It’s honest to say this isn’t what I anticipated. Sennheiser’s new Momentum 4 Wi-fi headphones mark a dramatic pivot away from the retro stylings of earlier fashions. The real leather-based headband and chrome steel ear cup sliders that got here to characterize the Momentum line at the moment are historical past. As a substitute, 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.
Moreover, almost all the bodily buttons have been eliminated in favor of faucet and swipe gesture controls. And whereas among 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 record are improved noise cancellation and a outstanding 60 hours of promised battery life.
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You gained’t hear me argue that the previous Momentum 3s are good headphones. The steel hinge’s folding level can generally snag hair or pinch a finger for those who’re not cautious. The headphones mechanically energy on each time they’re unfolded, a shortcut that appears intelligent in idea however proves irritating after they unexpectedly pair to your telephone or laptop computer after being jostled on a desk or within the overly smooth carrying case. However 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 count on of Sennheiser), and so they’re objectively extra nice to put on. However apart from some cloth materials on high of the headscarf, these headphones have been drained of any character. The Momentum 3s look proper at dwelling subsequent to classic stereo gear, whereas the Momentum 4s really feel soulless by comparability. They arrive off as generic, which is a jarring change in course for this product line. And it’s all intentional. “We perceive from our suggestions that most individuals choose a headphone design that moderately blends in moderately than stands out,” Sennheiser product supervisor Christian Ern advised me.
There’s plastic in every single place — Sennheiser says there’s nonetheless steel reinforcing the headscarf — and so they appear like a mash-up of the corporate’s cheaper cans and one thing just like the Microsoft Floor 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 method their direct predecessors did.
However they at the very least really feel nice in your noggin’. Sennheiser has matched Sony’s WH-1000XM5 on this division, which isn’t 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 pressure to talk of, so they need to stay snug on lengthy flights or whenever you’re utilizing all of them day lengthy on the workplace.
They usually nonetheless sound great. Sennheiser hasn’t tinkered a lot with the audio signature, so for those who preferred the Momentum 3s, you’ll be simply as glad with these. They’re a smidge much less bassy out of the field — one thing you possibly can 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 the same trick.) The Momentum 4s stay heat, clean, and detailed throughout any style you discover with them. Higher nonetheless, the Momentum 4s leak much 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 tougher time selecting between these and the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 because the best-sounding noise-canceling headphones available on the market in 2022. The Momentum 4s assist a spread of Bluetooth codecs together with SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Adaptive. For those who choose to go wired, there’s a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cable within the case, or you possibly can merely use a USB-C cable.
Talking of noise cancellation, Sennheiser has additionally made inroads there. It’s nonetheless not on par with Sony or Bose, however the energetic noise cancellation within the Momentum 4s is noticeably simpler than what the Momentum 3s had been able to, which was barely satisfactory. The transparency mode is completely satisfactory and supplies a very good sense of what’s taking place round you — although it doesn’t match the “it’s such as you’re not sporting headphones in any respect” sensation of the AirPods Max.
Sadly, 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 one bodily button on these headphones is for each energy and Bluetooth pairing, relying on how lengthy you press it. Monitor controls, quantity adjustment, and ANC are all dealt with with faucets and swipes on the ear cups. A few of these are simple to get down since they’re considerably logical: faucet the suitable ear cup as soon as to play / pause, swipe ahead or again to alter songs, or drag your finger up or down the floor for quantity management. You’ll be able to 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 extra granular management over the steadiness between noise cancellation and ambient sound.
A pinch gesture? On headphones? I believe we may be pushing this slightly too far.
Now, I haven’t had any actual hassle with these controls within the thick of summer season apart from having to recollect them. However winter is all the time the true take a look at for potential points. “We’ve got excessively examined the touchpad capabilities beneath many local weather circumstances,” Ern stated. “After all, there could also be some excessive circumstances the place the sensitivity of the touchpad is affected.” The corporate says that in case your chilly climate gloves are phone-friendly, they need to work tremendous with the Momentum 4s.
Regardless of the gestures not proving bothersome but, I nonetheless miss the normal buttons. They had been foolproof and required much less considering.
I’ve additionally observed that these headphones will be inclined for turning on whereas contained in the case. The case itself is far improved this time round: it’s a correct hardshell design — formed like a Goomba from Tremendous Mario Bros. — that gives higher safety than the very smooth, collapsible case that accompanied the Momentum 3s. In order that’s not the issue. Possibly the facility button is rubbing up towards the case’s ear cup divider or maybe they’re simply waking from sleep each time I transfer the case. However both method, my telephone 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 daft quantity and handily surpasses Sony, Bose, Apple, and virtually all different opponents. A few of that endurance is achieved with power-saving options; the headphones will enter sleep mode after going unused for quarter-hour, and so they embody on-head detection to preserve juice as properly.
With battery life that lengthy, I haven’t been capable of clock a complete working time or exhaust the battery greater than a few times in my time testing them. Even when they don’t find yourself hitting that 60-hour mark in all circumstances or at louder quantity ranges, I can verify that they’ve obtained extra stamina than anybody might probably want for journey or widespread use circumstances. I can’t think about anybody would require this type of marathon battery life, however it means you possibly can 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 put in writing dwelling about. The newer headphones fare higher at voice pickup and separation, and every thing sounds tremendous for those who’re on a name at dwelling. However in noisy environments, it’s nonetheless evident that you just’re speaking to folks by means of headphones. Sennheiser continues to assist multipoint Bluetooth, and the Momentum 4s juggle two simultaneous connections with ease and reliably play audio from the gadget you’re actively utilizing.
Rounding issues out, Sennheiser’s Sensible Management app for Android and iOS allows you to personalize EQ, alter settings like wind discount and sidetone (which helps you to hear your individual voice extra naturally on calls), or arrange “sound zones” the place sound settings mechanically alter based mostly in your frequent areas. Sony has lengthy supplied the same characteristic with its headphones, and Sennheiser’s works equally properly — although it requires organising an account, which I’m by no means a fan of in headphone apps.
The Sennheiser Momentum 4s aren’t dangerous headphones by any stretch. They nonetheless ship top-rate sound and now accomplish that in a design that’s appreciably extra snug than previous fashions. It’s unlucky that the corporate went in such a colorless course with the type.
Between the brand new aesthetic and revamped buttonless controls, Sennheiser is clearly taking part in observe 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. However the Momentum 4s nonetheless path the noise-canceling powers of Sony and Bose, and I’m not satisfied Sennheiser made the suitable choice in adopting contact gestures identical to everybody else.
Except for the improved consolation, there’s little incentive to improve for those who’ve obtained a pair of Momentum 3s: the sound is comparable, each headphones have comfort options like multipoint, and there are parts of the older headphones that I choose — construct high quality for positive. However I believe that even when the corporate’s longtime clients view this as a sudden, unexpected shift, Sennheiser’s reshuffled priorities may find yourself making the fourth-generation Momentums essentially the most profitable pair but.
Pictures by Chris Welch / The Verge