Sennheiser's Momentum range of street-savvy headphones has been around for five years now. Past models in the series, such as the Momentum M2 IEi wired earphones and the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless earphones, have had stunning designs but have disappointed us on the audio quality front. The newest entry in the lineup, the Sennheiser Momentum Free, has an updated design, better dynamics, and surprisingly enough, reduced battery life. This pair of earphones retails at Rs. 14,990 and supports Bluetooth 4.2, apt-X, and AAC. With the Momentum Free, has Sennheiser finally been able to strike a balance between form and function, or is the audio quality still sub-par? Let's find out in our full review.
Like past models in the Momentum range, there is a strong emphasis on design. The red-on-black colour scheme looks sleek and snazzy. There are no other colour options for those whose design preferences tilt towards the understated.
The rather annoying horseshoe-shaped neckband of the In-Ear Momentum Wireless is gone, and has been replaced by a simple cable that wraps around the back of the neck. While the removal of the neckband has reduced weight drastically, it has necessitated the transfer of all internal components to two modules that are in line with each earpiece. Most people won't notice them, but some might be bothered by the extra weight hanging from their ears.
The modules did not really bother us in day-to-day use. However, they swing about while running or doing any intensive activity. Those looking for fitness-focused wireless earphones will be better served by the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which is not only truly wireless but also sweat-proof.
The moderately sized earpieces are light, and are angled to ensure a good fit. They are made predominantly out of plastic, with a soft-touch finish on top. Plastic might not be associated with quality, but these earphones are solidly put together and feel capable of withstanding the rigours of day-to-day life.
The module next to the right earpiece has a Micro-USB port, buttons for playback control, and a microphone. The three buttons can be easily distinguished by touch, and tracks can be skipped by long-pressing the volume buttons. The microphone is quite mediocre. We had to struggle to be heard on more than one occasion, and many callers remarked that our voice sounded muffled and distorted.
The earpieces can adhere to each other thanks to integrated magnets. We have seen this feature in many wireless earphones in the past, and it is very convenient for storage. The magnets used on the Sennheiser Momentum Free, however, are extremely weak, and the earpieces pop apart with the slightest movement. Thankfully, a high-quality leather case is included in the retail box.
The Momentum Free lacks any rating for water or sweat resistance. Those looking for sweat-proof wireless earphones should take a look at the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which are IP56 rated, and have a two year limited warranty that covers you in case of water or dust incursion.
As is a trademark with the Momentum range, the sound signature is not neutral. The bass dominates the sound mix, and serious audiophiles will definitely find it a tad overbearing. That said, the mids are more forward than they were with last year's model, and are well pronounced and very smooth. The bass is also tight and punchy and does not distort at unhealthy volume levels.
These earphones reproduce the lows in bass-heavy genres like EDM and R&B with tremendous vigour and enthusiasm, and were great for John Mayer's husky vocals in tracks like Vultures (Live). The level of clarity and detail on offer is excellent, and so is the instrument separation and image spacing. Complex and densely layered tracks such as 'Eat That Up' and 'It's Good For You' by Two Door Cinema Club are handled with aplomb, with every instrument and note clearly defined.
The highs are where things go downhill. They get quite screechy and sibilant at high volume. The shrill high-end forced us to lower the volume on many treble-heavy tracks such as 'Undercover Martyn' by 'Two Door Cinema Club' and 'Oh Love' by Greenday. The earphones support aptX and AAC, but not aptX-HD, which is a shame.
Most of our test tracks were a mix of high-resolution 16-bit/ 44KHz and 24-bit/ 96KHz FLAC files, as well as audio streamed from Google Play Music at 320kpbs. We also used the Mometum Free with a plethora of video sources, from YouTube to Netflix, and did not experience the dreaded video-audio sync issue common with some wireless earphones.
We felt little to no fatigue even after extended listening sessions, thanks to the low weight and ergonomically designed earpieces. Four sizes of high-quality silicone tips are included in the box. They do a reasonable job of isolating outside noise, but foam tips should have been included at this price point. We tried the earphones with a pair of our own Comply foam tips, and the level of isolation increased tremendously. The sound quality also improved a little, with the highs becoming less shrill and the bass hitting harder.
While the sound quality has improved compared to the Momentum In-Ear Wireless, battery life has taken quite a substantial dip - from 10 hours on a single charge to around 6 here. Sennheiser promises up to 6 hours of battery life with the Momentum Free. In reality, we achieved around 5 and a half hours with music playing at 70 percent volume. A full charge takes around 1.5 hours.
When the battery level is low, the earphones remind you of that fact every few minutes, which gets annoying very quickly. With most wireless earphones offering a battery life of 8 to 12 hours, or at least an accompanying charging case, such poor performance is a letdown.
The Momentum Free is a big step up from its predecessor in all departments except battery life, which has taken a big hit. The sound on offer is crisp and detailed, and the soundstage is wide and expansive. The highs can get a bit shrill at times, but the mids are expressive and the bass is tight and controlled. The fact that these earphones are feather-light only adds to their appeal.
The fact remains that this is an extremely expensive pair of earphones, and at this price, issues like the weak magnets, sub-standard microphone, and poor battery life are hard to ignore. Competitors such as the Jabra Elite Active 65t and Bose SoundSport Free are truly wireless and offer better battery life. That said, the Momentum Free is very comfortable and sounds stellar, a combination that some might find hard to resist.
Price: Rs. 14,990 (MRP)
Ratings (out of 5):