I'm something of a heathen when it comes to audio quality. I just... don't care that much? This may have something to do with the fact that I mostly listen to podcasts, Hamilton and the same 90s trash I was into in 1999. It's just who I am as a person.
But I do love me some noise cancellation. But even then, I've always been a tad 'meh' about it when it comes to earbuds. This is probable because there have really only been a handful of contenders in the area and they tend to be really expensive.
And then I met Sennheiser's Momentum True Wirless Earbuds.
This is the first time that Sennheiser has completely forgone wires, and they seem to have been worth the wait. And while at $499.95 they are by no means cheap, they're definitely impressive.
Here are the key specs for all you audiophiles out there:
The main issue I had while trialing these at IFA was that the controls lack intuition. If you can't see any visible buttons when you look at the photos, it's because there are none. Fortunately I had a friendly IFA assistant to show me the ropes, so for those playing at home - I recommend reading the manual.
You control the Momentums by using varying numbers of taps. On the lefthand bud, one tap pauses and plays, two will go to the next track and three will rewind. For volume control, you move your finger up and down.
I found that this control system requires a bit of finesse — it's easy to accidentally add one tap too many and get the pressure wrong.
But to be fair, I only had a small amount of time with the test units. Using them regularly would quickly teach you the required time and pressure that is appropriate for the taps you want.
If that all sounds a too fiddly, you can always opt for voice commands instead. The earbuds are compatible with both Siri and Google Assistant and the entire right bud is reserved for activiating them — all you need to do is tap it once.
I wasn't able to test this function, so we'll have to wait and see how well it works.
One of the features I really like about these little guys is the Transparent Hearing mode, which can be activated from the Sennheiser Smart Control app. This blends in your music (or podcasts) with the world around you.
The point of this mode is to enable you to hear things like traffic when you're out wondering around, which is great for safety. It also enables you to hear people and carry on a conversation without having to take the buds out.
When I briefly tested it, I could definitely still hear the buzz of the booth around me. It was faded out in a way that wasn't distracting and didn't detract from my enjoyment of the music. I simply felt more aware of my surroundings.
However, I still recommend not getting swept up in the moment if you're out running, dealing with traffic, etc. Stay alert and don't forget to look both ways before crossing the road!
The app also allows you to customise the equalizer, mute the playback and see how much charge each individual bud has left.
Speaking of charging, the buds get 4 hours and then can get a further 10 after being charged in the sleak case that they come with. Also, they magnetically snap back into place in an oddly satisfying fashion.
If you're looking to block out more noise, you can do that to with the earbud's 2-mic noise cancellation functionality. Again, my time with them was minimal, but I was impressed by the level of noise cancellation I was getting from something that weren't over-ear or even on-ear headphones.
When it came to comfort you get 4 eartip sizes to choose from in the box, and they felt great to me. That being said, they are quite large and certainly don't look subtle on the ear. This leaves me wondering whether they will remain comfortable during long stints of use. I guess we'll find out once we get to do an in-depth review.
It's also worth mentioning that like with any earbuds, you need to make sure that you're gentle when you rotate them. I made the mistake of turning them too hard, and it was not a good time.
Sadly I wasn't able to do a lap of Berlin Messe to see how they went when it comes to exercise. But they certainly did feel secure enough to handle some vigorous activity — especially when I rotated them, gently.
So if you're a better person than me and want something to use while working out on the reg, they may just do the trick. Of course, I'll be reserving proper judgement for when we get to stress test them properly, though.
Although I only tested the Sennheisers in an incredibly controlled environment (The iPhones they were paired to were on display at the booth and had a select number of tracks) — I must admit that I'm impressed so far.
I'm looking forward to really putting them to the test out in the real world, and with my trash music, to really put them through the paces. But for now, even with a $500 price point, I have been left optimistic.
'Personalised audio' seems to be the latest hot headphone trend. It's where software is used to to determine your personal hearing profile, then EQ your music so that you can 'hear better'. We've already had a look at the Melbourne-developed nuraphone, so now it's time to test out its Brisbane competitor, the $499 Audeara A-01s.