The new generation Momentum 2.0 headphones promise sound quality within the busy, noisy mobile environment. Paul Rigby dons his walking boots
If you want to enjoy good sound quality while walking around outside, in the big world, then your choice of hardware is much more limited than gear on offer for indoor use. More than that, your choice of quality gear is even more restricted. With the Momentum 2.0 closed-backed headphones, Sennheiser wanted to expand that choice a tad.
The new second generation Momentum 2.0 closed-backed headphones now offer folding headbands for greater portability along with a much smaller carry case.
The fit and comfort of the headphones has been enhanced too. The headband has been subtly redesigned. It still features premium leather or Alcantara but that is now rounder in profile to make it more comfortable.
The new ‘phones feature redesigned ear cups to accommodate larger, more padded genuine leather ear pads to further improve comfort and are asymmetrically shaped to help the fit.
On that subject, I found the headphones an easy fit but, essential for mobile use, very light indeed. This bodes well for long term trekking while listening to music et al.
You also get an integrated smart remote with an in-line microphone. The brown finish is for Apple device users, who also have a choice between ivory and black finishes which can be applied to Android and Windows fans too. The 2.0s arrive as the AEi for iPhone users or AEG for everyone else.
With a pair of headphones like this, designed for mobile use, you have to take some care when judging their sonic qualities. There’s the overall, bottom of the line, sound quality judgement and then there’s the conclusions derived after hearing it in its target environment.
First, the tests on its basic, overall sound quality. I began at home and with my principle reference system, hooking the phones up to a vinyl chain and played Bruce Brubaker’s solo piano piece via his Glass PianoLP and the Philip Glass composition Mad Rush. When compared to the reference HD650s, the Momentums lacked richness within the upper mids in terms of the weight, tonal reality and clarity when addressing the frequencies on offer. The soundstage was also rather narrow, the 650s had a rather epic and grand approach to music. The looked-for cultured bass heft on the Momentums was also absent during the early part of the track, lower frequencies were rather unwieldy too. That said, there was no sense of any blurring of smudging within the upper frequencies. The Momentums were nothing if not precise, even within quite complex passages. In addition, the tonal balance was good, there was no suggestion of brightness or stridency.
As the track then hit its powerful, dynamic crescendo, the Momentums never fell behind. The headphones tracked each sonic element with alacrity. The bass element that gives this piece a grand, impressive heft was slightly muddy but the upper mids were quite incisive. Even delicate noises in and around the piano player: Brubaker’s shuffling, extraneous string noises and the like were all seen and noted by the Momentums.
From 1971 and the Electric Light Orchestra, with First Movement. How would the Momentums handle rock?
This track relies and bases its entire effect on the bass supplied both by the drums and the cellos which was rather lacking in weight and impact on the Momentums. There was plenty of bass, don’t get me wrong, but what there was lacked form and character while the similarly priced HD650s offered more heft. In terms of the midrange, although the Momentums didn’t offer the same sort of sophistication as the HD650s in terms of presentation, the Momentums did give the ear plenty of detail and insight into the mix. Nothing escaped the beady eye of these headphones, there was never any sign of muffled midrange of treble.
Turning to my Leema Essentials CD player and a slice of krautock-inspired electronica from Conrad Schnitzler & Pyrolator, the Momentums might not have had the same dynamic breath and soundstage fireworks as the HD650 but they did offer a highly entertainment fest of electronic frequencies. The highly complex arrangement was easily handled by the Momentums. In fact, the rather more restricted resolution of CD appeared to suite these headphones.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
To that extent and bearing in mind that these headphones will be used more in the mobile field, I connected them to my Astell & Kern AK120 music player and tried them with Dire Straights’ Money for Nothing at 24bit/96kHz. And then went out into the big world for a gentle stroll.
In this mode, the HD650s struggled because they were much harder to drive than the Momentums and, hence, there was no real spare volume to be had for the HD650s, a problem when you’re out and about and walking through noisy, busy traffic. The HD650s would be fine for a quiet park environment or a quiet country stroll where the loudest noise is the soft bleat of a sheep. The Momentum’s, though, had volume to spare.
During play, walking by busy traffic, there was enough bass response to enhance the dynamic nature of the track. The Momentum’s never reached as low as the HD650s but it was never really problematic when out and about, especially if walking outside where your ears fight with ambient noise. You never really expect to hear deep bass in this environment in the first place. Yes, ok, you would if utilising phones featuring noise-cancelling but I have issues with this technology in terms of the relative lack of airy dynamics and space. I prefer the sound quality trade-off from your basic ‘on ears’ design to be honest while I also prefer to retain the connection between myself and what’s going on around me in terms of safety (ie: Kamekaze push-bike riders, drivers going the wrong way up one-way streets, man-eating poodles, etc).
In the mobile environment, the Momentum’s incisive nature from the midrange truly paid off. Although, I did expect a higher overall standard of sound quality for the price, even in this specialist mobile field, the headphones coped well with interfering ambient noise. As such, the Momentums were able to supply every element of the music and in good order. When combatting the hustle and bustle of city strolling, the subtle nuances heard within a living room hi-fi do not hold the same importance. In a mobile sense, delivery is everything. Here, vocals were clear. From Mark Knopfler’s more textured, bass delivery to Sting’s backing vocal that sits higher up the registers, it was easy to hear the lyrics while the guitar solos were both clear, open and airy.
The Momentum 2.0 headphones are light in weight, sit on the head without encumbering it and arrive with a relatively short and weedy audio cable. The design is aimed at mobile use, there is no doubt. I wanted to see, in absolute terms, how they would fair against their home hi-fi cousin, the HD650s but the Momentums were found wanting in this environment. In terms of mobile use, though, the design and the musical presentation showed the Momentums in their best light. The sound has been tweaked to give you as much detail and entertainment as possible in the relatively noisy outside space. Even here, they might not blow you away in terms of performance when measured against the relatively high price, they are more than capable mobile sound transducers. Recommended for mobile use.
SENNHEISER MOMENTUM 2.0
Good: light in weight, easy to run, insight, clarity
Bad: short and weedy audio cable, price