Sennheiser’s flagship wireless headphones are now better and cost less
Sennheiser’s new Momentum True Wireless 3 are the company’s latest flagship headphones. With more refined styling, improved active noise cancellation, new features and top-notch sound quality, Sennheiser has delivered a worthy competitor to the Apple AirPods Pro, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 and Bose’s QuietComfort headphones.
Perhaps the most welcome thing about Sennheiser’s latest buds is that they’re cheaper than the previous model: the Momentum True Wireless 2s launched at $299, but the company is selling them for $249.95. It’s still a premium price, but Sennheiser is now on par with Apple’s AirPods Pro and cheaper than flagships from Sony and Bose. With the price of tech products increasing more and more every year, it’s nice to see one going in the opposite direction to change – and add new features, to boot.
Wireless charging is the biggest upgrade. It was hard to accept the lack of this feature in the Momentum True Wireless 2s. For the price, wireless charging should be table stakes. I don’t know how it took Sennheiser three tries to figure that out.
Another improvement is what comes in the box: Sennheiser gives you four sizes of ear tips – the fourth is a little extra – but with the new model the company also includes three optional fins that wrap around each earbud. and slip into your ears for added stability. The medium size comes pre-installed, but it’s easy to remove or replace with a smaller or larger wing if you need to keep the earbuds very stable and secure in place during a workout or race. Even without the stabilizing fins, the MTW3s gripped my ears comfortably and didn’t come off easily.
The headphones are smaller than their predecessors, with a boxier exterior design available in black, gray or white. My black review unit feels much more subtle in the ear compared to the MTW2s, which have a shiny silver Sennheiser logo. But they’re still bigger than something like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro, so they’re not the most understated buds out there. The charging case has also shrunk a bit thanks to Sennheiser making better use of space, and the USB-C charging port has been moved to the front. It might seem odd at first, but it’s something other companies like Jabra have also started doing, and you might find it more convenient depending on where you’re charging the MTW3s.
Sennheiser has improved the strength of its noise cancellation, although you have no direct control over the amount of ANC applied with the MTW3s. The company uses adaptive ANC to automatically increase and decrease noise cancellation based on your current environment. Other headphone makers have tried this adaptive approach as well, though most make it optional rather than the full-time default. I didn’t find myself lacking in manual adjustment when testing these headphones, but you might prefer more control. ANC isn’t on the same level as Sony or Bose, but it does the trick to help drown out nearby distractions. And you still have the option to activate Transparency Mode by pressing the left earbud, although Sennheiser’s implementation still doesn’t match the same natural sound that Sony, Bose and Apple have all achieved.
When announcing its latest headphones, Sennheiser made no mention of any major changes to their sound. They still use 7mm drivers which are similar to what was inside the MTW2s, and I would put the overall audio quality in the same ballpark as those and Sennheiser’s CX Plus – although they are slightly better and can rise louder. It’s a good place to be, because those always sound wonderful. Sennheiser supports AAC, SBC, AptX and AptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs, the latter helping to eliminate any noticeable audio delay when watching videos or playing mobile games on Android. It would have been nice to see Sony’s LDAC added to the equation, but that’s the kind of omission I can live with, given the lower price. And AptX Adaptive also supports higher resolution audio than what AAC and SBC allow.
Throw on an old favorite like Buena Vista Social Club, the Sennheisers deliver a very spacious, clean and detailed sound, with the piano, classical guitars and vocals layered nicely without a hint of confusion. The same was true when I switched between The National, Molly Tuttle, or Bon Iver’s “Second Nature” track from Don’t look up. These headphones bring out the little touches of a song with very pleasing clarity. Sennheiser’s Smart Control app for iPhone and Android lets you adjust the EQ with bass boost and podcast modes separate from any changes to the bass, mid and treble sliders. (The podcast option improves speech clarity.) The standard consumer-friendly tuning curve is present here, but I’d say the Sennheisers are more balanced than the Sony 1000XM4s. Not everyone will prefer this: I ended up activating the bass boost more often than not, whereas the Sonys sound powerful and punchy out of the box.
The mobile app also recently added the ability to set up “sound zones” and automatically change the noise canceling level and EQ customizations based on where you are, whether home, office, gym, or other places you frequent. It worked as expected in my testing, but it requires you to grant location tracking privileges from the Sennheiser app on your phone. Additionally, using Sound Zones (or the Sound Check feature that customizes your EQ) requires setting up a Sennheiser account. I’m not a fan of making people sign up for an account just to use the features of the headphones.
Some owners of Sennheiser’s previous Momentum True Wireless models have reported an audible and persistent white noise effect when listening to the buds. Even in a completely silent room, I didn’t notice any annoyance with the third-gen pair. Battery life remains unchanged at seven hours of continuous listening, and the headphones (including case) are IPX4 water resistant, making them suitable for routine exercise.
Voice call performance seems to be ahead of the MTW2s, and I haven’t received any major complaints about call quality or difficulty in understanding. However, these still fall short of recent standouts like Sony’s LinkBuds. Either earbud can be used on its own while the other charges in the case, and these also have an auto-pause whenever you remove one or both earbuds.
The MTW3s weren’t completely immune to minor bugs during my review: I noticed the occasional (albeit rare) signal dropout, and the status/prompt voice sometimes said quickly to the times “disconnected” and then “connected” shortly after I deleted them. out of the case and put them in my ears. At launch, the new Sennheiser flagship headphones don’t support multipoint Bluetooth, so you can only connect to one device at a time. The company said it plans to add multipoint in a future firmware update, but as the old saying goes, you should only buy a product based on what it can do now and not for what might come later.
If the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3s did have multipoint, I would consider them a home run and recommend an upgrade for fans of the company’s older buds. But even as they are, Sennheiser has done a good job of increasing their value while lowering the sticker price. Noise cancellation is better, you now get wireless charging, and the sound is still splendid. Even though battery life is the same and call quality is merely good, the overall package is more compelling than Sennheiser’s past premium efforts. They don’t enough dislodging the Sony 1000XM4s as my favorite headphones; I’ll take Sony’s better noise canceling, foam tips and warmer sound profile buds. But maybe that’s just what I’m used to now. Sennheiser is up there with the best audio quality – and for $50 less than last time.
Photograph by Chris Welch/The Verge
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