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).
Here is the rest of the review, cropped together from yesterday's posts:
Ok, so here it is: Sennheiser Momentum vs Sennheiser HD650. First, some background on this comparison.
Oppo BDP-105: both headphones were fed directly by the Oppo's wonderful built in headphone amp. The headphone amp has enough power to drive 300ohm Impedence cans like the HD650, although the cans do operate at the limit of what the amp can do: a volume setting of 100/100 was normally used when listening to the HD650s throughout the test, however a volume level of 90-91/100 was used for the Momentums. At these levels, both headphones were reading 83-84db on my basic dbmeter phone app.
Media used: I mostly stuck with good source material like SACDs, DVDAs, DualDiscs, recent remastered CDs, and even some HDTracks material burned as a DVDA. Here is a list of the songs/media that is being used to evaluate:
01. "Call It A Stormy Monday" - In Session SACD - Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughn
02. "Heaven and Hell" - Heaven and Hell SACD - Black Sabbath
03. "Jumping Jack Flash" - Hot Rocks SACD - Rolling Stones
04. "Time" - Dark Side Of The Moon SACD - Pink Floyd
05. "Let Me Ride" - The Chronic DualDisc - Dr. Dre
06. "Hail Mary" - Makavelli: The Don Killuminati DualDisc - Tupac
07. "El Cuarto De Tula" - Buena Vista Social Club DVDA - Buena Vista Social Club
08. "Song Of The Wind" - Caravanserai SACD - Santana
09. "Don't Know Why" - Come Away With Me SACD - Norah Jones
10. "So What" - Kind Of Blue SACD - Miles Davis
11. "Free For All" - Free For All 96K-24-Bit HDTracks Download Burned To DVDA - Art Blakey
12. "Symphony Of Destruction" - Countdown To Extinction MoFi 24K Gold CD - Megadeth
13. "Smack My Bitch Up" - The Fat Of The Land CD - Prodigy
14. "The Rover" - Physical Graffiti Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters - Led Zeppelin
15. "Good Times Bad Time" - Led Zeppelin I Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters - Led Zeppelin
16. "Fool In The Rain" - In Through the Outdoor Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters - Led Zeppelin
17. "Lemon Song" - Led Zeppelin II Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters - Led Zeppelin
I would like to test out a few more Electronic tracks later on today, but for now, these are the song I used in the compo.
"Call It A Stormy Monday" - Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn - In Session - Stax SACD (2003)
Momentum - First thing I noticed was how quickly the Momentum changes in sound, meaning that changes in the music come abruptly rather than smoothly. There is excellent separation with the instruments and voice, with the guitars having a real nice bite to them with good detail. The bass guitar driving the beat is very prevalent but there is a loss of detail to it: it has deep presence, but kinda muffled. The extreme highs are a bit jarring, and not smooth. Albert's voice sounds clean and clear but also distant, like his singing is relegated to the background and the instruments are upfront.
Overall: Great presentation, but wished the highs were handled more nicely.
HD650 - Right off the bat, Albert's voice is back to the front, sharing the presence with the guitars, bass and drums. There is a lot more detail to be had with the HD650s: here we have a cleaner presentation, with no bass hanging over you. For example, the bass guitar still hits nicely, but it has much more detail. The guitars have great bite to them, and the music as a whole sounds much more coherent. The highs are handled smoothly without loosing their impact. The sound stage is nice and wide.
Overall: Impressive first round has to go to the HD650. It did everything better than the Momentum.
Momentum - 0
"Heaven And Hell" - Black Sabbath - Heaven And Hell - Sanctuary Japanese SACD (2012)
HD650 - The soundstage is very wide. The driving bassline of the song is very well defined but lacking a little bit of impact; Tony Iommi's guitar is very crunchy. The first bridge of the song sounds extremely doomy and gloomy, a great epic presentation of this song. During the acoustic mini-bridge, I hear tremendous detail in the acoustic guitar. When the song picks up again, and the sound gets busy, Dio's vocals being to get a little lost in the shuffle.
Overall: Great presentation, but a little more impact from the bass would not hurt here, but that impression could be due to the volume of the previous song.
Momentum - A much fatter sound is immediately apparent. Dio's voice is more upfront here, and the bassline is very chunky and prominent, but a bit muffled and lacking a bit of the detail presented by the 650; the bass tends to bleed into the low mids, The guitars sound crunchier, giving them a much more impactful sound, despite loosing a bit of detail. The soundstage is more narrow than on the 650, giving a more intimate presentation (which is not necessarily a good thing: this is an epic song so I would prefer a wide and expansive presentation). The dynamic range of the Momentum is exposed here: the highs loose a lot of detail compared to the HD650s
Overall: Great Bass, but loss of detail and boominess doesn't do the SACD justice: there is too much distortion
HD650 - 2
Momentum - 0
"Jumping Jack Flash" - Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks - ABKCO SACD (2002)
Momentum - The intro riff sounds a little lazy and the first verse sounds a bit veiled. However, when that bass line hits, it hits nice and fat; the bass guitar is upfront and is totally driving the song. The soundstage is narrow, but Mick's voice is upfront. Here although the bass line has great oomph, it never bleeds into the mids, this is how the bass should be! The seperation is very prominent but sounds natural.
Overall: A nice tight presentation, with the bass hitting as it should: with great impact but keeping its place in the lows and not intruding into the mids. A fun sound, but I couldn't help but feel like something was missing.
HD650 - No laziness in the opening riff here, the sound is much brighter and has a raw garage band kind of sound with fits this song so well. Mick's voice is more in the background in comparison to the Momentum. That bassline does lack a bit of the impact of the Momentum, but that's not a minus here, it makes it sound natural, as if that bass guitar amp is next to me. Overall, the music is clean, clear and properly seperated: this is one of those times when you really feel like you are there live. The sound is much more energetic and involving. No distortion, these headphones are doing the SACD justice! Wow!
Overall: No weakness here. Absolutely perfect presentation!
HD650 - 3
Momentum - 0
"Time" - Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon - Capital SACD (2003)
HD650 - The impact of the clocks going off is a little bit of a letdown. Opening bass guitar riff has a very nice tight sound. The sound is nice and ominous, with the imaging of the instruments and sound effects being excellent. The soundstage is of medium width, which is perfect for this song. When the vocals finally hit, they are a bit of a let down as they lack some impact. That guitar solo, my oh my, talk about SEARING. There is so much detail here, the highest of the high on the solo are handled so well, they are so high nut they don't pierce! You can hear the vibration of the the guitar strings so well! The separation between the guitar tracks is obvious and welcomed. The sng has so much presence here.
Overall: Wow!!!! That guitar solo absolutely destroyed all! Wonderful presentation!
Momentum - The clocks sound much more prevalent and have more impact here. Nice impact on opening bass riff, with no bleed apparent, but there is a bit of lack of detail and a little distortion in highs. Very nice impact when the vocals kick in. David Gilmour sounds upfront here (he sounded kind of in the middle with the 650s). The guitar solo sounds great, but the overall sound is a little hampered by bass that hand over the presentation a bit. The strings of the guitar still sound nice and 'vibrant', but doesn't reach the HD650s level of detail.
Overall: Great presentation by the Momentum, probably the second best showing by the Momentum behind its "Stormy Monday" performance. It looses only because the HD650 was better, not because the Momentum was bad.
HD650 - 4
Momentum - 0
"Let Me Ride" - Dr. Dre - The Chronic - Death Row DualDisc (2002)
Momentum - LOUD! Great bass impact, but the treble is a little piercing. The beat is very prevalent, and drives the song. Dr Dre's vocals have great echo. The bass is very fun, and the impact really works to the song's advantage and the sound is actually quite detailed.
Overall: Great presentation, with the bass power of the Momentum truly shining: the bass hits nice and hard and the detail is preserved!
HD650 - LOUD! The lack of bass is immediately noticed and missed. The HD650 is giving me a cleaner presentation,when Snoop says "Rollin in my 6 4", it has much more detail. As the song progresses the lack of bass becomes less of an issue.
Overall: The song flows a bit more coherently with less distortion. However, the lack of bass really impacts the 'fun' of this song. The HD650 loses its first contest.
HD650 - 4
Momentum - 1
"Hail Mary" - 2Pac - Makaveli: The Don Killuminati - Death Row DualDisc (2005)
HD650 - Nice bass sound here, its clean, clear, impactfull and prevalent. Tupac's voice is crisp and clear; the layering is absolutely phenomenal here! The soundstage is nice, tight and intimate, which fits the song perfectly: this is a cerebral hip hop song, not a party anthem. That intimate soundstage makes the song sound very ominous, makes the song sound crazier, like Tupac is loosing his mind. Very little distortion here, the presentation is just so damn nice. Its so hard to get over how beautifully the layered vocals are presented. It just adds so much to the feel of this song.
Overall: Awesome job by the HD650. This isn't party rap or "g-funk" rap, this cerebral rap, its "prog" rap and the HD650 is the perfect can to listen to this.
Momentum - Bass is immediately more prominent but its bleeding and distorting everything around it. The emphasis on bass does not work here at all! There is so much bleeding here that the bass is actually causing the layered vocals to shake, completely detracting from quality. The bass is no fun. The contest is stopped early, because this was such a horrible presentation.
Overall: This was so bad, I had to stop the song early. 'Nuff said!
HD650 - 5
Momentum - 1
"El Cuarto De Tula" - Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club - World Circuit Records DVDA (2000)
Momentum - Nice clarity to start the song, although the bass does bleed a little bit. There seems to be a lack of energy here, with the vocal sounding a bit lazy. The trumpets sound a bit weak and distant, like they were an afterthought. Ferrer’s vocals are lacking, and play second fiddle to the music, that is already lacking energy. The percussion in the rhythm section does have descent separation.
Overall: Somewhat of a disappointment. The lack of energy could be due the fact that I just got done listening to more energetic rap song, and the hearing has not gotten acclimated just yet.
HD650 - Wow! Very nice detail! Finally, the wonderful vocals of the BVSC are coming through nicely! The trumpets still sound distant, but very distinct; there is great detail in the music. There is wonderful imaging going on here: you can easily imagine the placement of the instruments in the studio! Ibrahim Ferrer’s vocals are front and center here! There is equal emphasis placed on vocal and music, excellent! There is a wonderful liveliness to the track, a great atmosphere is created!
Overall: Excellent presentation! The HD650 excels with the detail, ambience, imaging and soundstage of the track!
HD650 - 6
Momentum - 1
"Song Of The Wind" - Santana - Caravanserai - Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs SACD (2011)
HD650 - Nice wide soundstage is immediate! The guitars are crystal clear and very detailed; the bass guitar is very smooth. The vibrations of the guitar strings are clearly heard and felt! The bass guitar presentation is wonderful, it beautifully guide’s Santana’s guitar work, never overshadowing Santana, but never allowing itself to be ignored; just gorgeous! Volume is lacking a bit, but this has always been one of my quieter albums.
Overall: The presentation is simply beautiful; it’s so easy to get lost in the rhythm and guitar work. Truly a great SACD, presented faithfully!
Momentum - Soundstage is a little more narrow. The bass guitar had nice impact, is beefier and is more upfront; there is the tiniest amount of bass bleed into the guitar section, but does not deter from the overall presentation. Though the overall sound is not as clear and detailed as the HD650, the bass impact adds a lot to the sound: whatever tiny lack in detail and clarity the Momentum gives up to the HD650, the bass makes up for it.
Overall: This is a nice and warm presentation. A wonderful showing for the Momentum, probably its best showing yet. There is no clear winner here: The HD650 really extracts all this song has to offer on SACD, but the Momentum adds a nice warm to the presentation.
HD650 - 6
Momentum - 1
Tie - 1
"Don’t Know Why" – Norah Jones - Come Away With Me – Blue Note SACD (2003)
Momentum - The bass bleeds a bit here, but Norah’s voice is unaffected by it; Norah’s voice has nice subtle echoes to it. The song has a relaxed presentation, but the blending of different tracks and channels is less than subtle. When Norah hits the highs, they are a bit piercing. The piano lacks some detail.
Overall: Nice, relaxed presentation, but lacks some of the flair of what an SACD can really do. There really isn’t anything wrong with the presentation, there are very few flaws, it just left me wanting a little more out of it.
HD650 - No bass bleed here. Norah’s voice is more upfront and much more in control of the song, the echoes really give the feeling of being in the studio with her. The blending of the tracks is much more subtle giving the song a much more coherent, live in my living room type of feel. The highs hit higher, but are not piercing. The piano solo sounds much more organic, more ‘live.’
Overall: Perfect presentation! With the emphasis placed on Norah’s vocals, the song sounds more refined.
HD650 - 7
Momentum - 1
Tie - 1
"So What" – Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue – Sony Music Japan SACD (2007)
HD650 - Right off the bat, you can hear the strings being plucked on that upright bass. Imaging is great: you can easily place the musicians in space, and the soundstage is wide. The cymbals are raining down sound, the sound is engulfing: like being wrapped in a blanket by the music! Mile Davis’ trumpet is never lost is the music, always taking precedence without completely dominating the sound. There is a great echo to the sound of Coltrane and Cannonball’s saxes, and the piano provides a nice background for everyone to solo over. When the piano itself solos, it sounds warm and soothing and the bass is always present, tight and clean throughout the entire song.
Overall: Wonderful presentation of an epic song! Truly great showing by the HD650
Momentum - The lowest of bass notes from the intro have a bit of trouble getting distinguished: even though the bass has more impact, its slight muddiness causes those low notes to mash together, causing the performance to sound less live. Up to now, this is the widest soundstage produced by the Momentum. There is some distortion from the bass when the song revs up to full speed. Mile’s trumpet work is presented front and center; this is a nice touch. The cymbals still add a nice atmosphere to the song, although the overall sound is less engulfing. The other instruments have ore presence, the imaging is very forward. The highs are a little piercing.
Overall: Definitely a much more up front and in your face presentation, which is very different from what I am used to hearing, but it is welcomed. Ultimate, the Momentum doesn’t quite extract the same level of experience the HD650 can.
HD650 - 8
Momentum - 1
Tie - 1
"Free For All" –Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Free For All – HDTracks 96K/24-Bit WAV Burned to DVDA (2012)
Momentum - There is a touch of resonance from the bass. The sound is not clean, but that’s OK, because this is a gritty, dirty, muscular type of jazz! Wayne Shorter’s sax is unnaturally separated from the rest of the music. The presentation is energetic and intimate due to the narrow soundstage. The trumpets are nicely separated and nicely imaged. The frantic drumming of Art is lost in the frantic sax of Wayne. When Art solo’s, the speed of his drumming seems to be quicker than what the Momentum can handle and some resolution is lost.
Overall: Nice and energetic, if less detailed presentation.
HD650 - There is no bass bleed here. The piano sounds wonderful, with the trumpets have nice balance and are very detailed. The separation of Wayne’s sax is not as extreme here: while the sax sound does lie mostly in the right side, there’s enough of it imaged in the middle to make the sax sound naturally entrenched in the rest of the sound. The trumpets don’t hit you like a hammer upfront, instead the chime in beautifully. The HD650 has no problems keeping up with Art’s drumming and is able to fully resolve the drums from Wayne’s Sax: both instruments wail away at an insane pace, but each can be heard fully! The piano is very well detailed.
Overall: Just a great job by the HD650. Every instrument can be heard well, yet the overall sound is cohesive: very ‘live/in the studio’ sound. Very natural! Awesome!
HD650 - 9
Momentum - 1
Tie - 1
"Symphony Of Destruction" – Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction – Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs 24tK Gold CD (2006)
HD650 - Super crunchy guitars. Mustain’s vocals have lots of echo and sound very ominous. The overall sound is very electric, very metallic. There is no obvious bass thump, yet the bass does not feel like its lacking. Vocals sound absolutely fantastic and are imaged properly. The guitar solo is crisp, electric, metallic detailed, with the backing rhythm still present and not lost.
Overall: Great presentation with a little bit of distortion. This presentation highlights what is possible with a CD, the mastering is masterful and the HD650 takes full advantage of it!
Momentum - Wow! What a nice bass kick! Mustain’s voice still sounds ominous but is imaged a bit further back. The guitar sounds thicker, adding some nice substance to the crunchiness. Everything here has more weight: the guitars, the bass, even the singing, everything hits harder! There is a bit more distortion when the song is firing on all cylinders, but this distortion does not take away from the sound of the song and may actually add to the sound! The guitar solo has everything that the HD650 presentation had, but with much more impact, much more weight!
Overall: WOW! The detail/definition achieved by the HD650 is not matched by the Momentum, but it doesn’t matter at all! There is nothing wrong with this presentation, and there are so many things right. The extra bass is so very welcomed here, and whatever distortion is added by the extra bass only adds to the experience of this song! Momentum wins its second contest!
HD650 - 9
Momentum - 2
Tie - 1
"Smack My Bitch Up" – Prodigy – The Fat of the Land – Maverick Records CD (1997)
Momentum - The opening riff is nice and fatty, This song hits hard when the bass kicks in, the cymbals are a bit piercing though. The soundstage is a bit narrow, and this hurts the presentation of the song: it’s a song that should take you to another place, but the narrowness of the soundstage hurts that a bit. The soundstage narrowness is tempered a bit by the nice and authoritative impact of the bass, adding presence to the song. There is a little bit of distortion when the chick starts to ‘sing.’ Surprisingly, the bass line is slightly hidden behind the rest of the music.
Overall: The narrow soundstage is the only fault here; otherwise, you gotta LOVE this song with these cans!
HD650 - The presentation by the HD650s is more tech, industrial, surprisingly more ‘lo-fi.’ Highs are a little piercing at times. The soundstage is much wider; you get a great sense of space and ambience! All instruments and effects are very detailed, well separated and imaged to give the song a wide airy feeling. There is no distortion with the girl’s singing, the bass line is more prevalent and had more presence. The effects have a nice sustain to them.
Overall: A much more spacious presentation. Entirely different presentation from the Momentum, but it’s no better or worse, it’s a solid tie!
HD650 - 9
Momentum - 2
Tie - 2
"The Rover" – Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti – Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters (2008)
HD650 - Guitar and drums are very airy, and the bass line is nicely defined, but there is an overall slight thinness to the sound. Plant’s voice sounds distant. The soundstage is wide, with a ton of space. The highs are a little piercing at times. Jimmy’s guitar interlude sounds great, being guided nicely by JPJ’s bass work. The guitar solo/outro absolutely shines and is searing, the backing sound is well defined and sounds great!
Overall: A bit thin, but this album has always been the thinnest sounding album in Zep’s catalog, so it’s accurate, but feels like it could still be more fun.
Momentum - The Momentum automatically added some much needed meat to the song, making the performance sound more ‘live/in the studio’ than the HD650. The narrower soundstage does detract from the ambience of the song. Plant’s vocals are more upfront. There is a slight hint of bass bleed, but it’s not enough to detract from the enjoyment of the song. The changes in tempo don’t carry the same urgency as they do in the HD650, but there is much more substance in the sound.
Overall: More intimate and meatier presentation. The HD650 is the more accurate to the original recording, as we know it, but the Momentum is able to sound more ‘live’ and is much more fun; it just adds that extra oomph this song needed. Momentum wins its third!
HD650 - 9
Momentum - 3
Tie - 2
"Good Times, Bad Times" – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I – Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters (2008)
Momentum - There’s a nice thickness to the sound, but the sound does get distorted when the song gets busy. The impact of JPJ bass is nice, but it’s a bit hidden. The imaging of Plant’s vocals comes off as artificial: the vocals sound like they were recorded somewhere else, at some other time, then just placed there. The guitar solo seems a little lifeless, and the bass mini-solo is a little distorted. The sound lack some detail.
Overall: This is just an OK presentation. Nothing really bad or really good with this presentation, just blah.
HD650 - Nice balance to the sound right off the bat, the detail is more apparent. The different instruments are nicely separated, but work as a cohesive whole; Plant’s vocals do not sound artificially placed, they vocals sound like they were being recorded with everyone else. There is little to no distortion, and there is a boatload of detail. The guitar solo comes alive, and its searing; the bass mini-solo has no distortion. There is so much more energy here and the song is so much more fun.
Overall: This is a great, powerful and fun presentation to a fun song!
HD650 - 10
Momentum - 3
Tie - 2
"Fool In The Rain" – Led Zeppelin – In Through The Outdoor – Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters (2008)
HD650 - The interplay between the piano, bass, and guitar is awesome! Each instrument can be distinguished, but doesn’t sound distant from the rest: everything is detailed and playing in harmony. Plant’s voice sounds wonderful and his highs are handled so nicely. The bass line could use a little bit more impact. This is just a very nice, bright and happy presentation. Even in the middle break, everything has so much detail; I heard some extra whistle blows that I had not heard before. The guitar solo sounds great and has a nice low sound to it.
Overall: Nice, happy and upbeat presentation of a nice, happy and upbeat song!
Momentum - The bass is immediately more prevalent. The overall ambience of the song is more downbeat, not quite as happy or fun as the HD650 translation. The higher highs and lower lows are held in check nicely: nothing is piercing, boomy or distorted. Plant’s voice is nicely imaged. During the middle break, the details are just not there, with a bit more of a mish mash sound to it. The guitar solo is a little meatier and it’s appreciated, but the bass line bleeds into it a bit.
Overall: Not a bad translation of this song, but it lacks the happy and fun feeling of the HD650.
HD650 - 11
Momentum - 3
Tie - 2
"The Lemon Song" – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II – Mini-LP Japanese Box Set Remasters (2008)
Momentum - Nice crunch to the opening riff. The sound from the cymbals is a bit piercing at the beginning. Plant’s voice seems a bit out of place. There is a nice accentuation of the bass, which is great since the bass guitar on this track absolutely destroys! For whatever reason, the song seems to take on a slower tempo, perhaps an illusion due to the narrow soundstage. The track of the distant guitar seems a bit artificially placed. Now to the first bass ‘solo:’ wow does that ever sound nice, the bass line is accentuated by the Momentum and simply sounds incredible You can feel and hear the amp right next to you. The guitar solo is cool, laid back and slick.
Overall: A solid overall presentation that goes into a different level when the bass guitar takes center stage. Momentum does that solo good!
HD650 - Much wider and expansive presentation, the instruments have a wider environment to play in. There is more detail here, but the sound is also a bit thinner. The sound is great in any case! This presentation is less intimate and sounds much more raw: the wider soundstage accommodates how the guitars and vocals were recorded, giving the placement of tracks sound more natural and not artificially placed there. When the bass solo hits, you can tell there is more detail and everything is more distinct, but a little more bass would not hurt the presentation. During the guitar solo, the bass guitar and Jimmi’s guitar are in perfect harmony: each instrument can be differentiated, each has its own personality and impact, but neither steps on the toes of the other, yet they still work together beautifully!
Overall: Much more detailed, accurate and spacious presentation, A bit more bass would put this presentation into another dimension. We have a tie here!
HD650 - 11
Momentum - 3
Tie - 3
So what can we gather from this comparo? I set out to answer the following questions:
1) Compared to HD650 quality/price, are the Momentums worth it?
2) Can the Momentums be used as a premium Audiophile grade level headphone for home use, or are they strictly a higher end portable?
To answer 1: The HD650s have an MSRP of $499, but can normally be found for $450, are often on special for as low as $400, and on rare occasions can be had for about $360, I got them for $352. I've even heard that they've popped up for $325, but I've never seen em that low. The Momentums have an MSRP of $350, and I've rarely seen em for less than that (I may have seen em for $325, I paid $350 for the blacks). If we are looking at price alone, given the fact that you'll likely pay $350 for the Momentums, and you could reasonably expect to find HD650 for about $350-$400, I would say HELL NO, they are NOT WORTH IT. How could they be? They are not much cheaper, if at all, than the HD650s, but the HD650 trounces them in sound quality. Sure, the Momentums look sexier, but the don't sound as good as the HD650 and sound quality must trump fashion for an equal amount of money.
However, this is not the end of the story. The HD650s are notoriously hard to drive headphones. On everyday equipment, you wont begin to tap the advantages of the HD650s. If you don't have powerful equipment, you probably will be disappointed with the HD650s. A the bare minimum you would need something like the FiiO E9 or E12 ($90-$120 amps) to get a proper volume out of the HD650s. You will need some descent quality sources to really take advantage of the quality of the sound of the HD650. If you simply plug the HD650 into a DAP with no amp, if you plug it into your HITB receiver, being fed by a low end CD player, if you plug it into your computer speaker's headphone jack, if you plug it into your low end sound card's headphone out, you will be completely be let down by the sound of the HD650. You can't just expect to spend $400 on these cans and be done with it (assuming its your first foray into higher end audio). This is where the Momentum comes in: you can spend $350 on these and be done with it. They will make all your equipment sound better, because they are stupidly easy to drive. If you just want a great pair of headphones and are willing to spend $350, but can't or won't spend more on upgrading your equipment, then yes, these are worth it! Assuming you don't have a headphone amp and/or some descent sources, the HD650 will require at least another $300+ investment to really get them to start singing properly (say $100 for a Fiio E9 or E12 and $200 for a used, high end SACD player, or better sound card, etc).
To answer 2: Can the Momentum's be our only premium Audiophile grade level headphone for home use? Again, this is best answered in context: do I now have or plan to have good audio equipment? How good will that equipment be? How restricted is my headphone budget going to be? etc. Again, if want to spend $350 on headphones, but you don't have good equipment and you don't plan on or can't get better equipment, then yes, these are great headphones to get your foot in the door of audiophile sound.
What if this is not the case though? What if you do have every intention of upgrading your equipment? If you plan on upgrading very slowly, then the Momentums are a good choice. You can enjoy a nice bump in quality with every component you aquire, and since you are upgrading slowly, you don't have to wait a massive amount of time to enjoy you headphones.
Why is the slowness a pre-requisite, though? Because although the Momentums will benefit from nicer amps, and sources, the ceiling is still low compared to the HD650. Using the Oppo BDP-105 (a $1195 piece of equipment) as my source and amp, I can tell you that the Momentum has nothing more to offer for equipment past this point in quality and price. You can spend more money on stuff, but you have pretty much reached the ceiling with how good and how loud the Momentums can be. In fact, I think the Oppo may be more than the Momentum needs: at a volume of 92 or 93/100, the Momentums start to loose a lot of fidelity and feel like they are really getting pushed. The HD650s however sound like they are barely being tickled as far as what they can handle and what they can resolve with the Oppo BDP-105 (I am NOT saying that the 105 can't drive the HD650 or that the Oppo doesn't sound great: it certainly has the power to drive the HD650 to a good level and they sound absolutely great), I strongly feel that if I were to get an amp like the Burson Audio HA-160, or a Little Dot MKIV SE - MKVIII SE and feed it the output of the Oppo, the HD650 would have even more awesomeness to offer.
So if you can or want to buy only one high end can, but expect to gather some very very high end equipment in the future, you might as well get the HD650s. They will grow with you. If however you fully expect to buy more than one set of headphones, and you expect to upgrade your equipment at slow to normal rate, then buying the Momentums now would make sense, since you can enjoy great sound now, and simply make the HD650 the next headphone on the list once you have the proper equipment for it.
I love both sets of headphones (well I love all three, including the PX360), they all serve their purpose well. If I could only spend $200 on head equipment, it would be on a pair of PX360s and a inexpensive headphone amp. As a high end portable, the Momentum is a great headphone. As a high end Audiophile grade home headphone, the HD650 is so hard to beat. Now that I have these headphones as a base, I can consider other headphones for the sake of experimenting with different flavors of sound, but these headphones would still be my base if I had to do it all over again!
Edited by BruinAnteater - 4/4/13 at 9:23am