Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless: Superfine
Today we’re checking out Sennheiser’s entry into the burgeoning truly wireless earphone market, the Momentum True Wireless.
Anyone who knows anything about audio, portable or otherwise, will be familiar with the name Sennheiser. Whether you’re talking consumer headphones, earphones, or professional microphones, Sennheiser is a name that oft crops up when talking about the best of the best. Their products can be found everywhere from recording studios to a student’s backpack.
Is Sennheiser’s first entry into the truly wireless market a success or will the Momentum True Wireless (MTW) be forgotten in short order? Let’s find out.
A big thanks to Everett with Sennheiser for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Momentum True Wireless, and for arranging a loaner unit for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on over a month using the MTW and do not represent Sennheiser or any other entity. At the time of writing the MTW retailed for 299.95 USD.
Product page: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/truewireless-details
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
- Dimensions: 78.6 x 45 x 35 mm (charging case)
- Microphone: MEMS
- Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 5.0 compliant, class 1
- Supported Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
- THD, total harmonic distortion: <0,08% (1kHz / 94dB)
- Ear coupling: Ear Canal
- Weight: 69.8 g (earbuds and charging case), 13.2 g (both earbuds), 56.6 g (charging case)
- Charging time: Approx. 1.5 hrs
- Microphone sensitivity: 94 dB SPL at 1 kHz
- Operating temperature: 0 to +40°C
- Power supply: 5 V, 650 mA: USB charging via USB-C socket at charging case
- Battery Specification: Built-in Lithium rechargeable battery
- Frequency range: 5 Hz to 21 kHz (earbuds)
100 Hz to 10 kHz (microphone)
- Sensitivity: 107 dB SPL (1 kHz / 1 mW)
- Speaker type: 7mm Dynamic
- Operating relative humidity: 10 to 80%, non condensing
- Battery time: Up to 4 hrs (A2DP) with rechargeable batteries of the earbuds, Up to 12 hrs with rechargeable battery of the charging case
- Water Protection Code: IPX4, splash resistant (earbuds)
- Type of Codec: SBC, aptX™, aptX™ Low Latency, AAC
Packaging and Accessories:
The MTW’s packaging has a very eye-pleasing looking with a combination of the soft blues and whites familiar to the brand. On the front of the lid is a high quality image of the MTW’s earpieces and the charge case, along with some highlighted features, like the ability to play music and take calls, touch controls, access to your phone’s voice assistant, and battery life. Around the rest of the package you find some other handy tidbits, like support for aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs, as well as Bluetooth 5.0 support.
Lifting off the lid you find the earpieces and charge case nestled safely within laser-cut foam inserts. Lift out the foam insert and you find a smaller cardboard box containing the usual documentation (quick start guide and safety information) and the accessories. In all you get:
- Momentum True Wireless earphones
- Charging case
- Single flange silicone tips (xs/s/m/l)
- USB-C cable
Overall a pretty unremarkable, surprise-free unboxing experience. Given the MTW’s price, I would have liked to see Sennheiser provide a wider variety of tips options, like bi-flange and foam, even though the stock medium tips were perfect for me and used for all of my testing.
Build and Comfort:
The MTW’s earpieces are primarily plastic save for the logo-emblazoned metal touch pad, or “spin ring” as it’s called on Sennheiser’s product page. And the gold-plated charging pins. The plastics are of a very high quality with a matte finish that feels good to the touch, though I wish it was more grippy. It’s not uncommon for them to slip out of my fingers when removing them from the charge case. The powerful magnets that snap them into place are also partly to blame. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped them because of this. On the plus side, this unexpectedly tested the plastic’s toughness, showing off how resilient it is to scratches and marks; i.e. very. Build quality of the earpieces overall is quite good, though there are some things I would like to see addressed in a future revision. First, the nozzles are open with a simple piece of foam preventing dust and gunk from getting inside. There is no screen leaving the foam open to removal, either on purpose or by accident. At least stick a basic screen on there. Second, while fit and finish is excellent, there is a deep, tapered seam that runs the length of the base of the body of each earpiece. It is clear that this was intentional since this design element is present on the charge case too. While it looks nice and provides a consistent design across all aspects of the product, unfortunately it tends to collect skin, wax, dust, etc. and requires semi-frequent cleaning. The edge is also just a bit too sharp and after 45 minutes or so causes some mild discomfort. Users would benefit from it being smoothed out a bit, if not removed entirely. While the consistency in design looks nice, it’s not quite worth the negatives, as mild as they are.
The charge case is a stylish piece of equipment with a grey cloth exterior dominating the design. A rubberized Sennheiser logo can be found on the top, while the bottom contains a plastic plate with relevant disposal and compliance logos, in addition to the model number and an address for Sennheiser. Out back is a USB-C port with an LED to the left and a small button to the right. Without the earpieces inserted into the case, this button will indicate the case’s remaining battery life. With the earpieces inserted, you get their battery life. Lift the lid and you find a plastic base with inserts for the earpieces. They are perfectly formed to the shape of each earpiece so you don’t have to worry about carefully lining up the charge pins. Just match the each earpiece to it’s respective insert (left to left, right to right) and drop them in. Strong magnets do the rest, pulling and holding them securely in place for charging and/or storage. The plastics used on the case are just as high a quality as found elsewhere, and the cloth exterior is grippy and seems to do a good job of resisting dirt and stains. Continuing the design of the earpieces, around the edge of the lid and base is a tapered ridge which breaks up what would end up being a monotonous design were it all grey cloth. About the only aspect of the case I’m not fond of is the hinge. The design is fine and I like the way it snaps the lid shut, mimicking the feel of using magnets, it’s the materials I’m worried about. It’s all plastic and there is A LOT of flex when pushing on it. This might be fine in warm weather where if dropped the lid will flex to absorb the impact, but in colder climates plastic gets brittle and brittle things break.
As is the hot topic with truly wireless products right now, how accommodating is the charge case of various ear tips during charging? I’m going to have to eat my earlier words about the HIFIMAN TWS 600 being the best I’ve tried to date, because that title goes to the MTW. Let me just cut in an except from the TWS 600 review addressing this, edited to accommodate the MTW.
“Let’s compare cases and tip compatibility with the Nuforce BeFREE8, SoundPEATS TrueFree+ and Q26, Astrotec S60 and S60 5.0, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless (MTW). Most of these are designed to accommodate at most the preinstalled medium sized single flange tips. Few can take the stock large. None but the MTW can accommodate the chunky Xiaomi tips that work fine with the HIFIMAN case. None but the MTW can take standard medium foams (Comply or otherwise) without compressing them first. None work with the insanely long double or triple flange tips HIFIMAN provides with the TWS 600, will nor do other third party options fit, though the MTW will accept some shorter bi-flange options. HIFIMAN comes out way ahead of all but the MTW with a case that is much more flexible when it comes to charging the ear pieces with a variety of different tips attached. Also in Sennheiser’s favour, their case has a hollow lid allowing you to carry your detached tips with the earphones, should they not fit ”
When it comes to comfort, the MTW is quite good, though there are a couple knocks against it. First is that aforementioned edge that runs around the rim of each earpiece. It’s a tad sharp in places and for me reduces the MTW from being an all-day wear to a 45 minute wear with short breaks. The earpieces are also quite large in circumference, ~23mm at their widest point. They fit similarly to an earbud, but with a short nozzle added to accommodate some ear tips. I prefer earphones with a shallow fit and love how most earbuds slot into place so I’m cool with the MTW. However, if you’re not so lucky and have issues getting earbuds to fit, you might want to find somewhere you can try these on first. Those with small ears may also want to keep the size of these in mind when considering them. I’ll say they’re comfortable, but with an asterisks (*).
Normally I fold this into the previous section, but MTW has a ‘Transparent Hearing’ feature accessed through the Smart Control app. This feature allows you to use the onboard microphones in each earpiece to pipe in the environment around you, thereby overriding any passive isolation.
Passive isolation is about average for a dynamic based earphone, maybe slightly above. There are plenty of places for noises to bleed through, so the clacking of keyboards, cars driving by, people chatting, etc. all come through, it’s just dulled and mostly incomprehensible. I found it quite suitable in noisy areas, like the local Tim Hortons coffee shop, on my evening walks through the city, and when grocery shopping.
Hopping into the app and turning on ‘Transparent Hearing’ changes everything. Gone is that decent isolation replaced by the environment around you coming through loud and clear. People, cars, whatever. You hear it all. The only other product I’ve used that features similar tech is the Radsone ES100, and there is no comparison. The ES100 provided nowhere near the same amount of information, and without the same level of immediacy. There is very little delay between the noises around you and what the MTW pipes through, something I find extremely important when using this feature. If you need to react, you’re not reacting to a significantly delayed sound. And if you work in an office, the MTW should definitely be on your shortlist. You can listen to your music while working without having to worry about missing, a phone call, someone call your name, etc. And if you need to pause your music to chat with someone, simply remove one earpiece which stops the music. Awesome.
Sources and Connection:
The Momentum True Wireless was tested with a number of devices; LG G5, LG G6, Shanling M0, Shanling M1 and an ASUS FX53V laptop. Connecting for the first time is as straightforward as it is with most products. Once you take the earphones out of the case, press your finger against the touch sensitive pads for 5 seconds and the earphones will announce they’ve entered pairing mode. Find the MTW on your device (it shows up as MOMENTUM TW), select it, and you’re done. The pairing will be remembered in the future and auto-connect whenever possible.
One thing I’m not fond of is that the MTW can only be paired to one device at a time, or at least that’s how it has been in practice. Switching from one device to the other always requires forgetting the original connection, and pairing again. Not a huge deal, but for those used to having their earphones connected to 2+ devices at a time and swapping between them, as I do with my laptop and wireless device of the moment, it gets tiring having to repair constantly.
One connected, how is the connection quality? Pretty good. Every once in a while the left earpiece will briefly disconnect from the right, but it’s fairly rare. On one, occasion after removing an earpiece to pause the track and talk to my wife, music would play intermittently upon unpausing. I’ve experienced this with another product, requiring a fresh pairing of the devices to fix. Other than that, the connection quality is very reliable, even over fairly long distances and with obstacles in the way. Paired to my LG G6, I can leave the phone in my office and step just outside my apartment before the connection begins to falter. The front door is through three rooms and two hallways, around a90 degree corner and with a bathroom separating it all. That’s nuts. Some of my other TWS earphones will allow me to walk around the entirety of the apartment while retaining a solid connection, but none can do what the MTW can. It is truly impressive.
Less impressive is the battery life. Four hours of listening with two additional charges via the case totalling 12 hours of total use. That’s not terrible by any means, and has been good enough for my use cases, but it’s not good either. The MUCH smaller and more compact Astrotec S60 5.0 manages 16 hours of combined listening time. The sub-50 CAD SoundPEATS TrueFree+ provides 30 hours of combined listening time. The HIFIMAN TWS 600 provides a combined total of 38.5 hours. I’d be okay with 12 hours if the Momentum True Wireless was very compact, but it’s not. The case is reasonably small and easily pocketed, but the earpieces are quite large.
On the other hand, this battery life makes sense given the features and technology within, but most people won’t be taking that into consideration. They’ll just read a spec sheet, see 12 hours, and think it’s not enough when X brand gives you double the battery life. I really hope Sennheiser looks into bumping up the battery life considerably with their next release, if only to please spec-heads.
Updates seem to be automatically applied via the Smart Control app. There’s not much to say here beyond the process being painless, and wow, does it take a long time. They warn you though, and since you can use them while the update is occurring, it’s not a big deal. You only need to stop listening right at the end of the update process to drop the earpieces into the case to finalize the installation. Easy peazy.
Smart Control App:
The app is a free download and pretty basic in it’s functionality. I appreciate that to be honest. While something like the Earstudio app Radsone created to accommodate the ES100 is amazing in the features and added functionality it brings to the device, for the average user it’s a lot to take in. The Smart Control app keeps things simple. On the home page you see the remaining battery life and two options: Transparent Hearing and Equalizer. Under ‘Transparent Hearing’ you have the option to turn it on, and decide whether or not you want music playing in the background while it is on. Simple and self explanatory. The Equalizer is a bit more interesting.
Instead of the usual multi-band sliders used by everyone else, you are greeted by a unique interface. Up North is a plus sign, South a minus sign, East covers bass, West is your treble, and dead centre sits a white dot. The idea is that you move that little dot around the screen and tailor your sound. It’s not as flexible as a traditional equalizer, but it’s undoubtedly more fun to use and for someone that is not familiar with frequencies and/or is easily overwhelmed by dials and sliders, this is going to be a great tool to help them customize the sound of their MTW.
That said, I don’t use the equalizer. I prefer more control over each frequency, but also, for whatever reason half the time I try to move the dot, when I let go to leave it in the area with a sound I like, it jumps to the top left corner ruining my selection.
The MTW eschews traditional buttons for touch sensitive pads on each earpiece. I’m kinda old school and prefer things that are packed to the brim with buttons, dials, etc. Tactile feedback all the way. That said, the touch controls here worked well enough to be plenty usable.
Each earpiece has it’s own suite of controls. The left handles music functions with a single tap to play/pause, a double tap to skip a track, and a triple tap to go back. A single long press will also reduce volume. The right handles call functions with a single tap accepting and ending a call, and a double tap rejecting a call. A single long press will increase volume. Lastly, a a double tap will turn on/off the ‘Transparent Hearing’ feature.
Overall the controls are quite standard and fairly intuitive. Though, actually using them is made a bit more difficult thanks to the use of touch sensitive pads. Placement of the finger and the speed at which you complete multiple presses all affect how successful you will be in achieving the desired function. You need to be fairly precise and methodical. It would have been neat to see Sennheiser do something a little more unique, such as moving your finger around the ridge of the pad to adjust volume. While I still prefer more tactile controls, the touch sensitive route Sennheiser used works decently well and probably helped them more easily achieve the IPX4 splash resistance rating the MTW has, so that’s a plus.
The Momentum True Wireless has what I consider a pretty typical signature for truly wireless products. That being a v-shaped sound with plenty of bass to cut through and maintain presence regardless of outside noise, and sparkly treble to add excitement and keep your blood pumping. While this style of tune isn’t necessarily anything special, Sennheiser keeps it refined resulting in a very pleasant sounding earphone.
The treble presentation is a highlight in my opinion. It is detailed and crisp with a slightly lean note weight, yet it comes across extremely light and airy without any harshness or grain. It’s lively and sprightly, and simply a joy to experience. Even tracks with nasty, overly aggressive treble like The Crystal Method’s “Grace feat LeAnn Rimes” work with the Momentum True Wireless. Decay is reasonably quick letting the MTW handle heavy-handed cymbals fairly naturally. This is a truly wireless product that ends up being quite enjoyable with metal, like Havok’s album ‘Time Is Up’.
The mid-range, while slightly recessed, is in no way overshadowed by the bass or treble. Vocals are naturally weighted and sibilance free, blending in well with the rest of the presentation. Female vocals come across especially sweet with a warmth and emotion to them that is lacking in a lot of other products, such as on Celine Dion’s “Ashes”. Through the MTW, her performance is every bit the powerhouse you expect from such an accomplished vocalist. This is actually one of the few earphones that gave me goosebumps with that track, particularly at 1:10 when the bass kicks in and Celine’s vocals swell. So good.
Speaking of so good, the MTW’s low end is fantastic. Depth is phenomenal for a wireless product with deep basslines rocking you with a slow rumble, such as that aforementioned moment in “Ashes”, and the opening section of Kavinski’s “Solli”. EDM and hip hop fans are very unlikely to find themselves wanting extra low end from the MTW, unless they are true bassheads. Depth is good, but so is texture. It’s not among the most information rich earphones I’ve tested, but all the relevant detail in each note is there meaning the grimy basslines inherent to The Prodigy and Tobacco are every bit as crunchy as they need to be.
The Momentum True Wireless’ sound stage is also quite satisfying for a truly wireless product. While stage depth isn’t anything special, width is fantastic with notes flying off into the distance giving the impression of a fairly open and spacious listening experience. Imaging is good, right in line with the best truly wireless products I’ve heard. There are no vague spots off centre, or odd channel to channel transitions. I think these would work fine for mobile gaming. Layering is also good but the previously mentioned lack of depth does show on congested tracks, such as the closing minutes of King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black”. Thankfully separation is good, so you rarely have to worry about instruments colliding and smearing into each other.
Overall I find the MTW to be a very satisfying earphone. The selected tune is perfect for mobile use, good because that is likely where this product will see most of it’s time. I would love micro detail to be a bit more prevalent through the mids. Good stuff in general though.
At nearly 300 USD, the Momentum True Wireless are not a cheap, throwaway pair of wireless earphones. Do they sound like a 300 USD product? When compared to top performing wired earphones in that price range, no, not entirely. However, when you buy a wireless earphone, you’re not buying just an earphone. You’re also buying into the tech and features that make them sing. Reviewing any truly wireless product based on sound quality alone is of little value. That is just one small part of the overall picture and the overall picture with the MTW is one of competence and versatility.
The v-shaped tune Sennheiser went with works perfectly in the wild where there is noise and chaos, things that ruin bass and block out the mid-range. It’s passive isolation is good enough to let you enjoy your music without too much interference. And when you need that interference to be a part of your life once again, such as when you’re out jogging, you have that option thanks to ‘Transparent Hearing’. I can’t emphasize enough how well it works, and how useful it is. You don’t need to to turn down your music, or roll with only one bud. You get the best of everything. It’s a game changing feature in my world. Add to that the best wireless range, with obstacles, I’ve experienced to date and things are looking up.
That’s not to say all is good and true in the world of the Momentum True Wireless. The battery life at 12 hours combined is overshadowed by, well, most modern products and could definitely benefit from an upgrade. The earpieces themselves are quite large and the ridge that runs around the bass of each hinders comfort slightly. I also worry about the long term durability of the cases’ hinge, especially in cold weather. As I said before, plastic gets brittle in cold weather and brittle things tend to break. The touch controls also take a bit of getting used to, but work fairly well overall.
Those qualms aside, I love this product. As someone that spends most of their time listening to high value, budget friendly products from niche brands you have to buy through sometimes questionable sites, I’m always skeptical of mainstream brands and what they’ll bring to the table. I was not expecting to enjoy the Momentum True Wireless as much as I have and while it could certainly be improved upon, what is does well it does really well.
If you’re in the market for a premium, truly wireless product with some features that are both interesting and useful, the Momentum True Wireless is definitely worth checking out.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)