Just got my Momentums a couple of days ago. I didn't listen to em the first night, I just put on the IsoTek "Full System Enhancer & Rejuvenation Disc" on my CD Player set repeat, hooked up the Momentums up to the E9 and set a mid level volume and let em burn in for about 12 hours straight (I do believe the IsoTek CD manages to demagnetize speakers/headphones and prepares them for listening; whether it actually breaks in speakers/headphones/equipement in half time, I dunno; I used this CD to break in my Evo2-30s and they did seem to break in in about half the time than my Evo2-20s did).
So a little history about why I am comparing the cans I am and why I chose to buy the Momentums: I've been using the PX360s for over a year now, mostly with the Cowon J3 and FiiO E7, and they are always nice to hear. Even after spending a weekend listening to my HD650s off my Yamaha S2500 SACD player or my computer off an EMU 1212m soundcard to my Yamaha receiver and out to my E9 desktop amp, or even listening to my HD650s out of my new Summit-Fi Oppo BDP-105 with its Sabre DACs and built in high quality/output headphone amp (its Summit-Fi to me!), I always look forward to starting my mornings at school (where I am a grad student and math instructor) with my J3/E7/PX360 setup blasting in my head while I write the days lecture on the board. I never ever liked the PX360/J3 combo unamped, but amped with the modest E7, it was truly a great little system. I bought the Momentums only because I was looking for a little more bass, and a little more volume from my current setup. Not that there was anything wrong with the bass or volume of the PX360s when run through the E7, but I was more looking for a reason to buy a new set of cans; I even wanted to continue with the 'classic Sennheiser Sound Signature' which has always been on the neutral/natural/detailed side, but the PX360s were for portable use, and I liked its punchier bass (if less detailed than the HD650s) so I decided if I was going to upgrade them, then I'd want a bit more bass and a bit more volume. From all the reviews, the Momentum seemed to produce the sound I wanted in a portable, and its lower impedance indicated that it should be easier to drive,
First test was to see if they could be driven from my Cowon J3 and Galaxy SIII without an amp, to a listenable level (as opposed to my PX360 which is what they are essentially replacing). Here are my impressions:
Galaxy SIII Using PowerAmp - With "Pre-Amp" not providing any gain:
Sennheiser PX360 - The PX360 are driven to OK levels, but by no means enveloping (I wouldn't be able to loose myself in the music, or use this volume to study, for example).
Sennheiser Momentum - Again, with the Pre-Amp at a normal level, the level is OK, but louder than PX360, but not loud enough to be enveloped yet.
Galaxy SIII using PowerAmp - With "Pre-Amp" turned (relatively) high:
Sennheiser PX360 - With the 'Pre-Amp' turned all the way up, the SIII is able to drive the PX360s to a very descent level, just barely at the threshold of acceptable and useful for studying, but still several steps away from being fully enveloping.
Sennheiser Momentum - With the Pre-Amp set about half way to max, the volume easily equates the PX360s and with it set to max, the volume is definitely OK for studying, but not quite enveloping yet, still, closer than the PX360s.
Quality of Sound on Galaxy SIII w/ Power Amp, and "Pre-Amp" set to the relatively high levels
(Listening to FLACs of "Heaven and Hell" by Black Sabbath, ripped from Sanctuary's latest Remasters which I consider to be the best CD versions of Sabbath Albums available): When listening to this album to test SQ, I pay particularly close attention to Geezer Butler's bass line on "Children Of The Sea", because its the the sound that I noticed the most when having heard this album on SACD through my HD650s, which is just incredible and nearly overshadows Iommi's guitar and Dio's vocals when listening through some good equipment.
Sennheiser PX360 - The quality of the sound definitely stayed pretty linear, even if a little dull with Pre-Amp set to full. The bassline was definitely present, but did not have the same impact as it normally does.
Sennheiser Momentum - When "Pre-Amp" set to the level needed to match the PX360s volume, the quality of the sound was excellent. The mids and lows were rich and the bass line sounded very very nice. Still lacks the impact, because of the lack of volume. With the Pre-Amp turned all the way up, the sound quality started to degrade significantly, the highs we annoyingly piercing, and the whole presentation seemed "compressed".
Cowan J3 Unamped (playing the same Heaven and Hell FLACs):
Sennheiser PX360 - No. Not even worth writing much more than this. The volume is simply too too low for me and its also too too thin. The J3 simply does not have the ball needed to drive the PX360s on its own.
Senneheiser Momentum - Much much louder sound, and much much richer sound. The volume is very very acceptable, even if not optimal for me.
Verdict: At the same volume levels unamped, the Momentums just had a much more rich sound, and were more pleasing to hear. However, even though higher volume could be achieved by the Momentums, the trade off in SQ was not worth it. Unamped, the Momentums are a much much better headphone than the PX360s. I know I tend to listen to my music pretty loud compared to a lot of people (though maybe not compared to most Head-Fi'ers), so for most people, who are fine with listening to music with headphones at descent levels, the Moementums do deliver a solid high-end sound, while the PX360s practically require an amp.
So what about the two amped? You would stand to reason that the PX360 would benefit greatly from a portable amp, and this would be fairer fight, and you'd be right! Despite my seemingly negative review of the PX360s just now, like I said, the PX360s have been AWESOME when ran off the Cowon J3 amped with a simple E7. Although the Momentums have already proven to be easier to drive and a better headphone while unamped, that's no guarantee that they would "amp" nicely. I still required more volume than either can could deliver unamped, so this test was more critical. Here I will only state how each headphone did with the Cowon J3 (I only reviewed unamped performance on a Galaxy, since I know people use their phones as their primary DAPs usually unamped); also I am not discussing sound levels, because I am presupposing that both will have great volume. I will only discuss the SQ of each can on different songs. All are FLACs.
"Children of the Sea" - Black Sabbath
PX360 - Ah yes, there's that bass line, nice and prominent with some impact. The sound is nice and detailed, the nice separation in the instruments and the soundstage is descent.
Momentum - Wow, even before the bassline kicks in, I can already tell the improvement in detail and separation. The bassline definitely has more presence, richer and fuller, and crunchier. The detail on the drumming by Bill Ward comes alive. Soundstage does seem to be a little narrower, but the crispness of the acoustic guitar, the richness and detail of the bass and the separation of instruments way outweighs the narrower soundstange (though, its there, and its noticeable).
"Jumping Jack Flash" - Rolling Stones
PX360 - This song does sound a bit thinner now, and is no doubt an effect from having just listened to Children of the Sea on the Momentums. This song also has a ridiculous bass line that I only started paying attention to after having caught it on my HD650s and the SACD of Hot Rocks. The bass line is there and it groves nicely, really adds a whole dimension to the song, giving a bit of a grange band sound and rawness to it.
Momentum - Right away the song is much less thin than on the PX360s. The drums really start to drive the song here in a way they couldn't on the PX360. Then that bassline hits and it sounds so sick and rich. The garage band sound of the song is still present, but now it sounds like I am listening to the garage band live, still raw, but the impact of the music is much pronounced. Excellent!
"Still D.R.E." - Dr Dre featuring Snoop Dogg
PX360 - Man, I can't get over how thin sounds. I remember this sound kicking my PX360s nicely, but it sounds totally thin now. There is a harshness to the sound now.
Momentum - Wow, there it is, filling the sound again. Oh yeah, the Momentum's are hittin', they are hittin' nice and hard and are not muddying up the rest of the song. Dre's voice is much more pronounced. Everything has much more seperation, almost to the point of working against the song. When Dre say "Still" in the background, it totally sounds separate from everything else in the song instead of blending in with the song. There is much less harshness to the sound, despite being significantly louder. Overall, the Momentum killed the PX360s on this song, even if its crazy separation worked against it. Overall a better experience.
"Electric Relaxation" - A Tribe Called Quest
PX360 - Finally, no thinness. The background sample sounds nice and slow, really nice ambiance. Q-Tips voice sounds good. Very good presentation here. No really boom to this track, but its not that type of hip hop song, there's still a nice bass presence though (from a stand up bass, not a machine). Head is definitely boppin.
Momentum - Wow, right from the start, there more presence with the Momentums. Bass is definitely hitting harder, and although its not quite muddying up the rest of the song, it gets very close. The stand up bass has more detail as well as impact. But the background sample also has much more impact and actually changes the character of the song. The Momentum definitely presents the song in a much more traditional hip hop way, but its not necessarily a good thing (the presentation is similar to Still DRE, but these are two different songs with two different vibes). Im really torn on this one. The PX360 over presented the song as it should be, much more relaxed and laid back, even if it lacked a bit of oomph. The Momentum has much more oomph, too much, I think this is a case where the narrower soundstage combined with the heavier bass of the Momentum made for a bad combo. I think bassheads would prefer this presentation of the song, but I'm a bit more of a purist so this a little too boom boom for me. The nod goes to the PX360 here.
"Edith and The Kingpin" - Herbie Hancock with Tina Turner
PX360 - The thinness seems to have returned, but not quite as pronounced. There seems to be some harshness issues with Herbie's piano and Wayne Shorter's sax. However, Tina Turner's voice sounds great and relaxing, the wicked little funk bass in the background that becomes more prominent as the song progress sounds great nice separation. Overall, a very nice job done by the PX360s. The thin sound didn't last long and this song sounds just fine. The harshness of Wayne Shorter's sax is gone towards the middle part of the song. Great showing by the PX360s, the last two songs reminded me why it's been so hard to decide to upgrade.
Momentum - Its seems like I usually start off by saying how much fuller the sound is, but here the fullness sounds a bit muddy. Tina's voice however does have more impact, the lower nature of her voice is enhanced by the Momentum. The early harshness of Herbie's Piano and Wayne's sax is totally non-existant. There's a smokier atmosphere being created here, which is actually working well.That funky bassline seems clearer but tamer and gives way to Herbie's piano and Wayne's sax. Again, a much different presentation to the song than the PX360, but while the Momentum got the presentation wrong in "Electric Relaxation," I can't really say that either can has the wrong presentation here. The PX360s highlight the rhythm of the song, while the Momentums highlight the ambiance of the song. Hard to pick a winner here. Ive always dug the funky bass line, so I kinda gotta knock the Momentum for hiding it here (which is weird, because it brings out the bass line in every other song so prominently), but I also like the air of "smoke filled jazz club" type of ambiance that is created by the Momentums. I would say this is a wash.
"The Nubian Queens" - Nicola Conte
PX360 - This song has a lot of rhythm, and builds up in intensity. So far, the impact of the song is pretty tame. The singer's voice seems to not have the same presence it usually has. When the bass hits, its a bit muddy. The highs are a little piercing. The trumpet here does sound great and it is one of the highlights of the song. However the overall energy of the song seems to have lessened. The sax is accurate and the small drum solo was trying to bring the energy level back up, bit overall, a bit too tame of a presentation.
Momentums - The stand up bass is already hitting hard and clear. The singer's voice has much more depthness. Already I can here the congas more prominently, however, I can also hear the horns tamed a bit. It seems to be an exchange: more depth on the singer's voice for horns that are not as prominent. The energy is certainly much more prominent here, but when the song gets going the prominence of the bassline in the rhythm section seems a little lost, the sax also seems a little more tame than on the PX360. The mini drum solo sounds much richer, and when it transitions back to singing, the depth of the singer's voice doesn't allow the energy of the song to lessen. The Momentums do seem to be struggling a bit with the business of the song towards the middle and some of the added bass is bleeding into the mids a bit. Overall, I do like the Momentum's presentation of the song much more, as it's able to hold on to the energy much better.
"Taboo" - Santana
PX360 - Thin again, with a bit of harshness to begin. Then the song slows down and it sounds fine. There's dueling guitars on this track (courtesy of Neal Schon and Carlos Santana), but both guitars seemed a bit subdued in favor of Greg Rollies vocals (Gregg was never a great singer, so this isnt a plus), the first guitar solo (I beleive Schon's) seems to lack some of the intensity, but the over all rhythm of the song is excellent. Now Santana's guitar is coming back and has the nice bite I'm used to. Now the big guitar solo: its building up nicely, has great intensity, highs are little sharp, but its supposed to be that way. The background drum is pronounced, the guitar is really singing now, but over all, a much tamer presentation than what I normally remember. The Momentum's presentation should be interesting.
Momentum - Sound is fuller in the beginning, but not sure if its fuller in the right way. When the song settles down, the big difference in guitar presentation is obvious: the PX360 seperated the two guitars into distinct L/R sides. These guitars a much more blendeded, probably a result of the narrower soundstage. First mini solo already sounds nicer, much more crunchiness. The rhythm has much more drivign force. Now Santana's first solo, has all the bite and impact I expected, but I am amazed how easily you hear the guitar playing just stop. Oh wow, when the song break, theres detail there I never heard. Yes, the Momentums and bringing out much more detail. Big guitar solo time: sounds much more natural, the high is still high but not painfully piercing, nice taming of that scream. You can just SEE that guitar sound fly out out of the amplifier. Very, very nice. Momentums win this one.
"Guajira" - Santana
PX360 - No thinness to begin with here, but maybe a slight less energy and intensity. The bass seems a little off, and the overall sound is a little harsh. The singing is spot on. Piono solo time: the piano should be bright, it should make me feel like im on beach, and the sound is just barely giving me a taste of that. The lack of energy is hurting this presentation, that little piano is trying. Now trumpet solo: the trumpet sounds great, but there is still something a little harsh in the background. Guitar solo: comes in nicely and sounds great, wow...that guitar sounds absolutely great, does not lack energy, or intensity. Second guitar solo: same thing here, great great sound, great intensity. The great guitar presentation definitely saved the song here. Started off shaky, but ended very nicely.
Momentum - Very nice beginning. The fullness again seems to make some things a little muddy when they should be clear. Whatever was weird with the bass before is still present here, but a bit more pronounced because of the bassier sound of the Momentums, but the song does have a much more energetic presentation. Piano Solo time: the piano dies have more presence and clarity here, but that background bass which is more pronounced here is distracting from it. But the song does drive better. Trumpet solo time: another great presentation of the trumpet, a little richer but more subdued, but sounds great. Now onto the guitars: excellent excellent sounds to them. They sound a bit better than on the PX360, but whats really winning here is that background bass sound has finally turned into congos. Wow, great presentation on the guitars, made better by the congos and piano in the background that I had not heard before. Wonderful translation of this song. The Momentums win.
Final Verdict: Unamped, the Momentums totally blew the PX360s away. Right away you can tell that the Momentum is better headphone, but then again it SHOULD be a better headphone for the kind of money I paid. When I got the PX360s last year, they were new and had an MSRP of $150, and right away I was able to buy em off RazorDog Deals for $120. The Momentums have been out since last year, and I've never seen them drop below the $350 MSRP.
As total package, the Momentums look like $350 headphones and the PX360 look like $150 headphones, and I am well aware that the point of the Momentums were to break into the "lifestyle/fashion' market, so taking all that into account plus their performance, they are definitely worth their price. However, if you have ever seen how I dress, then you know that I am not too particular on the fashion aspect: yeah, I love the fact that the Momentums are gorgeous, but to me that will always be "an added bonus" and never something I would pay too much extra for (I am well aware my HD650s are UGLY to most NON-Head-Fi'er, they are plain, and bulky), but that doesn't matter to me, their performance are worth their price. Is that true of the Momentums? Depends.
Unamped, the Momentums are definitely twice as nice as the PX360s, problem is, unamped, the PX360s are not worth $150. The worth of the PX360s comes when they are paired to an amp. It doesnt take an outstanding amp to make em worth their price (the FiiO E7 is a very nice companion and probably as much amp as the PX360s can use anyway). When amped, the Momentums are STILL a nicer headphone, but in no way are they twice as good. On nearly every song, the Momentums were nicer, but not without its faults. However, even on the one song where I declared the PX360 the winner, it was the winner because the overall presentation was more balanced. Any basshead woulda given the win to the Moementum, and even I have to agree that even in a loss, the Momentum still sounded like the higher quality item. But by the same token, the PX360s are overall a great headphone, and for $150, I think they are a steal! On pure SQ alone, both amped and unamped, the Momentums are not 133% better, that's for sure (the cost 133% more than the PX360s).
However, a person looking to buy great cans for their phone or DAP would need to buy a $100 amp to really get much from their PX360s, while the Momentum doesn't require it (although, an amped PX360 would probably be better than an unamped Momentum). Amped, the line is finer, but the Momentum is still, clearly, the superior can. So are they worth $350? YES, if I am comparing them to JUST the PX360s and other cans of their level and price range. A lot of audiophiles are aware of the law of diminishing returns when it comes to audio equipment. Whatever price level you are at, you know the next price level GENERALLY doesn't offer a LINEAR increase in SQ. We know and expect a product that is twice as good to cost much much more than twice as much. So with that in mind, although the Momentum is not twice as good as the PX360, it is worth the extra $200. So overall, I set out to get better bass, and better volume while still maintaining the Sennheiser sound signature, and the Momentums delivered just that.
However, I also own a pair of HD650s, and in my next post (either tonight or tomorrow, or sometime soon), I will compare the two. This time, running them off my better equipement (SACD + Oppo BDP-105). My opinion on the price of the Momentum may surprise you (or it may not, who knows).