The Sennheiser Momentum 2: Over-Ear and On-Ear Headphones – The Dynamic Duo!
A few years back, my family and I underwent a rather large home renovation (including not having a kitchen for 10 weeks; suffice it to say I was sick of take-out food after the summer of 2014). As a result of this renovation, I was forced to box up my main headphone setups (both dynamic and electrostatic) and put them away. What I was left with, was just my portable rig; which in all honesty was neglected for a number of years. So I needed a portable solution to tide me over the summer. That set me off on a journey to find a great pair of closed-back headphones that sounded great and didn’t require a large expensive front-end to reach their potential. You can find several of the headphones that I purchased and tried here on my Head-Fi.org thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/672743/comparisons-25-of-the-top-closed-portable-headphones-around. This thread is definitely a work in progress and has set me on a journey that has really opened my perspective that one can still achieve wonderful audiophile quality sound without spending thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line headphones, headphone amplifiers, and upstream DACs/sources.
Two of the most recent headphones that I got to try were the next generation Sennheiser Momentum Version 2 over-ear and on-ear headphones. I was a big fan of the originals, but I felt that there were some issues (especially on the over-ear models) that held them back from true greatness. Sennheiser was gracious enough to send me both pair to try out and review. The Momentum V2 on-ear and over-ear headphones are part of Sennheiser’s new line of closed-back headphones for those “on the go”. Along with the Urbanites, Sennheiser has made a big jump into the portable headphone marketspace with some truly outstanding products. Both Momentum V2 headphones come in several different flavours: standard wired headphones (like the ones used for this review) and wireless headphones (that also include noise cancellation).
Sennheiser is one of the most well-known and respected headphone manufacturers around. They have been around since 1945 and have built some of the most respected and cherished headphones through the years. Their current flagship HD800s are still among the very best headphones I’ve heard. I’ve owned my pair for more than 5 years now and they still hold a very special place in my heart. The Momentum V2’s were released early this year and the over-ear versions have rocketed to the top of my Head-Fi listing. As mentioned, this review will be for both the wired on-ear and over-ear versions and as I consider them “portable headphones for on-the-go”. My sources were exclusively portable. From my iPhone 6 to my iPad Air and finally to my Astell and Kern AK100II, I made sure that my listening sessions ran these two headphones through their paces without a substantial investment in an upstream setup. I am of the opinion that headphones in this space need to sound at their best (or very close to) with simply portable options upstream. The over-ear versions are rated at a very efficient 113 dB/1Vrms and the on-ear versions at 112 dB/1Vrms; both are incredibly efficient and match many inner-ear monitors in efficiency (IEMs) when I come to think of it.
Both headphones are very handsomely built and the quality of the workmanship is readily apparent as soon as you take them out of the box. Add in the extremely light weight and
incredible comfort, and its win-win. Both the on-ear and over-ear headphones are extremely comfortable and light on my noggin’ and can be used for hours on end without any issues whatsoever. The on-ears were particularly surprising as making an on-ear headphone comfortable is a real task. And along with the beyerdynamic T51p, the on-ear version of the Momentum V2s are the most comfortable on-ear headphones I’ve had on my head.
Sennheiser Momentum Version 2 – Over-Ear Wired Headphones:
There certainly was some deja-vu with the Momentum Version 2 over-ear headphones. They look quite similar to their predecessors, but with some really notable improvements. Right off the bat, you see that they finally are truly “over-ear” headphones! The previous versions were closer to “over-sized on-ear headphones”. Thankfully Sennheiser has listened to the issues their customers had with the original Momentum ear-pads and came through in spades with this new version. The new ear-pads are made with memory foam that completely conformed to my ears and offered a true “over-ear” experience with an effective seal to keep out unwanted ambient noise. As well, due to the new ear-pads, the drivers were moved further from my ears and in turn opened up the sound staging to a level that really impressed me. The original over-ears performed adequately when compared to the other 24 headphones on my comparative list. However, the new design has really kicked things up a few notches in this regard. Listening to Jazz at the Pawnshop with these headphones and my AK100II just left me smiling every time. The other added bonus of the new ear-pads is that the isolation has also drastically improved. I can now easily say that only my Bose QC25i headphones with active NC circuitry engaged offers better isolation (but not by much). Talk about win-win!
Next up on the list of improvements, these new headphones have hinges that finally allows them to fold up. This is a very welcomed feature for portable headphones! The on-ear Momentum V2s take up quite a bit less space than before as they can be folded. With the previous version, I had a hard time fitting them into the pouch in front of me on an airplane. No longer do I have to stuff these into my carry on and have to limit what else I can pack with me on a flight. The overall construction is very reminiscent of the original Momentums with some nice improvements to the ear-pads and leather on the headband. The only downside I can critique these headphones is that the in-line control on the headphone cable doesn’t have the same quality/finish that it previously did. It’s more in line with the previous on-ear Momentums. Not a biggie for me; just thought I’d note that.
Now on to the sound (beyond the sound staging improvements)…
According to Sennheiser the drivers were not changed, but Sennheiser did tune them with new damping to better take advantage of the improved ear-pad design/seal. They sound very much in line with their previous iteration with some very welcomed improvements to my ears. The bass sounds tighter and better controlled; not night and day, but still discernable and worthwhile. With Tool’s “Lateralus”, the bass notes hit just as hard, but offer more details with greater tactility. The bass bloom doesn’t linger as long as with the
original version and gives the impression of faster sounding headphones with incredibly taught bass for this category of headphones. With the previous version I felt that the wonderfully rich and powerful bass impinged a bit too much on the mid-frequencies. The mids thankfully have been unchanged as I was thoroughly satisfied with the original version! The other major improvement with the 2015 version comes in the treble region. At times, I found it too subdued and too “pushed back” with the previous Momentums. But yet again, it appears that Sennheiser has also improved upon this area. No longer is Chris Botti playing behind the drummer on his album “Impressions”…he is now front and center. The high notes on his trumpet and clean and clear and in proper proportion to the rest of the music. As well, this improved treble response I think contributes to the improved sound staging and imagine of these headphones.
Sennheiser Momentum Version 2 – On-Ear Wired Headphones:
While the Over-Ear Momentum version 2 headphones are what I would classify as a “revolution” in terms of improvements, the on-ears are more of an “evolution” to their predecessors. Their construction is very similar to the originals, but as with their over-ear brethren, the headphones now thankfully fold inwards. This again serves to reduce the size of the headphones and their corresponding case to make them even more portable. As well, the ear-cups have been slightly changed to include a gold ring around the white ear-cups (I have the ivory ones on hand) and they just look that much more classy. The ear-pads are relatively the same, but tuning wise, I found the treble a little more even and clear. The bass is now more in-line with the mid-range and a better tonal balance is quickly noticed on first listen. Comfort overall is quite similar to the originals; which is to say really category leading comfort; as is noise isolation and leakage to the environment. They are right up there with the best on-ears in this listing for isolation. Styling wise, I think they are incredibly great looking on-ear headphones. Sennheiser has really stepped up to the plate here and I can’t think of a better looking on-ear headphone. So if styling is important to you for a pair of headphones for when you’re on the go, these would get my vote for #1.
Back to the sound, I find the frequency response a bit more balanced/refined than the original version and thus in the end: more transparent overall. You really don’t have to give up on sound quality for smaller and more portable headphones. If you liked the original on-ear Momentums, then you will definitely like these and they should certainly get your consideration if you’re in the market for a great pair of portable headphones that look amazing and sound just as good! Well done Sennheiser, you’re 2 for 2! While I do prefer the bigger and slightly more even sound of the over-ear Momentum version 2s, I find the sacrifice you’re making for an even smaller and more portable pair in the on-ear versions is not that big and I strongly recommend listening to both before you make your choice (especially if portability is very high on your list of priorities).
As you can tell from my Head-Fi.org rankings, I thought very highly of the new Sennheiser Momentum version 2 over-ear headphones. In fact, I liked them enough to rank them as my new favourite portable headphones (at the time of this review’s completion). The on-ear versions are that much more portable, and while you do give up a bit in sound staging and transparency, the differences are not that wide. Regardless of your choice in headphones between the two, I think there is no wrong answer. Sennheiser has really knocked it out of the park with both versions and if you asked me 5 years ago if headphones designed for “on the go”, with this level of styling and sound quality was possible, I’d say “you want too much”. However, it looks like wanting too much can be a good thing
By day, I’m a husband, father and professional engineer. But by night, I’m an audiophile and music junkie. Many say that music is food for the soul and nothing works better for me than Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Rush and Miles Davis. For the past 25 years I’ve been on an audio journey that continues to this day.