The world of truly wireless earphones can be summed up as follows: there are AirPods, the Jabra Elite 65t, and all the unsatisfying others. I’m not griping, though: having two great options to choose from is still two more than we used to have. But now, Sennheiser, the manufacturer of some of the best headphones in every price class, has made its fashionably late arrival to the truly wireless competition. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are the first pair of entirely wireless earphones that Sennheiser has built since a long-forgotten pair in the earliest years of Bluetooth.
I made it a point to rush over and check out these new Momentum buds as soon as I learned about them. I deliberately disregarded all the spec and pricing information; I just wanted to get my hands on them. My very first impression is there’s absolutely no way to intuit how to control these things. They have no physical buttons and no user-friendly hints, just the occasional beep in response to my taps. A friendly Sennheiser staffer enlightened me that one tap on the left earbud will play or pause, two taps will advance tracks, three taps will rewind, hold your finger on the left bud to lower volume, hold your finger on the right earbud to raise it, and a single tap will activate Google Assistant or Siri, depending on your device. If that sounds convoluted, don’t worry, it’s reasonably easy once you know what’s what. Sennheiser plans to walk users through everything with an accompanying app, which isn’t yet ready to demo.
The comfort of these earbuds is as good as you can hope for with truly wireless earphones. I thought the Elite 65t were among the leaders in this category, but Sennheiser’s offering is even nicer to wear, finding a superior fit. On a related note, the Momentum True Wireless have outstanding passive noise isolation. That’s to say, they act almost like noise-canceling headphones but without consuming power to actively cancel out noise. Top marks.
Sound impressions from a trade show are always a dicey affair, but I can at least preliminarily say that I like the sound of the Momentum True Wireless. It’s pleasant, warm, and inviting, and vocals are a particular highlight. I did find the bass a bit wooly, and there’s a thick filter positioned at the nozzle of these buds, probably to thicken out the bass, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a really relaxed and friendly sound. I think in noisy and stressful environments, which is where such wireless earphones tend to find their use, people will appreciate a tuning like this very much.
The 7mm transducers inside these new earphones are an entirely new design, though they do use some of the same materials as you’ll find in Sennheiser’s flagship wired earphones, the IE800.
I’ve been asking every headphone company I know to switch to USB-C charging for its battery-powered headphones, and Sennheiser has listened. The Momentum True Wireless have a USB-C-powered case, which is roughly double the size of the AirPods case, but still compact enough to tuck into a small pocket inconspicuously. The buds can hold a four-hour charge, and their case can top them off twice more, for a total of 12 hours of power socket autonomy. You can charge the full set from flat to full in 1.5 hours. I really like that the magnetic holder of the case is strong enough to hold the earbuds in place even when the case is upside down.
The Momentum True Wireless are IPX4-certified for “splat and splash” resistance, and with their comfortable and secure fit, I can see them presenting a good option for those seeking a good pair of sports earbuds.
Probably the biggest stumbling block with these earphones will be their price, which at $299 /€299 is at the upper end of the range when it comes to truly wireless audio. I still consider the AirPods the champ that everyone else has to beat, but Sennheiser’s greatest advantage is in the area where the AirPods are weakest: noise isolation. Plus, I personally would love to ditch my last remaining Lightning cable and have all my gadgets that need power accept a USB-C plug. That’s the future I’m waiting for. Sennheiser promises to have the Momentum True Wireless available to buy in November.
Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge