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Headphones

Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony WH-1000XM4 vs WH-1000XM5

Which one's the best choice?

The Sennheiser Momentum headphones sit in front of a silver MacBook on a desktop. Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

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When pondering the best, most well-rounded noise canceling headphones on the market these days, for many buyers it’s an insider race—and either way, Sony comes out on top. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 have long remained our pick as the best headphones for most people, while the newer WH-1000XM5 offer some premium upgrades at a similarly premium price.

But a new challenger has emerged in Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 Wireless, which have their own regal pedigree. The Momentum line has long been one of the best options in wireless headphones, especially when it comes to sound quality. The latest pair introduces multiple updates, including improved noise canceling and a somewhat controversial design change. But are they good enough to take on the best? Let’s break it down, feature by feature.

Shop for Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

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Pricing

A person wearing the Sennheiser Momentum 4 outside in a backyard.
Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 have the same MSRP as the Sony XM4, although the Sony pair can often be found on sale.

In a lot of ways, Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 seem to slot right in between the Sony WH-1000XM4 and XM5. Their $350 MSRP is the same as the XM4, but the XM4 are often on sale for much lower since they're over two years old. Meanwhile, Sony’s XM5 headphones regularly sell at their full $400 price.

Given this modest advantage for the XM4, we’ll give that pair the win here, but Sennheiser’s pair is close—and will likely see its own sale pricing before long—so it’s a tight race.

Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM4

Features and controls

The Sony WH-1000XM5 laying down on a table next to the Sony XM4.
Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

The Sony WH-1000XM5 (pictured here) share the same combination of touch controls and physical buttons as the WH-1000XM4.

From a features standpoint, the XM4 and XM5 are strikingly similar, with the newer XM5 taking plenty of cues from its sibling. Sony’s Headphones app, which will sync your headphone settings even after you’ve changed devices, serves up tons of convenience features like multipoint connection (letting you easily swap between two source devices), a multi-band EQ, and even the ability to analyze your ears for Sony’s 3D Reality Audio service.

There’s a feature to customize noise canceling and transparency mode levels based on your activities or location, including a 20-point scale for transparency mode control. You can touch the right earcup on both pairs for Quick Alert, to dampen the music and turn on transparency mode, and Speak to Chat will pause music whenever you raise your voice. The only notable difference is in the XM5’s Spotify Accessibility, set up for quick access to the service with a tap.

Controls for both Sony pairs are virtually the same. Each pair offers easy control over playback, calling, and volume control via responsive touch sensors on the right ear cup. The main control key is customizable for the XM4, while the XM5’s is set for noise canceling or transparency mode. Additionally, the XM5’s adaptive ANC is designed to automatically adjust to your environment, while the XM4 offers an optimizer that tailors your ANC via a series of test patterns. But for the most part, they’re nearly identical in this department.

Sennheiser has learned from the best, and adapted its Momentum 4 to not only look like the Sony pairs, but act like them too. Gone are the majority of the Momentum 3’s physical control keys, replacing them with near-identical gesture controls to Sony’s 1000XM line on the right ear cup, and a couple of physical keys for power and pairing.

The app offers many similar features, too, including multipoint pairing, the ability to customize the EQ, and adapt ANC and transparency mode to your environment (though you need to register the headphones to do so). Sennheiser leaves a few features out, though, such as Speak to Chat and Quick Alert. The EQ, surprisingly, offers only three bands rather than the usual five, which makes it less adaptable.

More notably, the Momentum controls are less polished. For example, the swipe gesture for volume control is much less granular than Sony’s pairs, often leaving music either too loud or too quiet. While the pair does offer adaptive ANC, the fader for manually adjusting ANC and Transparency modes in the app is unintuitive. Both functions adjust on the same slider, meaning ANC goes all the way to transparency mode and vice versa, which can lead to some confusion.

Finally, I noticed a few instances in testing where the headphones forced me to default to my phone audio rather than my Macbook during multipoint connection. Many of these issues may well be improved via firmware, but for now, they leave the door open for Sony.

Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM4 and Sony WH-1000XM5

Design and fit

All three headphones lined up next to each other.
Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 (middle) and Sony XM5 (right) are unable to fold down into a more compact size, like the XM4 (left).

One of the most striking changes for the Sennheiser Momentum 4 is its physical design, which casts aside the retro, radio-operator look of previous pairs for a look that is distinctively similar to (you guessed it) Sony’s headphones, specifically the XM5. Each pair has elongated ear cups that rotate on a single hinge along the band. Each has similar padding on the band itself, and the only distinctive difference is the grey fabric on the top of Sennheiser’s band.

Sennheiser can’t quite match the pillowy comfort the Sony WH-1000XM5 provide, though it’s a tough ask since the XM5 are among the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever put on. At 293 grams, Sennheiser’s pair also weighs around 40 grams more than either Sony pair. While all three pairs are quite comfy, I find the XM5 to be the cushiest for long-term wear.

Where the XM4 have an advantage over either rival pair, however, is in their ability to collapse into a smaller fabric case for packing. This makes them a better all-around travel pair. This one is close, but Sony's XM4 and XM5 split the win for their travel-ready design and comfort respectively.

Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM4 and Sony WH-1000XM5

Sound quality

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 laying down flat.
Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

While both Sony headphones sound great, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 offer best-in-class sound quality.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are a great sounding pair of headphones—especially once you’ve toned down the bass response (or added your own preferred tinkering) within the app. Their ability to provide great sound alongside all their other features is one of the primary reasons they remain atop our best headphones list.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 take that great sound quality up another step, offering increased fidelity, better dynamics, and more accurate bass response. They offer the kind of clarity that will let you hear new things in old songs, which is what we love about great headphones. But the Sennheiser Momentum 4 beat both pairs.

A vivid, accessible, and impressively rich sound signature is the Momentum’s calling card, and it’s a refreshing experience to put on a pair of wireless headphones that sound this fantastic straightaway. While the XM4, and certainly the XM5, will get you where you need to go, the Momentum 4 do so with a little more style and grace. For audiophiles, present or aspiring, they’re the wireless headphones to target.

Our pick: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

Active noise canceling and transparency mode

A person wearing the XM5 headphones outdoors.
Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

The active noise canceling on the XM5 headphones is unmatched.

In the war for noise canceling supremacy, the WH-1000XM5 are the reigning monarch. They're a level above previous champions, including the XM4 and Bose QC45, both of which sit just below the XM5's excellence in the “still fantastic” noise canceling tier.

Sennheiser’s pair can’t quite reach either plane. While their noise canceling is much improved, especially in the lower frequencies, it lets through a fair bit more white noise and chatter in higher frequencies than any of the pairs mentioned above. It’s a tough competition, to be sure, and Sennheiser’s adaptive system means there’s almost no audible noise at rest. Still, while they'll get the job done, they can’t match the best.

Our pick: Sony WH-1000XM5

Battery life

The Momentum 4 headphones laying down flat.
Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

The Momentum 4’s incredible 60-hour battery life is double that of Sony's pairs.

This one’s an easy win for Sennheiser. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 and XM5 both offer around 30 hours of total playback time per charge (though the XM5 can charge a little faster). Sennheiser’s pair busts through the door with up to 60 hours. While I’m not sure when you’ll ever need that much—and it’s difficult to test accurately—it’s a ton of battery life even for the premium wireless headphones market.

Our pick: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

And the winner is ….

By sheer category wins, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 come in neck and neck. As was true in our direct comparison between the two Sony cans, our top pick remains the XM4, mainly due to their value, their packability, and their excellence in virtually all elements we test.

If you’re willing to spend more, the WH-1000XM5 wins in some key areas, most notably active noise canceling and comfort. For an extra $50 (or more depending on sale pricing) you are getting a more premium experience.

Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 deserve their own credit in our conclusion, though. They’re very capable headphones and, particularly if you’re most interested in the best sound you can get for your money, they are well worth considering. The question really becomes, which performance features are worth most to you?

If you want the best all around experience, we recommend the XM4, but depending on how you weigh each category, any of these three pairs are worthy of purchase—especially if you can find them on sale.

Shop for Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

Shop for Sony WH-1000XM4

Shop for Sony WH-1000XM5

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.