In the last few months, Sennheiser's been blowing out the original version of its highly regarded Momentum headphones, selling them for less than $200 online after starting them out at $379 a couple of years ago. The reason for the price drop is that the company has new over-ear and on-ear Momentums, including new wireless models.
(Confusingly, the new wired models are called the Momentum 2.0, while the wireless models seem to use the "2.0" label at some retailers, but not at others.)
Not surprisingly, the new models don't come cheap. The over-ear Momentum 2.0 Wireless we're reviewing here carries a list price of $500 or £380 (that's AU$745 converted), which is probably about $100 more than it should cost. But aside from that pricing issue, it's a great Bluetooth headphone.
What's great about it? For starters, it's comfortable and well built. Sennheiser has tweaked the designs of both its Momentum over-ear and on-ear models. Both the wired and wireless versions have a new folding design that gives the headphones a slightly smaller footprint when they're in their included carrying case.
In the case of the new wired Momentum 2.0 and this wireless model, Sennheiser has made the earcups a little bigger so they fit over your ears better and don't pinch anything (some users complained that the headphones were too small, sort of in between on on-ear and over-ear headphone). The designers also made the earcups softer.
On top of its Bluetooth capabilities (it uses Bluetooth 4.0), the Momentum Wireless also features active noise cancellation and near-field communications tap-to-pair technology for compatible devices, and supports the aptX codec ( aptX is supposed to improve the sound when streaming over Bluetooth). Additionally, you can attach a cable and use the headphone as a wired headphone. Not only does it sound better in this mode, but it plays louder.
The playback and volume controls, as well as the power on/off button, are on the right earcup, and I was able to operate everything easily enough just by feel.
Like a lot of other Bluetooth headphones and speakers, this model has some built-in voice prompts delivered by a soothing female voice. She tells you when the headphones are powered on or off, let's you know when your headphones are paired with your Bluetooth-enabled device (yes, these headphones work with iOS, Android, and Windows phones), and alerts you when your battery is low.
Wireless range is the typical 33 feet or 10 meters and my wireless connection was mostly rock steady, though you will run into a bit of Bluetooth interference now and again. (Some reviewers on Amazon have complained of this.)
The noise cancellation, which isn't too heavy, is always on -- there's no switch to turn it off -- but battery life is still quite good at up to 22 hours. The noise-canceling worked well in the streets of New York, and the integrated microphone, which is actually dual mics, worked very well for making calls with my cell phone. You can hear your own voice as you talk inside the headphones, which keeps you from talking louder than you need to.
In many ways this is a direct competitor to the Beats Studio Wireless , which sells for around $350 online, and has very similar features, including active noise cancellation and those aforementioned dual mics. The Beats is an excellent wireless headphone and just as comfortable, if not a touch more so.
Though the Beats plays a little louder at top volume, the Sennheiser sounds a bit better, with tighter bass and an overall more textured, refined sound. It's also a more balanced headphone.
For instance, with Arcade Fire's "Porno" track, on the Beats the bass was more pronounced and dominating, with less clarity in the vocals (midrange). On the Sennheiser the bass, midrange, and treble were better balanced, everything came of sounding smoother, even if it isn't smoothest sounding track to begin with.
Whenever I get a top-notch Bluetooth headphone, I have CNET's Audiophiliac Steve Guttenberg, listen to it. His reaction was pretty predictable. He's not a fan of Bluetooth or noise-canceling headphones and was only mildly impressed with the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless, which -- trust me -- is pretty high praise coming from him.
He thought it was very good for a Bluetooth headphone, but still left something to be desired compared to a good wired headphone. In fact, as I mentioned, the Momentum 2.0 Wireless sounds better as a wired headphone (the noise-canceling does stay on in wired mode). And by "better," we mean that it just sounds a little more dynamic with a little more sparkle. If you were a chef, it would be the difference between having a sharp knife and having a razor sharp knife.
The one thing I noticed when comparing the Beats Studio Wireless to this Sennheiser, is that sound quality did vary from track to track. The Sennheiser offers more detail so it sounds better with better recorded tracks. At the same time, it can also end up bringing out the grittier side of less well recorded tracks, which can lead to some listening fatigue.
As far as comparisons to the wired Momentum 2.0 ($350, £270, AU$400) go, this model sounds similar to it in wired mode, but in wireless mode, it's not its equal.
Last but not least, we put the Momentum 2.0 Wireless up against the Momentum 2.0 On-Ear Wireless ($400,£300), which costs $100 less and is obviously a smaller headphone. I would spend the extra $100 on the bigger headphone -- it's not only more comfortable but has better, more spacious sound with better balance overall.
The Momentum 2.0 Wireless is an an excellent and well-designed Bluetooth headphone that also offers strong wired performance. My only misgiving is the price. If the Beats Studio Wireless is about $100 overpriced, this model is, too. But, hey, it's great if you can afford it.
Editors' note: In 2015 Sennheiser temporarily halted sales of the Momentum Wireless due to an issue connecting the headphone to Apple computers over Bluetooth. Sennheiser says the problem was limited to a small number of early units and is now fixed. Our testing confirms this.