Sennhesier Momentum On-Ear review

5 out of 5
£170

For

Wide frequency range delivers thumping bass and sparkling top-end, well balanced, loud, easy to adjust, comfortable, look awesome, multiple colour choices, will suit most musical genres

Against

Soft earcups too fond of sweat, plastic earcup exterior lacks high-end, sound not well isolated from your surroundings, not all colours will suit all tastes, non-neutral audio

The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones bring a dash of colour and are lighter both by weight and price compared to the original, leather-clad Momentum headphones from 2012. Pocket-lint has been donning the blue version of the Momentum On-Ear to get a feel for what the metal and Alcantara constructed cans can deliver.

Style

From the box down to the included soft carry case and the Momentum on-ear headphones themselves, everything about these Sennheiser headphones looks meticulous.

The Momentum have a bowed metal frame has exposed wires that disappear under the top headband behind four shiny metal screw-like structures. It's like the typically industrial Sennhesier has seen a softer side, however, as the Alcantara material used in both the headband and the earcups has a soft yet almost waxy finish that gives it a textured finish.

Alca-what? Alcantara - sometimes used in higher-end car interiors or by upholsterers - is a covering material that doesn't budge; it claims 20,000 wears without changing its appearance or feel. And it looks rather swanky. While its claimed to wipe clean it isn't water resistant which, for the hot-headed among us, means it will sponge up the excesses from around those sweaty lobes. Not ideal for hot summer London tube journeys then, as we've come to find out.

However, the Momentum's Alcantara-covered earcups are padded out which makes for a very comfortable wear. They squash up nicely against the ear and deliver sound to the canal well - not the kind of ear-meets-driver design that can prove uncomfortable in some other designs.

Then there're the colour options: blue, pink, green and ivory (the only one with a brown headband) define the exterior earcup and headband colour palette. We've opted for the blue which we think look great - it's a deep blue rather than anything garish, and while the plastic earcup exterior is the cheapest looking component of the whole design it doesn't have an undesirable sheen, so is all but unnoticed.

Adjusting for different head sizes is also a cinch: they slide with ease yet remain fixed in position once adjusted. The circular connecting part also comes complete with an "S" logo that refracts light within its surface that subtly shows up as every colour of the rainbow.

As the ears will be pushed back, slightly away from their usual position, there can be a pinched feeling after prolonged use. But then we can't think of many headphones that don't provide such a sensation.

Substance

Good looking is one thing, but good sounding is the crux of it when it comes to headphones. And the Momentums do not disappoint.

We've thrown all kinds of music at them too: from the cavernous echoes of Daughter's reverb-drenched debut, to the thumping retro-electro of Kavinsky, through to bass-tastic reggae, drum and bass and some mastered-to-the-wall rock. As varied as our audio tastes may have been, the Momentum On-Ears have been consistent throughout.

Bass is the big topic in headphones of late. Largely because the trend towards Beats - at least by number of sales - has raised manufacturers' attentions as to what consumers are buying. The Momentum On-Ears don't fall into the bass trap, as such - take that as a musical pun if you will - but they sure can deliver a good dose of the low-end stuff. From the soft-shell finish and appearance of relatively small drivers you might not think that they'd be as good as they are. But don't let the looks fool you: bubbling, rumbling bass - whether the snappier response of a kick drum or sustained bassline - is no problem. The spec sheet confirms much the same - a 16-22,000Hz means is beyond the typical range of human hearing at both ends of the scale. Sub-bass is go.

But mids and top-end are equally important to paint the full picture, particularly the way that they balance out against one another. Again, the Momentums continue to delve the quality. Top-end is never overpowering and doesn't feel excessively processed, while the mid sits nestled in the middle without too much drive. Snare drums don't rip through the range, while vocals in modern mixdowns have enough impact to carver through the audio scape.

Oh, and they're loud too: 112dB is proudly delivered to the ears. We got plenty enough volume out of them without noticeable distortion at any level. Even tracks that typically deliver a little crunch - think Foals' Prelude from Holy Fire - came out as clean as we've ever heard them.

Volume and playback adjustment can be catered for using the included on-wire control which, while fine enough, is rather plasticky and sits high up the wire. The wire is also rather slender - we're fans of chunkier ones - and the 3.5mm jack at the end does make us wonder just how sturdy it is - multiple aircraft seat incidents have rendered plenty of our previous headphones dead.

There's no noise-cancellation on-board and we did find that sound from the outside world can be heard during wear, while the sort of loud volume listening we preferred wasn't always appreciated by neighbouring commuters because they don't isolate sound particularly well. Still, as a listening experience - ignoring the wider world - we were lost in our own musical moments and didn't really care all too much.

Verdict

The Sennheiser On-Ear headphones are a delight. They look sublime - although not all the colour finishes will appeal to all - and the sound quality they can kick out is a delight too.

If we can throw any criticism at them then it's that the Alcantara earcups might take to sweat a bit too fondly, sound isn't particularly well isolated - i.e. outbound sound might not be appreciated by the close-proximity public - and the earcups' plastic exterior doesn't exude the most premium feel.

Otherwise everything else is delivered in bucket loads - enough to drown in glorious sound, but well-balanced sound at that. The Momentums have got the sort of grunt that headphones in 2013 need, even if they're not going to deliver that neutral, audiophile-desired sound. But for their £170 asking price - that's £80 less than the original Momentum headphones from 2012 - the sound quality is punchy, balanced and never overstated.

READ: Sennhesier Momentum headphones (2012) review

Trim back the leather, cut the price - but without any cut-back on sound quality - and the Momentum On-Ears truly deliver an audio experience that both looks and sounds glorious. Well worth their asking price.