Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-Ear Review

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-Ear Review

Thanks to Sennheiser for the sample.

First Impressions:  For an over ear it looks like a pretty compact box.  Getting inside and seeing the case, it too looks rather smaller than I would expect.  I suppose they’re going to be folded up.  I can’t see why anyone would want over ears to be particularly portable but hey ho.  Inside the case then inside the baggy.  Really???  Have I missed something???  There is only one cable?  Not that it’s really a complaint per say but given the little on ear one came with two it seems weird that the bigger one should not.  I suppose its more practical to not include things you may not want, if you do you can buy them yourself.

Anyway, on the ears they go and they almost immediately strike me as less overtly warm than the other two.  Not that they aren’t warm, just these seem to have a bit better clarity.   Hmm maybe it’s the edged leather earpads are simply not giving as lacks a fit as the soft felt ones of the On.  These seem to be more resolving though, hmmm.  There is something that I can’t quite put my finger on.  These seem to have more upper brightness, hmmm, well let’s throw 100 or so hours burn in at them and see what happens.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.

Lows:  Right away when critically listening it becomes apparent that when you put the Over 2.0 (the names are going to start killing me) next to the On 1.0 that the bass is much more impactful.  The On-Ear and the In were both more a soft, mellow, richly warm bass.  I can’t say how much is a tuning difference verses just getting a more closed environment.  The bass here is so much less soft and forgiving, closer to what I think of as the normal Senn house sound rather than the mellower Momentum signature.  Not that either is “better” than the other, just different.  I suspect part is that these being more costly are more audiophile aimed at rather than the more mainstream.  Personally, I’d rather it was a little more wallowy, here it feels like it’s trying to go ever faster to show off how brutally agile it can be.  Like a Bentley tearing round a racetrack, yes yes I get it, you’re very capable and agile for your size but calm down, please.  Yes I know you can punch me in head and stay hard a rock but I find myself being saddened they aren’t a little more soft and mellow.

If you plug them into a more portable, lower powered device then it does change, things get a bit more ill-defined and soften.  The bass and highs both significantly calm down.  The bass becoming softer so perhaps it’s just that they are aimed at being used portably.  That when DAP driven they frankly become a lot more richly warm.  Frankly, its a lot more like what I expected from them and I find myself liking them more when poorly driven.  Sure you lose some extension but it’s still okay but it’s a trade I’m happy to make.

Quantitatively there is a lot of bass.  Even by typical Senn standards its abundant and being close too just emphasises its power, volume and weight.  For me its pushing my tolerance limits when playing back bassy pop.

Mids:  Very broad, a little dry (though a warm source warms them nicely) with a lot of clarity.  I might go so far to say they are a bit W shaped.  I’m as ever all for more mid’s but for a Senn it’s a bit unusual,  I found myself hunting out middy tracks, being highly impressed and pleased with their capabilities.  This feels so much more grown up than the In-Ears, so much more open explicitness to vocals.  Sure a bit dry but so expressive and with a breathy, lingering fade away.    It all feels much more like the traditional Senn mid-range but with a bit of a dial up.  So broad, dry, clear and clean towards the point of losing liquidity.  Its, just not what I expected at all.  I find myself getting randomly lost in tracks.  I don’t know why.  There is just something so captivating at its dry yet lingering vocals that makes them sound so distinctly separate and clear.  Even in tracks you would never think of, like Scissor Sister’s The Secret Life Of Letter’s” there is just something that’s captivating my attention in its vocals.  They shouldn’t be, the vocals aren’t particularly great but I can’t for some reason hit the skip track button.  There is some gentle loneliness and lingering sadness that I’ve really never noticed before.  A certain hollow emptiness that the dry, yet so clean, vocals seem so isolated.  Cyndi Lauper’s “At Last “ album is a melancholic lingering sup that has some Dickensian bleakness.  Grey and dimmed.

In quantity terms, they’re quite a bit, there is a bit of an upper vocal peak but in general vocals feel quite abundant for a Senn.  It all works very well, particularly with vocals that suit a more dry presentation.  Strings naturally sound highly clear if at the expense of a little warmth.  They are dry and crisp.  Guitars pluck wonderfully well.

Highs:  As is the more traditional Senn sound, there is a spike up top and these hold true to that.  These have a highly, very highly competently capable treble on them.  Personally I’d not object if it got dialled down.  Not just pin sharp at times but medical grade hypodermic needle sharp.  When you throw power at the Over-Ears 2.0 they have a refined explosion of shimmer.  Yes I know at first glance that sound contradictory but it’s true.  Each little pin point of dazzle is so teeny tiny that in itself is not berating but they just explode all over with a million tiny points of sparkle.  Like throwing a fistful of diamonds into the beam of a spotlight.  This mountain of shimmer is glorious in genteel albums (li e the said Cyndi Lauper one) it is all so delicate that the tiny point of light dance across the stage like a fistful of glitter or the light from a mirror ball.  In that mostly dark environment it’s a beautifully complimentary point of light.

If you should be so foolish as to power it well and throw horribly mastered, brutally metallic edged and abundant treble then you well be savaged.  Even reasonably mastered such as Owl City’s “Cave In” it has such an abundance of treble, paired up with face punching bass it certainly makes an impression.  For a 2 min demo in a shop, wow, it will blow your balls off.  However if I had to hear it constantly, it would be my idea of hell. Sooooo much WAAAAAA!!!!!

Soundstage:  Symphonically scaled.  Huge sounding and surrounding for a closed but a little so so in distance.  Vocals like to stay pretty up near the front which is fine, bass is rather further back and the treble seems to move from halfway towards the bass in distance to right up with the vocals.  Instrument separation is partially clean with its somewhat W shaped sound signature.  Still, it’s nicely integrated too which is nice, of course it helps it’s all one driver doing it all.

Fit:  I know some had fit issues with the 1.0 version.  One of the most notable changes therefore was the pads changing.  These are no longer rounded but flat edged and I believe a tiny bit bigger.  I honestly can’t say I thought the pads were especially big but they did manage to fully surround my ears, only just.  Therefore they rested only on my head.  That was that for me.

Comfort:  Well aside from the warm ear you get with closed cans these were perfect for me.  They were desperately close to not making it all the way round my ears but they do manage it.  I really couldn’t fault them but I know that others have.  They aren’t huge which I think is an attempted careful trade-off between making an over the ear yet them still being relatively portable.

Cable:  Did I get just the one cable?  The On-Ears got two.  Sure I know I said you don’t really need two, the mic one works fine in everything anyway but still…… it just seems a weird omission.  The cable is a reasonably nice one, the mic feels really quite good quality.  Anyway the cables are removable so replaceable, like I think all headphones should be.

Isolation:  Rather good actually, it’s not BA IEM level but it’s very close to that of the In-Ears.  Personally I would feel like a **** wandering around with these on my head, out and about but you could.  Indeed I presume Sennheiser intends that you do, what with the phone compatible cable.  They would sufficiently block out most noise and you shouldn’t be too irritating to those near you with these playing.  If you do decide to wear them out, remember to keep an eye out for traffic as they will block most if not all of it out.

Build Quality:  They are excellent.  Traditionally solid and despite the folding hinge, they still feel extremely well put together.  Likewise the finish on them is first class all the way.  To my eye they are impeccable.

Aesthetic:  I got the Ivory one.  Why is there an Ivory rather than white?  Not that you can see them when you’re wearing them anyway.  Actually I think I’d prefer Ivory to white, its visually softer.  It’s all fairly pleasant, mature and civilised looking.

Phone Use:  Nexus 5, it worked but I was told I was a bit muffled.  Lumia 735 all worked very well and call quality was pretty good I was told.  Iphone 5, well it worked perfectly and I was told of the 3 it was the best call quality.  So why the mic would work better with it than the others, pffftt I have not a clue, it could have been purely coincidental.  I was just happy that everything worked with all three.  Particularly the skip track and volume controls so I was a happy bunny.

Amped/Unamped:  I would say it’s a pretty mixed bag.  I suspect they have been made to cater to those using phones.  Duh you might say given it comes only with a mic’d cable.  The fact is there is a pretty significant difference between amped and unamped use.  Personally I found the more mellow unamped signature to be closer to what I preferred and what I felt to be more the “Momentum” sound too.  (The bigger the bass is the softer I like it to be.)  It was just softer, richer, more relaxed and easy to fall into.  Going to the Solo Ultra and it is as though they have just been given a fistful of stimulants then washed them down with a litre of Red Bull.  It was so much more energetic and sprightly.  Detail levels too picked up quite a bit but bar the extra detail, I’m not sure it was something I wanted to do.   Yes with more power they got “better” but unless your sticking to very sedate music I constantly preferred the unamped sound when encountering poppy, bouncy stuff.  I don’t know if intentional or not but I’d say it could therefore please both the “mainstream” and the audiophile customer.  Poppy tat will sound good out the sources likely to play it yet those listening to well recorded, well mastered stuff can get the benefits of a good amp too.

Accessories:  You get a little baggy and a sort of hardish case.  I think I’d have rathered the big case, the non-folding v1.0 got instead.  I suppose the hardish case is smaller and thus more suited to being carted about.

Value:  The RRP in the UK is a penny short of £270, in the US, $350 and in euro land €320.  However scooting a glance at the respective Rainforest sites shows me that .de will sell you a black pair for €245 which is a fair old saving, but wait, on the UK site they will sell you an Ivory pair for £180!!!  That’s practically a hundred quid off!!!  While over in Americaland the best I can see is US$350.  So just to be clear that means the cheapest place is the UK???? Its not every day that happens.  Granted it would seem only the Ivory is at that price, black being £260, but that sure as hell wouldn’t stop me grabbing a pair.  What matters is how they sound, if you don’t agree then you’re probably better off buying a pair of Beats anyway.  These are a very serious, very grown up and very capable headphone that can justify its normal RRP.  At that price they aren’t perfect, their all leather thing is a fashion statement not an acoustic necessity but with that discount, that’s a real click click and worry about telling the wife later kinda deal.

Conclusion:  They are a bit of a mixed bag.  It’s a pretty good bag, don’t get me wrong, but there are still a couple of niggles I have about the Over-Ears 2.0 (besides from writing the name out being a total bugger.)    The Momentum line I feel has been Sennheiser’s attempt to produce a “mainstream,” warm, rich flavoured offering.  The In-Ears certainly were like that, the On-Ears 1.0 were too.  The 2.0, that I have here anyway, isn’t quite in the same keeping as its kin.  It’s like Sennheiser have gone for a more consumer friendly sound but the engineer in them couldn’t stop themselves from tweaking the 2.0 back into more mature territory.  Maybe it’s just that the Over-Ears being so much more costly they have simply aimed them at the more purist market?  I can’t quite decide what I think they are doing with them and that’s why I feel  a bit mixed.  It can’t be everything to everyone, pick something and run with it.

However, do I like the Over-Ears?  Take a wild guess.  Yes, yes I most certainly do.  While they are quite tailorable with your source selection, not something I realise everyone can do, but I had lots of fun with it.  Change the source and it can take on a whole new face.  From the Lumia 735 is a brighter and cleaner, then swap to the Iphone 5, it mellowed out and warmed.  Sure too much power and the treble got too much and the bass got annoyingly punchy.  Well annoying to me, I bet my sister would love its potential brutality.  I liked that it could be so airy and delicate, rather than rich brown notes of its siblings, the Over was more of a darkened translucent grey.  I found that airy melancholic songs were just achingly languid and desolate.  It could conjure such an air of woeful despair in the most specular, unspectacular fashion.  “At Last” is just so, so good I have not the words.  “La Vie en Rose” and “If You Go Away” are just such a works of aural art.

Turning to more vigorously enthusiastic modern music and its harder, colder bass than I suspect was found in the v1.0 it leads to a more lively sound.  The punch and vigour certainly make it rather much quicker than its On-Ear brethren I have.  Snappy punchy, kick you in the face bass, when you drive it well.  Though for poor sources the punchy nature plays well firming things up.  Songs and sources that would otherwise conspire to be flabby heap of bass stays relatively hard.  Which I’m sure will appeal to those who think an Iphone is a good musical source.  They pair up well.  Yet I want to hurl all of the power at a big pair of cans but then it’s overwhelming for pop.  The bass is too potent and aggressive. The treble likewise gets much too showy for my tastes.  But and it’s a humungous but, when you power it well and stick to calm, it’s got a more cool, airy grace to it.  “Under The Pink” is a tremendous album to hear on them.

I like the Over-Ears 2.0.  On paper they are great and I find their sound signature, with their almost forward mids really works for me yet I still have a niggling mixed feeling about them.  Yes they sound great but they are expensive and moreover these are a high end “consumer” headphone.  I look at their price tag and immediately think you could get an HD600 for £200 or and HD650 for £250 and I can’t imagine any audiophile picking these over them.  The Momentum Over-Ears aren’t for audiophiles though, they are for the consumer who want’s headphones they can plug into their phone to use out and about.  Yet they want something that actually sounds seriously good too.  These fulfil that role admirably.

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