A Headset for Everyone: The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Page 2


Sound Quality
On-ear, sealed headphones, as a category, are second only to ear-buds as a poor sounding headphones. Generally speaking, on-ear sealed cans tend to sound congested and uneven, so in addition to listening to the Momentum On-Ear in isolation I also spent quite a bit of time comparing these cans to other good performers in this class. Listening tests included the: B&W P5; V-Moda M80; Sennheiser HD 25 Aluminum and Amperior; Noontech Zoro HD; Logitec UE4000; and Beyerdynamic DT1350. Let's start with the MOE in isolation first.

The Momentum On-Ear has a somewhat accentuated bass and mid-treble giving it a modestly "V-shaped" frequency response. The bass is fairly strong and well extended, but can be rather over-bearing and thick sounding with some music. This is the weakest point of these cans, in my view, as it can be disturbing at times. On the other hand, good bass extension can be hard to come by with sealed on-ear headphones, and many listeners will welcome this strong bass response—especially when out and about when environmental noise might interfere with good listening.

While not well extended to the upper treble octave and missing that last bit of air, the upper frequency response of the MOE is remarkably smooth and refined. 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. However, because the mid-range on the MOE is slightly withdrawn, the mid-treble can be slightly more emphatic than it would be otherwise perceived if the mids were a bit more elevated and neutral.

After listening to the MOE and finding them less than idea, I decided to refresh my memory of a variety of on-ear, sealed headphones to see where the Momentum On-Ear stood against the other outstanding headphones in this category. The Logitec UE4000, B&W P5, Beyer DT1350, and Noontec Zoro HD all failed to be as clean and articulate in the highs as the Momentum On-Ear—the Noontec Zoro HD did quite an impressive job otherwise, and at around $100 seems like a really good headphone—so I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that I preferred the MOE over these cans.

The Amperior and HD 25 Aluminum were a closer call, both did about as well in the treble, and both had a similar slightly withdrawn mid-range as the MOE. It seemed the bass was the main differentiating point here: The Amperior didn't have the punch or extension of the MOE, and the HD 25 Aluminum seemed to be even more bloated than the MOE in the mid-bass while not having as good extension into the lowest octave. It did seem to me that the HD 25 Aluminum was a bit cleaner sounding, though. 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.

That leaves the V-Moda M80 as the real competitor to the MOE, in my opinion. Both are good looking headphones—though the M80 will be a bit more narrow in its appeal with its black stealthy look. The MOE seemed to be a bit more comfortable with its plush Alcantara era-pads and increased ability to rotate the ear-capsules. Both have nice cables and carry case, though I'd say the M80 gets the nod there.

In terms of sound quality, I found both the V-Moda M80 and Momentum On-Ear quite pleasing...but different. The M80 seemed to have a more coherent transition from upper bass to low treble. Vocal tambour was clearly better with the M80's flatter response through the mids. But the mid-treble response was somewhat courser than the MOE, getting slightly strident at time, while on the same passages the MOE was clean and articulate without any harshness. The bass extension of the MOE was better, but the somewhat thick and overbearing character of the lows notes tended to distract more often than the omissions of the M80. Choosing between the two is a tough call, both had their faults and advantages. If I had to choose, I'd probably pick the Momentum On-Ear because I suspect its sound signature would be better in the moderately noisy environments in which they would likely be used, and the modest improvements in comfort and styling. On the other hand, it appears the V-Moda M80 may be at the end of its life cycle and, at the time of this writing, are being deeply discounted. That big price difference would likely sway me in the direction of the M80.

Isolation on the Momentum On-Ear is fairly modest; if you're looking for a headphone to really shut out outside noise these are probably not the headphone for you. However, when walking around in urban environments it's a very good idea to have some ability to hear environmental noises to warn you of dangers from traffic and the like. It seems to me the MOE does a good job of balancing this need for awareness with a good acoustic seal for good bass response. In fact, I'm quite surprised at the bass extension given the modest acoustic seal from outside noise.

The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear strikes a remarkably excellent balance between sound quality, isolation, styling, comfort, and build quality for a headphone of this type...heck, in terms of a well balanced headphone, the MOE may be the most balanced build I've ever experienced. A somewhat overbearing and thick bass, and a slightly withdrawn mid-range hamper the sound quality of the MOE, but comparisons with other outstanding cans in this class clearly point out both the difficulty of making great sounding sealed, on-ear headphones. I found the Momentum On-Ear easily on-par with the best of this class.

Yep, the Momentum On-Ear is "Wall of Fame" bound as the best $200-$300 portable, on-ear headset. It handily beats most headphones in this category in sound, styling, and comfort, and equals the V-Moda M80—though each have their strengths and weaknesses. While the M80 is available cheap at the moment (go get some if you're in the market), it's also rumored to be close to end-of-life, which will leave the Momentum On-Ear to rule the roost for the time being. Strongly recommended...pick a color and go for it!

Sennheiser USA home page and Momentum On-Ear page.
Head-Fi.org threads here.

Sennheiser USA
1 Enterprise Drive
Old Lyme, CT 06371
(860) 434-9190

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.