Paying Rs 25,000 seems a bit obscene for a headphone, but if you are an audio nut then an amount four times more will also be ‘okay’ if it is good enough for the ‘Sound of Music.’ Sennheiser, of course, is a well-known German audio brand and like most things German, nothing less than perfection will suffice. The Momentum headphones are their latest and greatest and they have been designed to deliver high quality ‘audiophile grade’ audio in a smart, luxurious package that has a mobile first attitude. Let’s see if the Momentum can get blood vessels rushing and add some needed momentum to the daily monotony of life. Also Read - 5 truly wireless earphones to get if you are serious about music
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To get the ball rolling, the Sennheiser Momentum headphones come in a massive circular case that safely cuddle the headphones in a nice and plush cocoon. This is actually similar to the way the Monster Dr Dre Beats headphones are packaged, but we found the Momentum to have the better case between the two. That said, if one adds the Bowers & Wilkins P5s to the equation then the story changes a bit because the carry case for the P5s is made of a plush swede like material and its rather easy lug around. Due to the combination of the headphone design and the size of the case, the Momentum headphones are not that easy to carry around if one intends to use them all the time. It’s either that or one will need to leave the case back home and risk damaging the headphone. Also Read - Sennheiser CX 400BT True Wireless earbuds launched in India for Rs 16,990
The Momentums essentially have what we refer to a closed-back design. Sennheiser is very generous with the type of materials it has used in the headphones. The headphone marries plush leather for the ear cups, and a metallic exoskeleton that brandishes the Sennheiser branding quite grandly and an overhead metal band that too has been topped off lavishly with leather.
These headphones scream class; they are not loud and brash like the more youthful Beats by Dr Dre. Even the treatment on the cables is very very high-end. Right from the quality of the cable, in-line controls to the 3.5mm metal plug. In fact, the one thing we really appreciate is that even the in-line volume controls are completely metallic; in comparison the B&W P5s has a plastic control cluster that is prone to getting damaged.
Sennheiser provides two cables – one 52-inch long cable that also houses the volume controls and a 56-inch cable without the controls. Most manufactures do the same. The 3.5mm jack on the Momentum headphones is also is also vertically inclined at 90 degrees so that it fits comfortably and does not get entangled in any situation.
Most premium headphones in this price bracket will provide the user with a level of comfort that one does not associate with much cheaper headphones. However, a hallmark of a great headphone in this category is that it manages to balance its design with a level of comfort and performance that is worthy of the money being spent.
The Sennheiser Momentums do very well in this regard. They owe this in due part to the plush leather on the ear cups and super light construction that enable the Momentums to weigh in at a nimble 190 grams. This weight is ideal for portable use, because even though they are closed back, they are easy to wear.
Even when compared to the Bose Quite Comfort 15 and the Beats by Dr Dre, the Sennheiser Momentum has the upper hand. They are decidedly better headphones in terms of comfort and portability and in the case of the Quite Comfort because of the active circuitry, there is something sterile about the whole experience that gives Sennheiser the edge in this regard.
Comparing it to the Bowers and Wilkins P5s is not entirely fair, because they are essentially on-ear headphones that recreate a spatial dynamic. But if general comfort is to be rated then, it really is a subjective opinion because that is purely on the basis one’s ear size. If you do have small ears then supple sheep leather found on the P5s will generally trounce the Momentums. That’s not to say that the Momentums are less luxurious, but the overall package in on P5s is a bit better for more or less the same price. The Momentums, on the other hand, will appeal to people with large earlobes, and the closed-back design is better equipped to cocoon the ears in more dense, yet comfortable sound field.
At the end of the day the real reason one spends so much money on a headphone is just for the sound. Most people will disregard the above to two segments of the review and jump right to the performance section because that’s what they are essentially paying for. The headphone could bleed them to death, but if it sounded perfect, it normally is worth the pain.
The good news is that the Sennheiser Momentums sound awesome. They sound better than any headphone made by JBL, Bose or Monster, in the given price bracket, but they just fall sort in front of the Bowers and Wilkins P5s, which also are admittedly very hard to get in India.
But for the part they just perform splendidly. They sound dynamic, blustery and if I dare say ballsey.
Ideally, they are perfect for the higher-mid range frequencies, but they can pack quite a thump with their bass response. Frankly, they can handle any genre of music with great conviction and will satisfy many an audiophile with the sheer purity of its sound.
For instance, if one cracks up the electronica with some DeadMau 5, then on songs like Strobe, the super-low bass frequencies are just not ethereal components of the sound, they are very much audible. But perhaps due to the closed back nature, it’s not as tight as the Bowers and Wilkins P5s.
If you really want a head rush, then lock-in Reflection by progressive metal maestros Tool and you don’t get a garbled sonic avalanche that flushes out the distorted guitar and bass. The vocals cut in beautifully, as do the drums. The sound using the Momentums is nuanced, especially the headphone exhibits incredible mid-range response found rarely in a non-amplified headphone.
The treble response is the Achilles heel of the Momentum. Not that it is bad, but if you love a lot of slow blues from the 60’s like Red House by Jimi Hendrix or Getting Back My Heart Together Again, the response is just as not smooth as what one would expect. The spring reverb sounds off, the guitars sound shriller than what they are and mind you we are talking about really sharp sounding distorted tunes, so they can give the listener a real bad headache.
Many audiophiles claim that classic music is the truest test of an audio product. Well who are we to argue, and so we went ahead and turned on Asturias by classical guitar legend John Williams. And we were treated to a perfectly balanced rendition of the same.
We also found that the Momentums double as very good headphones for gaming as well as for watching movies. This was particularly evident when we rattled it through Hitman Absolution and Drive.
The problem is they fall in no-mans land. They will not appeal to people who like an excess of bass as for that Beats by Dr Dre will mow it down. It does not have the active noise cancellation of the Bose Quite Comfort 15, nor is it portable and sonically balanced as the Bowers and Wilkins P5s.
At Rs 24,990 the Sennheiser Momentum headphones are possibly the best closed-back headphones in the Indian market. Of course, they are not perfect, but the combination of the Sennheiser brand, sublime build quality and sound make them a very good option, if not the best option.
That said, if one does not want to be shackled by the design, then Bowers and Wilkins P5s do offer better sound (more balanced), a passive noise-cancellation system that’s the best in the business for approximately the same amount, and a more portable product, though it is not easy to find in India.
All tracks used for testing were encoded in FLAC and no MP3 files were tested.
Photo Credit: Rohit Sharma