Ameya DalviJan 20, 2023 19:49:15 IST
– Excellent sound quality
– Outstanding battery backup
– Compliant with aptX and aptX Adaptive codecs
– Elegant design, comfortable to wear
– Good call quality
– Smart controls, wear detection
– Average ANC for the segment
– Temperamental companion app
– No ingress protection
Price: Rs 34,990
The Sony WH-1000XM4 has pretty much been unchallenged in the near Rs 30,000 segment of wireless headphones in India over the past couple of years. Be it sound quality or industry-leading active noise cancellation (ANC), it has been an excellent product. Sony recently launched its successor, WH-1000XM5, and upped the game further in almost every department. Long-time rival, Sennheiser didn’t want to sit idle and let Sony run away with the game. Enter Momentum 4 Wireless, and we have a great contest on our hands. Read on to know the results.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless – Build, design and comfort: 8.5/10
The Momentum 4 design is simple yet elegant. It is available in Black and White; we got the latter for review and it looks appealing. It is largely made of plastic with the headband covered in a textured brown fabric with a metallic Sennheiser logo. The inside of the headband as well as the earcups have a faux leather finish with excellent padding, probably made of memory foam. The left and right annotation is present inside the earcups, which is smart.
The headphone is made of high-quality materials overall and the build quality is quite solid. Despite that, it doesn’t feel heavy and weighs pretty much in the same ballpark as the Sony WH-1000XM5. The weight distribution is excellent and you don’t feel any burden when you wear it. The headband is well-padded and offers smooth height adjustments. The ear-cup cushioning is just perfect.
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless has a pair of 42 mm drivers, and the earcups are just large enough to go over the ears. The soft cushions exert minimal pressure to stay in place without causing any discomfort, and yet don’t feel wobbly. The overall comfort is marginally better than Sony’s, which itself was quite good. There was no ear fatigue even after hours of continuous listening. But it’s always a good practice to give your ears a break every hour or two. The earcups provide a good seal and cut out certain ambient noise even without ANC being turned on.
The back of the right ear cup accepts touch gestures. It also hosts a USB-C port for charging, along with five tiny LEDs, a power button that doubles up as a Bluetooth pairing button and a headphone jack. The necessary aux cable is bundled along to use this as a wired headphone in case it runs out of battery. A flight adapter, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and the instructions manual are also present in the fairly stylish carry case that matches the fabric on top of the headband.
Just like the Sony XM5, the earcups can be turned and flattened but not folded. As a result, they may take up more space in the bag. But I wouldn’t fret over it much as you can nicely tuck it away in the bundled case and store it vertically in your bag. You get wear detection sensors on the headphone to automatically pause the audio when you take the headphone off and resume when you put it on again.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless – Key features: 8.5/10
This Bluetooth 5.2 headphone supports SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX Adaptive codecs, which is good. You also get multi-point support to pair this product with two devices simultaneously. The wireless range is good with the headphones retaining a strong connection easily at 10 metres with a clear line of sight and doesn’t do too badly even with a concrete wall in between. You get four microphones in all for calling and ANC. You do not get any IP-rated ingress protection, so we wouldn’t suggest wearing them during a workout and certainly not in the rain.
You need to install the Smart Control companion app to access certain settings of this product and also to tweak the sound profile. You get a 3-band equaliser for that which is a few bands short of what you get with most brands, but I wouldn’t complain. The reason is, this headphone is tuned so well out of the box that you may not need to use the equaliser at all, though it’s good to have that option. To get access to certain advanced features in the app, you need to register, but most of the key settings can be accessed without registering.
The app is a bit temperamental though. It kept crashing on a couple of phones running Android 13 but worked fine on an older Android phone. One thing you cannot change in the app is the default controls, but they are spot on and need no alteration. A single tap at the back of the right ear-cup can be used to play/pause the audio, while sliding horizontally or vertically lets you jump to previous/next tracks or adjust the volume respectively. Double tap lets you answer or end a call or simply switch between ANC and Transparency modes.
There’s something even cooler. You can adjust the level of noise that needs to be blocked or let through on the fly by using the pinch gesture. Using a gesture similar to the one you use to zoom in and out of photos on your phone screen, you can decide how much you need to cut off from the ambient noise or stay connected. Or simply let the Momentum 4 Wireless decide it for you using Adaptive Noise Cancellation. It automatically adjusts the level of ANC depending on the decibel levels around you. You also have location-based sound presets and noise cancellation options if you register and choose to provide your location data to the app.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless – Performance: (8.5/10)
When it comes to ANC, Sony is hard to beat in this segment. And just like the rest of the competition, this Sennheiser headphone doesn’t come close. Mind you, the ANC on the Momentum 4 Wireless is not bad at all, but Sony is sitting on a peak too high at the moment. This headphone does a decent job of cutting out low-frequency sounds like the hum of an AC or certain traffic noises when outdoors. But it isn’t as effective when it comes to mid to high-frequency sounds.
The aforementioned Adaptive Noise Cancellation does a decent job, but I preferred going all in with the ANC or none at all. When you need to be aware of your surroundings, simply switch to Transparency mode with a double tap to let ambient sounds through. The ambient sounds feel natural but could have done with a bit of amplification, especially for voices. But more often than not, you don’t need to take your headphones off to have a quick chat when Transparency mode is enabled.
As for the audio quality, it is right up there with the XM5, and in fact marginally better if you prefer your sound closer to neutral. The sound signature isn’t perfectly neutral as one can sense a hint of boost for the low frequencies to add just a little bit of extra warmth to the sound. The boost isn’t as much as you get on its Sony counterpart, which itself wasn’t excessive. The output is thoroughly enjoyable across various genres of music with a great balance between the three major frequency ranges. However, you get best results only when you push the volume beyond 70%.
The bass is tight and punchy and does not overshadow the mids. The mids are reproduced exceedingly well with good vocal clarity and instrument separation. The highs are sharp and do not exhibit any sibilance. The imaging is spot on and the detail in sound is excellent. The soundstage is amply broad for closed-back headphones, adding to the overall goodness of the output. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless is great for music, and watching movies or web series is as enjoyable with very good dialogue clarity. There was no delay between audio and video either.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless – Call quality: (8/10)
The call quality on this headphone is pretty good though not the best I have come across. Your voice is transmitted with sufficient clarity to the person on the line. There were absolutely no complaints when indoors. When outdoors, it doesn’t filter out all the ambient noise but largely keeps it in check without impacting the conversation much. The overall performance in this department is more than decent.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless – Battery life: (9.5/10)
This is another area where the Momentum 4 Wireless absolutely shines, and how! Sennheiser promises an insane battery backup of 60 hours, and that too with ANC on. During my test run, I managed to get something upwards of 50 hours at 75% loudness with aptX codec and ANC on 90% of the time. At about three to four hours of daily listening and very little calling, this headphone easily went on for a fortnight before I had to look for a charger. I didn’t bother checking how long the battery lasted without ANC.
This is twice the battery life that Sony WH-1000XM5 offers on a full charge. But to be fair, Sony does include more potent ANC circuitry that obviously consumes more power and delivers better results. Despite that, over 50 hours with ANC is mighty impressive. The Momentum 4 supports fast charging too with just 5 minutes of charging provides you with close to 4 hours of playtime, which is sufficient to watch a full movie and some. It takes just 2 hours to charge fully, which is not bad given its long battery life.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless – Price and verdict
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless is priced at Rs 34,990 with two years warranty. That’s the exact official price of the Sony WH-1000XM5 in India, though it is almost always available for purchase under 30K. Interestingly, the Momentum 4 Wireless is cheaper than the two in several markets abroad, but not here. That being said, 35K is a fair price for what it offers, especially its balanced sound output and crazy good battery backup. So should you buy the Momentum 4 Wireless or the XM5?
Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no clear winner between the two as both sound great. If you prefer a more balanced sound, you will like the Sennheiser more, and if you like a bit more punch in the bass, the Sony will suit you better. In terms of aesthetics, comfort and features, they are evenly matched, and the contest is one-sided when it comes to battery backup and ANC. While the Sennheiser takes the battery crown with ease, the Sony pulls one back with a much superior ANC. So choose one depending on the features that matter to you most.