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When they came out in 2018, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless were among the best-sounding truly wireless earbuds, if not the best-sounding. They were not without some flaws, however. The buds' batteries would drain while in the case, so if you didn't charge the case for four days, you could end up with a dead set of earbuds, which was annoying. They were also a tad big, so some people complained of discomfort after having them in their ears for a while. And at $300, they were pretty pricey.
The second-generation Momentum True Wireless 2, available now for preorder and shipping in April, still have that elevated $300 (£279; 300 euros) price. But they're better all around, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable design, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPod Pro, improved battery life (up to seven hours versus the original's four) and better noise reduction during calls. And, if you don't like them in black, a white version is slated to follow later this year. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same stellar sound -- for true wireless earbuds, anyway -- offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes them arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors' Choice Award.
That said, they're not necessarily for everybody. Aside from the fact that they're expensive -- $50 more than the AirPods Pro -- they're heavier, not quite as comfortable to wear and lack the hands-free Siri found on those Apple models. And, while Sennheiser shrank the new earbuds by 2mm, the Momentum True Wireless 2 are still on the bigger side and may not be a perfect match for some people's ears. Personally, they fit my ears quite well and I got a tight seal from the largest ear tip (three sizes are included). As I said, I felt that the slightly smaller design does help -- I was able to wear these without a problem for long stretches.
Read more: The best true wireless earbuds of 2020
That tight seal is crucial for optimizing sound quality and noise cancellation. The AirPods Pro have adaptive noise canceling. The noise canceling on the Momentum True Wireless 2 doesn't seem to be adaptive, but it is effective. In the settings menu, it says, "Single-mic ANC reduces low-frequency ambient noise," adding that activating the feature does have an "impact on battery life." In other words, don't expect to get seven hours if you have it on, particularly if you play your music at higher volumes. The charging case does provide an extra three charges (21 hours) on the go and Sennheiser has fixed the issue with the buds' battery draining in the case -- they now go into a deep sleep mode.
I wore the Momentum True Wireless 2 around the streets of New York and in the subway for a couple of days. You get some passive noise cancellation from just getting a tight seal, but when I toggled the noise canceling on and off while riding the subway, the difference was immediately apparent. It seemed to be on par with the AirPods Pro's noise canceling for muffling ambient noise. I didn't try them on a plane, but I think they would be good for that environment as well.
Like the originals, these have touch controls and they work well, although I like Apple's stem-squeezing controls on the AirPods Pro a little better. You can program the touch controls in Sennheiser's Smart Control app for iOS and Android. For instance, I set the tap-and-hold gesture on the right earbud to activate noise canceling. The same gesture on the left earbud activates a transparency mode that allows ambient sound in so you can have a conversation while wearing them.
Sennheiser isn't marketing these as sports earphones, but with an IPX4 rating they are splashproof and should be sweatproof. I was able to go running without them falling out of my ears and they're certainly fine for lighter workouts at the gym. I can't tell you how well they'll hold up over time if you sweat on them a lot, but they should be able to put up with some moisture without a problem.
Like the originals, the earbuds have volume controls on the earbuds themselves using the default tap-and-hold gesture. However, after I changed the tap-and-hold gesture to activate ANC -- instead of control volume -- I couldn't change the gesture back to controlling volume (I had to reset the controls back to their default settings). The app I was using was labeled as beta, and I assume this bug will be fixed in an update.
A couple of other settings are worth mentioning. You can choose to activate sidetone, a feature I like that allows you to hear your voice in the earbuds and modulate your voice when you're making a call. And there is an equalizer in the app to tweak bass and treble levels to your liking. For purposes of this review I left it at the default setting, which seemed perfectly good to me.
Sennheiser added a microphone to each earbud for the noise canceling and there's a beamforming microphone in each earbud to pick up your voice when making calls or using your voice assistant. The call performance is improved from the originals', with better noise reduction so people can hear you better in noisy environments (ambient noise is muffled though still present). I'm not sure these are quite as good as the AirPods when it comes to call quality, but they performed well overall in this department.
I also experienced minimal Bluetooth hiccups -- the wireless connection was mostly solid. They use Bluetooth 5.1, with support for AAC and aptX audio codes (only certain Android phones support aptX streaming). And I didn't have any problems with audio syncing correctly when watching video apps like Netflix, YouTube and Vudu.
The Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds have the same 7mm dynamic drivers as the originals. If there are some slight gains in sound quality, it's more likely due to better digital processing as a result of chip and software upgrades. As I said, sound quality is excellent and the Momentum True Wireless 2 has richer, more detailed sound than the AirPods Pro with well-defined bass, natural-sounding mids and some sparkle in the treble. These sound like premium headphones should. They're pretty open; the sound doesn't feel stuck in your head.
I rated the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds highly for sound, though they're not great for making calls. The Momentum True Wireless 2 are a little more detailed and articulate. On well-recorded tracks you can really hear each instrument; they don't blend in with each like with a lot of Bluetooth headphones. Other high-end models like the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus ($300) also have smooth, nicely detailed sound with good bass definition, as well as some noise cancellation, but the True Wireless 2 have better design and headset performance along with slightly better sound and more effective noise cancellation.
The case charges via USB-C, whereas at this price you'd like to see wireless charging, but that's not a major omission. The AirPods Pro certainly have an appealing design and feature set with strong performance, but they're simply not in the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2's league for sound quality. And now that Sennheiser has added active noise canceling and fixed some of the original Momentum True Wireless' small flaws, these are the earbuds to get if you value sound quality over everything else.