lads should be going to a Tyll Camera Seminar, up there in the Frozen North.

Nice little dance around the folks at the booth, your heritage shows.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm going straight to the Sennheiser web site to see the new stuff, I'm about to purchase the RS220s ( two pair) , I already love the RS120s ( I own two pair of these which I'll gift to my family )

Pedalhead's picture

..enthusiasm! Really, it's great to see a guy with such a solid scientific approach to reviewing still able to get all excited at a geek show. One of these enthusiastic CES videos is worth 1000 words of dry text that might be found elsewhere..keep 'em coming please. Cheers!

Chrisknos's picture

Quick question...did you went to their booth and listened to the HE-1000?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Yup. They'll come in a few days.
forkboy1965's picture

I too applaud the idea of larger eapcups/pads on the Momentum. I love my pair, but they are decided smaller than any other over-the-ear headphone I auditioned. They just barely fit (but I am 6'4" so I'm not exactly a practical target for design either).

And while I applaud the folding mechanism (makes traveling so much easier I bet), I'm not sold on the Bluetooth route at this price-point. Bluetooth, at least for my experience thus far (using a pair of Sony) just doesn't have the sound quality necessary for higher-end headphones like the Momentum.

Maybe it makes sense with the Urbanites.... maybe even the Momentum On-Ear, but I feel it's an expensive step backwards for the full-sized Momentums.

Kakuz's picture

Hey Tyll, thanks for the overview. Quick question: do you think the new ear pads will fit the now old Momentum over-ear model? Did you happen to notice any size difference (if possible)?

Thanks

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Sorry, I don't know. When I get them in I'll give it a try.
Kakuz's picture

No worries, thanks! Looking forward to hearing your impressions.

mr uuggu's picture

Would really like to see you to review rs185 and comparison with rs220.

ina's picture

Hi Tyll

Can you please update your reviews of the Focal Spirit Classic and Spirit Professional with information about cracking? There's been lots of people on Focal's website complaining about the plastic headband or its joints cracking after a few weeks of use. It's happening more with the Professional than Classic and Spirit One.

Can you also put these in order of music quality when using at home without an amp and only a computer with no soundcard?

Audio Technica ATH-M50x
Sony MDR 1R
NAD Viso HP50
Focal Spirit Classic

ina's picture

Also can you please do a review for the new Sony MDR 1A and compare it to the old MDR 1R?

JP's picture

Quite interested in the new Over-Ear Momentums for portable usage but I've been unable to find an answer to one question anywhere.

Tyll, do the new wired Momentums contain Sennheiser's NoiseGuard(tm) active noise cancelling technology or is it just the wireless set?

JP's picture

A second less important question, are the older Momentum cables compatible with the new wired Momentums?