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Uniformly excellent with different devices, amps, situations and use cases.

A Review On: Sennheiser Momentum

Sennheiser Momentum

Rated # 7 in Over-Ear
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $252.00
julian67
Posted · Updated · 12204 Views · 4 Comments

Pros: Just works. No adjustment required, no deficiency apparent. Compatible with your headphone amp and also your phone/tablet/player/tv/console.

Cons: Eye watering price. Too small for some people.

I bought my Momentums as a used item from a fellow UK based Head-Fi member via this board's "For Sale" section. They are as new and I paid £155 including delivery. This is about US $252 or €186. I have the circumaural type in brown as shown in the product image.

Motivation for purchase:

I live by a busy road with a lot of commuter traffic and delivery vehicles (railway station and post office depot are just around the corner) and while I prefer an open headphone this isn't practical except sometimes in the small hours of the morning. My decade old and rather dull Sennheiser HD500 semi-open 'phones died on me and I tried replacing them with Sony MDR ZX700, an AKG 450/451 on-ear, a Sennheiser HD 219 on-ear and a Sennheiser HD 215 DJ model. The budget Sennheisers and and AKG were taken back for refunds as none were really pleasing. The Sony sounded OK and was supremely comfortable but made with some very poor components and broke after little more than a year. As a stop gap I purchased some Superlux HD661, kind of OK with eq but I used it less and less and always end up either using IEMs (Shure SE215/SuperFi 5vi/Sennheiser CX95) or my Koss KSC75 and trying to ignore the rumble of traffic and the honking and revving of impatient drivers and sirens of emergency vehicles and all that grossness that comes with city living.

Last week while killing time on my way home I tried out a few different headphones in-store. The on-ear Sennheiser Momentums were truly impressive but didn't quite isolate enough and nobody had the over ears in stock. I saw some for sale used (as new, boxed etc.) here on head-fi, priced to sell by someone building a reputation as a reliable trader so I took the bait.

First Impressions:

These arrived in a huge box ph34r.gif Inside the huge box was a merely very large box. Within the very large box was a surprisingly big headphone hard case. Inside the big hard case was a very compact and lightweight pair of headphones and within another compartment were the cables and within an envelope compartment were the docs . Who says the Germans don't have a sense of humour? They saw the Russian matroska dolls and were inspired to use them as a basis for their packaging design. Bravo, screw the planet, mine's a double, cheers.

Fit and Comfort:

The actual earphones are very light and compact capsules that will fit up to moderately large ears. They are mounted on a very lightweight steel headband that allows fitting to moderately large heads but not the largest. When people shout "Fathead!" and/or "Buggerlugs!" at me they are not merely offering coarse and vulgar abuse but also an insightful and accurate description of certain of my anatomical features. My hat size is up in the L to XL area and my lugs at longest point are about 72mm long, hence my reputation as a deep thinker and great listener (alternatively a sinister, scheming eavesdropper). I also wear very minimalist titanium spectacles.

I can wear these comfortably for many hours, all day in fact, but only if I pay real attention to fit and adjustment to begin with. I am absolutely sure that if I wore more conventional spectacles or if my ears were even a tiny bit bigger or my head a tiny bit wider then these Momentums would be impractical for me both in terms of comfort and in the possibility of setting the drivers in the right position. These are the smallest circumaural headphones I've experienced and the drivers are very, very close to the ear such that there really isn't any wiggle room or possibility of effectively shifting them back and forth or up and down. Basically you place them over your ear in the only practical position and then adjust the headband to accommodate this fixed point.

The leather faced earpads are very comfortable, soft, and practical. They haven't made my ears heat up and sweat like the HD 215 which were like a mini ear sauna. On the other hand the cost of replacement pads is staggeringly high. I would be happier with high quality velour/pleather combo with sane replacement cost.

I don't have a fruity i-Device so I use the plain cable. I like the rubbery outer as it retains its shape, doesn't tangle or get knotted and doesn't conduct any external noises. I'm not sure about the twist fit bayonet style attachment to the left capsule. It is worryingly secure and I would prefer a non-proprietary cable that pops out fairly easily as this is much better than pulling the headphones off by mistake or damaging the cable or mount point. My old Sennheiser HD500s had a plain detachable cable (2.5mm standard jack at headphone) and it never broke and was simple and effective and saved me from causing expensive damage many times.

The Sound:

Yummy. Mmmm. More please. Can't stop. I expected these to be excellent but am even more pleased and impressed than anticipated. I've been using them with a wide variety of sources with widely varying power and impedance:

PC to USB DAC FiiO E7
PC SPDIF pass through to Yamaha RX-V496RDS Receiver
iRiver H140 (Rockbox, SSD mod)
iRiver H340 (Rockbox)
Sansa Fuze+ (Rockbox)
Archos A43IT Android multimedia wifi tablet (+Rockbox as an Application)

This is almost all flacs ripped from CD plus a few aac streams and mp3 podcasts and game audio.

The balance is excellent, There is no gross emphasis of any frequency range and also nothing is missing or obviously rolled off. These are the first closed headphone I've used that require absolutely no EQ correction of any kind to sound superb and are purely enjoyable exactly as they are. Bass is powerful and goes deep, midrange is gorgeous with the most natural vocals I've heard, and the higher frequencies seem much more alive and present than you'd expect if you just looked at the graphs and measurements. There isn't the invisible(?) openness and airiness offered by an open headphone but surely that is too much to expect of any closed cup 'phone. I read Jude's review and the subsequent comments and wondered if I might be buying a bass heavy or turgid headphone. This is not the case. There is just the small bass emphasis that is required to prevent a headphone sounding thin compared to loudspeakers. Listening to a viol consort where there is challenging mix of 5 or 6 distinct instruments (and sometimes a range of voices from bass to soprano) all producing slightly different and richly textured tones there is none of the muddiness experienced with a bass heavy phone or typical budget or mid range IEM. What I do hear is really natural and well separated and what I like best is that there is a real sense of the timbre and texture of the natural sounds. It's the same with voices in that more than just the frequency is reproduced: the timbre is perceived so that the voices appear to have body or presence and real dimension.

The highs are excellent as well. These just seem incredibly well balanced and natural. I find my Koss KSC75 have a bit more sparkle but at no point listening with the Momentums does that occur to me; it's something I note after deliberately looking for points of difference while seeking to make a comparison.

While there isn't the airiness that enhances the illusion of width with an open headphone there is excellent stereo imaging: voices and instruments do seem solidly positioned and not just two dimensional.

Substantially I expected an excellent sound as outlined above so while I am really pleased I would have been very disappointed if it wasn't the case. There are a couple of other factors, one that I was hoping for and one that I hadn't considered. The hoped for quality was that the Momentums would work well with a variety of portable and domestic kit and in this respect they exceed my expectations. I am extremely pleased that I can switch them from my tiny Sansa Fuze+ to my Yamaha amp or my Android tablet or iRiver players and the same positive attributes show themselves in each case. There are certainly some differences between the quality of the outputs of the different devices but the sound signature, the tonal quality, feels much the same regardless of power output and impedance. This is truly ideal. What has surprised me the most and has taken me a few days to realise is that the sound is so coherent that I prefer to listen without a crossfeed. Usually I find headphone/IEM listening tends towards the three pot (left ear, right ear, a bit in the middle of the head) so by habit I listen with Rockbox's Meier type crossfeed on my portable players, or with similar settings via bs2b on my PC. The momentums offer such a coherent and believable sound that I'm not tempted to use a crossfeed except with those recordings whose left and right channels are or almost are completely different. Additionally this evening I tried out the famous binaural demo virtualbarbershop and the Momentums render this better than any headphone I've tried before.

Other Stuff:

I don't have anything negative to say about the sound, compatibility, apparent build quality or choice of materials. Even the fit is actually fine, only requiring a little attention to begin with to achieve real comfort. I can't comment on durability but as mentioned earlier I had another pair of Sennheiser circumaural headphones which lasted me a decade. I also have some Sennheiser CX 95 IEMs that are now just over four years old and sound as good as new, if looking a bit worn. So I feel confident that these should last a long time and I hope they do because the price is very high and the price of replacement parts except the plain cable and jack adapter is actually outrageous. I have to say that there is no way I would pay the full retail new price for these and it's a pity that Sennheiser don't market a version without the astonishingly expensive Apple-specific control cable which is pointless and redundant for many or most people.

Summary:

If your circumstances demand an isolating headphone and you are really tired of sticking stuff into your ear canals then try these first. Closed headphones can be excellent after all.

4 Comments:

I have no money to buy these headphones but I really like reading your reviews.
Thank you. These were way beyond my normal budget too but I had some rare good fortune (a small tax rebate), was dissatisfied with various budget closed headphones, saw a pair of Momentums at a good price and couldn't resist. I don't expect to spend so much on headphones ever again. They are the best headphones I have heard and I love them, but I also enjoy my Koss KSC75 and they only cost £10. If an open, non-isolating headphone suited my circumstances I would be happy enough with the Koss, especially now that I know that price difference is in no way proportionate to sound quality difference. It's a shame that closed headphones seem so hard to get right but it's great to finally get something well made that is easy to enjoy.
I'm really curious of what you think about takstar hi2050 or takstar pro80. These are affordable headphones and even some veteran headfiers think it is very good for the price. Like I said, your reviews are fun to read so if you have a chance, let us know what you feel about them.
Sorry, no plans on buying the Takstars (or clones) and as they aren't available locally I can't try them in a store. After getting my Momentums I soon lost interest in cheap, closed headphones and don't expect to be buying another pair unless something unfortunate happens with the Sennheisers.
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