A Headset for Everyone: The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Measurements


Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Raw frequency response plots show a broad and relatively modest change in FR tilt to about 1kHz as the pad seal changes during repositioning for the five measurements. I think Sennheiser must have done a lot of work with the pad materials and shape to deliver such a gentle and relatively well controlled FR result with various sealings on the ear. For a moment, have a look at the isolation plot and you'll see that he MOE doesn't isolate particularly well. I think what Sennheiser has done is build a pad with a very controlled amount of leakage, and then designed the acoustic performance around it. The advantage is that the bass response is not strongly effected by the seal performance. If you're going to build an on-ear headphone that you know will have problems sealing (as all sealed on-ear headphones do), then why not build one with a controlled leak so it becomes insensitive to the seal? We'll be coming back to this idea quite a few times with the MOE measurements.

The MOE has an overall warm tilt that looks about right to me, but it also has three distinct humps. The broad bass hump to 300Hz is centered around the primary driver resonance, which can be seen in the impedance response topping out at around 40Hz. Let's dwell on the bass here for a moment and look at the THD+noise plots. The MOE suffers from some significant bass distortion, but it's also self-limiting to about 3% at 90dBspl and 5% at 100dBspl. You'll also notice the very nice waveform shape of the 30Hz square wave. This tells me that although the bass is somewhat distorted, it's not going out of phase, which usually makes headphones sound loose in the bass. The bass I heard in listening was a bit thick, but it never lacked punch.

Take all four of these measurements together (FR, Impedance, THD, and 30Hz square wave) and what I see is Sennheiser engineers taking a complex and difficult problem, and making some subtle and elegant compromises. Sure, I'd like to see a tad less bass response and a bit lower distortion, but I think they've made some very wise and balanced choices for consuming public.

Back to the compensated frequency response: After the clear dip at 400Hz relative to the overall warm tilt, the frequency response gently rises to 2Khz. Many cans fall off at 1kHz, and the upper harmonics of the voice tend to be lost a bit. Being flat to 2kHz gives the MOE a nice presence and snap. The dip around 4kHz is common and not much is known about where flat is in the area, but I heard the MOE as clean and refined in the low treble. The 10kHz peak is also common, and I've lately begun to feel that if the 10kHz peak does not exceed the line drawn through the average response on the lower frequencies, then the 10kHz peak will not be heard as excessive, which is the case with the MOE. FR above 10kHz doesn't suffer from much noise, which is pretty cool—you don't see that very often—but seems about 5dB too low overall. The MOE did lack some air in the high treble during listening.

As I mentioned the 30Hz square wave has excellent shape, and the leading edge spike does not exceed the high point of the following wave shape—another indicator to me that these will not sound strident or harsh, which was the case during listening.

300Hz square wave shows a modest initial spike, and then a return to the baseline without too much overshoot or subsequent ringing. Similarly, the impulse response shows a nice clean impulse with some subsequent moderate high frequency ringing, but again, this is a fairly clean impulse response shape for this type of headphone.

I recommend those with an interest in measurements have a look at the V-Moda M80 in comparison to the MOE and relative to my comments above. The bass seal is not as repeatable, and frequency response in the bass varies more. The impedance response is rougher, which usually indicates poorer acoustic control around the driver. The 300Hz square wave is bowed downward more strongly, and bass distortion starts at a higher frequency and climbs slightly higher. Initial transient of the 300Hz square wave and impulse response are good, but are followed by more substantial ringing at a lower frequency. Bottom line: the Momentum On-Ear has more finesse across the board, and you can hear it as a clearer, more refined headphone. The mid-range recession is smaller though, making the M80 a bit truer to the critical mid-range balance.

Back to the MOE, isolation is quite poor on these cans. While that can be problematic in loud environments, it does aid in urban situational awareness.

With 50mVolts and 0.11mW needed to achieve 90dBspl, these cans will be somewhat lower in volume than many of this type when being driven by a smartphone or portable media payer, but will still reach satisfying listening levels.

These are very good measurements for this type of headphone!

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Bill B's picture

I agree, and have been happy with mine.  My best comparison (that I own) is with the similarly priced Phiaton MS-400.  That also has a slightly elevated bass, which I actually like in both headphones.  The MOE's bass seems slightly more boosted, but with better impact.  The Phiatons are definitely more comfortable for me, due to the size & softness of their leather(ette) earpads, tho the MOE's are still pretty comfortable.  The MOE's beat the Phiatons in the reproduction of voices.  The Phiatons seem slightly lacking in the higher treble compared to the MOE's, which have a litte more air.  I'm happy with both, and glad to have them - they're both very pretty, too.  Tyll, thanks for this review, it's more comprehensive and useful than others I've seen, and good integration between listening and relating measurements to the listening experience.

georgelai's picture

Hi Tyll,

A great review. Ignoring price differences, even though that might be impractical, could you say a few words comparing it sound-wise to its big brother, the Momentum itself? I know you reviewed that sometime ago but hopefully your memory is still fresh. Thanks. 

XVII's picture

Hello Tyll!

At first of all thanks for review.

While reading this part:

In some of the threads I read about people's impressions of the Momentum On-Ear, some listeners claimed the treble was "splashy" sounding. I didn't hear this at all.

I decided to ask you... How do you think this tiny headphones (HD 25, MOE, M80 and so on) gain from "Burn-In"?

Jazz Casual's picture

Sennheiser are really nailing it in the style department. There are so many cool looking options in portable headphones now. When I started out in this this hobby, all I could get was a pair of unremarkable Bose on-ears. They sounded bassy and congested but they were very comfortable - must have been the memory foam. When I moved up to the (then) exotic Audio-Technica ESW9's, I was disappointed to find that they weren't as comfortable. 

Beagle's picture

....as Tyll, but the bass eventually got to me and I let them go. Too bad because they had a nice on-ear fit and lovely styling.  I much preferred the B & W P7, although it costs a lot more than the MOE. Similarly priced, I like the Paradigm on-ear and the Beyer T51p.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

The P7 is a full size headphone. And the extra bux sure buys you into a beautiful pair of headphones. I'm considering them for review right now. 

chadzees's picture

I know they're a different type of headphone, but as they share the same name and driver. How does the Momentum Over the Ear compare to its little brother?

melvin's picture

I like very much that you compared them with other good on-ear cans as it gives us  more info in terms of what to expect with them and whatnot.

I have the DT1350 and also the MOE. I'm just curious, aside from resolution in treble, what do you think are the other differences between the two? I was one of those who find the MOE's treble splashy but I feel that DT1350 is superior in terms of bass (and tightness) and midrange. Although DT1350 is more forward-sounding and tends to be too closed-sounding too.

Someone above also mentioned ESW9 w/c I find to be a warm-sounding headphone. Is the headphone not good enough to merit a review?

woody's picture

Hi Tyll,

I'm a bit confused over this review, and the review you did for the amperior. You said in your amperior review: "While the HD 25-1 II is a good sounding headphone, I would characterize its performance as "very good mid-fi," while my experience with the Amperior reached what I would consider "entry-level audiophile" performance. The Amperiors are the best sounding supra-aural sealed cans I've heard to date, handily besting the DT1350, V-Moda M-80, and, of course, the HD 25-1 II. I love these headphones."


Now, you are saying the MOE is better than Amperior, yet, at the same time, you lump M80 with the MOE in terms of direct comparison. So is Amperior still entry level audiophile? If that is the case, what does it make for MOE, or M80 for that matter, which you said the Amperior handily beat? By your logic, Amperior would handily beat MOE also, but that is not the case in this review. Does newer released headphones just get the love that way? I am hoping for some elaboration from you. Thanks.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

In my review here I say, "I could delve into these comparisons a bit more, but the Amperior and HD 25 Aluminum are DJ headphones and really not as well suited for a general purpose, every day headphone, so I think they lose out quickly to the Momentum On-Ear for its intended purpose." So I didn't go into too much detail about the sonic qualities--I did find the MOE marginally preferable however, but please remember that I write about these cans knowing that the broad consuming public is reading, and their interpretation will be a bit different than an audiophile's..

I compare the MOE and M80 mainly because they're the same type of headphone (on-ear portable headset), and in that comparison, the M80 sounded better through the mid-range, wasn't as refined in the treble, but had bass the was more neutral. If I compare the M80 to the Amperior, they're more tonally similar, but the Amperior is much more refined--in other words, in direct comparison, the Amperior does sound clearly better than the M80 to m ears. Both lack sub-bass however. When I compare the MOE to the Amperior, I hear both as having a refined treble, the MOE as having a strong--maybe too strong--bass, both having a slightly withdrawn mid-range, and the Amperior as having too little bass. Given that option, the MOE is likely preferable for most, and among the consuming public, the MOE would likely be strongly favored for the warm bass.

Um...I'm not sure that I've answered your question well...not sure I can. It's a subjective thing and what I hear in comparisons can be different depending on which headphones are being used when. Didn't have the MOE or HD 25 Aluminum when I did the Amperior review...throw them in the mix and things change a bit, I suppose. I'll also admit that there's likely some bias towards new things...it's human nature, you know. 

Additionally, I do think my tastes are slowly changing towards a fuller bass over time, which means the Amperior would likely not get quite as enthusiastic a review from me now as it did then.

woody's picture

Hi Tyll,


Thanks for taking the time to reply to my questions. It is a bit clearer. I think both Amperior and MOE are good headphones; I have not heard the MOE yet. But this does show one thing, that any audio review is still rather subjective. I still remembered your review on Momentum over the ear, that you thought they were good, but not as audiophile tuned. Some of the reviews that I saw over the net, are proclaiming Momentum over the ear as clearly better than MOE. And we have guys at Headfonia quite enthusiastic over Fidelio L2, whereas your preview of things to come, may say that slightly otherwise.


One other thing though; I do have to disagree with you that the Amperior is geared more towards DJ style. I think Sennheiser made an effort to really make the Amperior more mainstream. From its 18 ohm driver design to make it easier to drive through portable devices (same as MOE ohm rating), down to the included inline iDevice remote cables, they were really trying to make it mainstream, but perhaps it did not sell as well as they thought it would be, hence they are being discontinued. With HD25 aluminum, they went back to their "DJ" roots it appeared, going with 70 ohm drivers, and do away with inline remote cable. So I think they did try, but did not work as they expected. Hence the birth of MOE I believe.

Rtrt's picture

Have a pair of the overear phones and enjoy the sound.

Unfortunately they're to small for my ears.  As the pads for these on ear models are replaceable does anyone know if it's possible to fit them to the overear versions that I have?














Onix's picture

Tyll, how would you rate the MOE vs the Onkyo ES-FC30. I am considering both cans, but while the MOE seems to be very good the Onkyo appears to be very nice also. Which one is the winner for you?

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

Hmm better than the P5's or DT 1350's? I thought that the DT 1350's and Amperiors were pretty close but here you seem to say P5 and DT1350<Amperior and HD 25 Alu<MOE?

Condocondor's picture

I just bought a pair of Thinksound ON2 headphones which about the same price as the the Momentum. I got them for a street price of $90 on Massdrop.com and I have to say that they are remarkable. They are CRYSTAL clear.