Audio

Review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Mark 3 Noise Cancelling headset

Here is the review of the third generation of the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, the version of the Momentum with Bluetooth and noise cancelling. It is a premium headset in this category, a £350 (Amazon UK) and (Sennheiser) challenger for other luxury products such as the Bose NCH 700, Bowers & Wilkins PX, Denon AH-GC30 and Sony WH-1000XM3. In that segment, it is not enough just to deal with noise reduction, because noise cancelling is now also available at low price points. Sennheiser, therefore, focuses on adjustable noise suppression, a function to keep out noise but does not vote, smart operation and of course the known audio quality that Sennheiser has been working with for seven decades.

The compatibility with the Tile app is very unique – and not so crucial, we think. This makes it easy to find the headset if it is trapped under a pile of papers in your office or lying around somewhere in the house. The case for headphones It’s a bit of a gimmick, but can be handy. Provided that you have already registered the headphones in the Tile app, of course. Like most rivals, the Momentum Wireless 3 can work with Google Assistant and with an update Alexa will work as well.

Classic design
Sennheiser is at its best when it opts for traditional, brand-loyal values when it comes to design. The Urbanite of a few years ago was a good example of what happens when people try to be too hip in that area.

The brand is doing less well. Fortunately, the Momentum Wireless 3 has opted for a trusted approach. Fans of the German brand will recognize many elements from the previous Momentum because the new device does not really look different. Is that a bad thing? No, because the result is and remains a handsome headset that beautifully marries retro influences (such as the round Sennheiser logo on the ears and the sliding metal bracket) with a modern design language.

The separate, slightly curly cables that run from the headband to the driver housings are a small eye-catcher. It is something completely different than the futuristic headphones from Bose and Sony, and for that reason alone some people will prefer the Sennheiser, we suspect.

When unpacking, we immediately get the impression that the build quality is of a high level. The headphones are firmly assembled, do not crack when you twist them and are just very solid. Features that we like to see with headphones that also aim for commuters. We first look drowsy for the on-off button, but it turns out there isn’t.

One of the innovations with this Momentum Wireless 3 is that the headphones are switched on by unfolding them – and conversely that you switch them off by closing everything again. An elegant fact in itself, but we discover the disadvantage if we just took the Sennheiser while listening to our computer and placed it on the desk to have lunch. The headphones automatically stop playing music but do not switch off completely. Some competitors do, the battery is still charged with the Sennheiser. But as soon as you are used to always closing the Momentum Wireless 3 after use, it is a very convenient way to work. It is difficult to estimate the status of a switch integrated into a hinge.
Smart Control app
Compared with some competitors, the Momentum Wireless 3 still looks quite an old school. There are no sensors that measure the air pressure to adjust the display on aeroplanes or measurement tones to optimize the sound to fit, like the high-tech Sony. Which also does not mean that the new Sennheiser is completely stupid. The Smart Control app comes with headphones, It, of course, shows very different functions with the Momentum Wireless 3 than with the premium soundbar from Sennheiser. Sennheiser keep it clear and simple: you immediately see the battery status of the headphones and you can adjust the noise reduction, the Transparent Hearing function and the equalizer via three buttons.

Bose’s newest noise-cancelling headset offers you eleven levels of noise reduction. Sennheiser makes it less crazy and keeps it at three: Max, Anti-wind (useful when walking on the street) and Anti Pressure. The latter is an unusual mode that we have never seen elsewhere. It caters to people who experience pressure in their ears when wearing NC headphones, which is an artefact of active noise reduction. With Anti Pressure, that feeling largely disappears, while noise-cancelling remains fairly effective. It is a mode for a very specific target group; we found the Max setting great for long use.
The equalizer in the app does what it promises, albeit in a graphically exuberant way. Instead of a traditional multi-channel equalizer, the Smart Control app serves something that looks graphically beautiful but is not that clear to operate. You get one ‘point’, which you can then move anywhere on the screen. Depending on the position you get – after a short delay in which an artful waveform takes shape – a certain frequency response. It is primarily a matter of experimentation because it does not always work as expected. If we place the point a little higher on the bass side, at the same time the high is also completely pushed away – while we just wanted a little more bass response.

Tracks
I tested noise cancellation for its effectiveness, including flights to Munich for a phone launch, the NoiseGard function on the Max setting proved to be very effective, at a comparable level with the Sony WH-1000XM3 – the NC headphones that we currently regard as the reference in the market.
The Transparent Hearing function indeed allowed a conversation with fellow travellers but also allowed many other sounds to pass through, such as the tap on a keyboard of a laptop and relatively much noise. In short, there really didn’t seem to be much difference between the Transparent Hearing and Noise-cancelling disabled. When we dive into the app, turning on this function does indeed turn off noise reduction. In terms of ease of use, we are nevertheless in favour of Sony’s approach, whereby noise cancelling is selectively switched off if you hold a hand against the right ear.

This is very useful in practice, for example, if a conductor checks your ticket on the train. Because we received the Sennheiser headphones a few weeks before the official introduction, we were also able to test it extensively at our home office. By default, it is relatively quiet, with the windows open some street noise comes in. That too was not really a problem for the Sennheiser. On Max, the headphones even insulated a little too much, so we didn’t hear the doorbell or someone entering the room, and that’s why we switched to Anti Pressure mode in the app. We miss the more fine-meshed positions of the Sony and Bose here. for example, so we did not hear the doorbell or someone entering the room, so we switched to Anti Pressure mode in the app. We miss the more fine-meshed positions of the Sony and Bose here. for example, so we did not hear the doorbell or someone entering the room, so we switched to Anti Pressure mode in the app. We miss the more fine-meshed positions of the Sony and Bose here.

The battery of the Momentum Wireless 3 drains relatively quickly. ‘Relative’ is certainly appropriate here. The autonomy of 17 hours is certainly not bad, but among other things, the Sony topper achieves 30 hours without any problems. Charging is quick, via a USB-C port.

The Sennheiser scores with good codec support when streaming over Bluetooth. The excellent aptX (to be found with new Android phones, such as our Huawei P30 Pro) is present and for Apple users, there is AAC support, so you can still stream in better quality. Whether the step to aptX HD really offers so much more audible sound quality is not to be mentioned, I would also have liked LDAC.
Balanced sound (more or less)

In terms of wearing comfort, there is little criticism on the Momentum Wireless 3. The device sits relatively lightly on the head and the thick ear pads make contact with your ear cups pleasant. It feels a bit warmer than the Bose QC 35 II, which is equipped with very thin yet comfortable ear cushions. But we don’t think anyone is going to complain about ear sowing at the Sennheiser, except on extremely hot days. But then few people feel like wearing over-ear headphones, we think.

Incidentally, we must note that those thicker ear cushions greatly contribute to sound insulation. Even with the noise-cancelling turned off, the Momentum Wireless 3 keeps a lot of noise out passively.

Sennheiser stands for a certain sound character, and we hear that back here too. At ‘Her eyes are under the ground’ by Anthony & The Johnsons the vocals are presented full and with a relatively large amount of detail, with a natural-sounding piano in the further background. As is often the case with closed NC headphones, the sound stage is more compact, but there is still spatiality in the sound image. That gives the Sennheiser a more mature, balanced representation, a whole contrast with the QC 35 II we take with it. The layer is somewhat thicker, but that is more common with mobile headphones, partly to drown out ambient noise. Fortunately, the basses are not made over-fat, something that the WH-1000XM3 has more problems with so that bass-heavy music does not appear distorted.

PLUS POINTS
Excellent build quality
Close shut is switch off
Effective NC modes
Tile compatible
Excellent sound quality

MIN POINTS
You don’t have to get used to a physical on / off switch
Buttons are harder to distinguish by touch
No aptX HD

Conclusion
The Momentum Wireless 3 is not as smart as some rivals, but not everyone will mind. What it has to do is doing well. The noise-cancelling does not have many levels that you can set but is very effective on the Max position. The very good passive insulation helps with this. The Momentum Wireless 3 sounds great, just like you would expect from a Sennheiser. In terms of autonomy, it is a middle class. In the playing field of premium NC headphones, this Sennheiser can play at the top, although it is certainly disadvantaged in the eyes of trendsetters due to the lack of extra gadgets.

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