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Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear review: A classy and lively midrange contender

The $230 Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear may not fully match the larger Momentum's excellent sonics, but it gets you 80 percent of the way there.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
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David Carnoy
4 min read

With the trend for calling smaller versions of products, "minis," you'd think Sennheiser would have called the more compact version of its excellent Momentum headphone the Mini Momentum. But it decided to go with the more straightforward Momentum On-Ear because, well, it's an on-ear model. And while its not quite as swanky as the step-up over-the-ear Momentum, it, too, has a slick modern retro look and comes in several color options.


Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear

The Good

The <b>Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear</b> is a very good sounding on-ear headphone that has a eye-catching modern retro design, is well-built, and comes with a nice carrying case and a second headphone cable with an Apple-friendly integrated remote and microphone for making cell-phone calls.

The Bad

Headphones are fairly compact but don't fold up or fold flat; may not be quite comfortable enough for some users.

The Bottom Line

The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear may not fully match the larger Momentum's excellent sonics, but it gets you 80 percent of the way there.

I found the headphone a little tight at first, but if you bend the metal headband a bit and loosen things up, it helps with the comfort level and I liked the microfiber cover on the earcups. I wouldn't call these the most comfortable on-ear headphones I've tried, but with some breaking in, you should be able to wear them for longer listening sessions without a problem. Then again, each head is different, and some people may have an issue with their fit.

Overall, the the On-Ear seems well built and it's nicely weighted -- not too heavy and not too light. I didn't find it as sturdy as the V-Moda Crossfade M-80, which lists for the same price (around $229) but is being phased out for an as yet announced new model (again, the On-Ear doesn't fold up while the M-80 does, which is nice).

The Momentum On-Ear comes in multiple color options. Sarah Tew/CNET

As for features, the headphones have a detachable cable and you get both a standard cable and one that has an Apple-friendly integrated remote and microphone for cell-phone calls (some of the remote features won't work with non-Apple mobile devices). Alas, like the bigger Momentums, these don't fold up or flat but they do come with a nice carrying case.

A nice carrying case is included. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Momentum On-Ear has a lively sound signature; you'll never feel like you're missing anything in the mix. Clarity is a big part of that, and then you notice the bass. It's powerful and outperforms the V-Moda on-ear Crossfade M-80's prodigious bass oomph. The On-Ear also sounds more open and less "canned" than the M-80. The headphone's sure-footed low bass performance will please listeners of EDM, rock, and hip hop.

So how exactly does it compare to its bigger, more expensive brother, the original Momentum, an audiophile favorite since it was introduced last year? Well, the larger Momentum shifts the tonal balance, it's a warmer and richer sounding headphone. It's just as detailed, but acoustic instruments and vocals have a more natural, full-bodied tone.

You get a second cable with an Apple-friendly integrated remote and microphone. Both cables have L-shaped plugs. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Momentum On-Ear is no slouch, the pulsing beats that run through Thom Yorke's "Eraser" album are given their full due, there's plenty of punch and definition, but the bigger Momentums reach lower into the deepest bass frequencies. Orchestral music was given its full due on the Momentum On-Ear, but the stereo "picture" is larger and more spacious on the over-ear Momentum.

We next compared the Momentum On-Ear with the Bowers & Wilkins P3 on-ear headphones, and they couldn't be more different. The P3 sounds soft and mellow, with much less detail from the deepest bass up through the treble. Where the P3 is laid-back the Momentum On-Ear cuts through the murk. Sound is immediate, bass feels deep and precise, you hear individual bass notes the P3 barely hints at. Vocals have more body on the P3, the Momentum On-Ear thins them out somewhat, and they sound a little less prominent in the mix. Back on the P3 the treble is hazy and diffuse, the Momentum On-Ear is bright and clear. We can't say the Momentum On-Ear trounced the P3 on every count, but adding up the pros and cons we felt the Momentum On-Ear won this contest.

The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear may not fully match the larger Momentum's sonics, but it gets you 80 percent of the way there for $120 less. It's also worth noting that this headphone's sure-footed low bass performance will please listeners of EDM, rock, and hip hop.

The headphones feature a sturdy metal headband -- but they don't fold up or flat. Sarah Tew/CNET

As you can probably tell, we liked the Momentum On-Ear. It delivers the type of sound you'd expect from a headphone in this price range and has a nice look to it with good build quality. My only small reservation is the fit. It's tricky to make a very comfortable on-ear headphone and I think Sennheiser's mostly gotten it right, but some users might not find this heapdhone comfortable enough. Then again, it may be perfect for other users.

Overall, it's a very good headphone. You just might to try it before you buy it to make sure the fit is to your liking.

CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg contributed to this review.

Editors' note (June 13, 2014): The rating on this product has been updated (raised from 3.5 to 4 stars) to reflect changes in the competitive marketplace.


Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Sound 8Value 8