Outstanding battery life, impressive audio quality and startlingly aggressive pricing makes the newest Momentum the most competitive yet
- Assertive, insightful sound
- Great battery life
- Extensive spec and control options
- Touch controls almost too responsive
- Uninspiring design
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are the latest entry in Sennheiser’s laudable series of active noise cancelling over-ear headphones, and the first since the company’s acquisition by Swiss medical hearing solutions specialist Sonova.
A new pair of Sennheiser noise-cancellers is always worth hearing, and the Momentum 4 are even more notable than usual, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Sennheiser has abandoned the well-regarded industrial design language it had established with its three previous Momentum models, and secondly it’s priced the Momentum 4 very aggressively indeed.
Before now, Momentum over-ear options were always priced to meet their Sony WH-1000X nemesis more or less head-on. But the Momentum 4 undercut the WH-1000XM5 by a considerable amount.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review: What you need to know
Until now, you’d have been fairly confident of picking out a pair of Sennheiser Momentum in a wireless over-ear headphones line-up. The look was distinctive, and generally perceived to be quite up-market. Those days, it seems safe to say, are gone – if it wasn’t for the nonchalant ‘S’ logo at each end of the fabric-covered headband, these headphones could be made by any manufacturer. And until you get a proper feel (and, let’s not be coy, a proper smell) of them, they could occupy pretty much any price point.
A combination of synthetic leather, sturdy and well-finished plastic, memory foam and hard-wearing fabric helps them feel like the premium option they are, however. The concealed headband adjustment mechanism operates smoothly and silently, and although they don’t fold in on themselves, the earcups swivel through 180 degrees – so the Momentum 4 will sit flat in their compact carrying case.
The Momentum 4 use Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connectivity, and they’re compatible with SBC, AAC, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive codecs. So, as well as authentically high-resolution audio, the Momentum can autonomously optimise either performance or connection stability as circumstances dictate.
Battery life is an attention-grabbing 60 hours – and that’s with active noise cancellation switched on. Compare that with the 30 hours Sony’s WH-1000XM5 can manage and the stamina of the Sennheiser looks pretty impressive. And then consider that they can run for between three and four hours after just a five-minute mains-power pit stop, and from flat they can be fully charged in around two hours – these are the sort of numbers that can make a wavering consumer’s mind up for them.
Housed inside the Momentum 4 are a pair of 42mm dynamic drivers to deliver sound, with their frequency response claimed by Sennheiser to be 6Hz – 22kHz. Each earcup has four mics embedded – one internal and one external to assist with active noise cancellation, and a couple down at the bottom of the cup to deal with voice-assistant interaction and general telephony. Naturally, these beam-forming mics are optimised for both high-quality voice pick up and wind suppression.
As well as voice control, the Momentum 4 Wireless have physical and touch controls via which you can execute key commands. The headphones are also compatible with Sennheiser’s Smart Control app, which may not be the most glamorous example of its type but has plenty of functionality and customisation options. If you go to the trouble of creating a Sennheiser account, for example, you can create bespoke ‘sound zones’ – so your Momentum 4 automatically know your preferred settings in any specific circumstance.
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Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review: Price and competition
As statements of intent go, Sennehsier’s pricing of the Momentum 4 is right up there – at £299, they comfortably undercut the alternatives Sennheiser has always targeted with its Momentum range. The ubiquitous Sony WH-1000XM5, for example, go for £379, and that’s the same as the well-regarded Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2. Even slightly long-in-the-tooth models like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which were released in the summer of 2019, will set you back upwards of £250. Meanwhile, Apple still seems to think it can command £549 for its big-in-every-respect AirPods Max.
Of course, £299 is still a considerable amount of money. The Momentum 4 will only seem keenly priced if they compete, and compete hard, against the models mentioned above (except for the AirPods Max – those are an undeniably special case).
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review: Design and comfort
As already discussed, Sennheiser has comprehensively ditched the rather snazzy design of its previous Momentum over-ear models in favour of something altogether more generic. It’s a considerably less imaginative look and much safer, one that presumably is unlikely to spook potential customers – although personally I’ve never found ‘bland’ to be a particularly positive word.
Still, there’s no arguing with the way the Momentum 4 are put together or finished. They’re available in either black or white, and though at 293g they’re heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM5 it’s not as if they’re actually heavy. And the carefully designed headband and hanger arrangement means they stay comfortable for hours on end – memory foam earpads that resist returning your ear-heat for quite a while help a lot in this regard, too.
The right earcup is where the bulk of the action is when it comes to control. A multi-function button deals with power on/off, Bluetooth pairing and will summon your voice assistant – and if you fancy, it will give you a spoken indication of remaining battery life, too. There is a strip of tiny LEDs just beneath the button, giving a visual read of the same information.
There’s a big capacitive touch surface on the right earcup, so all the most common commands – play/pause, volume up/down, answer/end/reject call – are easily and reliably available at a touch or two. The two-finger ‘stretch’ or ‘pinch’ we all mastered when we got our first smartphone allows an increase or reduction of both active noise cancellation and transparency, which is what Sennheiser calls its hear-through mode. If there’s one small criticism of the the Momentum 4’s controls, it’s that the touch surfaces are extremely sensitive.
The hard-working right earcup is also where you’ll find a USB-C input (for battery charging) and a 2.5mm analogue input (for hard-wired listening). The necessary cables are provided in the carrying case, along with a flight adapter. The earcups swivel in order to lie flat, which means the case they travel in is fairly compact. But they don’t, unlike some rival designs, fold in on themselves – so there will be no stashing your Momentum 4 Wireless in a pocket.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review: Features
The Smart Control app duplicates almost all of the controls accessible on the right earcup – the ability to specify the level of active noise cancellation or degree of transparency you’d like is particularly useful – but there are some other worthwhile features in there, too.
A three-band EQ is always welcome, and here it’s accompanied by quite a few EQ presets. If you do decide to create a Sennheiser account as mentioned earlier, you’ll also be able to build a big library of customised EQ presets of your own. The level at which you can hear your own voice during calls (sidetone) is also adjustable in the app, while ‘sound check’ is a brief-but-useful hearing test the app will perform to establish your preferred EQ balance.
The app is also helpful for controlling connectivity – the Momentum 4 Wireless will wirelessly connect to two sources at a time, which is handy if you are wearing them while sitting in front of a laptop but would like to be able to easily take calls.
There’s further in-app administration available, too. Checking for firmware updates, switching wear detection (which automatically pauses playback when the headphones are removed) on or off, and getting confirmation of the specific Bluetooth codec in play at any point are all easily done by hopping into the app.
But compared to some of the most obvious rivals to the Momentum 4, this is a slightly short. The Sony WH-1000XM5 have a sight more peripheral functionality than these Sennheiser alternatives. But that’s not to say the Momentum 4 are in any way deficient – probably the most charitable way to describe their feature set is ‘focused’. Still, the option to rearrange the whole appearance of the app by enabling or disabling the ‘tiles’ handling specific functions is a nice touch.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review: Noise cancellation
There are two ways you can look at this. You can compare the noise cancellation the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are capable of to that of class-leading options from Bose and decide that it’s deficient. Or you can take the Momentum 4 out into the real world and realise the noise cancelling that’s on offer here is more than adequate in virtually every circumstance.
Use the control app to set ANC to maximum, and all but the most insistent low-frequency sounds are basically taken out of the equation. Just as importantly, the Momentum 4 Wireless achieve this without any suggestion of counter signal, disruption of the noise-floor or any other indication of how hard they’re working to isolate you from outside influence. They simply keep external sounds at bay and leave you to get on with enjoying whatever it is you want to listen to.
Selecting the ‘Adaptive’ setting in the app automatically adjusts the strength of noise cancellation on the fly in response to real-time conditions. It’s a worthwhile and effective feature, and can really only be wrong-footed by external occurrences that are very sudden, very close by, or both. The app also lets you choose a setting for wind noise reduction (off, auto or max) – it’s a brilliantly implemented algorithm, keeping to an absolute minimum the ever-present wind noise those of us who live near the coast are plagued by. And the option to pause music when you activate transparency mode is useful, too.
Taken as a package, the active noise cancellation and its associated technologies available here are both intelligent and effective. That you can achieve even better results from alternative designs from the likes of Bose is certain, but the differences aren’t as significant as you might imagine.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review: Sound quality
The appearance may have undergone something of a rethink, but where sound quality is concerned Sennheiser hasn’t strayed far from its long-established (and extremely successful) template. The Momentum 4 are a thoroughly musical, completely confident and endlessly enjoyable listen.
They’re unconcerned about the sort of music you might like to listen to, and they handled everything from the minimal orchestral stylings of Arvo Pärt and the flimsy indie of Camera Obscura to the grind and attack of Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker” without alarms. In all and every circumstance, the Sennheiser are coherent, rigorously focused and impressively dynamic.
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From the bottom of the frequency range to the top, they’re even-handed and tonally convincing. The stage they create is spacious and open, with individual elements of a recording precisely located. Detail levels are high, the attack and decay of single notes or hits is described fully, and their midrange reproduction in particular is packed with character and variation.
They’re unflustered by big volumes, adept at dealing with significant dynamic shifts and give rhythms proper expression. In short, the Momentum 4 Wireless are a class act. They have clarity, detail and fidelity on their side, and in purely sonic terms can compete with any of the rival designs already mentioned. Most of which, let’s not forget, are more expensive.
All of this assumes you’ve left the EQ settings alone, of course. It’s possible to alter the way the headphones sound, naturally enough, but ‘different’ is not the same as ‘better’. Certainly no one who values realism in music should go anywhere near the Bass Boost control in the app. Trust Sennheiser’s engineers to have hit upon the best audio balance on your behalf, and you won’t go far wrong.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review: Verdict
The rather bland look of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless might seem like a slightly retrograde step – but as long as you’re not buying new headphones purely for the way they look, the Momentum 4 absolutely demand an audition. They’re competitive in every respect, from specification to functionality, and at the price they represent excellent value.
Yes, Bose will cancel just a smidgen more of that external sound and yes, Sony has gone to even greater lengths to make ownership of its headphones a properly personal experience, while Bowers & Wilkins has rather self-conscious sophistication on its side where design is concerned. But as a pound-for-pound proposition, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are among the very best products of their type around. If you’ve got a budget of £300, these are the over-ear noise-cancellers to buy.