Sennheiser's new Momentum 3 Wireless headphones sound great
The third-gen Momentum Wireless headphone features improved noise cancellation, excellent sound quality and voice calling.
David CarnoyExecutive 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, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
ExpertiseMobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakersCredentials
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When it comes to premium noise-canceling headphones, Bose and Sony have been the dominant players over the last few years. But now Sennheiser has turned up with its new Momentum 3 Wireless and it deserves some attention, particularly from folks who are fans of the Momentum line. It's available now for $400 (£369) -- the same price as Bose's Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
I've been playing around with an early review sample and it's an excellent headphone. Not only does it feature improved noise- canceling features and excellent sound, but it also performs well as headset for making calls. While it's not as comfortable as the Sony WH-1000XM3, it has nicely padded ear cups covered with sheep leather and I had no trouble rocking it for a two-hour listening session.
There are three levels of noise cancellation. At the top level, it's definitely more effective than the noise-canceling features on the previous Momentum Wireless, though it's not quite as strong as what you get with the Sony or Bose. Like those models, this one features a Transparent Hearing mode that allows you to hear the outside world for those times when you need "situational awareness." You also get one-touch access to voice assistants such as Siri and Google Assistant. Sennheiser says Amazon Alexa integration is "coming soon" via a firmware update using its Smart Control app for iOS and Android.
I liked how the headphones automatically turn on and pair with your device when you unfold them -- and turn off when you fold them back up (there's no power button, so that's the process for turning them on and off). They can also sense when you have them on or off your ears and they'll pause and resume playback based on whether you're wearing them or not. As high-tech as they are, they don't have touch controls, but if you're someone who prefers physical buttons, the control scheme should appeal to you.
I noticed they vibrate when a call comes in, which is an unusual feature for an over-ear headphone. Also uncommon: These have Tile technology built into them, which means that if you misplace them, you can use the Tile app to locate them (within a 150-foot range).
One small gripe: They're a little bulky in their case because they don't fold flat like Sennheiser's new PXC 550-II noise-canceling headphones (available in October for $350), but their traveling size wasn't a deal breaker for me.
That's partially because the Momentum 3 is equipped with 42mm drivers and delivers plenty of bass with nice treble detail. The bass isn't quite as well defined as that of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, but it's more dynamic, so the headphone should appeal to fans of hip-hop and electronic dance music (EDM) along with other music genres.
It's worth mentioning that Bluetooth 5.0 is on board and audiophiles will note that these headphones support the AptX streaming codec, which is available on some devices (though not iPhones). Battery life is a little short at 17 hours -- the Bose is rated at 20 hours, while Sony is more like 30 hours -- but the headphone does offer USB-C charging, which is a plus.
I'm still in the process of testing the Momentum 3 Wireless and will post a full review after I spend more time with it and its updated companion app. But despite its high price, my initial impressions are positive and I expect this will make our list of top noise-canceling headphones.