The Very Adult Sennheiser Momentum
The Sennheiser Momentum ($349)
There's long been frustration amongst Headphiles with getting good quality sound from sealed headphones. It's hard to make a good sounding headphone with the rear of the driver pumping sound into a small, sealed chamber. Historically, the good sounding sealed cans really didn't seal all that well (Denon AH-DX000 for example). Earlier this year, when Denon discontinued its D-X000 line, a collective groan was heard from the headphone faithful: there simply weren't any other good choices. When Denon's replacement cans arrived another groan was heard. The new cans weren't anywhere near as good as the previous line. Headphonedom had the sad.
Recently, the pendulum has begun to swing. First Logitech UE released the UE4000, UE6000, and UE9000 series of sealed headphones. All of which sound pretty darned good for the money. (As long as they were used in passive modes---the noise canceling features of the 6000 and 9000 are pretty bass heavy.) Then V-Moda released the M-100, which was a rocking good sealed headphone...for bassheads. But your average, ordinary, everyday headphone geek was still a bit bummed. The Logitech UEs didn't have quite the resolving power of high-end cans, and the M-100, while fun as hell, don't have the fidelity audiophiles desire for acoustic music.
Well...take heart! The new Sennheiser Momentum is a strike right down the middle, and does a lot more right than just delivering good sound. This is the headphone many have been waiting for.
Simple is so good...when it's done well. A simple headband arch with ear capsule that slide on the arms has been done many times. But never so tastefully, in my opinion, and never quite so comfortably. These are very elegant and understated looking cans, very adult.
The headband itself is a thin but sturdy brushed stainless steel arch with a slightly warm tint. A handsome real leather pad/cover is sewn over the top of the arch, which includes a modest but appropriate pad. Small metal name badges ("Sennheiser" on one side, "Momentum" on the other) are affixed to the ends of the leather headband with four flathead Torx screws, which securely capture the wire that goes between the top of the two earpieces and within the leather pad.
The capsules are a made of high quality, glass fiber filled plastic, and are a lovely semi-gloss deep bronze color. The earpads are also leather. The overall impression is warm and brown, a perfect match for whiskey and cigars. Again, very adult.
I've got a couple of gripes though. While I enjoy the brown color scheme, I think the brown of the carry case is pretty gross. I'd like to see a second color option in black and grey. Pulling off a good looking product in shades of brown is quite a trick---and I think Sennheiser has done so here---but I think a black, gray, and silver version would really pop.
I also think the ear capsules are just a tad boring, and would benefit from a bit of stainless steel trim to resonate with the headband. However, being a critic allows me to make comments like this without any real effect. I'd bet Sennheiser had something like that on the drawing board at some point, but axed it in order to make the $349 price point---and if that was so, I think I'd have to agree with them. These are very good looking cans, my comments notwithstanding.
Theoretically, lighter headphones should be more comfortable, but in practice it's not quite so easy. As headphones become lighter they tend to become less durable, and will have fewer moving parts that allow for adjustments and swivels that aid in providing a good fit. Many very lightweight headphones tend to be uncomfortable due to poor fit, or may move too easily around on your head giving a poor sense of security while moving vigorously.
The Momentum is very lightweight (177grams (w/o cable) vs. 293 for UE6000, 232 for Sony MDR-1R, 284 for V-Moda M-100, 334 for Denon AH-D5000), and Sennheiser appears to have made some very subtle and important design decisions that result in a very comfortable wearing experience...for many, but not all. By most any measure, the Momentum is a small headphone, which is good because it keeps the weight down, but not so good if you've got big ears. My head is slightly larger than average size (23.5" vs. 22.5" for the average male head), but my ears are just slightly smaller than average, which is 65mm from top to bottom. The inside dimensions of the Momentum earpads are 50mm X 35mm. That means there's 15mm of something that's got to give. Fortunately, while the outside of the ear cushions are leather, the inside circumference if the ear cushion is made of a very stretchy fine mesh knit fabric covering the soft memory foam that does provide quite a bit of give to accommodate the ear within the cushion. For me it was cozy, but very, very comfortable. But I have heard from many others online that claim the pads simply do not accommodate their ears, and who returned the Momentum due to poor fit.
For reference, inside dimensions of UE6000 60mm X 37mm; Sony MDR-1R 59mm X 40mm; V-Moda M-100 57mm X 35mm; Denon AH-D5000 64mm X 42mm. Here's the weird thing, though, the Momentums didn't feel that much smaller than the others due to the very soft internal mesh of the earpad.
The other comfort issue I had was that it seemed like the top of the earpads clamped against my head with a bit more force than the bottom of the earpads. I found, after quite a bit of experimentation, that I was simply adjusting the earpieces too high on the headband. I was used to feeling a little more pressure on the top of my head from wearing heavier headphones, which lead me to misadjust the ear pieces slightly. Sennheiser wisely chose a continuous friction adjustment as opposed to one with detents. I found that when I adjusted the earpieces slightly too low it felt like the ear cushions were hanging on my ears, but the excessive clamping force at the top went away. When I adjusted the ear pieces in between these two positions everything fell into place nicely. The measure between too high and too low is a matter of just a millimeter or two. Care in making this adjustment spot on is rewarded with a very comfortable fit.
To summarize: the Momentum is a very light and comfortable headphone, but they must be adjusted carefully, and your ears can't be too much larger than average size (70mm top to bottom is probably the max size ear for these headphones).
Features and Accessories
The Momentum comes with two cables. The iDevice compatible cable is 4.5" long and includes a handsome metal 3-button remote and a very cool adjustable angle 1/8" plug for insertion into your player or phone. I'm a big fan of V-Modas 45 degree angle plug, but I think the Momentum's plug edges it out as the coolest I've seen. A very nice touch.
The plain cable is about four inches longer then the iDevice cable and is terminated in a straight 1/8" connector with a body slender enough to reach through cover cases on smartphones and pads. Personally, if headphones are going to come with a second cable, I prefer that cable to be substantially longer than the one for use with mobile devices. An eight foot cable in the home or office provides much better mobility around the desk or kitchen while listening. Both cables attach to the headphones with a smaller 2.5 mm plug that includes a molded locking feature to secure it to the headphones.
Both cables are fairly thin and pliable, and resist cable-born noise. I've heard many Headphiles complain about thin pliable cables like this, preferring a heftier cable. I think this is a misguided opinion. Just because a cable is thin doesn't mean it's going to sound poor, and for today's use with portable devices of all kinds, a thin flexible cable is going to get in your way much less and have much less cable-born noise than a thicker, stiffer cable. A 1/8" to 1/4" adapter is also included.
A hard sided carry case is included. While the Momentum is a small headphone, it doesn't have any folding features that allow it to get smaller or thinner for storage and transport. The case for them is therefore fairly large...quite a bit larger than the carry cases for other headphones in this category. It's also, to my eyes, a rather unseemly milk chocolate brown color, having little redeeming design value in terms of it's bulbous shape. On the other hand, it appears to be quite sturdily built with dual zippers, each having nice pulls attached. The interior is covered in medium brown velour shaped nicely to accommodate the headphones, and will allow you to store the headphones without having to remove the cable---a rare feature these days. There is also a cable well with a cover that Velcros into place.
After thinking about it for a while, I've begun to think a somewhat ugly carry case might be a good thing. It may be somewhat less attractive to those that might pilfer your beloved headphones...and believe me, after hearing these headphones for any period of time, they will be beloved.
Yeah, let's talk about that, turn the page for sound quality evaluation.