Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Stereo Headphone update review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jun 8, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube video: Sennheiser Momentum On Ear Stereo Headphone (green) review by Dale - YouTube


    Sources: iPhone5 with Portaphile Micro/PA2V2/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review note: My impressions of the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear (MOE) sound are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M80 and M100, the Beyerdynamic DT1350 and T51p, the FAD Pandora IV and VI, and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the MOE (i.e., my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    I first reviewed the MOE in September of 2013, and so this update covers any possible changes to the physical design as well as my impressions of the sound, on the chance that it may have changed from the first sample I had. Actually I don't hear any significant difference, and this sample may well be identical to the original headphone I got. I won't repeat the physical details from the original review, since that's still accessible from the various headphone sites. What did change was the choice of the new colors, and I chose green this time because the price was much lower than the blue and black versions. The MOE's sound has significant colorations, as can be seen in the Audioforge chart linked above or on my dalethorn website. This review isn't intended to be a rehash of my prior review - the purpose here is to determine whether the MOE has the potential sound quality to compete with my other premium headphones when using the Audioforge equalizer, or whether it's unsalvageable for critical listening.

    Conclusions: I can recommend the MOE for non-critical portable use, since the overall quality is good for the price. To double as a home-use headphone for audiophile listening, some amount of EQ is necessary to reduce the colorations and improve the soundstage. The MOE's EQ'd sound is excellent in most respects for an average audiophile listen, but it won't resolve upper harmonic details like the best Sennheiser headphones, nor does the bass response have the clarity or details that I hear with the better portable headphones. Here is a short list of the things that stand out to me with this second (EQ) review of the MOE:

    The sound quality (aside from the smoothed response) is essentially free of distortions and resonances, based on listening with my best amps and high-resolution music tracks.

    The soundstage is spacious and airy, and the musicality is very good.

    The comfort is excellent with the ultra-soft alcantara earpads that don't pinch my ears, and the headband clamp is moderate.

    The thin, clingy rubber cable is far from ideal.

    The portability is very good insofar as having the ability to wear around the neck comfortably when not listening, plus the inclusion of a decent carrycase for stowing in luggage, although that case is probably too large for backpacks. Unfortunately, the MOE's isolation is low and its leakage is high, so using it in a library or a quiet office wouldn't be practical even at a moderate volume.

    In spite of the above criticisms, the EQ'd MOE is one of my favorite headphones, for home or portable use. In previous reviews I've included the following music samples with notes about how the headphone sounds with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to other reviews and see how the MOE compares with each individual track. As noted above, all listening was done with the EQ settings shown in the above Audioforge link.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear review part 2 - music tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone with a modest weight, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The MOE plays this very well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled very well by the MOE.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the MOE. This lower bass result was surprising, since many of my full-size headphones don't perform this well.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The MOE plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the MOE.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The MOE plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The MOE reproduces the space, detail, and tonality very convincingly.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the MOE not only renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly, it makes this track sound more musical than most other headphones I've had.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The MOE plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are detailed but not sharp or edgy.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is as realistic as I've heard with any other headphone since doing these detailed reviews.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The MOE reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The MOE plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the MOE plays this music very well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has very good detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The MOE does an excellent job with this track.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the MOE. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Human League - Keep Feeling Fascination (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's bass line is very detailed, but the somewhat forward voices don't have quite the "you are there" quality of the Heaven 17 track noted above. Still, the MOE makes this a good listen.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The MOE provides excellent detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the MOE plays those extremely well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The MOE reproduces the strong fundamental tone with significant weight.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the MOE is an excellent example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle but appreciable with the MOE.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The MOE reproduces those sound effects very well.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The MOE conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a typical full-size headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the MOE renders the tones and transients perfectly.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are quite strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The MOE delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a very realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string tones beginning at 0:18 are fairly soft, and while the bass isn't very deep, it still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, works very well with this track.

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