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HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Gadgets-Reviews

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Review: Sennheiser Momentum
Prasad Naik
New Delhi, October 29, 2013
First Published: 16:20 IST(29/10/2013)
Last Updated: 16:50 IST(29/10/2013)

We have taken a good look at Sennheiser’s Momentum headphones in the past. Representing the pinnacle of the company’s fashionable series of headphones, the Momentum not just had style but also plenty of substance.


The German manufacturer has now gone ahead and released a smaller model of these generally revered pair of headphones, the Momentum On-Ear. As you can tell by the name, the Momentum On-Ear uses a supraaural design for the earcups instead of the bigger circumaural earcups on the Momentum. And along with the size, Sennheiser has also reduced the price on the new model. But is there a corresponding drop in performance? Let’s find out.

Visually, the Momentum On-Ear look almost identical to the bigger Momentum. It’s only upon closer inspection you’d notice that the earcups are smaller and that the materials are slightly different. The earpads, for example, are covered with Alcantara and the headband is covered with suede instead of leather all round on the bigger Momentum. The headbands are still made of metal, however, and despite the change in materials the smaller Momentum On-Ear still feel very premium.

But perhaps the biggest change in the exterior is the range of colors that the Momentum On-Ear is available in. Whereas the Momentum were available in more sober black and brown colors, the Momentum On-Ear comes in more livelier shades of blue, green, pink and ivory (white with brown band).

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Just like the Momentum, the Momentum On-Ear has a detachable cable and comes with two options. One cable has playback controls for Apple’s devices, including the iPhone, iPod, iPad and the Macs, along with a built-in microphone that let’s you take calls. The other cable is a simple straightforward cable with a TRS jack for use with other devices where the TRRS jack of the first cable might cause problems.

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The premium look and feel goes beyond just the headphones. Sennheiser also provides a classy carry case with the headphones, with a soft bag inside, so you can use just the bag if you don’t have space for the larger case. Just like with the bigger Momentum, the On-Ear don’t collapse so you still end up with a fairly large package to carry around in your bag.

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Now that we have discussed the aesthetics, let’s talk about the performance. If you read our review of the Momentum, you’d know that I was quite impressed by the audio quality on offer. With the Momentum On-Ear, things are slightly less impressive.

The first thing you notice about the sound with the On-Ear is that they have a strong bass bias. The mid-bass has a hefty kick that will demolish your ears if you’re into dubstep and EDM. The thump is rather impressive and should appeal to most bassheads. It’s not overwhelmingly powerful, though, and remains controlled in most situations.

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The mid-range is where the Momentum On-Ear drops the ball. The upper mid-range remains clean and clear but the lower mid-range is not substantial enough, which meant things such as vocals lacks the volume and clarity that they deserve.

The high-end fares a lot better. It’s not as dominant as the low-end and not suppressed like the mid-range. It’s slightly tweaked to create a crisper sound but it lacks the utmost clarity that you’d get from more expensive pair of headphones.

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The overall sound signature has a fairly pronounced V-curve, with the boosted bass and treble and the suppressed mid-range. However, it’s not exactly a bad thing. While it has its imperfections, it’s not particularly disappointing in any particular frequency range. Sure, there are better, more balanced sounding headphones out there but I doubt that’s what the Momentum On-Ear is competing against.

The Momentum On-Ear seem more like a competition to headphones such as the Beats Solo HD. Compared to the Beats, the Momentum On-Ear fare a lot better with sound that is more than just bass. At the same time, it’s not exactly audiophile quality, so it’s best to keep that in mind.

In terms of soundstage, the Momentum On-Ear do a lot better than their closed back design would suggest. Although I have heard a lot better from open back headphones, the Momentum On-Ear still sound fairly spacious without sounding like the sound is trapped between your ears.

In terms of noise isolation, the fare significantly better than open back headphones. While they may not drown out outdoor sounds as well as a pair of active noise cancelling headphones, the passive sound blocking by the earpads is good enough to drown out minor ambient sounds.

A thing to note here is that despite their rated 18Ω impedance, the Momentum On-Ear aren’t exactly efficient. I often found myself pushing the volume all the way to the top, even with something like the MacBook Air, which has an extremely loud audio output.

When it comes to headphones, the comfort is as important as the sound quality. It doesn’t matter how good a pair of headphones sound if they are not comfortable and vice-versa. Unfortunately, this is where my biggest complaint with the Momentum On-Ear lie.

Unlike the bigger Momentum, the Momentum On-Ear earpads sit directly on your ears (pinna). Sennheiser headphones are often blamed for having a very strong inward force on their headphones and the vice-like grip is in full force on the Momentum On-Ear. Regardless of how soft the Alcantara earpads is, after about twenty minutes of using the headphones I had severe pain in my ears that necessitated a few minute break before I got back to using them. This made using the Momentum On-Ear for things such as movies and gaming impossible for me.

I looked up online to see if others are facing the same issue and I found most reviews praising the comfort of these headphones, so it’s clearly a personal issue for me. Having said that, I’d still generally advise against supraaural headphones because they do have a tendency to be uncomfortable over the long run due to the way they rest on your ears instead of around them.

The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear are priced at Rs. 14,990. The price seems steep but Sennheiser mostly makes up for it by the use of premium materials for the headphones and the carry case, attractive design, the dual cables with in-line playback controls and good audio quality, which may not be up to audiophile standards but should definitely appeal to a wide range of customers. If you have the extra cash, however, I’d highly recommend spending it and going for the bigger Momentum that not just sound a lot better but are also more comfortable.

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