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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review: great noise-cancelling earbuds | Headphones

The latest wireless earbuds from Sennheiser are smaller, longer lasting and have better sound and noise cancelling than their predecessors, making them some of the best on the market.

Priced at £219.99 ($249.95/A$399.5), the third-generation Momentum true wireless earbuds look set to dethrone Sony’s WF-1000XM4 as the best-sounding earbuds you can buy.

Succeeding the excellent 2020 model and adopting a similar design to the firm’s cheaper CX series of earbuds, they are 16% smaller and so fit better in my ears, making them more comfortable to wear for longer periods. And their squarer, smoother form is far less distinctive than their predecessor’s Rolo-like form.

A side profile shot of an earbud showing the rubber stabiliser wing
The earbuds have a set of rubber stabiliser wings that come in various sizes in the box, which help them stay in place for exercise. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

They feel light, really well made, and have IPX4 sweat resistance, which means they should be fine in the rain or workouts. Just don’t submerge them in liquid.

The Sennheiser logo on the earbuds is a touchpad for a full set of customisable controls including volume and noise-cancelling modes, which work very well. Few competitors have as many options here.

The earbuds shown clipped into their case with the lid open on a table
The earbuds clip magnetically into a fabric-covered charging case, which will fit in a pocket, but is chunky compared to the best competitors. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The battery lasts for about 6.5 hours of music with noise cancelling turned on, which is a hour or so short of Sony’s best but still very good. The case can fully charge the earbuds three times, and is topped up via USB-C or Qi wireless charging. It takes 90 minutes to fully charge the earbuds, but a 10-minute charge in the case is enough to add one hour of playback.

Specifications

  • Water resistance: IPX4 (splash)

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, SBC, AAC, aptX adaptive

  • Battery life: 7 hours, up to 28 hours with case

  • Earbud weight: 6g each

  • Driver size: 7mm

  • Charging case weight: 66g

  • Case charging: USB-C, Qi wireless charging

Great sound and noise cancelling

The earbud shown stood up on a table with its tip in the air
A sensor on the outside of the earbud detects when it is removed from your ear and pauses the music. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The best bit about the earbuds is how good they sound, producing rich, detailed audio with excellent separation of instruments.

They are reasonably bassy, but low notes are punchy and well controlled. There is a bass boost function too, but I don’t think many will need it. Mid tones and high notes are detailed and well balanced, vocals are clear, and most music genres sound great. They lack a bit of energy in some electronica tracks but do a better job with jazz and classical than most competitors.

There is a full equaliser and an option to create a custom setting through a short listening test. Sennheiser has promised to add a full sound personalisation setting that will go beyond simple equaliser adjustments in a future update.

The earbuds have very effective active noise cancelling , which is capable of reducing most rumbles, fan noise and road noise by adjusting the level of noise suppression automatically to the environment. Its wind noise reduction setting is the best I have tried and the ambient awareness mode is good too. But they struggle a bit with speech and higher tones, such as the taps of fingers on a keyboard, and can’t quite match the performance of Sony’s class-leading WF-1000XM4.

Connectivity and settings

The Sennheiser Connect app open on an iPhone showing settings for noise cancelling modes
The Sennheiser Connect app on Android and iOS adjusts settings, the equaliser and noise cancelling modes, and can automatically change things based on your location, such as turning on noise cancelling when you leave the home. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The earbuds support standard Bluetooth 5.2 with the universal SBC and AAC audio formats. But they also support the very latest aptX Adaptive audio format, which when used with a compatible device offers better audio quality and lower latency, which is particularly good for gaming. Only a handful of newer Android smartphones support aptX Adaptive at the moment, however.

The earbuds can be used independently of each other, which is handy for calls. My voice sounded a bit robotic on the phone but was clear even when speaking in loud environments, effectively suppressing background noise.

The Bluetooth connection to a range of phones, tablets and computers was rock solid, but they only connect to one device at a time at the moment. An update to support connection to two devices simultaneously (multi-point), such as a laptop and a phone, is promised at a later date.

Sustainability

Sennheiser estimates the batteries in the earbuds and case will maintain at least 80% of their original capacity after four years of daily use, listening for two hours a day, but the batteries are not replaceable, ultimately making them disposable.

Spare parts including tips, earbuds and cases are available. The earbuds do not contain any recycled material and Sennheiser does not publish impact assessments or operate trade-in schemes in the UK.

Price

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 come in a choice of three colours costing £219.99 ($249.95/A$399.5).

For comparison, the Sony WF-1000XM4 cost £229, Beats Fit Pro cost £199, Apple AirPods Pro cost £249, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro cost £219, Jabra Elite 7 Pro cost £199, the Bose QC Earbuds cost £249.95 and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 cost £99.

Verdict

The third-generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless earbuds are an upgrade in almost all areas.

They are some of the best-sounding Bluetooth earbuds you can get, have good noise cancelling, great controls, good battery life and support for the latest aptX Adaptive audio format. Despite still being at the premium end of the market costing £220, they are more competitive thanks to a price cut over their predecessors, too.

The case is a little bigger than some, their design a little less interesting than before and they are waiting on an update for multi-point connection, but the worst thing about them is you can’t replace the battery so they are ultimately disposable, losing a star.

Pros: top sound, effective noise cancelling, good ambient sound mode, long battery life, very comfortable, optional wings for keeping them in place, aptX Adaptive support, full equaliser, pocketable case, cross-platform app.

Cons: expensive, waiting on updates for multi-point and sound customisation, case bigger than some of the best, calls can sound a bit robotic.

The left earbud taken out of the open case and placed on a table
The Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds are some of the best you can buy. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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