If you listen to music that features plenty of thumping bass, but don’t want to sacrifice treble notes and clean vocals, then these have got your back. The Momentums are also free of distortion, come with a sturdy case, and block a large portion of outside noise. Just be careful—the attached mic isn’t as good as it should be at this price, and your only option is a black and red color scheme. If that’s a problem, you might want to keep shopping.
The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear headphones (MSRP: $99.95) cost a little more than most people would like to spend on in-ears, but for that price you’re also getting a lot of great sound. The Momentums excelled in each test we performed with our head-and-torso simulator (or HATS as he’s known around the office).
The frequency response test showed us that the Momentums boost certain notes to make each note across the spectrum easier to hear. Distortion—one of the biggest problem areas with headphones—levels only reached half of what we consider to be the mark of when distortion becomes audible to the average user. The Momentums great scores in these categories played a large part in its high ranking.
It seems like Sennheiser may have knocked this one out of the park, that is, unless you’re an audiophile seeking a specific kind of listening experience. I’ll break down how we get our scores and explain where the Momentum’s excelled and where they didn’t live up to expectations.
Turning heads with an angled design
Sennheiser needed to adjust to a headphone industry that’s become more interested in how a product looks, rather than what it sounds like. The design of the Momentum In-Ear headphones highlights its two-tone, red and black color scheme and notable components. It’s a definite step in the right direction that makes these in-ears look as good as they sound.
You’ll immediately notice the casing of the in-ears have been angled to 15 degrees and come with an assortment of silicon sleeves—ranging from extra small to large—all meant to provide the most comfortable fit. The thoughtful design doesn’t stop there. The acoustic components are all machined from stainless steel and extend into a sound tunnel that helps deliver sound directly into your ears.
On the cable, you’ll find an in-line controller that comes with the standard play/pause, volume up, and volume down buttons for music and phone controls. Sennheiser went a step further and included additional functionality that pretty much guarantees you won’t need to take your phone out of your pocket. If you double press the play/pause button you can skip a song and if you hold the same button for more than two seconds you’ll reject an incoming call. There are separate versions of the Momentums for Android and Apple phones; while the headphones should work on either platform, the in-line controller might not be fully functional across platforms.
The cable is boasted as being tangle-free, and after a few days of typical use we can confidently back that statement. Understand that this doesn’t mean you won’t still encounter the occasional knot, but generally each side stays independent of the other to reduce headaches when you fish them out of your pocket.
You can avoid any tangling problems by using the included carrying case. The sturdy, hard-shell case comes with an included plastic organizer to keep the Momentum’s safe and completely knot-free. It might take an extra few seconds to wrap your headphones to the organizer, but it’ll save you a headache down the road when you want to use them again.
The build quality of these in-ears suggests that they should be able to withstand the everyday use of a typical consumer. They feel strong enough to take a light beating, but keep in mind that they’re still in-ears and that means a certain level of care when they’re unplugged as the flex points on the connectors aren’t particularly tough. But, with proper care, there’s no reason why these in-ears shouldn’t last a very long time.
When we tested the frequency response (FR) of the Momentum In-Ear headphones, we got pretty stellar results. When we test we use a 78dB signal. The Momentums reproduced that sound in different ways across the frequency range.
Sub-bass and bass get a nice boost up to 90dB that drops closer to 80dB as it gets into the midrange frequencies around 300dB. The mid and high mid frequencies steadily stick between 70–80dB before the high frequencies that make up treble sounds get a boost back up to the 80dB mark.
The resulting chart roughly resembles an equal-loudness contour. This means that the Momentum In-Ears were built to equalize the loudness of each frequency so the entire range, from sub-bass to high notes, are heard by the human ear equally.
But, if you’re looking for a flat, studio response curve to equalize your own music, then we’d recommend the Sony XBA-C10IP, a similar product that costs far less, as long as you don’t mind the sacrifice in distortion levels and the amount of isolation you’ll get.
It’s not just a pretty package, there’s incredible sound too
When you find a comfortable fit and start listening to your music you’ll notice that these aren’t just a pretty pair of in-ears. There’s a solid emphasis on bass that’ll make any chest-thumping songs a joy to listen to. The middle, high-mid, and upper treble frequencies are also given their due. You’ll be able to pick out the vocals and string instruments with greater clarity, while still enjoying the heavier bass sounds.
The in-line remote comes with an included microphone to give you full compatibility with your smartphone. Unfortunately, this was one of the few places we noticed the Momentums stumble, as the audio quality just didn’t quite reach the levels you’d expect for this price. Using the microphone we noticed that our calls were noticeably scratchy and unclear. It isn’t enough to be a deal-breaker, but definitely something to be aware of when you’re making a purchase.
In-ears have a head start on their bigger over and on-ear cousins when it comes to keeping your music in and other noises out. When you use the Momentums, outside sound will be dropped to half or even a quarter of its original volume. If you’ve got a noisy commute or chatty office and would rather listen to your favorite artist, the isolation really helps.
Using the software in our lab, we determined that the Momentum In-Ears produce clean, distortion-free sound. Even in the sub-bass and bass ranges—where you’d expect to pick up the most audio junk—the Momentums issues were minor enough that only very sensitive audiophiles will hear anything out of place.
When we tested the Momentum In-Ears we found the highest levels of distortion between 20Hz and 60Hz—the sub-bass range of the audible spectrum. Luckily, the amount of distortion only reached 1.7%, so no complaints here. Human ears really won’t be able to pick up any of the junk introduced by the mechanics until about 3%, and the Momentum In-Ears barely got higher than half that.
There isn’t much more to say for this category. There won’t be any fuzzy, crackling sounds when you listen to music. That’s all you can really ask for.
Very specific taste in style with top sound quality
These are a great pair of headphones that have great audio quality with plenty of isolation and very little distortion. As long as you can look past the setbacks in terms of mic quality, and your aesthetic taste matches Sennheiser’s, these are a great pair of in-ears to invest in.
If, instead, you’re looking for in-ears that have a similar audio performance for less money, we’d recommend the JBL Synchros Reflect. The JBLs were constructed as workout in-ears and might come with a lot of features you might not care about if you’re looking for a standard pair of headphones. But, the bass performance outranks the Momentums and can be found at a cheaper price (MSRP: $59.95) but they also sacrifice a healthy amount of isolation in the process.
In-Ears have a leg up on the competition when it comes to isolation, and the Momentum In-Ears are no exception. Starting at 100Hz, the volume of bass frequencies will be dropped by half. This won’t completely block the sound of engines, but it’ll be a noticeable improvement to your commute.
The midrange frequencies—the sounds between 300 Hz and 2kHz that make up the bulk of what you hear throughout your day —steadily decrease from about half to an eighth their original volume, leaving you relatively unaware of your surroundings. You won’t encounter a lot of noise in the high mids and high frequency range, but any you do come across will drop to a staggering 1/16 to 1/32 their normal volume. Even without active noise cancellation, these in-ears will leave you in near musical bliss.
Meet the tester
Former Managing Editor@@nschmiedicker
Coming from Buffalo, NY, Nick studied media production and arts journalism. When he’s not writing about tech Nick can be found playing video games and keeping up on the latest in pop culture.
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email