A Headset for Everyone: The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear
Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear ($229)
On-ear headsets are a tough category. They're small, so it's tough to get really good sound from them. They bare a huge ergonomic burden: on-ear headphones can be uncomfortable, and difficult to get a good fit and acoustic seal; and they need to be compact enough to easily fit in a briefcase and desk drawer. And these days, with so many headphones sporting the bling, all headphones need to be good looking. I'd say Sennheiser pretty much nailed it with the Momentum On-Ear (MOE).
Gorgeous...simply gorgeous! I've been scratching my head for the last 20 minutes trying to think of an on-ear headphone as good looking as the MOE, but I keep coming up empty. Seems to me the V-Moda M80 is about as close as it gets, but its styling will likely not have the broad appeal the MOE has. The Momentum On-Ear just plain looks terrific. The single-piece, brushed stainless steel headband is a split at the top and covered with color coordinated Alcantaraa very high-quality synthetic suede material. Earpads are likewise color coordinated Alcantara covering a two-layer foam cushion, and are removable with replacements available. Ear capsules are plastic with apparently a very high quality painted finish. Six color schemes are available (brown, blue, green, black, ivory, and pink), the black has a high-gloss finish, the rest are a shimmery, semi-gloss finish, somewhat reminiscent of a fine metal-flake, but I don't think that's quite what's going on.
Sennheiser very wisely side-stepped the gum-ball bold colorings usually found in headphones, and have carefully designed the MOE in six very tasteful color schemes. The gloss black version comes with a red cable, the remainder have black, 1.7 meter long cables with metal Apple-compatible remote and very slim and sexy 90 degree angle 3.5mm plug. The included carry case is a black, velour-like, zippered clamshell that's also terrific looking. In the styling department, I'd give the MOE an A+!
Comfort and Ergonomics
Comfort is not an area where on-ear headphones generally excel. Ear-pad compliance, pressure, and angle on the outer ear are the usual culprits. I found the Momentum On-Ear quite comfortable for a headphone of this type. While the padding on the headband is pretty spartan, the MOE is very light weight and tends not to put much pressure on the top of the head. Also, because the headband is stainless steel, it's fairly easy to carefully bend the headband around to conform to the top of your head and deliver the desired caliper pressure inwards against the ears. The Alcanara ear-pad covers and dual-layer foam of the ear-pads provide a remarkably comfortable fit against the very sensitive outer ear, as well as delivering a surprisingly good seal for low frequency response.
The only place I'd say the MOE falls a little short is that they don't have any folding mechanism. I can't fault Sennheiser in this regard, however, a lot of the beauty of these cans is in their simple and elegant design. If a folding mechanism were used the headphones would, of necessity, been somewhat more complex, likely less durable, and surely wouldn't have the clean lines seen in the finished product. Yes, they may have been a little more compact, but the small size of the MOEeven within its carry caseis convenient enough, in my opinion. (If you do want something really small, take a look at Sennheiser's PX 200-IIi, which folds up like a pair of sunglasses, and sound quite good for their size.)
Build Quality and Accessories
I've been to the Sennheiser campus in Germany and have had a look at their materials analysis labit's quite impressive, as is the build quality of Sennheiser products. While Sennheiser (and every other headphone maker) can be hit or miss at times regarding sound quality, there's simply no doubt in my mind that Sennheiser is a world-class manufacturing outfit, and every product I've seen from them has excellent build quality. Why do I mention this? Because with the Momentum On-Ear I think Sennheiser has taken their already stellar build quality and stepped it up a notch. The materials and finishes and construction of the MOE is superb; in my view, the only headphone of its type that surpasses in this department is the B&W P5. The big surprise is that the MOE somehow looks better to me than the Momentum...must be the proportions, or maybe the little chromed ring on the ear-capsule next to the pads.
The MOE comes nicely accessorized with firm-sided carry case; fabric storage bag; and a second 1.7 meter cable without remote and a straight 3.5mm plug. Unlike its big brother, the Momentum, the carry case for the MOE is a lovely black velour, zippered clam-shell that is strikingly handsome.
Turn the page and we'll have a listen...