It’s truthful to say this isn’t what I anticipated. Sennheiser’s new Momentum 4 Wireless headphones mark a dramatic pivot away from the retro stylings of earlier fashions. The real leather-based headband and stainless-steel ear cup sliders that got here to symbolize the Momentum line at the moment are historical past. Instead, the $349.95 fourth-generation headphones take an unmistakable design flip into Sony and Bose territory, with a light-weight construct that places better emphasis on prolonged consolation.
Additionally, practically the entire bodily buttons have been eliminated in favor of faucet and swipe gesture controls. And whereas a number of the firm’s followers shall be repulsed by what I can solely describe as a uninteresting, uninspired look, there are at the very least some causes to be enthusiastic about Sennheiser’s newest cans. Topping that listing are improved noise cancellation and a exceptional 60 hours of promised battery life.
You gained’t hear me argue that the previous Momentum 3s are excellent headphones. The metallic hinge’s folding level can typically snag hair or pinch a finger if you happen to’re not cautious. The headphones routinely energy on every time they’re unfolded, a shortcut that appears intelligent in idea however proves irritating after they unexpectedly pair to your cellphone or laptop computer after being jostled on a desk or within the overly mushy carrying case. But the Momentum 3s sound nice, have easy-to-use controls, and exude character and panache.
The Momentum 4s nonetheless make good on the sound side (as I’d anticipate of Sennheiser), and so they’re objectively more nice to put on. But except for some material materials on prime of the headscarf, these headphones have been drained of any character. The Momentum 3s look proper at house subsequent to classic stereo gear, whereas the Momentum 4s really feel soulless by comparability. They come off as generic, which is a jarring change in route for this product line. And it’s all intentional. “We understand from our feedback that most people prefer a headphone design that rather blends in rather than stands out,” Sennheiser product supervisor Christian Ern informed me.
There’s plastic all over the place — Sennheiser says there’s nonetheless metallic reinforcing the headscarf — and so they appear to be a mash-up of the company’s cheaper cans and one thing like the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. With outer ear cups that promptly gather smudges and finger oils, these don’t look the a part of premium, flagship noise-canceling headphones in the identical approach their direct predecessors did.
But they at the very least really feel nice in your noggin’. Sennheiser has matched Sony’s WH-1000XM5 on this division, which is not any small feat. The Momentum 4s use synthetic PU leather-based for the replaceable ear pads and headband padding, and each have ample cushioning. There’s not a lot clamping power to talk of, so they need to stay comfortable on lengthy flights or once you’re utilizing all of them day lengthy on the workplace.
And they nonetheless sound great. Sennheiser hasn’t tinkered a lot with the audio signature, so if you happen to favored the Momentum 3s, you’ll be simply as glad with these. They’re a smidge less bassy out of the field — one thing you’ll be able to override with EQ — and the drivers at the moment are tilted towards your ears to make for an improved sound stage. (Apple’s AirPods Max carry out an identical trick.) The Momentum 4s stay heat, clean, and detailed throughout any style you discover with them. Better nonetheless, the Momentum 4s leak less noise to close by co-workers or espresso store patrons than their predecessors.
The prior mannequin persistently gained out to my ears even over pricier competitors like Apple’s AirPods Max, and the Momentum 4s are proper on the identical degree. I’ve a a lot more durable time selecting between these and the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 because the best-sounding noise-canceling headphones in the marketplace in 2022. The Momentum 4s help a variety of Bluetooth codecs together with SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Adaptive. If you like to go wired, there’s a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cable within the case, or you’ll be able to merely use a USB-C cable.
Speaking of noise cancellation, Sennheiser has additionally made inroads there. It’s nonetheless not on par with Sony or Bose, however the lively noise cancellation within the Momentum 4s is noticeably more efficient than what the Momentum 3s had been able to, which was barely satisfactory. The transparency mode is completely sufficient and supplies a very good sense of what’s occurring round you — although it doesn’t match the “it’s like you’re not wearing headphones at all” sensation of the AirPods Max.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been thrilled with controls on the Momentum 4, and to me, they’re the most important draw back other than the humdrum design. Sennheiser has excised the amount and multifunction buttons that had been current on the 3s — and the identical goes for the slider that switched between ANC and ambient sound modes. The solely bodily button on these headphones is for each energy and Bluetooth pairing, relying on how lengthy you press it. Track controls, quantity adjustment, and ANC are all dealt with with faucets and swipes on the ear cups. Some of those are straightforward to get down since they’re considerably logical: faucet the proper ear cup as soon as to play / pause, swipe ahead or again to vary songs, or drag your finger up or down the floor for quantity management. You can faucet twice to rapidly transfer between noise canceling and transparency.
Sennheiser wasn’t content material to cease there and determined it wanted so as to add a pinch gesture that can be utilized for more granular management over the stability between noise cancellation and ambient sound.
A pinch gesture? On headphones? I feel we could be pushing this a bit too far.
Now, I haven’t had any actual bother with these controls within the thick of summer time except for having to recollect them. But winter is at all times the true take a look at for potential points. “We have excessively tested the touchpad functions under many climate conditions,” Ern stated. “Of course, there may be some extreme cases where the sensitivity of the touchpad is affected.” The firm says that in case your chilly climate gloves are phone-friendly, they need to work positive with the Momentum 4s.
Despite the gestures not proving bothersome but, I nonetheless miss the normal buttons. They had been foolproof and required less pondering.
I’ve additionally seen that these headphones will be inclined for turning on whereas contained in the case. The case itself is way improved this time round: it’s a correct hardshell design — formed like a Goomba from Super Mario Bros. — that provides higher safety than the very mushy, collapsible case that accompanied the Momentum 3s. So that’s not the issue. Maybe the facility button is rubbing up towards the case’s ear cup divider or maybe they’re simply waking from sleep every time I transfer the case. But both approach, my cellphone is consistently connecting to them at instances when it wasn’t my intent. And that will get annoying.
Sennheiser claims the Momentum 4s can final for as much as 60 hours on a single cost. That’s a ridiculous quantity and handily surpasses Sony, Bose, Apple, and virtually all different opponents. Some of that endurance is achieved with power-saving options; the headphones will enter sleep mode after going unused for quarter-hour, and so they embrace on-head detection to preserve juice as effectively.
With battery life that lengthy, I haven’t been in a position to clock a complete operating time or exhaust the battery more than a few times in my time testing them. Even in the event that they don’t find yourself hitting that 60-hour mark in all instances or at louder quantity ranges, I can affirm that they’ve received more stamina than anybody may probably want for journey or widespread use instances. I can’t think about anybody would require this sort of marathon battery life, nevertheless it means you’ll be able to go longer than ever earlier than with out worrying about plugging within the Momentum 4s.
Voice name efficiency is superior to the Momentum 3s however nonetheless nothing to jot down house about. The newer headphones fare higher at voice pickup and separation, and the whole lot sounds positive if you happen to’re on a name at house. But in noisy environments, it’s nonetheless evident that you just’re speaking to folks by means of headphones. Sennheiser continues to help multipoint Bluetooth, and the Momentum 4s juggle two simultaneous connections with ease and reliably play audio from the system you’re actively utilizing.
Rounding issues out, Sennheiser’s Smart Control app for Android and iOS helps you to personalize EQ, alter settings like wind discount and sidetone (which helps you to hear your individual voice more naturally on calls), or arrange “sound zones” the place sound settings routinely alter based mostly in your frequent places. Sony has lengthy supplied an identical characteristic with its headphones, and Sennheiser’s works equally effectively — although it requires establishing an account, which I’m by no means a fan of in headphone apps.
The Sennheiser Momentum 4s aren’t unhealthy headphones by any stretch. They nonetheless ship top-rate sound and now accomplish that in a design that’s appreciably more comfortable than previous fashions. It’s unlucky that the corporate went in such a colorless route with the model.
Between the brand new aesthetic and revamped buttonless controls, Sennheiser is clearly enjoying comply with the chief with Sony. It little question bests the WH-1000XM5s within the audio division, and the 60-hour battery units a brand new bar for the sector. But the Momentum 4s nonetheless path the noise-canceling powers of Sony and Bose, and I’m not satisfied Sennheiser made the proper choice in adopting contact gestures identical to everybody else.
Aside from the improved consolation, there’s little incentive to improve if you happen to’ve received a pair of Momentum 3s: the sound is analogous, each headphones have comfort options like multipoint, and there are components of the older headphones that I want — construct high quality for certain. But I think that even when the corporate’s longtime prospects view this as a sudden, unexpected shift, Sennheiser’s reshuffled priorities may find yourself making the fourth-generation Momentums probably the most profitable pair but.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge