How do these things work? Sennheiser Momentum 3

Anyone else using Momentum 3 in wired mode?


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crhodes64

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Hi- I'm an electronics engineer and an audiofile but I'm new to the world of headphones.

I've been trying a bunch of bluetooth over ear headphones - all the usual suspects Sony XM3, Bose 700 and I tried the Sennheiser Momentum 3's with my iphone7 and I was impressed.

Next step was to try to find out if I really wanted bluetooth headphones or of what I really wanted were wired audiofile phones. Que the demo room at Richer sounds along with my Laptop, Foobar2000 and a ton of uncompressed FLAC content. I normally play my audio content from my PC into a DAC Magic codec and then have balanced XLR's feeding a pair of Active ATC SCM50 studio monitors - I find this produces excellent results.

So, after liking the sound of the Momentum 3's with my iphone 7 on bluetooth - I then set-about tryng these and a bunch of other headphones as wired headphones - I tried the Momentum 2.0 and the Momentum 3 and then also tried a £2000 set of Sennheiser 820's with a headphone pre-amp that was the size of a biscuit tin - Oh and I also tried the Momentum 2.0 and Momentum 3.0 with the Dragonfly Cobalt.

What I found out - unsurprising that the Sennheiser 820's sounded best - but for £2000 what did I expect?
What really surprised me was how good the momentum 3's were in wired config - either using the analogue out of my laptop or connecting to them directly via the USB so they turn up directly in Foobar2000 as a valid playback device.

I could not detect any benefit of using the Dragonfly cobalt which surprised me - if anything the Dragonfly appeared to reduce the volume of the headphones making them less loud and it did not appear to deliver any improvement in sound clarity or quality. Surprising - why would anyone use this thing?

I was also surprised by how good the £99 Momentum 2.0 headphones are - but in the end decided on the momentum 3's mainly due to comfort and build quality and the sound stage being better and overall sounded more Hi Fi.

I find the blue tooth is good but the wired performance is significantly better - What is frustrating me is that I can find nobody who seems to review the Momentum 3's as wired phones ? Also, annoyed that I can't seem to find any information about using these headphones in a wired configuration - For example if I use the analogue CODEC in my laptop and connect to the Momentum 3's this way - the headphones appear to disable bluetooth - meaning that I cannot see the headphones from the Sennheiser app on my phone. What are the benefits of using them with analogue input as opposed to using them with a USB connection to my laptop?

If I use the USB connection I seem to get excellent results but I'm unsure which codec I'm actually using?
Am I using the laptop codec or a codec in Foobar2000? I'm guessing that I'm using the codec in the headphones but which codec? what chip? what bit rate? Anyone out there in Head-Fi land able to offer any assistance - I'd love to know the answers.

Before some smart alec pipes up with why did you buy a bluetooth headphone - I wanted something that I could use for air travel with an option for noise cancellation, while not compromising on sound quality when wired.

In my listening test I found the Sennheiser 820's were very good but not that much better than the wired Momentum 3's - in my opinion.

Thanks for any advice about using these phones in the different wired modes.

Anyone out there in Youtube review land - how about a more complete and technically detailed review of these excellent headphones, including using them as wired headphones please - everything I see on Youtube around these headphones is missing the key point that they are in fact an excellent hybrid solution - Bluetooth 5.0 + Noise cancelling and brilliant wired headphones.

Cheers

Colin
 
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Abrahans

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Nice info, what is the difference with momentum 2? More highs and bigger soundstage? I listen wired only but in this case i could take advantage of bluetooth, I like m2 and i think of upgrading and getting back the Oppo pm3s..
 
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rgledhill

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Hi Colin,
Thought you might like an answer after all this time :)
When you're plugged in via a 3.5mm analogue cable, you're using not just the codecs in the PC/phone (which decompresses the music file, if compressed, and turns it into raw audio as you'd get on a CD track), but you're also using the PC's DAC which is likely to be a bit rubbish unless it's a really decent audio card.
When you're plugged in via USB, you're still using the codec on the PC/phone, but as this is is all digital, there's no change in quality or potential for improvement - it's just like using Winzip to decompress a file. The uncompressed data is then sent via USB to the headphones, where it uses the headphones' own DAC.
When you're connected via Bluetooth, it's slightly more complex; the data is uncompressed by the codec on the PC/phone, but then re-compressed again by the Bluetooth chip for transmission over the air. This format can be old-school audio, AptX (a higher bit-rate, better quality codec), AptX HD (better again), or AptX LL (Low Latency, designed to minimise the inconsistencies of getting data over the air from PC/phone to headphones).

Once the sound is in the headphones, it may be further modified by the on-chip DSP. If the data has arrived digitally into the phones (USB, Bluetooth) then it stays digitally modified in the DSP before being passed to the DAC. This is where the noise cancellation and EQ occurs.

If the sound has arrived in analogue form through a 3.5mm cable, some phones will convert it to digital format, send it through the DSP for EQ and ANC, then back out via the DAC to the speakers. Some will literally just pass the sound through to the speakers. This is why many headphones with ANC sound poor when used in analogue 3.5mm cable mode - they lose all the EQ that's put in there to try and improve the sound response of the speakers.

Hope this helps! I've got some Sennheiser Momentum 3, Beyerdynamic Amiron and Shure SRH1540 headphones on order from Amazon for comparison...

Cheers
Richard
 
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