Sennheiser is a name synonymous with excellent sound. It has recently released an update to its Momentum 3 Wireless headphones, this time offering a new colorway: sandy white. But irrespective of the color, how do the Momentum 3 headphones perform sound-wise?
Sennheiser’s premium Momentum range is designed to deliver exceptional sound. They may cost a buck or two, but if the $399.95 price tag isn’t an issue for you, you’re going to net yourself a superb set of headphones. Let’s see what all the hype is about.
A Beacon of Comfort and Style
Let’s get this straight from the off; the Sennheiser Momentum 3 are mega-comfortable. In fact, up to now, I don’t think I have ever worn a pair of headphones that are so sumptuous and stylish. They tenderly cuddle your head while they ooze premium sound all over your eardrums. Delightful.
The headband is crafted from premium leather and this shows. The material is soft and smooth, remaining breathable, too. This means you don’t end up with a sweaty strip across your dome while you wear them. I tested them in the scorching 79-degrees Fahrenheit weather the U.K. has been bathing in during our seven-day summer, and there was no excessive moisture underneath the band.
The ear cups, too, are very nice to wear. The memory foam cushioning means that they mold to the contours of your head and don’t create unnecessary pressure around the ears. This also means that they can be worn comfortably with shades or spectacles. Do note that you will lose some of the passive noise canceling from the cups themselves if you wear eyeglasses with them.
The arms are crafted from matte steel, meaning they are incredibly robust. The earcups are attached to the arms via Sennheiser’s iconic slotted design. This allows the cups to be vertically adjusted, with a range of 60mm. That way you can alter the vertical positioning of the ear cups to suit the position of your ears.
A hinge connects the arms to the headband. This folds in on itself, allowing you to reduce the overall footprint of the headphones. This folding action also has control capabilities, but we will come to those shortly. When folded, the headphones fit into the bundled case.
The cups themselves are also able to rotate slightly using a ball-and-socket joint. This means the ‘phones naturally follow the curvature of your head, providing even more comfort in wear. It is this level of customization that makes these headphones so adaptable to your shape, making them a perfect fit.
The cans come with a fabric bag that zips open and closed around the center. I would have preferred something that felt like it was going to protect my headphones a little better. I mean, they’re almost 400 dollars, so a hard case would surely make sense. However, they fit snugly in the case, and it has a little pocket on the inside for any gadgets you might want to pack in with the headphones.
Man the Controls
Control-wise, you have several options where the Momentum 3 headphones are concerned. They can be controlled via the buttons on the cups themselves, or via the Sennheiser app (which adds some extra levels of control, too). Let’s take a look at how the controls work.
It is the right ear cup that carries all of the controls for the headphones. These come in the form of various buttons and sliders. The headphones don’t have capacitive controls and, in the instance of over-ear designs, buttons are preferable as you don’t accidentally skip songs or turn Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) off just by brushing against the controls.
The top of the right cup has an indicator light that tells you when the headphones are turned on. A green light will pop up to show the headphones are powered up. This is accompanied by a vocal “Power On” notification. The light will flash blue when it connects to your headphones, accompanied again by a vocal “Connected to (Device Name)” notification.
Below the indicator light is the slider for toggling the ANC and transparent hearing modes. The slider is adjusted vertically and has three positions. The uppermost position is ANC off. The middle position turns ANC on. You can also adjust the “transparent sound” to activate/deactivate ambient noise or conversation listening. We’ll cover both of these features in more detail later.
Next is a set of three buttons. The top and bottom buttons control volume and -, respectively. The middle button is multifunctional and is used to control the music itself. A single-click toggles between play and pause. A double-click skips to the next track, while a triple-click will play the previous track.
The multifunction button also allows the wearer to take phone calls. A single-click will both answer and terminate a call. You can also reject the call with a one-second press of the button. If you need to mute the mic, you can hold the volume – button; a “Mute On” notification will then play. Holding the volume or – button will allow you to turn mute off, with the appropriate notification playing.
There is a dedicated voice assistant button that will turn your smartphone’s little helper on and off. This is achieved by simply clicking the button once to activate, and a second time to deactivate. You can then provide vocal instruction to your smartphone via the headphone mic, which is located on the left ear cup.
Closer to the bottom of the cup is the USB-C charging port. Below that is the headphone cable jack, which is used alongside the bundled 3.5mm wire. Note that you must use this cable with the headphones as the jack and plug at the headphone end are not 3.5 mm, but instead are 2.5 mm. They also lock together with a twist and click, so you won’t be able to use any old 3.5mm to 2.5mm cable , either.
Finally, physically control-wise, you can control playback and power the headphones on and off simply by taking them off your ears and folding them up. Taking them off and leaving them unfolded will pause your music using Sennheiser’s “Smart Pause” function. Reapplying the headphones will commence playback. If you fold them up, you will turn the unit off. Unfolding them will turn them back on. The power on and off gestures are both accompanied by a vocal notification.
The Sennheiser Smart Control app (available via the Google Play and Apple App stores) actually offers additional headphone customization, as well as some further features that make the Momentum 3 headphones really cool.
The Momentum 3 Home screen has three main options, as well as a settings control. The first option in the list is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) adjustment. This allows you to swap between “Max,” which offers the maximum reduction of background noise; “Anti Wind,” which gives a slight noise reduction without disturbing wind or structure-borne noise; and “Anti Pressure,” which comfortably reduces noise without a feeling of pressure on the eardrums.
To be honest, I don’t notice pressure on my eardrums when max ANC was in use, so I don’t feel the need to reduce it with either of the other two options. If you do find the ANC uncomfortable due to pressure, though, these options are only a click away with the app.
The second option allows you to turn Transparent Hearing on or off, while also allowing you to define whether you still want music to play when Transparent Hearing is active. Transparent Hearing is simply a method of controlling how much ambient noise you want to hear. This is useful if you are on a busy street and want to be able to hear traffic while you wear the headphones, for example.
Finally, you have the equalizer. The equalizer is kind of strange in that it appears on the screen as a kind of wave animation. With the equalizer set to “Neutral,” the wave will sit in the center of the screen. A movable button at the wave’s center allows you to adjust the magnitude of treble and bass. Personally, I would have preferred a regular equalizer with some presets, but each to their own.
There is also a device settings menu which allows you to do the following:
- Toggle “Smart Pause” on and off, which controls the sound when you remove the headphones but don’t fold them.
- Switch between tone and voice prompts, which will notify you when the device is switched on and off.
- Use Amazon Alexa registration, which links the ‘phones up to the Alexa app.
- Access Tile status, which allows you to link the headphones to Tile app, in case you lose them.
- Perform firmware and factory reset options.
The Tile functionality works perfectly. I have never used Tile before (mainly because the only tenet of adult life I am actually good at is not losing things). Following the instructions within the Tile app, I paired the Momentum 3 with the device-finding service. A quick test revealed that Tile can locate my headphones anywhere in the house. The Momentum 3 will play a jingle to indicate their location, and the ‘phones also vibrate to let you know where they are hiding! It’s a great feature, especially given the Momentum 3 are expensive headphones. If you are prone to losing your gear, then this will be a great selling point.
Superior Sound Quality
I have to take my hat off to Sennheiser, here. The Momentum 3 are some of the best-sounding consumer headphones I have ever heard in my life. Seriously, I could listen to someone rustling a bag of Doritos through these ‘phones, and I’d still be impressed. They’re that good.
Now, because they are consumer headphones, the sound is not going to be “flat” (i.e., the bass, mid, and treble ranges aren’t all at the same volume level). This is a feature you would expect with a pair of monitor headphones. (You can find out more about in-ear monitor headphones, and what monitor headphones do, here). As a result, one or more of those ranges will take up the soundstage over the others.
In the case of the Momentum 3, bass is king. This is obviously perfect for bass-heavy music. Heading to my trusted testing playlist, I found that hip-hop and electro performed very well. Bass sounds have that all-important “whoomph.” I find myself pulling scrunched-up pigfaces, publicly, every time a monstrous bassline kicks in. Observers may well think I’m in pain. I’m not; I’m in ecstasy.
As a result, the mids and trebles aren’t as loud, but that isn’t to say that they were drowned out by bass frequencies. Metal sounds good, with the vocals punching through the rest of the lovely racket, and top-end drum sounds are crisp and nicely defined. Less abrasive music (in this case, Beck’s folky Morning) does struggle a tad. This isn’t a problem, though, as I can just dip the bass down using the app’s equalizer, bringing the mids and tops forward.
Call quality is also great. My call partner can hear me clearly without any clipping of sound. Likewise, my call partner sounds great, and I can hear them clear as a bell. Even having a conversation with a person in the same room as me is fine. I just have to nudge the “transparent sound” slider to be able to hear my fiancee asking me what we should have for tea (a very protracted daily occurrence in the Knight household, for both parties).
I’m Gonna Get Myself Connected
Connection-wise, there are several options with the Momentum 3. Obviously, you have the wireless option. However, you can pair headphones with your smartphone via Near-Field Communication (NFC) or Bluetooth 5.0. These really have no difference between the two other than the distance from the source at which they can be paired. Bluetooth has a significantly longer range, so I use this to connect the headphones. Both work fine for pairing your smartphone, however. Do note that playback doesn’t work over NFC—that is just for pairing the Momentum 3 with another device.
With Bluetooth enabled, I have no problem leaving the sound source (in this case, my smartphone) in my office and walking around the rest of the house. There is no dropout, so the range is great with these cans. Thanks to the Android-friendly aptX and aptX-LL codecs, high-definition sound comes pouring out of Momentum 3. iPhone users can enjoy the AAC codec for premium sound quality. An outdoor straight-line test reached around 40 feet before dropout occurred.
There is also the option to connect to two source devices. I managed to use this function without any problems, listening to music from my laptop, while allowing my phone to ping any notifications through to me. I don’t really need to use this function, but I can see why it would be useful to some people who simply must be alerted to every notification their smartphone can throw at them.
The best sound quality, though, as always, is best via a wired connection. Unfortunately, my stupid-ass phone doesn’t have a headphone jack, so I connected to my laptop instead and fired up Tidal. The sound quality is even more sublime via a wired connection, and Tidal’s “Masters” recordings are stupendously good.
The battery takes around 17 hours to power down from a full charge, which rings true to Sennheiser’s claims. I managed to squeeze 15 hours out of the headphones, with ANC switched on and running continuously as medium volume. This, admittedly, isn’t the longest battery life I have seen, but you can negate this with the wired connection (if your phone isn’t stupid, like mine). Otherwise, it is tough luck. You’ll just need to charge them again.
Should I Grab a Pair?
Have you got $400 to spare? If so, then the Momentum 3 headphones are a class choice. They just sound fantastic and they look the part, too. ANC works a treat, and connecting to the headphones is easy. The inclusion of the Tile app compatibility will be a big selling point if you are constantly losing your possessions, too.
Overall, this is an exceptional pair of headphones, and I think you’ll find them pretty hard to beat. If you want some cheaper options, then perhaps take a look at these great sets of wireless headphones for $100 or less.