headphones

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ears Review

$199.95
5.4
Better than 55% of Reviewed Headphones

Fashionable fare from an audio pillar

In the audio world, Sennheiser is one venerable old dog, yet the company doesn't turn its nose up to new tricks. Case in point? Sennheiser looked beyond the uppercrust audiophile market by introducing fashionable headphones for the more everyday consumer: Meet the Momentum On-Ear (MSRP $229.95), a stylish offering with trendy sound to match.

In an interview with CEO Daniel Sennheiser, our SVP David Kender discusses major industry trends. Mr. Sennheiser admits that since businesses like Beats and Skullcandy have identified fashion-minded buyers, his company is also taking aim—with products like the Momentum.

We therefore nabbed a pair to find out whether the sound quality got the same royal treatment as the design.

The Outfit

A head-turner (and a hair-puller)

When it comes to fashion-forward design, the Momentum on-ears keep up with the best of them. The sophisticated intersection of industrial parts, varied colors, and fabric details has a distinctly grown-up appeal; the scheme is flashy without feeling tacky. Neatly stitched brown leather traces the brushed, stainless-steel band. Nothing is too shiny. Best of all, the Momentum comes in a large array of soft colors: ivory, pink, blue, brown, green, black, or red.

The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ears
Sennheiser's Momentum On-Ears use stylish, sophisticated design.
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The comfort factor isn't as successful. If you have medium/long hair, it can get snagged in the sliding hinges where the ear cup meets the band. I ruefully rubber-banded my hair after a chunk got ripped out while removing the Momentums. Warm weather doesn't mesh well with these headphones, either, because the fabric ear cups feel a bit like ear muffs. As for strike three, the on-ear design applies constant pressure to the outer ear, which tends to cause aching. Thus, like most on-ears, these are not a great choice for extended listening, offering none of the plushness of over-ear alternatives.

On the bright side, the ear cups do pivot nicely up-and-down and side-to-side. The simple rubber cable resists tangles and includes a three-button, iPhone-compatible mic/remote. Except for volume, the controller works with Android devices, too. Happily, the cable is removable, and as a bonus, Sennheiser even includes a backup (albeit with no remote).

Last, the included hard case is a very safe place to store your Momentums, but it's larger than a lady's clutch—not convenient for travel. Luckily, Sennheiser also offers a soft case, for the sake of added portability.

The Audio

Not the audiophile's cup of tea. But not everyone likes tea.

Let's jump right in: If you're searching for a "clean," delicate sound profile, these Momemtums aren't the right pick for you. For the most part, these on-ears balance sound very nicely, but the soundscape is more robust than it is refined.

Low notes are the biggest showcase.
That said, the main thing you'll notice is that low notes are the biggest showcase—a surefire way to please casual, mainstream listeners. There is a nice sense of overall balance, but a drop in volume occurs in one key area—making high notes on guitars, pianos, and certain brass instruments less discernable. Happily, this drop only impacts a small portion of the upper midrange. Otherwise, sound is quite balanced, so that even with the rumbling bass, listeners can still hear lots of musical details throughout the more delicate portions of the scale.

Don't expect much in the way of isolation.
As to the rest of the performance aspects, audible distortion won't hamper you at all unless you're listening at overly loud levels (don't do that), and volume between left and right speakers is even for the most part, too. Don't expect much in the way of isolation, though: The Momentums block a fair measure of high-pitched noise, but low sounds like moving traffic or booming bass from your neighbor's tacky house party will disrupt you, no question.

Final Look

Test drive required

Sennheiser delivers a sound profile that a lot of folks are after with the Momentum on-ears: big bass, but supported by ample detail throughout the middle and high range. Even better, there's no audible distortion and the design delivers the look that so many shoppers are searching for these days.

Still, $199 isn't exactly chump change, and the Momentums just don't win on every front. The fabric speaker pads can really heat up, and they clamp onto your outer ears with a fair amount of pressure—which can cause discomfort, especially after a half hour of listening. Perhaps most importantly, the Momentums' audio performance is eclipsed by similarly priced products like the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro, which you can find online for about $50 less.

Then again, if it's the marriage of trendy sound and head-turning design you're after, that's a rare specimen. Be sure to take these Sennheiser Momentum On-Ears for a spin, if that's the case. Maybe you'll hate the fit, maybe you'll like it—every noodle's different—but comfortable design's as important as audio quality, so test these out before throwing money down.