Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 Review: Sony Has Competition
With some key improvements, the Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds give the excellent Sony WF-1000XM4 a run for their money.
Updated April 25, 2022 3:00 p.m. PT
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Reviews ethics statement
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
Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
Improved noise canceling and voice call performance
Small, rubberized fins help create secure fit
Wireless charging case
Multipoint Bluetooth pairing not available at launch
May not fit those with very small ears
Truth be told, I was pretty excited to get my hands on Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds. The True Wireless 2 model was really good -- we gave it an Editors' Choice Award in 2020 -- but it did leave a little room for improvement, so I was curious to see how Sennheiser upgraded this third-generation version and how it stacked up to other top noise-canceling earbuds like Sony's WF-1000XM4.
For starters, these cost a little less, though they're still pretty pricey. The Momentum True Wireless 2 listed for $300 but have been selling for $250 or less online. The Momentum True Wireless 3 are $250 (£220, AU$400) out of the gate and I suspect we'll see them for closer to $200 in the not-so-distant future.
The Momentum True Wireless 3 are also 16% smaller than the previous model and come in three color options. I got the graphite color, but you'll eventually be able to pick them up in black or white as well. The black version is available for preorder now -- it ships May 10 -- with the graphite and white versions to follow later in May.
The design has changed. While the first two models in the series had a more rounded look, the Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds are more rectangular and share some of the same design elements as the step-down CX True Wireless ($130) and noise-canceling CX Plus True Wireless ($180) that Sennheiser released at more affordable prices last year. The charging case looks similar to the True Wireless 2 case but is a bit more compact. It does offer wireless charging.
These are essentially a swankier and slightly smaller version of the CX Plus earbuds, which have a similar sound profile and also have noise cancellation.
The other big design change is the addition of a rubberized fin to help keep the buds in your ears more securely. It's not a big wing like you'll find on Sennheiser's new Sport True Wireless Earbuds or the Beats Fit Pro. It's more subtle, kind of a bump or ridge.
I started with the default medium-size fin, then moved on to the large fin. The buds stayed in my ears fine with both sizes. But the fit was a little more secure with the largest fin and I used that when I was running and had no problem keeping the buds in my ears. They're IPX4 water-resistant, so they're splash-proof and survived just fine after I left them out in the rain for 15 minutes.
You'll have to play around with the fins and tips to see what combination gets you the most comfortable fit with the tightest sea, but as the earbuds are a little smaller than previous models, they should fit a wider spectrum of ears. And while I can't tell you if they'll be a perfect fit for your ears, particularly if you have really small ears, I do like what Sennheiser has done with the design and they're slightly more compact and comfortable to wear than the CX True Wireless or the Sony WF-1000X4. In fact, for those of you who found that those otherwise excellent Sony earbuds caused some discomfort, these might be a good alternative.
As noted, the Momentum True Wireless 3 have active noise cancellation -- it's the adaptive variety, you can't adjust the levels -- and there's also a transparency mode that sounds pretty natural but isn't quite as good as the transparency mode on the AirPods Pro. You give a quick tap on the left bud to toggle between noise canceling and transparency. The buds have touch controls and they are quite responsive.
There's also an anti-wind mode that's part of the noise canceling settings. However, as far as I can tell, you have to access that through the app along with the equalizer settings. You can customize the touch controls a bit and it's worth mentioning the tap and hold gesture allows you to adjust volume up and down on the buds themselves. Also, you can use either earbud solo -- left or right -- and leave one charging in the case if you want.
Additionally, these have ear-detection sensors so if you remove a bud from your ear, your music pauses and it resumes when you put it back in. You can also have the buds shut down automatically after a set time interval if you leave them out of their case to preserve battery life, which is fairly decent at around 7 hours at moderate volume levels. That's the same as the Momentum True Wireless 2's battery life.
These use Bluetooth 5.2. Alas, at launch anyway, they don't have multipoint Bluetooth pairing, which would allow you to pair the buds with two devices at the same time -- say, a computer and your smartphone. But I was told that the feature will be added with a firmware upgrade in the future. That means that the chipset supports multipoint but the engineers are still working on the software to enable it and make it work reliably. That can be tricky with true wireless earbuds.
The buds support both the AAC and AptX Adaptive audio codecs. Many Android phones support AptX and with the setup, going with AptX for Bluetooth streaming may improve audio quality. That said, I didn't notice a major difference going back and forth between an iPhone 13 Pro and a couple of Android phones using the Qobuz music streaming service that offers higher resolution streaming over AptX Adaptive.
So how exactly do these sound? Well, slightly better than the True Wireless 2, which were among the best-sounding true wireless earbuds when they were released in 2020. Despite having seemingly similar 7mm drivers to the previous model, they sounded slightly clearer and more accurate to my ears and also played slightly louder. That may have more to do with the new digital signal processor and software algorithms than the drivers, but I did prefer the sound of the True Wireless 3.
Out of the box, these have a slightly more balanced, audiophile sound profile than the Sony WF-1000XM4, which have a little more energy in the bass and are slightly warmer. Both have a pretty wide sound stage with relatively open, big sound.
The Sennheisers offer a bit more clarity and I ended up using the Sound Check feature in the app to come up with a custom preset equalizer setting based on my listening tastes. My sound profile ended up looking like the popular happy face profile with the bass and treble boosted a bit and the mids (where vocals live) toned down a tad. With that profile, the earbuds sounded a little more like the Sonys. The bass came across as powerful yet tight and well-defined.
I listen to an eclectic mix of tracks when I test headphones. Everything from Spoon's Knock Knock Knock and You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb tracks to the Foo Fighters to Billie Eilish to contemporary hip-hop and pop tracks. And even a bit of classical and country. The long and short of it is the Momentum True Wireless 3 are tonally really pleasant to listen to, with smooth yet lively sound with nice detail. They work well with a variety of music genres and I didn't experience any listening fatigue even over longer sessions.
I'll finish by talking about the noise-canceling and voice-calling performance. From my tests standing in front of a noisy HVAC unit in my apartment, the noise cancellation seems improved compared with the True Wireless 2, and appears to be neck and neck with that of the Sony and Bose models. I'm not sure if the True Wireless 3 muffle all noise equally as well as the Sony model, but Sennheiser does appear to have upped its game in the noise-canceling department. Of course, how well the earbuds muffle sound does depend on how tight a seal you get with the included ear tips. Luckily, Sennheiser makes some of the best ear tips on the market -- I actually use its large tips with other earbuds like the Beats Fit Pro because they fit my ears so well.
Voice-calling performance is also better. There are three microphones on each earbud and callers said they did a good job of reducing background noise when I was talking to them from the noisy streets of New York. There was a little bit of white noise but they said they could hear my voice clearly when I spoke. Bottom line: Voice calling performance has improved significantly from the True Wireless 2. The second-generation model offered improved voice-calling from the original model but still wasn't in the same league as the AirPods Pro for noise reduction and microphone pickup during calls. The True Wireless 3 model is closer to what the AirPods Pro and AirPods 3 offer.
In all, except for the lack of multipoint Bluetooth at launch, I don't really have anything major to complain about. I don't think you're getting a huge bump in sound quality from the CX Plus True Wireless buds, which cost less, but the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3's design is sleeker and more compact and the earbuds should fit more ears comfortably. The Sennheiser earbuds also work better for making calls and the noise canceling is seemingly superior.
As I said, they're pretty pricey. But they're an excellent set of earbuds for both iOS and Android users and will hopefully improve a bit with firmware upgrades. I do think they face a lot of competition -- there are now several premium earbuds in this price range that sound impressive and perform well, including the $200 Beats Fit Pro. And we could get new AirPods Pro 2 with upgraded sound later this year. But as of this moment, they're definitely among my favorite new earbuds and are worthy of strong consideration, especially if you see their price dip a bit.