A while ago when the Amperior was announced and launched, I realized I actually never owned its predecessor the world famous HD25 I-II and so I decided to add it to my collection. At the same time our good friends from Sennheiser were so kind to send me the new Amperior for a few weeks. They also sent me a review sample of the brand new Momentum and so I’ll be throwing the Momentum into the mix as well, even if that isn’t that obvious as it’s so different from the other two Senns. Enjoy this 3-way closed back portable headphone shoot-out!
Look and Feel
Sennheiser first launched the sealed, on ear HD25 around 1989 if I’m not mistaken. Lots of our readers are probably even younger than that. Since then Sennheiser has released several variations of this headphone, the Amperior being the last “variation” though it’s noticeably quite different than the previous versions. Meanwhile the Momentum also is a closed on the go headphone but that’s about the only similarity it shares with the HD25 and Amperior.
For starters I should state that my HD25 is perfectly burned in while the Amperior and Momentum were brand new out of box. At first glance the HD25 and the Amperior look as good as identical and at a second glance they still do. I’m exaggerating of course but my point is that these are no new design, there are some differences in the pads, the cable, plug and cups.
They both have the same excellent and comfortable split headband but the padding material is different. Where the HD25 has this pleather-like material the Amperior’s padding and ear pads feel like the softskin material used in the Sennheiser HD700/800 and they do make the Amperior even more comfortable. When I say that I am of course forgetting the death grip both of these headphones have. I’m not a big fan of on ear headphones, in fact the only in ear headphones I ever enjoyed are the discontinued AKG K414P, the good old Portapro and the PX100. Both of these two Senns unfortunately put quite some pressure on your ears, so they start hurting pretty soon in my case, the HD25 even quicker because of the pads. Isolation-wise I think they do more or less the same, maybe the Amperior is a little bit better but these both don’t isolate perfectly and someone sitting next to you will hear your music at louder volumes. The other way around, you won’t fully block out sounds from your surroundings either but they will be tuned down. The HD25 has a much thicker cable than its new family member and it is a “1-piece cable”. The Amperior comes with a partially interchangeable cable with a mic/control and a metallic L plug you can fold.
The HD25 has already proven its durability and all over the word it is used by DJ’s, TV reporters out in the field, in TV studios or on the street. The 20 year old design is almost indestructible and it looks industrial and cool although some might call it basic. The Amperior looks more or less the same but it is just that tad more stylish with the pads and the aluminum ear cups. Ah, the aluminum ear cups, the biggest sound impacting modification. (Do check Innerfidelity’s excellent “One guy 2 cups” video on youtube)
The Momentum is a whole different looking headphone, a so called “street style” headphone. When I first saw and tried the Momentum in a Sennheiser booth at a local show I wasn’t too blown away with its looks. It looked a bit too stylish and feminine at first sight but when the review sample arrived at my place my opinion quickly changed. I’m a big fan of the Sennheiser design and build quality but I have to say that the Momentum is one of the best they have made up to today. The combination of leather and the aluminum slider is just perfect and it looks and feels absolutely elegant and classy. The Momentum is very light and comfortable and the pads are wonderfully soft, LCD3 like even. I could have lived with a different color as brown isn’t my thing but luckily I can’t see myself wearing the headphone (In the mean time the new black & red version has been shown). The only negative point I can find in the size is the size of the circumaural pads. They do go around your ears but they do are reasonably small. I can very well imagine people with bigger ears having some problems with these pads and what’s the point of a circumaural pad when you ears are touching the cups the whole time. If the Sennheiser HD700 gets a perfect score, the Momentum would get a 7,5. The Momentum does have a (very thin)detachable cable and you can choose to use one with or without iControls. The Momentum is made for portable use and it comes with a perfect hard case for storage. It also isolates better than the other models, which is quit logic as this is a closed over-ear design.
As a street style headphone the contrast couldn’t be any bigger compared to the HD25/Amperior. Where those last ones are like the tough looking evil knight, the Momentum is the elegant princess.
Sound Impressions: Amperior and HD25-1
I’ve known Mike for over 2 years now and ever since we started working together we have always agreed on how a certain amplifier, dac or headphone sounded. Now for the first time in 25 months this isn’t the case with the Amperior. We’re quite surprised about that and this does kind of complicate the review. Of course we didn’t listen to the exact same headphone so maybe the answer is there, we don’t know. As a result I will give you my impressions first and then Mike will add his.
The different pads/material , the new cups on the Amperior and the new driver do have quite an impact on its sound. Of course the Amperior and HD25 both share the same recognizable sound signature but the differences aren’t that subtle. The Momentum’s sound is completely different from both and direct comparison to the other two isn’t that obvious.
The HD25 is known to everyone as a forward and aggressive sounding headphone but to be honest, compared to the Amperior I found the HD25 the laid back and relaxing one of these two. The Amperior is the more aggressive one of my samples. And that is exactly what I was talking about earlier, my unit sounded like that while the general opinion actually is the other way around: the Amperior is said to be the warmer, slower paced headphone.
Let me try to explain how my review samples sound. The HD25 to me focuses on bass and treble and the mids are a tad softer sounding. The lower bass of the HD25 goes deeper as the Amperior’s bass (the general opinion is the Amperior’s bass goes deeper) but the Amperior’s bass does have more punch to it. It has a better definition and body as the HD25 and it definitely is sounding tighter. The bass experience with both headphones is also different because of the mid section of both. The Amperior emphasizes the mids more and makes it a more linear headphone as the HD25.
The HD25’s mids are less pronounced but good and neutral with an excellent separation. The Amperior sample’s mids are far more aggressive than on the HD25 and a bit too aggressive even for my personal likes. However they grow on you really quick and after 10 minutes however you don’t notice the aggressiveness anymore, until you switch back.
More or less the same story happens with the treble. I found the Amperior’s treble more forward sounding but overall less peaky as the HD25’s treble. I do prefer the HD25 in this area as I found the voices to be more enjoyable (and I can take the harshness from time to time). Overall the Amperior is the more linear headphone of both in regards to lows, mids and treble.
Sound stage wise there isn’t too much of a difference between both, and as lots of you already now, there isn’t anything specular to tell either. The HD25 and the Amperior aren’t sound stage kings, by far. It’s not deep or wide but it does the job. Same goes for the isolation aspect of both, it’s not good or particularly bad, it’s in between. Somehow I know that the HD25/Amperior owners, me included, don’t really have a problem with the sound stage or the Isolation. It’s just part of the experience. I wouldn’t advise either of these two headphones for all musical genres: classical, jazz or any vocally strong music might be better on a different set. Of course you can use it as an all rounder but you won’t get the best results.
So the biggest difference between my Amperior sample and the general consensus about the Amperior is the aggressiveness in the mids and treble in stead of it being warmer and slower paced , it’s a lot more forward sounding than the HD25. I can’t explain why that is, maybe it’s an awkward sample and it doesn’t make me comfortable writing this review so here is Mike’s take on the HD25 and Amperior which you should really base your idea on:
Like what L said, somehow without any pre-determined arrangements, me and Lieven have always shared very close impressions on headphones that we listen to, despite we living halfway across the world. So I was surprised to read his impressions on the HD25-1 vs Amperior.
To me the Amperior is an attempt to mainstream the HD25-1. Those familiar with the HD25-1 know that this is the “Grado” Sennheiser, the non laid-back Sennheiser. A bit bright for Sennheiser’s standard, a forward aggressive sound with extremely punchy and tight bass. With the Amperior that sound has been changed to be less aggressive though still quite forward overall. The sound is warmer, you get fuller mids and bass body than compared to the HD25-1. I think the result is quite welcome and the Amperior is definitely the one with the wider genre bandwith. However the enthusiasts I talked to don’t seem to like the Amperior as much as the HD25-1 and it’s not because of the price. I think what happens is that people who know the HD25-1 from back when there was no Amperior, love it for the unique sound that it represents. Even now a lot of people still tell me that they love their HD25-1 and are looking for a full-size upgrade with a HD25-1 sound signature. So the HD25-1 is definitely a classic and irreplaceable in that sense.
The Amperior, on the other hand is a newcomer and despite the pleasing tonality, doesn’t really have a unique selling value. The mainstream consumers would probably like the Amperior better due to the warmer, more all-rounder sound and better materials, but I can imagine the Momentum will be even more appealing for them.
Momentum Sound Impressions on the next page…