Sennheiser has two headphone launches at IFA 2019, while its stand in the audio hall also has the AMBEO soundbar giving demos in a solidly sound-isolated booth. The remarkable AMBEO soundbar has already won an EISA award, and you can read our full review and interview with one of its key creators in the new issue of Sound+Image on sale September 9
New, then, is an updated mkII version of the PXC 550, now the PXC 550-II Wireless, offering noise-cancellation, 30 hours of battery life, support for AAC, aptX and aptX Low Latency Bluetooh codecs, smart pause on removing them, touch control and access to your phone’s voice assistant, and a triple microphone array for speech clarity when giving voice commands or making calls.
Hands-on with the new Momentum Wireless
But the big one is the third generation of the Momentum series, with the new Momentum Wireless noise-cancelling headphones bringing some genuinely interesting ideas, in addition to maintaining the premium build of its predecessors with genuine sheepskin leather earpads, lightweight pearl-blasted stainless steel sliders and folding headband design.
There’s no mistaking them — I dare say their style gurus will point to a new curve here and the entirely rethought button layout there, but let’s say that when you see them on the bus, you’ll still know they are Sennheiser Momentum headphones.
This launch wasn't a complete surprise to us at IFA in Berlin, as we’ve had a review pair in Australia for a week or so, so we can already attest to an effortless clarity of sound above those of the originals, assisted by the larger 42mm diaphragm, and a full raft of Bluetooth codecs including aptX and AAC, as well as aptX Low Latency. There's also NFC onboard for easy pairing with phones that support it. As with their predecessors they are marvellously comfy, and Sennheiser quotes 17 hours of battery life (with or without NC isn't stated, so we'd assume that's with Bluetooth and NC engaged).
They had baffled us on first contact by not having an ‘on’ button, so that despite the excellent idea of arriving with a sticker on their side identifying the button layouts (pic right), we had to consult the quick start guide to discover their smart Auto On/Off method which powers them up or down when you unfold or fold them into their foetal storage position. Drop them to your neck and their proximity sensors will ‘Smart Pause’, resuming playback when put back on.
Once we’d worked this out, we found them astonishingly quick at powering up, pairing to our device and kicking off the tunes wherever we'd left off. You can stop the autoplay with an option in the app if you prefer.
Smart Control app
Indeed you can do a good deal in the app, including an unusual ‘tilt’ style of EQ under a one-point visual adjustment, nicely visual, although you can’t add, say, bass without also curbing treble, and vice versa. So this is intuitive though somewhat inflexible, our guide at the Sennheiser stand in Berlin implying this was something designed to make things easy for the general user without getting into multi-point EQ correction. (This is somewhat irrelevant anyway, as we’d recommend the excellent native balance.)
You can also adjust the level of noise-cancelling, including an ‘Anti Pressure’ setting, the first time we recall any manufacturer acknowledging what we call the eyeball-sucking effect of high-level noise-cancelling. You can also select Transparent Hearing to pass external sounds through on top of your music, handy for, say, listening for airport announcements. A dedicated button gives one-touch access to your phone’s default voice assistant (Siri or Google Assistant), while Amazon Alexa will be enabled “soon” with a firmware update.
Another slap-us-in-the-face-that’s-neat innovation is Tile. You may have seen these small square keyrings which can be found within Bluetooth range by using the Tile app — we used to attach one to our dog who had a wayward habit of disappearing into bushes to eat dead things, and he seemed genuinely confused that we could suddenly find him so easily. Well the new Momentum Wireless has Tile inside, so should you forget where you put them, or your teenage child steals them, you can track them down with the Tile app. Our only query would be how long this lasts, as conventional Tiles are only guaranteed for a year, after which you’re bombarded with emails encouraging you to buy new ones. But that's an internal power issue for the little Tile keyfobs, which of course isn't an issue inside rechargeable headphones. We’ll ask Sennheiser about this and report back in our upcoming review in Sound+Image.
A final bonus — the original Momentum Wireless launched at $799; the current version is sitting at $649.95, yet the new generation 3 is launching at an Australian price of $599.95. There’s progress for you.
The New Momentum Wireless, or 'Momentum 3' as the app calls them, are available now in black, with a sandy/white variant to be available from November. More info: https://en-au.sennheiser.com/momentumwireless