Tech daydreams are the closest factor now we have to a self-fulfilling prophecy. First, we think about how we’d like know-how to enhance and evolve, after which, with loads of time and exhausting work, we make that change actual. That’s what I used to be desirous about not too long ago after I took a name simply by tapping an earbud in my ear, no wires dangling wherever, and I used to be reminded of my teenage craving for a pair of wi-fi earphones. Twenty years in the past, that was only a fantasy; immediately, the earphones in query are simply the most recent in a quickly rising succession of true wi-fi fashions.
Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wi-fi are, in a single respect, a dream piece of know-how. They sound completely terrific, eclipsing the sound high quality of every little thing else that’s come earlier than them within the class. However humanity continues to be removed from perfecting the true wi-fi earphone, in order that they have a number of nightmarish options as effectively, together with a frightening $299.99 value. Such is the price of technological progress, although I do assume these new earphones transfer us nearer to the aim of crafting our fantasy unentangled earphones.
The Momentum True Wi-fi — the title is such a mouthful that I’m going to only name them the Momentums or MTWs — are available a chunky, inflexible, fabric-covered case that opens and closes with a pleasant snap. This case conveys a premium, high-end really feel that may be very a lot carried over within the earphones’ design. Each the case and the MTW buds are constructed to a excessive commonplace with sturdy, strong supplies. Sennheiser is aware of its wi-fi buds are among the many most costly of their class, so it hasn’t lower corners in crafting them.
USB-C charging, my favourite factor to complain about with earlier wi-fi headphone fashions, is current on the MTWs. That is necessary in rendering these earphones that additional bit extra wi-fi. What do I imply by that? Effectively, the AirPods are wi-fi in use, however they all the time require that I hold a Lightning cable round for after I must cost them. With the Momentums, the charger I exploit for my laptop computer and telephone can be my headphones charger. This cable synergy is neat, helpful, and subtly transformative to my nervousness ranges after I must sprint off to a gathering in a rush.
The primary time I encountered the Momentums at IFA this 12 months, I attempted to intuit my approach round them and failed spectacularly. These buds don’t have any buttons or switches, and of their designers’ pursuit of a clean and flowing kind, additionally they don’t have any labels or hints directing the consumer’s hand. Despite my expertise with each sort and model of wi-fi headphones so far, I’ve to confess I couldn’t even work out methods to pair my telephone to them. The flat metallic (however not metallic) portion on the outside of every bud is a touchpad, so I began experimentally tapping, swiping, and holding these pads, however the buds gave me no useful audio suggestions.
A form Sennheiser rep defined to me that holding each touchpads for 5 seconds turns the pairing mode on, and the primary time you open up a recent pair of MTWs, they’ll be in pairing mode by default. That was all effectively and good, however what else do these touchpads do?
To play and pause music, you faucet the left pad as soon as. To entry your system’s default voice assistant — Google Assistant on Android, Siri on iOS, or Cortana on Home windows — you faucet the suitable bud. There are not any swipe gestures, so advancing a monitor is 2 faucets on the left bud, going again is three faucets. Altering the quantity is achieved by holding the left pad to show it down or holding the suitable to show it up. And if somebody calls you, it’s a faucet of the suitable bud to reply. I hope you discover that as befuddling as I initially did. Nobody else makes use of this arcane management scheme.
In Sennheiser’s protection, the corporate has launched an app that walks customers via its weird controls for the Momentums, and as soon as I realized the way it labored, I tailored to it. However even while you’re totally knowledgeable and on top of things, it’s only a dangerous approach to management your music. It needs to be apparent that tapping a factor that’s nestled deep inside my ear a bunch of occasions is sort of an disagreeable expertise. One faucet, effective, however three faucets in fast succession to return a monitor? No, thanks. The extended press to tweak quantity can be unwieldy: for those who simply need to go one notch in both path, it’s a must to rapidly pull your finger away, or the buds will hold going till they hit the utmost or minimal quantity. Oh, and for those who maintain the buds for 30 seconds as a substitute of 5, you’ll do a factory-reset on them. It’s just like the French language: each logical guess you make is unsuitable, and also you simply need to be informed methods to do it.
It’s a superb factor that Sennheiser has constructed such a sturdy and good-looking case for the MTWs as a result of I discovered myself stranded any time I attempted to go someplace with out it. The case offers two further full expenses for the buds, nevertheless it wasn’t battery life nervousness that troubled me. Sennheiser claims 4 hours on a single cost, which is correct according to what most opponents obtain, and my testing confirmed that. However with out an on-off swap on the buds themselves, the earphones swap off routinely, and I discover placing them within the case is the one approach to wake them again up.
Sennheiser has applied an computerized pause function that works nice after I take out one earbud, nevertheless it sabotages itself after I take out the second. My music will reliably cease any time I pull out a bud to speak to somebody, and it’ll simply as reliably resume if I pull out the opposite bud and maintain them collectively in my hand. It’s actually dumb good know-how. This function may be disabled by way of Sennheiser’s app, nevertheless it’s disappointing to see it applied so badly after which additionally set because the default habits. This was one other factor nudging me towards all the time protecting the buds within the case.
The Momentum earbuds are fairly massive and hefty for true wi-fi buds. They fill the outer ear cavity after which protrude a bit bit additional, although not as egregiously as another Bluetooth earphone fashions. At their longest level, they’re about the identical size as Apple’s AirPods, and so they’re considerably fatter. That being mentioned, I discover the Momentums snug to put on, and after I use them for prolonged intervals of time, the battery warning precedes any kind of carrying fatigue. Others might discover the best way these earphones fill the ear to be disagreeable and off-putting. They’re about on par with custom-molded in-ear headphones, albeit with much less penetration into the interior ear.
One main good thing about their voluminous bodily design is that the Momentums supply nice noise isolation. The one huge weak spot that Apple’s AirPods have is a energy for the MTWs. These gained’t substitute your earplugs on a protracted flight, however they do quiet the setting round you, and I admire having that in busy workplaces, on clattering prepare commutes, and another time I need to escape my environment.
With a cushty match offering a superb seal within the ear, the true star of Sennheiser’s MTW present makes itself obvious. The sound of those earphones is definitely one of the best I’ve heard from any actually wi-fi pair. The bass isn’t exaggerated or distorted, the treble isn’t spiky, and the midrange is clean and harmonious. Aural element is ample, proper all the way down to the sound of Melvyn Bragg’s respiratory within the background on the In Our Time podcast.
I’ve listened to a variety of music with the Momentums, from On the Pushed-In and Autechre to Zoë Keating and Zomby, and so they have but to disappoint. Whereas I’ve famous their bass isn’t extreme, they do have a heat tuning that I very very like. Bass comes via with absolute authority and a weight that justifies the buds’ chunky kind. Devices and vocals have an natural and sensible timbre that’s each pleasing and attractive.
Utilizing Sennheiser’s MTWs for calls has additionally been a pleasure for me. Even after I’ve been out on the road and carrying a hoodie, the microphones decide up my speech and ship it with readability to the opposite aspect. So far as audio efficiency goes, the Momentums are troublesome to fault. Going to the AirPods after listening to the MTWs for some time, I discover Sennheiser’s earphones expose all of the deficiencies of Apple’s sound (which I nonetheless assume is superb). I normally have extra to say in regards to the sound of headphones, however right here, it’s enough to say that no true wi-fi buds have been this good earlier than.
I’d strongly suggest the MTWs to my colleague Dieter Bohn, who loves convention calls and values good mic efficiency, however I do know he additionally likes to maintain his headphones synced to a number of gadgets directly, and that’s one thing Sennheiser’s buds can’t do. To modify from my telephone to my laptop computer, I’ve to disconnect one and reconnect the opposite.
Sennheiser has a number of further points to iron out on the wi-fi entrance with the MTWs. They help Bluetooth 5, however that’s probably not a lot of a bonus within the realm of wi-fi headphones. I had an epic wrestle pairing these buds to a Home windows laptop computer and needed to do a full reset to make them talk. Retaining a secure connection to my telephone can be not a positive factor, as I discover the Momentums to be additional delicate to the best way I grip my telephone (in a trend that different wi-fi headphones have proven themselves resilient to). After which there’s the connection between the 2 buds, which I’ve observed drop off with none obvious motive every so often. These are small foibles, not pervasive sufficient to spoil every little thing, however they’re there.
It’s troublesome to supply an easy judgment of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wi-fi due to how good their good elements are and the way irritating their dangerous features are. Need the best-sounding true wi-fi earbuds? Right here they’re. However do you have to pay $300 for the privilege of being aggravated by your earphones?
Wi-fi headphones, in all varieties and sizes, are going via a interval of speedy transition and transformation. For its first entry into the true wi-fi realm, Sennheiser has upheld its fame for glorious sound, however the firm hasn’t accomplished the job with matching performance and usefulness. I fee the Momentum True Wi-fi extremely due to their sound, which is recognizably superior to every little thing else. You’ll simply need to weigh that in opposition to all of the little annoyances that include it.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. For extra info, see our ethics coverage.