By Alex Bracetti Review Source
Signature sound and improved ANC make the Sennheiser Momentum 3 a modest upgrade.
It’s taken several years, but the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones are finally here.
Sennheiser has made some noticeable improvements to its latest noise-cancelling headphones, from the ANC technology to the feature set, while also upholding the matured look and sound of its predecessor. Unfortunately, buggy performance and subpar battery life place the Momentum 3 a few notches below the best noise-cancelling headphones, including the class-leading Bose 700.
Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless review below to find out how Sennheiser's latest cans stack up to the competition.
SENNHEISER MOMENTUM 3 WIRELESS SPECS: Frequency range: 6Hz - 22kHz Inputs: Bluetooth, analog, USB-C Bluetooth: 5.0 Battery life: 17 hours Noise cancellation: Yes (3 modes)
Sennheiser knows it has one of the most attractive designs out there, so there was no need for a complete makeover. The Momentum 3 shares the same clean, minimalist silhouette as its elder siblings. Matte black plastic covers the outside of the earcups, while the pliable headband and ear pads are topped with genuine leather that feels much smoother than what was used on the previous version. Stainless-steel joints and yokes link these components together and complement the headphones’ deluxe appearance.
Usually, the newest model in a headphone series takes on a slimmer and lighter form. It turns out the Momentum 3 is actually larger (7.8 x 6.7 x 1.78 inches) and heavier (10.6 ounces) than the Momentum 2. The plush padding does afford better comfort on the ears, but the extra weight bears down on the skull around the 1-hour mark. Those with a high pain tolerance should feel fine sporting them on short flights, but others won’t.
An unsung feature is the sliding mechanism for the extenders that allows for seamless adjustment on the go. It’s a more practical option than the click settings featured on most over-ear headphones. The extenders have an appropriate length to accommodate larger head sizes, making them an ideal choice for athletes.
Bundled with the headphones are an aux cable, USB-C charging cable, USB-C to USB-A adapter, and a cylindrical carrying case made from soft cloth. For headphones this pricey, I expected the case would be more durable and premium. The Momentum 3 is only available in Black at the moment, but a sandy white version(opens in new tab) is expected to ship at the end of March.
Large buttons on wireless headphones often look gaudy, especially on sleek-looking cans like the Momentum 3. Do they make locating the control module easier? Absolutely. And does the rubberized material that Sennheiser employs welcome certain benefits (e.g. sustainability, touch friendly)? Sure. However, since the buttons aren’t flush, this gives the controls a cluttered look and feel. Not to mention the controls are extremely buggy.
The digital assistant and multifunctional buttons get wonky at times. There was one incident where it required pressing the multifunctional button several times to pause Spotify. When I finally did, it wouldn’t allow me resume playback; I had to disable the Bluetooth setting and re-pair the headphones to fix this problem. There was also some noticeable lag (2-3 seconds) when enabling Siri on iOS and MacOS. Those are just two of the several bugs I encountered during testing.
The toggle located at the top to enable ANC/Ambient Listening and the volume buttons worked just fine, sparing me the aggravation of manually toying with either intended function on my smartphone. Another unique feature programmed into the headphones is on-ear detection, so you can automatically pause music whenever removing headphones from your head and resume playback when placing them back on. To my surprise, it operated flawlessly.
Active Noise Cancellation
To answer your burning question, the Momentum 3 does not have better noise cancelation than the Bose 700. That doesn’t mean it sucks either. Sennheiser’s ANC technology is quite advanced and effective, especially when compared to other big-ticket rivals. The headphones boast three different ANC modes – Anti-Pressure (low), Anti-Wind (medium), and Max (high) – each one programmed to minimize a certain level of ambient sound.
I spent most of my time using Anti-Pressure because it kept the soundstage neutral. It gives you the best balance of audio and noise reduction. The higher up you go in the modes, the more pressure the mics produce to filter out noise and the more emphasized bass becomes. Some people might be willing to handle the extra pressure on their ears and pounding bass if it means silencing crying babies, which the headphones can do. I’m just saying that other headphones like the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000xM3 offer stellar ANC performance without compromising sound.
The Momentum 3 also has a transparent mode to provide listeners better awareness of their surroundings when they don’t want to take off their headphones. It does the trick for brief encounters; I could hear baristas clearly when shouting my coffee orders for pickup. Being able to eavesdrop on conversations is another perk you’ll be able to enjoy, if that’s your thing. Just know that the feature struggles with low-frequency sounds; I couldn’t make out what my fiancée was saying due to the droning engine noises coming from the bus right in front of us.
Noise isolation on the Momentum 3 was better than I expected. The headphones created a tight seal around my ears that blocked out most external sounds. Rowdy train passengers didn’t faze me on the way home, but jackhammers and sirens caught my attention.
The Momentum 3 is exemplary of the brand’s commitment to creating elite-sounding headphones. While retaining the vibrant sonics of the Momentum 2, Sennheiser upped the boom on these cans. The stronger bass response blends well with mids and highs, spoiling listeners with hi-fi audio that allows them to catch the slightest nuances in recordings.
If you need an adrenaline rush in the morning or before hitting the gym, Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” will give you wings faster than a Red Bull. The Momentum 3 does a superb job of reproducing the song’s infectious bass and conga drums, delivering a punchy resonance that rattles your eardrums. Sennheiser measured the volume levels accurately to ensure as little distortion as possible when listening at max volume, at least in Anti-Pressure mode.
On melodic tracks like Kanye West’s “Everything I Am,” the headphones demonstrated great depth, spotlighting the background harmonies and lonesome piano keys over West’s braggadocious banter. John Coltrane’s “Blue World” maintained that same pristine and transparent output; hearing his sax solo felt like being in a live studio session. More resounding was the instrumental separation – every hi-hat, piano key, and sax blow was pronounced and steady all the way through.
As I mentioned previously, hearing music in Anti-Wind or Max mode recesses the low end, depending on the song. Cycling through my 90’s hip-hop playlist, I had to revert back to Anti-Pressure because my ears couldn’t deal with the unpleasant bass response. If Sennheiser could figure out a way to stabilize sound across all three ANC modes, that would certainly raise the Momentum 3’s stock.
App and Special Features
Sennheiser ramped up the feature set to make these headphones highly functional and future-proof. It all starts with the Sennheiser Smart Control app, which has an equalizer to personalize sound and toggle options for all listening modes. This is where you’ll select the ANC mode you like best.
Tap the wheel icon at the top right and a few other features pop up. There are toggle controls for the digital assistant, on-ear detection, and tone and voice prompts. You can push firmware updates or perform a factory reset, if necessary. Also, there is Tile technology built into the headphones, so you’ll be able to locate them within a 150-foot radius if ever lost.
Sounds dope, right? Not so fast. Like the controls, the mobile app has a tendency of acting up. Even when the headphones were paired to my smartphone, the app failed to recognize the connection. I hate troubleshooting, and Smart Control had me doing this on multiple occasions. There was even one point where I was listening to music during the connection process and the soundstage went completely out of whack, producing distorted and screeching effects that were torture to my ears.
Lastly, the Momentum 3 supports Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. The latter is the default, however, disabling it makes Apple or Google’s AI bot (depending on the device) your preferential voice commander. Of the three, Google Assistant worked best, thanks to its solid speech recognition. Siri was a bit more temperamental and either failed to register commands or froze on my MacBook Pro.
Battery life is very short. In fact, the Momentum 3 (17 hours) is rated a few hours lower than the Bose 700 (20 hours), which is something Bose has been mocked for time and time again. When used in moderation (2 hours daily), it should provide enough juice to keep you entertained for an entire week. Keyword: should.
I say that because the battery levels drop drastically, no matter if the headphones are active or inactive. It only took two hours to see the battery drop from 60% to 10%. There is no power button or sleep mode, so I learned the hard way that the only method of turning them off is by collapsing them. And that doesn’t work properly either. Occasionally, the headphones would remain connected to my media device and continue to play music.
The latest firmware update does make battery life more manageable, but still falls short of what Sennheiser promotes. I got about 14 hours on a single charge when factoring in heavy music streaming, Skype calls, and ANC. The only thing more aggravating were the constant voice prompts reminding me every 45 seconds that the battery levels were low. Pray you never get stuck on a train at 10%.
If there is one positive here, it’s that the Momentum 3 has quick charging to generate 1.5 hours of playtime on a 10-minute charge.
Call Quality and Connectivity
Calls on the Momentum 3 sound muffled and distant on both ends. The low volume levels make it difficult to communicate, especially in rowdy environments. Chatting in my apartment was decent, but my fiancée could still hear Stephen A. Smith in the background gushing over LeBron James highlights on First Take.
Where Sennheiser makes up for its poor call quality is in wireless performance. These are one of the few models of headphones that make the most of Bluetooth 5.0, from the multipoint technology (connecting to 2 devices at once) to the super-long wireless range (up to 500 feet). I streamed Spotify and answered calls in high-traffic areas without any dropout. The headphones also support NFC, but the feature doesn’t work well. Every time I tried using it to pair the headphones to my Pixel 3XL, it would immediately unpair the two devices.
The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless isn’t a game-changer. It’s a modest upgrade that packages slightly better sound and noise cancelation into the same handsome design. Unique additions like an adjustable EQ (via mobile app) and Tile integration also give these retro-looking headphones modern appeal.
But as we found in our Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless review, $400 is asking a lot for wireless ANC headphones with mediocre battery life and numerous bugs in the system. If you feel that isn’t too much to spend on amazing sound and beautiful craftsmanship, then splurge away.