This is the third generation of the Sennheiser Momentum headphones. And it is not a case of hoping to be third time lucky. Because the previous two generations of the Momentum have been excellent and instant successes. In fact, Sennheiser has widened the Momentum umbrella to include wireless earbuds, in-ear earphones and wireless neckband earphones as well. The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless do cost a pretty penny at Rs 34,990 but for someone who genuinely loves their music, this is a small price to pay for the experience. Though Sony and Bose may have something to say about it. The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless at this price is essentially appealing to the same demographic of users who would be able to also afford the Sony WH-1000XM3 (around Rs 29,990) or the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (this mouthful name will cost you around Rs 34,500). Elite company, and no pressure then, I suppose?
While headphone designs and controls have undergone significant changes over the past few years, it is good to see Sennheiser stick to a more conventional scheme of things. For instance, the volume controls are still physical buttons, intuitive and clickable, and not touch controls. You’d have probably figured out by now that I’m not a huge fan of touch-based controls on the earcups—often they work and sometimes they don’t, and that inconsistency is irritating. Its subjective, but I fear some may criticize that Sennheiser’s design isn’t modern enough and what not. It is best to let that shouting subside, for the greater good. To add to this old-world intuitiveness is the physical key to invoke a voice based virtual assistant. Android phone users get to choose between Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, while Apple iPhone users can get Siri at their beck and call. On iOS and iPadOS, I couldn’t find the option to enable either Assistant or Alexa, which may be a limitation for some.
The design also has retained the best of conventionality, which means the earcups are nice and big—no pressing down on the ears and still enough breathability to allow you to wear these for a significant amount of time. The padding on the earcups and on the underside of the headband feel very premium, and that’s essential for expensive headphones to impress at the touchpoints of regular interaction. In fact, these are wrapped in genuine leather. No compromises on robustness too, with a steel structure for the headband and the earcups providing a solid enough skeleton.
But it is most certainly not old wine in a slightly new bottle. There is high quality noise cancellation (NC), a proximity sensor that automatically pauses and resumes music or video playback depending on whether you have taken off your headphones or are now wearing them again. There is a USB-C port to juice up the battery. And it even supports the Tile add-on in case you misplace these brilliant cans.
One grudge that I have is there is no power button on the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones. That means, I cannot leisurely hang them around my neck without them getting powered on. The headphones power off when you fold them and switch on as well as connected to the last paired device when you attempt to wear them. There will be times when you won’t realize it, and that can be a tad irritating.
Sound is where Sennheiser gets it about right, every single time, with effortless precision. It has been a decade of reviewing audio products, and the Sennheiser sound signature is something I maintain an unflinching affinity towards—the warm and cozy Bose sound signature being the other. The neutrality that the sound starts off with makes it very flexible for a variety of music genres and pretty much everything that falls within the realm of audio content. That also shows up in the sound that you listen to. There is powerful bass yet not overwhelming at any time. The vocals don’t sound sharp, the mids get their due attention and the sound retains the finest of details. Mind you, this isn’t about the brightest of sounds that perhaps you would get from a Bowers & Wilkins can, but this is most certainly hitting Sony and Bose where it hurts either the most—great lower frequency reproduction for the former and the flexible sound for the latter. Irrespective of genre, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones behave the way premium headphones should—with poise and a willingness to put in the hard yards without breaking into a sweat.
It is a bit weird that the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless doesn’t remember your last volume setting. Every time it is switched off and on, the default volume kicks in. I like my music at a low volume only so it works out well, but for someone who doesn’t, this may be quite irritating.
Noise cancellation has to, and it does, do the job of isolating the noisy ambience. It perhaps isn’t as powerful as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 but matches the Sony WH-1000XM3 which we had praised for its noise isolation capabilities—something that frequent flyers might want to make a note of. The good thing is the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones don’t alter the sound with the NC turned on, something that can often be a problem with headphones that have done a half-baked job of it.
Battery life on the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones is around 17 hours, which is lesser than the 20 hours to 30 hours range that Bose and Sony claim for their headphones. It is not a hardship, but an unnecessary disadvantage for Sennheiser on the comparison spec sheet. I managed to get around 18 hours of playback time before it blinked, purely because of the controlled listening volume and not using NC occasionally.
For those precious moments when you may run out of juice because you simply forgot to charge the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones, you will need to go the wired route. For some reason, Sennheiser have decided that a 2.5mm jack is ideal for the Momentum 3 Wireless. Now that is fine and in the real world it doesn’t cause any problem at all, but you will realize that 2.5mm to 3.5mm cables are harder to find than 3.5mm wires—just in case you lose this one or it gets damaged.
Admittedly, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless headphones have a very likeable personality. Also, perhaps because I am getting old and these cans retain that retro charm in certain design and ergonomic aspects of the overall experience—it is hitting the right notes. Sennheiser, as always, gets the sound spot on. Yes, the mini jack and the lack of a power button do feel a bit weird. But if you have been eyeing a Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and getting close to deciding between one, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t add the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless into the consideration. You might just surprise yourself with the final choice.