Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless Review
I have challenged the need for expensive personal Bluetooth® speakers. The usually monaural world of Bluetooth speakers, at least to me, doesn’t justify hundreds of dollars for a speaker. A television soundbar that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker is a different device entirely, but this isn’t a review about Bluetooth speakers.
This is a review about expensive Bluetooth headphones, which establish themselves as desirable, if not essential, technology. And I only say, not essential, because not everyone can afford them, and people get by just fine with lesser headphones—but like my advice when buying a computer to acquire the fastest CPU and the most memory you can afford—I also suggest you buy the best headphones you can afford.
And that brings me to the $379.95 Sennheiser Moment 4 Wireless noise-canceling headphones. These outstanding headphones compete against top market names like Sony and Bose, offering rich, bass-forward, but balanced sound and excellent active noise cancelation (ANC).
I own a wide range of headphones, many of them more than adequate, but if I am listening to a sweeping symphony or cool jazz, these would be the top choice from my arsenal. Unfortunately, now that this review is complete, they will be returning to Sennheiser—but at least I will know another reviewer will have the pleasure of enjoying them.
What we like
- Outstanding, immersive sound
- Solid, functional design
- Great battery life
- AAC and AptX Adaptive support
- Comfortable fit for long listening sessions
The Sennheiser Momentum 4s abandon the retro appearance of earlier versions and some of the weight and snags accompanying a headphone design that sports exposed steel. The result is a more utilitarian style that blends in rather than shouts about its differences. Gone, too, are almost all buttons, save the dual power and Bluetooth® button—all other controls move to capacitance touch pads on the earcups and, alternatively, to the app.
The black review version (they’re also available in white) offers ample room over the ears, which can be an issue with some headphones with rounder earcups. The well-padded headband fits comfortably and adjusts easily. The cloth grills inside the earcups clearly denote left and right.
No one will ask which headphones you are wearing, but that won’t be an issue because you’ll be too caught up listening to music to care what people think about your headphone style choices.
Electronics and firmware
Sennheiser stepped up to the latest tech by deploying Bluetooth® 5.2 for improved connectivity and future features like the LC3 low-power codec. Sennheiser already offers a broad range of codecs, including AAC, AptX, AptX Adaptive, and SBC, the right list for headphones in this price range, save for the omission of LDAC and its higher max bitrate. The opinions in this review were based on Apple Macintosh, iPad, and iPhone streams using AAC.
Power and battery
The USB-C-charged headphones run about 60 hours at moderate volume with ANC. 60 hours, of course, will vary based on volume and features; turning off ANC may eke out more, with high volume levels sucking additional battery.
A full charge from empty runs about 2 hours for the 700mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeables, but the listener-friendly headphones can turn five minutes of charging into about 4 hours of playtime with a good power block (don’t expect that charging speed when connected to a standard 1000mA iPhone charger, however).
I was on a soundtrack kick while testing the Sennheiser Momentum 4s, probably induced by the purposeful nostalgia of Star Trek Picard Season 3. For Trekkies, the Picard team perfectly matched music and scenes to invoke emotions that often brought a tear to my eyes. I also listened to several John Williams works, including the original Star Wars soundtrack.
Once I started my intense comparisons, I switched among my higher-end headsets, including the Cleer Alpha and the Philips Fidelio L3s and as good as those headsets are at delivering audio experiences, they didn’t come close to the Momentum 4’s ability to thoroughly sweep me into a theater, to punch with raucous bass that rumbled across the back of my neck, or to sweep me away with melodies that reached toward the ethereal.
I also ran the headphones through my standard suite and found them to perform equally well on the howls and thumps of Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle and the fluid harmonies of Enya’s Caribbean Blue. The opening of Hendrix on All Along the Watchtower sounded as profound as intended with its combination of chords and rhythmic drumbeats. Dido’s White Flag did its best to pull notes from ear to ear. Sia’s vocals soared on David Guetta’s Titanium. And as with all headphone tests, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsodystretched the edges of performance. The Momentum 4s supported all the stereophonic choral wizardry, the long reverberating cymbal blasts, the nuance of Mercury’s vocals, and May’s equally superb guitar solo.
The Sennheiser Momentum 4s and their 42mm dynamic drivers offered some of the truest audio I have experienced in headphones. The notes on pianos lingered longer. Picks scratching across guitar strings grated more. The sound stage invited me, opening up and engulfing my hearing with violins, oboes and French horns.
After several hours of listening to different tracks, I experienced a moment of audio inertia in which the headphones would not let me consider removing them. I sat with my eyes closed, listening as waves of a tympani, trumpeting flugelhorns, and ghostly flutes networked their rhythms and melodies into an aural high. Each instrument was distinct, identifiable—you could almost visualize the orchestrator’s design.
I wax poetic because that actually happened with no external influences—just the right music and the right headphones.
I was so inspired by the John Williams selections that I had to load Disney+ and watch Return of the Jedi. The headphones honored the Williams soundtrack and the joys of the Skywalker Sound soundscape.
And now to the more mundane.
Some reviewers are not fans of the in-app EQ. In discussions with more than one manufacturer, I have been told to set Apple device EQs to flat when using Spatial (Apple’s proprietary Dolby Atmos remix), so iTunes can manage the audio profile. While adjusting EQ in multiple places is possible, it may negatively impact the listening experience. That means I am not concerned about the Sennheiser app’s three-channel equalizer. I make any adjustments (mostly, not) in iTunes.
The bass may be a bit heavy for some, but it isn’t overpowering, leaving all the details open and accessible. Few people will complain about the initial sound coming from the Momentum 4s straight out of the box without any adjustments.
There is no mention of HD sound from Sennheiser when the headphones are plugged in. The headphones need to be turned on and plugged in for the best performance. For some headphones, like Cleer Audio’s Alpha, the cable signals a switch to lossless audio and the codecs get discarded in favor of lossless audio streaming over the cable, even as the other features, like ANC, remain in play. My guess is that the Momentum 4s do the same; it just isn’t documented well.
Those who buy the Sennheiser Momentum 4s will want to make them the primary headphones to facilitate mastering the capacitive touch control pad. As with all headphones, each company chooses its own taps and swipes for controls, so each takes practice and the acquisition of muscle memory.
Tap the center to start or stop a song. Forward and backward swipes control track nav, as well as phone answering (swiping forward and back for phone answering isn’t my favorite choice);up and down swipes control volume. Double taps handle ANC and Transparency modems Pinches control the levels of ANC and Transparency.
The Momentum 4s also include an “on-head” sensor that pauses streams and places the headphones into standby mode when the headphones are removed. Leave the headphones off, and they will switch to standby to conserve power. The amount of time between removal and power down can be set in the app.
One of the negative aspects of most modern, connected headphones is the lack of PC/Mac-side software controls. It’s great to control features on a mobile device, and often on an iPad, which can sometimes challenge the iPhone user interface, but there is little app support for PCs or Macs. Fortunately, Sennheiser included support for most in-app features as gestures on the device.
One of the coolest app features, which also works with the Momentum 3 True Wireless Earbuds, assigns ANC profiles to physical areas, which the app detects with location services. Stop into a favorite coffee shop where you like the music, turn transparency up and save the profile so the tunes filter through while listening to a morning news update. The headphones will load that profile the next time you visit that coffee shop.
The app also offers firmware updates, call options, prompt preferences, and other features. If you are satisfied with a setting and don’t plan to change it, the tile can be hidden via tile management settings.
Dual microphones per earcup on the Sennheiser Momentum 4s beamform to pick up the owner’s voice. Some noise persists, but I don’t think this issue will detract would-be buyers more interested in the sound of their music than their voice. While the Momentum 4s might be used for calls in an office, they won’t likely be the choice when walking or biking.
Like most headphones that ship with storage cases or bags, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones include an airplane adapter. OK, but I haven’t flown a plane that needs one in a while. Perhaps they are more common on routes I don’t fly. Seems like a superfluous item at this point.
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones arrive in a rigid fabric case, filled with the lay-flat headphones, the airplane adapter, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm TRS cable. The case includes loops and mesh pockets to keep everything in place.
Sennheiser backs the headphones with a 2-year warranty.
On the sustainability front, Sennheiser uses minimalist packaging that is paper/cardboard forward. However, they should consider paper-based hangers for their retail packs.
What could be improved
- Inconsistent use of sound cues, some verbal, some musical; all of them should be verbal for clarity of purpose
- Finicky power on switch
- Thin 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable
- Terrible sound when plugged in with an audio cable but not powered on
I want the power-up sequence to be more accessible. I usually had to tap the power button several times before the headphones turned on. I don’t have that problem with other headsets.
The power switch performs double-duty as the Bluetooth pairing button, so perhaps Sennheiser selected a switch that isn’t as attuned to a single push as to a push-and-hold. Regardless of the cause, I fumble to turn on the headphones every time. Quickly turning on the headphones should be the design goal of, well, the power button.
I would love to see Sennheiser adopt a consistent suite of verbal status queues beyond “power on, connected.” They should design phrases like “power on, wired mode,” “Max ANC,” “Transparency at 30%,” and “power off” verbal confirmations to replace the musical queues that I find under differentiated. I know verbal cues will involve translation investments, but the mixed bag of verbal and musical cues doesn’t help anyone master these headphones.
While the Sennheiser Momentum 4s will work in wired mode without power, the listening experience degrades significantly, with the audio becoming muddy and harsh.
For some reason, high-end headphones scrimp on the audio cable. I experienced a shredded headphone cable mid-transatlantic flight as I semi-consciously jumped up from my seat only to feel and hear the rip as my Bose headphone cable tore off at the connector, exposing frayed wire and casing, both of which dangled like a severed Borg capillary.
That incident occurred several years ago, so I had no Bluetooth backup—but even now, I worry about thin audio cables underperforming to the stress of life on the road. Braided nylon cables have become common even on low-end devices.
Sure, braided cables add a little bulk, but I would rather take a better cable with me than worry about searching for a cable that works with a Sennheiser Momentum 4 and its 2.5mm to 3.5mm jack. If they chose a thin audio cable, at least make it a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable so replacements are easy to come by. At this price point, I should not need to coddle my headphones when I need to plug them in.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless: The bottom line
The $379.95 Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones bring the company’s outstanding audio engineering to bear on a pair of headphones that, at first glance, look like many other headphones, save the fabric arch of the headband. But the outstanding sound is the point. The broad soundstage allows every note and voice to find its place.
Sony, Bose, Bowers and Wilkins, Philips and Apple all make competing headphones, but most sit at a higher price than the Momentum 4’s street price (currently $287.99 on Amazon). These are not inexpensive headphones, but their great audio and outstanding battery life may make them the bargain at the high end of the wireless market.
Sennheiser provided the Momentum 4 Wireless for review. Images courtesy of Sennheiser unless otherwise noted.
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