The Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones are wireless Bluetooth headphones made using fancy materials and loaded with features that shouldn't be confused with the full-size Momentum Wireless headphones. These ones have pads that sit on your ears rather than cups that fit around them, making them a more compact - and portable - pair of cans.
Their good looks, decent sound and active noise cancellation would make them a great choice if it wasn’t for one thing: their higher-than-expected price.
When they launched, they came in at $399/£300/AU$238 - which was damning. Much cheaper headphones sound about as good, and when the active noise cancellation isn’t close to that offered by the Bose QuietComfort 35 in terms of sheer noise-zapping effectiveness, it was hard to justify that price.
Now that the price has dropped some, these are becoming a better bargain. They're still not the top-tier performers - for that you should look at the new Sony WH-1000XM2 -but they're a decent alternative if you only have about $230/£200 to spend and want something with noise-cancellation.
Design and comfort
The Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones look and feel a lot like the original Momentum On-Ears. That’s no bad thing – they have a stylish look that's less overtly 'young and aggressive' than something like the Beats Solo 3 Wireless.
A core appeal of the whole Momentum range is that its headphones use higher-grade fabrics than most. On the full-size Momentum Wireless cans you get real leather; here, Sennheiser uses Alcantara on the pads and headband.
Alcantara is a very hard-wearing synthetic alternative to suede. It feels soft, and doesn’t have the obviously fake feel of many synthetic fabrics. It looks, feels and is expensive.
The Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones also have a steel headband with a very sturdy hinge that lets you fold them up to fit in the neat included carry case. These headphones aren’t exactly flashy, though; they want to look normal. The outer of the cups is plastic, and the showiest part is perhaps the real stitching on the headband.
As with most on-ear headphones, the fit of the Sennheiser Momentum 2s won’t please everyone. The pads are fairly firm, and don’t feel all that soft when your first put them on.
However, they don’t gradually start torturing you ears like some on-ear pairs. The headband is designed to make sure the pressure is distributed evenly across the pads – it’s when this pressure isn’t distributed evenly that on-ear headphones can get very uncomfortable, causing pressure points on, normally, the top or bottom.
Compared to the old, wired version of the Momentum On-Ears, one change is that Sennheiser has bulked up the cables that join the cups to the headband. It’s a welcome tweak, as our original pair of Momentum On-Ears actually failed at this point, leaving us with one working earpiece; these should hold up better.
The Momentum 2 On-Ears come in two colors – the 'black' version actually has very dark metallic grey cups, and there’s an off-white option too.
Features and wireless
Other Momentum sets come in a wider choice of colors, but the increased cost caused by the broad array of features in the Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones pushes them into a bit of a niche. These headphones have Bluetooth wireless, NFC, aptX and Sennheiser’s NoiseGard active noise cancellation.
Both of the highlights – noise cancellation and wireless – are just okay rather than stellar, though. Using them out and about in London, the Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless don’t have the rock-solid connection of pairs like the Beats Solo 3 Wireless and Sony MDR-100ABN.
Wireless reliability isn’t poor; over the space of a couple of hours you might hear a handful of little blips. However, now that even cheap pairs like the SoundMagic E10BTs have very good wireless skills we’ve a right to expect great, rather than merely good results from a $399/£300/AU$238 set.
The NoiseGard active noise cancellation is a mixed bag too. It’s welcome because one of the weak spots of the wired Momentum On-Ears is poor noise isolation. By cutting down the incursion of ambient noise a bit this issue is solved, but compared to the latest ANC from Sony and Bose, it’s light stuff.
A chunk of lower-frequency noise is taken away, but the effect is not particularly dramatic; noise is shaved down rather than decimated. One benefit of this style is that the Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones don’t create the strange impression of in-ear pressure that other noise-cancelling sets can.
Despite its low-level effects, though, the ANC still causes a little fizzy noise that becomes fairly obvious in very quiet parts of tracks if you’re listening in a quiet-ish environment – the best ANC sets knocked out this sort of noise bed a while back. And there’s no way to switch off NoiseGard as far as we can see – when the Momentum 2 On-Ears are switched on, so is ANC.
One potential annoyance is that you have to remember to turn these headphones off after use, where a lot of Bluetooth headphones automatically go to sleep after a period of inactivity. However, the battery lasts for a respectable 'up to 22 hours', and you can check on the charge with a triple press of one of the buttons on the cup, which fires up a voice prompt telling you roughly how many hours are left in the tank. There’s a cable with a 3-button remote included for when you run out of juice.
The on-cup controls work fairly well too. There’s a power button, and a little joystick that acts as both play/pause control and track changer. Combine these controls with the clear mic grilles on the other cup and the headphones look a bit nerdy or tech-packed up close, but few would notice when they’re on your head.
Our original pair of Momentum On-Ears may have almost bitten the dust, but they still work well enough to tell us that Sennheiser hasn’t tried too hard to change the range's sound signature in this newer wireless set. These are nice-sounding headphones that most people would be happy to use daily.
The problem is whether that sound is really good enough in a $399/£300/AU$238 set of headphones, regardless of the tech that's packed in.
It’s a fun sound, with big bass matched with pronounced-but-not-sharp treble and mid-range chunkiness similar to what you hear in the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ears or Sennheiser IE 5.00s. The character is bold and full, not too serious.
The Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ears don’t have the next-level fidelity you get with the full-size Momentum headphones, though. This pair’s soundstage is less wide, and the approach to bass thrills less nuanced.
Where their big brothers have powerful sub-bass but are a little more reserved higher up the bass frequency register to avoid any sense of low-end bloat, the Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones are more bullish. Bass is enjoyable but not entirely well controlled.
In a similar vein, the upper mids and treble have a less natural, less sophisticated tonality than the bigger Momentums. They seem ‘shaped’, pushed into the contours required to balance the carefree bass. Again, it’s something you’ll hear in Sennheiser’s mid-range in-ear pairs.
There’s nothing to seriously offend in the sound from the Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones. But it’s real mid-range fodder, with almost none of the high-end traits you might expect to hear in headphones at this price. Separation of instruments is poor for the price, and the width of the stereo image nothing like that of the bigger Momentums.
To put this into context beyond Sennheiser’s range, the Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones don't sound dramatically better than the excellent $99 Urbanista Seattles or $150 AKG Y50BTs. When we listened to this sound signature as part of a nice-looking $100 or $150 pair of headphones, it made sense. But in a $400 set? That’s a bit harder to accept.
The Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones suffer from Sennheiser’s customary overpricing of Bluetooth headphones. They cost more than the Bose QC35s but have slightly worse wireless performance, and much worse active noise cancellation.
This leaves you with big expectations for the sound – and enjoyable as this may be, these headphones don't have any of the higher-end traits you’d hope to hear in such an expensive set.
We'd be happy to use the Sennheiser Momentum 2 On-Ear Wireless headphones every day – we just wouldn’t be willing to pay for them.