Sennheiser has already teased the Momentum 4 in June, revealing a close-up shot of the headband. The full details are disclosed on 9 Aug, and a lot of reviews have already been released, as the reviewers were provided with the headphones weeks prior to the official announcement. I too received the review unit late last week, and with about a week of usage, I hope this review of mine offers another different perspective to this much-anticipated model from this popular audio brand whose consumer line is now licensed to Sonova. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 will be stocked up for Singapore sales from 9 September at S$499.
One of the talking points for the Sennheiser Momentum 4 among the review community is the design, which is a vast departure from the Momentum 3. Looking back, it’s clear why Sennheiser teased with the image of the headband, because that is the only feature that make the headphone stand out. The large earcups appear plain flat, providing a large surface area for the numerous gesture controls, though they are missed opportunities to make it look more unique.
Further observation led me to believe that this is a deliberate decision to make the Momentum 4 nondescript. The brand and product names are printed on the inside ear cushion pad. For owners who prefer less brandish products, this headphones makes the cut. Nevertheless, the fabric headband with stick-on logo makes it a little more recognisable for the sharp-eye.
I like that the earcups can swivel 180-degrees on either sides, which provides flexibility in handling the headphones. The hinges are loose unlike the AONIC 50 which are inconveniently tight. There is also similarity in the headband metal arm which angled outwards instead of straight down. The Shure AONIC 50 extends outwards more, resulting in a more comfortable fit, but also takes up more space when folded flat, resulting in a massive carrying case.
The underneath of the Momentum 4 headband uses the same silicone material as the Bose HP700, which is water repellent and more durable than leather (synthetic or genuine). Here, you can see that the Bose headphones have a unique headband design which makes the headphones more compact when folded flat. It is also impressive to see how Bose manages to fit all the necessary tech within the small earcups.
The Momentum 4 operates by touch gestures on the right ear cup, just like the Sony and the Bose. Swipe left-right changes track, slide up-down to adjust volume, tap once to pause, double tap to activate ANC. A new gesture first to be introduced on this headphones is pinch-and-zoom, which adjusts ANC-to-Transparency level. It means that as you reduce the ANC, you are increasing Transparency. There are just 6 steps of adjustment, unlike Bose which have 10 steps, while Sony has 20 steps to finetune its Ambient mode. The single hardware button is to turn on-off the headphones, activate voice assistant, enable Bluetooth pairing, and to check remaining battery level.
The pinch-and-zoom gesture generally works well and allows ANC adjustment directly from the headphones which no other headphones allow. Perhaps other headphones makers can adopt this and offer additional ways to interact with the controls.
The Momentum 4 has no lack of features too, and they are all made available for customisation via the smartphone app. The app has undergone a re-design but the features are largely similar to recent true-wireless models. Here, users can manually adjust the ANC or Transparency along the same bar. Equalizer adjustment is done with just a 3-band setting, and the adjustment is relatively subtle. User can select presets from the top dropdown, or choose “Bass Boost” or “Podcast” sound modes, which overrides all other EQ presets.
Another easy way to customise your EQ is to use the “Sound Check” workflow. It is basically a wizard where the app will provide three EQ options as you listen to your own audio track. After going through the process, the recommended EQ setting will be presented to you and you can choose to save as a new EQ preset. Before going through the process, turn off the “Bass Boost” or “Podcast” sound modes or else the EQ adjustment cannot be heard. This is a bug which I hope future updates can address.
The “Sound Zones” appear to be similar to what Sony has been offering in their products for years. Using the GPS sensor on the smartphone, it will auto-update the ANC and EQ settings. This feature is dependent on your smartphone location update which might not work in real-time depending on your smartphone power saving setting, and I would rather adjust the settings myself, but it’s available for those who think they need it.
The Momentum 4 also supports on-head detection, but there are more than just auto-pause when you remove the headphones. I generally don’t like to enable this feature on headphones because it often does not always work properly. However, smart pause is just one of the benefits of enabling on-head detection on the Momentum 4. When enabled, it will auto-mute during call, activate power saving mode, where the headphones will power down automatically after a preset time, and power up when you wear the headphones. If you use the headphones at home, this feature can be quite useful as you do not have to worry about the power state. But before packing the headphones for an outing, it’s better to disable this as it tends to get auto-activated.
With so many features, the advertised battery life of 60 hours is going to be useful. I didn’t do a battery drain test, but throughout my 1-week review period, I did not need to charge the headphones at all and it still remains 60% after about 10 hours of use. Multipoint is supported on the headphones, which allows connecting 2 devices concurrently.
I recall enjoying the Momentum 3, but only because the tuning favours the sparkles and the booms – a popular V-shaped EQ. With the Momentum 4, the tuning is less extreme. Compared to the IE 300, the Momentum 4 improves on the upper midrange to offer a bit more meat while retaining the signature treble clarity. The bass is also sounding slightly less intense but still retains prominence, with a little more beef at the upper bass. The instrument separation is distinct and sound staging is wide and close, allowing details to be easily heard despite a stronger vocal presence. Midrange is clear and not too bloated. The Momentum 4 retains the Sennheiser quality of prominently sizzling treble without too overbearing.
Other than wireless, the Momentum 4 can be enjoyed over USB Audio and 3.5mm cable. Like the predecessor, it is possible to connect to USB audio and Bluetooth device at the same time. When Bluetooth audio is detected, it will switch over from USB audio as priority. The audio quality between the USB mode and wireless is hard to distinguish, probably because the digital wired version supports just up to 16-bit 48kHz, so any higher-resolution audio files will be downsampled.
Over 3.5mm, there are options to play passively (no power) or with power. When the headphone power is on, it is possible to adjust ANC and amplification volume. The tuning is largely similar to wireless, since they all go through the same amplifier route. When the headphone power is turned off, the headphones lack any EQ compensation and reveal its native driver tuning, which is recessed but clear treble, good bass presence, and an excessive level of midrange causing a hollow boxy sound. I’m not going to judge too much in this mode, except to use this only in case of emergency.
ANC and Transparency Quality
The ANC quality on the Momentum 4 is by far the best from Sennheiser. It’s been a while since I felt ear pressure from ANC headphones, and this headphones has got it. However, the upper frequency is not suppressed as good as the Sony WH-1000XM5 nor the Bose HP700. It’s a good thing that the upper frequency does not stand out when getting processed, they sounded muffled enough not to impact the music listening clarity.
The Transparency level is also adequately natural but not open enough to match the sound when not wearing the headphones. It’s just a tad softer than with the headphones removed. What’s good is that the ambient noises does not sound processed.
Headphones call quality always beats true wireless. The Momentum 4 mic captures the voice clearly with good fidelity in a quiet room. When high-pitched ambient sounds like cafe chatter are introduced, the headphones can still pick up the voice and while the background noises are still audible, they do not overpower the voice.
One of the benefits of using the Momentum 4 is the Sidetone where I can hear the ambient sounds while on a call. This makes me aware of the surroundings and also prevents me from speaking too loud. Turning up 100% offers the most naturally open sound without excessive amplification.
I have always enjoyed Sennheiser headphones, not because they are the most accurate (except perhaps the HD 800S) but because they make treble sound so sparkling and refined without overly harsh or sibilant. There are of course various levels: for instance, the IE300 is slightly thin and pushy, the IE900 is exuberantly brilliant. The Momentum 4 manages a good balance with good sparkle and sufficiently distinct instrumental layers, while ensuring the primary vocals and instruments get more weight, though some tracks might exhibit ringing harmonics.
If I were to choose a headphones where I prioritise audio quality over ANC, then the Sennheiser Momentum 4 is one of my top choices with overall musical excitement (my heart still yearns for the Mark Levinson No.5909 outstanding details). But in terms of feature count, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is still the leader of the pack.
The Momentum 4 will be available in Singapore from 9 Sep at a retail price of S$499.