Disclaimer: Special thanks to Sennheiser Asia for the Momentum headphone loaner. I didn’t have too much time to evaluate the Momentum, a short two days to be exact (long story). Lieven is going to get more playtime with the Momentum, so if you feel that some points are a little short, please wait for his review sometimes in November.
The latest Momentum from Sennheiser is certainly a headphone that knows very well what it was designed for. Starting from the classy brown-themed design, leather and stainless steel and one of the best leather pads I’ve ever tried, the Momentum is designed to be in style with the more mature mainstream crowd, and with a sound tuning that I imagine would match very well with that particular demographic as well: warm, soft, full sounding and very refined.
From the first moment I picked up the Momentum, I really couldn’t pick any fault with it. I’m not saying it’s the perfect ultimate headphone or that it’s my new love in headphones, but rather under the perspective of what it was designed to do, it’s perhaps the finest headphone ever done to cater to that segment. I had read Jude’s review on the Momentum and I agree with how he put the Momentum together on the same camp as the B&W P5 and the Philips Fidelio L1. And that the Momentum is definitely not in the same camp as the HD25-1, the Amperior, VModa M80, or the Beyerdynamic DT1350. Not only due to the styling, but also the sound characteristics.
Warm, full sounding, and very refined. A lof of headphone reviews these days use those words. Not because headphone reviewers are running out of words to use, but rather because manufacturers are “getting” the fact that people like warm, full, and refined sounding headphones.
If you’ve listened to the B&W P5, then you know that it’s super warm and super full-bodied to the extent that some people say it’s too warm and too full, lacking air. The Momentum is a little bit to that direction, rather than the darker sounding Fidelio. Sennheiser took the tuning of the P5 (not saying they did that literally as in copying), and adds a number of improvements, most noticeable being more space in the sound. You get a nice, relatively spacious soundstage on top of that warm and refined sound. Not the biggest soundstage, but bigger than the HD25-1 and all its friends, and more comparable to the ATH-M50 and the Philips Fidelio L1 — the Momentum’s soundstage slightly narrower than the two, but has a better depth. The better depth makes the Momentum feels a lot more spacious than the M50 and the L1 as things now have a dimension to it, rather than just a wide left-right pan. Soundstage presentation is also the most natural with the Momentum. Considering that it was not designed to be a reference-class like the HD800 or the Stax SR-009, it’s pretty much safe to give the Momentum a 9 out of 10 for soundstage performance in the lifestyle headphone class.
Another improvement that you get with the Momentum is the treble presence. I think the P5 is nice, but a lot of people feel that it’s too thick and needs a little more treble presence. Here comes the Momentum with its smooth sounding treble and just the right amount of sparkle so nobody can say that it’s veiled. We’re talking about something done close to perfection here, you get less treble than the HD25-1, Amperior, and all their friends, but more than the P5 and the Fidelio. It’s amazing, since people want to hear treble are the quickest to shout “bright” if they get too much than they want. Sennheiser got that just right with the Momentum.
Now let’s talk about the bass. Momentum got a good amount of bass and lower mid body. Bass doesn’t go very low, and is a bit loose, the punch and impact a little short for me. The Fidelio for instance have a more complete bass that extends lower, with a stronger impact too. But there is no denying that the pads also clamp much harder than the Momentum (again, just perfect on this department). Considering the clamping force and comfort factor, I can understand why the bass is as it is. Nobody is going to call the Momentum bass light, but it ain’t going to be the bass reference either. It’s a bit loose, lacking the control and speed of say the HD25-1 or the Vmoda M-80, but again it always seems to be a bit of a trade off. When you add bass body, you lose speed. And there is something with the way a slightly loose bass helps to make the music a little more relaxed and flowing. The loose bass helps to give the Momentum a more laid back, relaxed atmosphere which you don’t get on fast punchy headphones like the HD25-1. This is why I added that “soft” adjective early on in the introduction. The Momentum is about winding down, wine and cigar and soft plush sofas. PRaT? Maybe a score of 2 where the HD25-1 is a 9 and the Vmoda M-80 a 10. I can listen to Coldplay to it and it would be rendered “perfect” in terms of tonality, but absolutely no toe tapping. Play it some slower Jazz, Latin, Diana Krall, Sting, Chris Botti stuff, and I think the Momentum is spot on. You can play classical on it, but I still demand HD650 level impact for symphonies. You can play some dance and club on it too, but I’d still take the TMA-1. Momentum would probably be great with Cafe del Mar stuff, but I don’t have a CD to test it with. Rock listeners, the HD25-1 can be a little aggressive but that’s the headphone you should get. I hope you are getting the picture here.
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