In the quest for HiFi excellence in wireless audio, Sennheiser has always straddled the line between mainstream and audiophile, often leaning more towards the mainstream consumer side. Momentum 4 is their latest over-ear headphone – adding even more features and capabilities to their award winning Momentum 3 – but does it have sound quality that will make it a great audiophile headphone pick?
Build and Design
Momentum 4 is primarily plastic, with the ear cups and headbands padded with memory foam and covered with leatherette. There are cloth accents around the headband that add a little class to the design, but overall the build and looks of the headphones are on par with similar offerings from Bose or Sony. Volume control, skipping tracks, and ANC management can either be handled through the app or through various swipes and taps on the earcups, which means the surface needs to remain essentially flat to enable various touch gestures to be easily executed on the outside of the earcup.
While the general look and feel of the headphones rates as “pretty good,” the comfort is excellent. They’re lightweight and very well padded. The clamp force is well balanced and they don’t fall into the trap of some portable or wireless headphones that are stuck somewhere between “over-ear” and “on-ear” in construction, squeezing out people with larger earlobes.
The package includes a travel case along with the USB-A to USB-C charge cable (which also works for Momentum 4’s DAC mode when connected directly to a source,) a 3.5mm stereo cable for standard wired operation, and a two-pronged airplane adapter. There’s also a quick start guide with a QR code for downloading the official app, and the requisite product safety information insert.
App and Interface
Momentum 4 provides pretty much the latest and greatest in terms of Bluetooth tech with ANC, transparency and multipoint support. We’re all pretty familiar with ANC and transparency at this point, but multipoint, which allows multiple simultaneous connections, is being added to an increasing number of devices. The main usage of multipoint is to connect to a phone along with another device for viewing or listening to media. So for example, you can have Momentum 4 connected to a DAP to listen to music and to your phone for calls. In my testing I was able to seamlessly switch between phone calls and music utilizing the aptX HD Bluetooth on my iBasso DX170, and receiving calls on my iPhone.
The app adds a plethora of options for personalizing your Momentum 4 experience. You can configure the EQ or ANC sensitivity easily, but features like Sound Zones, which creates different ANC profiles for different locations (i.e. you want full ANC with no transparency at the gym, but transparency on when you’re using them at the office) and Sound Check, which creates custom EQ profiles based on your listening preferences, require creating an account with Sennheiser. It’s regrettable that these features are locked behind account creation, but overall the app, feature set, and overall execution make Momentum 4 the best headphones I’ve used in terms of technology and personalization.
So the tech is absolutely top notch, but does the sound match up? Momentum 4 provides a bass heavy W shaped tuning, that is a far cry from the classic reference sound of an HD600 series headphone, but is still very well executed. The tuning is accompanied by a good sized soundstage and generally good spatial performance. There is some amount of the compression associated with Bluetooth headphones, and compared to the wired operation, I found AAC and aptX HD both experience compression in dynamic range, and some loss of fidelity in the highs and bass. Sound impressions and comparisons are based on the performance using aptX HD with the iBasso DX170.
The bass is elevated from the midbass down through the subbass with the sense of a pretty sizable bass shelf. There’s definitely good impact and slam, but the upper ranges of the bass into the low mids get flabby at times. Comparing wired to wireless modes, there’s a clear tightening and improvement of the bass in wired mode.
The midrange is somewhat scooped, initially feeling like a more V shaped sound, but there’s an extra boost in the upper mids that give Momentum 4 an enhanced vocal presence with an intimate, holographic vocal presentation. The treble is largely smooth, but has another small boost that adds some sparkle and lends a crisp attack to cymbals.
The soundstage and imaging performance is generally good for a closed back headphone. There’s a small step down, from wired performance – which is excellent – to Bluetooth, and then another small loss with ANC activated, but overall there’s a solid stereo image presentation.
The bass on Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” has a deep round feel that stands out just in front of the piano in Momentum 4’s delivery. There’s a nice cohesion between the bass and bass drum that drives the song along with just the right amount of punch. The trumpet lines are smooth and laid back, while the piano is delicate and spritely. When the piano takes over the melodic lead line, there’s a tactile sense of Herbie’s right hand going hard to add distinction to the melody against the more softly played rhythm in his left hand.
While the bass felt emphasized but tasteful on “Cantaloupe Island,” it’s more than ready to get your brain shaking on R&B classic “Waterfalls” by TLC. While the rhythm section features some funky guitar playing and smooth electric piano licks, the bass dominates the mix. The vocals cut through nicely, giving a great texture to the raspy passages on the verse, and solid blending in the harmonies on the chorus. While there’s great vocal details, the bass can feel less textured – sacrificing some degree of quality for quantity.
Switching things up a bit, Trivium’s “Implore The Darken Sky” sounds massive with guitars playing melody and harmony opposite of each other on a wide stage, and the powerful, shouted vocals coming right down the middle. The low end is surprisingly tight with the hard hitting double-bass drums, offering good impact that tracks each hit through lightning fast fills. Momentum 4’s more relaxed highs help temper the harshness in the vocals and prevent them from becoming too fatiguing.
Comparison: Focal Bathys, Final UX3000
For comparison, we’re looking at a wide range of prices and designs. The Focal Bathys comes in at $799 and offers a new standard in wireless HiFi. The Final UX3000 is on the other end with crazy levels of bang-for-your buck at a $149 price tag. And the Momentum 4 hits somewhere in the middle at $349.
In terms of the build, Focal easily wins. It should, of course, at more than twice the price of Momentum 4. Momentum 4 is, likewise, a more well appointed and more comfortable headphone than UX3000. The usability might be somewhat a matter of preference as Momentum 4’s touch controls are cool, but the Bathys has buttons for all the same functions which some might find easier to use. UX3000 uses similar buttons to Bathys, but lacks the playback control options on the headphone itself that the others have.
This brings us to the app and other functionality which is where Momentum 4 clearly shines. UX3000 has solid ANC, but otherwise lacks the more advanced features. Bathys has the ANC and Transparency, but the app isn’t as full-featured. Momentum 4 is clearly more tech focused and provides just about everything you could ask for in a wireless headphone.
In terms of sound, Bathys and UX3000 are closer to a Harman sound, with light bass emphasis and balanced treble. UX3000 has the strongest mids here, with great clarity. Momentum 4 more strongly emphasizes the bass, but also ends up losing some coherence outside of the vocal range. Bathys has stronger detail and separation with a stronger sense of separation as well. For vocal lovers, Momentum 4 provides the most personal, intimate sounding vocals of the three, which combined with the bass makes it a strong choice for vocal pop and similar genres.
Overall, UX3000 is an excellent value, with a great tuning and sound quality that rivals Momentum 4, but it’s lacking the fit, finish, and features. It’s a solid choice if you need a wireless set as a second headphone for mowing the lawn, exercise, and that sort of thing. Bathys is the king of HiFi Bluetooth sound, and would be the top choice for pure listening. And Momentum 4 hits in the middle of the pack for sound quality, but really delivers on features and technology.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 is a major achievement in headphone design, and has some of the best tech out there. While the tuning offers more of a “fun” sound than a typical HiFi tuning, the overall performance is solid, with the vocal delivery being a standout. If you’re looking for a go anywhere, do anything sort of headphone, Momentum 4 has everything you need and great sound to go with it.