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.

Styling
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.

Comfort
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
Sennheiser_Momentum_Photo_PlugAngleThe 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.

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COMMENTS
Can Crazy's picture

but I was expecting at least a mention to AKGs K550s, which I thought had scored pretty high with you. Maybe they don't compare to the AKGs, but the price tag is about the same. 
My open cans have gotten me some faces at home lately, so I thought a decent sealed pair of cans that wouldn't cost the money of an Edition 8 or a Denon D7000, would be just the thing for X-mas.
My candidates were the K550s and the Momentums, and I thought the natural contenders for the Senns were the K550s, but maybe I was wrong and the AKGs perform a lot better than the Senns (and the measurements sure show the differences).
I know I have the measurements to go on, but it's always nice to read the nuances of your impressions.
Looking forward to the next Amp batch to hit the test bench :)

Cheers!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I tend to feel the artificial treble tizz of the K550 keeps it out of contention with the UE6000 and momentum. 

Um, I may have to rethink this, but I tend to think it's better to review a product on its own merit.  If I were to compare and contrast with other headphones, and new headphones subsequently came along, it would begin to make the review look incomplete. It's not a hard and fast rule though. 

In the case of the Momentum, it does appear to me to simply be superior to all other cans in this class---which I think was obvious from the review---and therefore there's not much need for particular comparisons, it seems to me.

If I do a MDR-1R review, I'll certainly make a comparison or two to the Momentum, as I think they're not quite as good. 

Beagle's picture

I hear the tizz on the K550 but I also heard the overcooked upper bass on the UE6000 and the droning, blurred bass on the Momentum. So pick yer poison I guess. Or pick the AKG K167 Tiesto which kills all of the above wink

Tyll Hertsens's picture

"...droning, blurred bass on the Momentum."

Grumpy much?  Seems like an overstatement to me. Being a critic is easy, I'd be careful not to abuse the ease. They're much better than that.

 

But I will check into the Tiesto.

Luigi's picture

k167 tiesto... superb sound! but their headband breaks in one month and it lacks in the upper bass. i returned this after 40 days of use.

twtpp's picture

Great job, Tyll. I like your well-refined expression for describing the virtues of Momentem.

I totally agree with your conclusion that this headphone is great enough to satisfy audiophile standards. I never imagined such a small cans could produce very, very faithful sound for classical musics. To my ear, this is the only choice with which I can enjoy all kinds of classical musics on move, although I prefer Sony's MDR-1R to Momentum when it comes to hardcore techno and electronica.

Whatever, I am so happy that Momentum becomes new member of the Wall of Fames. :) Great job, Senn heiser.

ps. I am wondering if you are planning to review Sony MDR-1R..

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Yes, I think I will.  Though I don't think they're quite as good as the Momentum, they'll fit folks with larger ears, and they're still a pretty good sounding can. I'm also interested in the varients. The noise canceling and Bluetooth versions might best the ones currently on the Wall of Fame, but that's yet to be seen.

HeadphoneAddict's picture

I tried the Momentum at RMAF 2012 and enjoyed them. When I did my review on the V-MODA M-100 at head-fi and Amazon I made note that the Momentum were one of the competitors that might overtake the M-100, but that I didn't get enough time with them at RMAF to be sure of their sound.  Unfortunately I hadn't had a chance to try them until Sennheiser was starting to take down their table, so I almost missed my chance.  

My plan has always been to get my hands on the Sennheiser Momentum and Sony MDR-1 for a more complete evaluation, as funds allow.  I agree that the M-100 is a damn fun phone, and what little taste of the Momentum I got at RMAF gave the impression of a little less upper bass and a little more treble presence than the M-100. i.e. a little more balanced view into the music. One might say the same of the Sony MDR-V6, but the Momentum were clearly more engaging and transparent than the V6 or the HD25-1 II that I'm living with right now, and closer to the immersion in performance that I get with the M-100.

I also thought the Momentum were more enjoyable to listen to than the Monster Diamond Tears, DT-1350, Fostex TRP-50, and Beyer Custom One that I tried at RMAF, although none of those are bad.  The top three closed phones that I wanted to try/buy after RMAF were the M-100, Momentum, and MDR-1. (I thought the Audeze closed phones were not ready for prime-time with too little bass).

Like you I mourn the passing of the Denon AH-D2000 thru D7000, which I still preferred to the Ultrasone closed headphone offerings.  It's great that we're starting to get a lot more choices these days.

AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

Great review Tyll!

I would ignore the overly harsh and rude comments a few posts up.  Although I don't always agree with your conclusions (that's what makes this hobby so great) I do like the way your reviews are generally writen, I wouldn't rethink that at all.

I would say if anything that if you did want a better model by model comparison it would be better to do that as a separate effort, kinda like you did with the NC phones a while back.  I agree that this doesn't have any place in a review though because new models coming out would by definition nullify some of your findings, which is especially problematic for you since you do video reviews as well.

I think your review and conclusions with the Momentum are spot on and completely in line with my thoughts, these are truly a wonderful headphone.

Dinny FitzPatrick's picture

I agree, Tyll, that it is better to review a product on its own merit.  For those who seek cross-comparisons, this hobby is replete with them, just search.

Can Crazy's picture

with reviewing a product on it's own merit; I think isolating it from other similar products is part of the distance you have to take from all other impressions in order to concentrate your focus on the immediate ones. This is not easy, since no impression exists without reference to all other impressions, which obviously makes comparison an important discerning factor. Obviously one doesn't need to make ALL impressions explicit, since the objective is to review only one product, but the value of comparative reviews, or the comparisons within a review are of course no less obvious. 

In this particular case, I thought that since there is a context of several quite recent releases of interesting sealed cans from various competing and competent manufacturers, a small dose of comparison was somehow to be expected. I was particularly missing a reference to the AKG K550s, because I was under the impression that they had earned better scores than the V-Modas and Logitechs, and because yo compared them directly to the very well regarded DENONs in the K550s review. 

I'm sorry to have a caused an unnecessary stir-up, and I'm truly sorry for the completely uncalled for comments of yacafifr. I'm sure one could sit down and have a productive dialogue as to how impressions function and how we can deal with them in a rationalizing way, and certainly without having to be rude.

The measurement data sheets are very helpful when making comparisons, and that can to a certain point supplement the absecnce of more explicit comparisons, but not fully. Nevertheless, since we are all talking about objects that belong on a market, to a specific context of competition, and which all have a price and thus a commercial purpose, I would agree with trying to avoid ambiguity and with not losing perspective, in the sense that even though a review presupposes objectivity, it still deals with money and the decisions behind spending it.

I do sensory evaluation of coffee -aka cuptesting- for example, and I can see many really interesting parallels between the quite strict protocol and highly sofisticated way to deal with impressions there, and what you do when you listen and try to isolate different aspects and properties of sound quality in headphones. It's an interesting activy, and it always has you thinking about how complex perception really is, how fragile our memory is and how difficult it is to translate sensory impressions to words.

Thanks for yet another great review and for clearing my doubt about the K550s in relation to the Senns.

Cheers!

Marcello's picture

The Momentum's are an Apple exclusive here in Switzerland and hence they are on the expensive side. But as a small ear person and a Sennheiser fan I am not sure I can resist for long as I will have to commute quite a bit by train in the near future. Does anyone know how they sound in a semi-noisy environment? I heard the somewhat exaggerated bass of the V-Moda M-100 helps in those situations. I would be thankful for information. Also, a comparision with the DT-1350 would be interesting (currently my favorite portable headphone, but there is a comfort issue after wearing them for several hours).

twtpp's picture

I am not sure whether my situation is semi-noisy or not.. but isolation of Momentum was simply the best among every pair of sealed-cans I experienced. It could sufficiently isolate decent level of mid-large US city level envorinmental and occupational noise. To my ear, it isolates better than HD25-1ii which I thought the best until I met Momentum. Of course Momentum's isolation is not as good as good IEM's such as Shure SE535 or Etymotic ER-4S, but they are not as comfortable as Momentum IMO.

To conclude, it may have no problem for you to go for Momentum.. but why don't you try to place your order on the Internet? There might be several online stores that can provide reasonable total cost. 

Marcello's picture

Thanks for the info. I could not resist any longer. I placed an order with Apple - the surcharge is not *that* bad and overall it is still cheaper than ordering from abraod. I actually have more of a problem with the whole concept of them being exclusives (which is also true for the Amperiors and the new Ultimate Ears over here). But all will be forgotten if the Momentums sound as good as I hope they do.

kiranjhons's picture

To my ear, it isolates better than HD25-1ii which I thought the best until I met Momentum. Of course Momentum's isolation is not as good as good IEM's such as Shure SE535 or Etymotic E spelling grammar check

Magrart's picture

Hi Tyll,

Now I am wondering what could be the best option since I took the Amperior as my next headphones. According with your reviews boths seams to be excelent options and both are in the same price range. I recon that I like the portability and "classic" design of Amperior but at the end sound quality is my priority. What is your advice if I have to pick one between both models?

lushkin's picture

On the FR graph that is. They start to roll off 10db already at the upper mids 1-3khz and then another 5db with the upper harmonics at 6-8khz. Even the B&W P5, which are widely considered as warm and dark sounding, have more presence in these areas, espcially the upper mids. a TAD bright? I'd think otherwise but they certainly did a great job matching the character of looks (mature indeed) and sound, so kudos Sennheiser.

twtpp's picture

Momentum is clearly dark, but not too dark. To my ears, the brightness of sound is very similar with HD 650. Assuming low to moderate noisy environment, tonal balance of Modentum is equivalent with that of HD 650, arguably better than P5 IMO.

Long time listener's picture

Obviously Tyll's use of the word "best" in this case pretty much gets the message across, and seeing a positive review from someone as experienced as Tyll is tremendously helpful. But why on earth shouldn't comparisons be included? The purpose of a review is to help consumers make choices between different products. Even if the Momentum is great overall, some people may prefer other cans for certain genres, as one person noted above. Stereophile, for example, has always included comparisons of similar products in similar price ranges, whether speakers, amps, or DACs, with descriptions of their differences; this is an essential part of helping the consumer make a choice that will meet his or her own needs. Yes, the 550 and any others in the same price range should have been mentioned. And as for future products coming along...sheesh! Worry about the future in the future. Future reviews can always make references to past products, can't they?

Jazz Casual's picture

Very nice looking phone and kudos to Sennheiser for bringin' back da brown. Frequency response measurements look damn fine too. I always enjoy your candid and engaging reviews Tyll. 

twtpp's picture

Basically, I agree with Tyll's idea of reviews focusing on its own merits. However some improvements are possible IMO.

1. For seperate product review, how about just including comparison w.r.t. baseline headphone. I recommend to use HD 600/650 as a baseline headphone, which has been 'de-facto' standard of audiophile-quality neutral headphone until now. And I think decent audiophile headphones can best it for some aspects. It may be helpful to set baseline amp, too: NwAvGuy's O2 looks great for this purpose.

2. And on a regular basis (to say, twice an year?), shoot-outs on the same category can be provided by Inner Fidelity for those who want detailed cross-comparisons. "Comparing World-Class Headphones" may be a great example.

4nradio's picture

 

...and a great review of the Momentums. Thanks for giving us your thoughts and measurements on these, Tyll.

I think you may have mentioned it before, but do you still have a review of the "Mad Dogs with Dog Pads" customized Fostex T50rp by Mr. Speakers in the pipeline? I'm very much enjoying mine, and I reach for them nearly as often as my LCD-2 Rev 2s.

thisiscc's picture

I'm surprised that they don't fit your ears if they are smaller than normal. Based on my wearing (normal-size ears) they seem to try and surround only the parts of the ear that jut out like the tragus and (anti-)helix. That would be a huge factor in determining comfort between individuals. The padding is ample though, and the clamping force  is perfect in that it keeps the headphones in place while moving my head without crushing it.

I'm more intrigued/impressed by the simplicity of the design and the thin steel frame than the sound. Although the wide soundstage for these closed-back's is pretty good too.

guerillaw's picture

This was a well done review, as usual. Thanks for all you do. 

I just wanted to chime in on the Sony MDR1r vs. Momentum question. I have recently owned both. I kept the Sony, even though I think the Momentum was more refined and tended to be on the warmer side of balanced, as Tyll indicated. However, as he also indicated, the Momentum has very small earcups, at least for a Can touted as around the ear. That was the dealbreacker for me. 

If the momentum fits, its worth the small premium (though I think it can be found for the $300 asking of the MDR1R) over the Sony. However, those with large ears, like me, should consider the Sony for a better fit and sound good in its own right. 

Meshail's picture

Dear Tyll

won't you review the Famous sennheiser hd 598 and it's little sister hd 518 ?

.... and in your opinion what is the perfect headphones (in every price range) for classical & baroque music (and any full orchestra music)

thanks for your great reviews :)

Best Regards

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Don't think I'll be reviewing the 598, just doesn't quite do it for me.

Ultimate can for classical? Stax SR-009 w/HeadAmp Blue Hawaii ($10,000).

You asked for it.

Otherwise? Modified HD 800 or JH13FP, maybe. 

No such thing as ultimate truths really.

Guitarist9273's picture

So, since the Momentums are out for those with large ears...

What are the best sounding closed headphones for those of us with larger-than-average ears? Sony MDR-1R, Logitech UE 6000, other? 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Been listening to the MDR-1R a lot lately and like it quite a bit.  Not quite as good as the Momentum, IMHO, but it's close, and they're very, very comfortable....very! UE6000 is good too, but not as good as the 1R.

dumbo's picture

I picked up the Momentums (on sale for $300) and then a pair of Amperiors (for comparison). I like them both and the fact they have been optimized for use with portable devices (like the iPhone).  I particularly love the Amperior's tremendous rhythmic drive and it's ability to render the "texture"  of upright bass notes. The momentum strikes me as all about casual relaxed listening. Could an IEM match the performance of either of these cans? 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Different animals, but I like the Shure SE535 a lot. IEMs tend to abstract the sound a bit and most folks hear them as having a smaller image than regular headphones, but in terms of resolution, I think IEMs can excede larger cans. 

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