These are essentially the smaller versions of the brilliant full-size Momentum headphones. The same design in a smaller form factor means enhanced portability aspect, which the Momentum missed out on. Excellent sound, and built very well. Only little niggle is that it may get slightly uncomfortable for some users, during long usage sessions.
Build & Design: Like the bigger brother!
The On-Ear’s family resemblance with the Momentum is very much a part of the package. The look is pretty much the same as the bigger Momentum headphones, only that the ear cups are smaller.
Speaking of which, the ear cups have been padded with a material that Sennheiser calls ‘Alcantara’. Not to be confused with the Bayern Munich footballer who coach Pep Guardiola rates very highly. But, getting back to the point of the material in question, one of the applications of Alcantra is that it is used as a flame retardant driver seat covering material in Formula One cars. Apart from that, this material is used in very high end vehicles, on the seating and dashboard. If you haven’t seen this material close-up, we would liken it to something like suede, without the ability to catch dust quickly.
The headband has the brushed stainless steel finish, with the same Alcantara layering on the top arc, where the steel would normally rest on your head. The same frame has the channel for the ear cups to slide up and down, allowing for much more precise and comfortable adjustment method than the ratcheted mechanism on the headband that many headphones deploy. Plus, it adds as a design element as well, which the Momentum milks to the maximum with a dummy one on each side.
The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear looks very similar to the bigger Momentum headphones. Albeit in a smaller size, and hence, the on-ear moniker.
The material known as Alcantra replaces the leather that we saw on the Momentum. For the uninitiated, this is more like suede that you may have seen. Sennheiser has deployed this on the earcups and on the headband underside area. This soft feel may be preferred to leather, which tends to absorb weather conditions a tad too easily!
On direct comparison with the bigger Momentum headphones, the differences become clear. At least, as far as the materials used are concerned. The use of Alcantra on the smaller version is in direct contrast to the high quality tannery leather sourced from somewhere in England on the bigger geadphones. And the plastic earcups in the on-ear’s case (albeit very high quality plastic), is actually a metal casing on the more expensive elder sibling. However, I really cannot hold any of these changes against the Momentum On-Ear, simply because it is priced much lower than the Momentum, and that warranted these changes. Secondly, the alternate materials used are very classy themselves, and the build quality and design is exquisite.
Comfort of use: Depends on how much you troubled the teachers in school!
This is a critical aspect, because the smaller size should not mean it is a compromise at all in terms of comfort. At first, the soft cushy feel of Alcantra feels rather cozy, and the earcups sit nicely on the ears. To clarify, in case the product’s name doesn’t, these will not wrap around the ears completely, but will actually sit on them. The lightweight design also means that you would initially hardly even realize you are wearing them.
However, things do change after a while. I personally had to remove these headphones after an hour of usage at a stretch, connected to my MacBook, to allow the ears to feel some fresh air. Mostly because the “sit-on” on the ears started to feel like the earcups were pushing inwards on the ears. However, this scenario is very subjective, and every individual will have different ear sizes and different comfort levels, and this aspect may not hold true for everyone.
The comfort level will depend majorly on how naughty you may have been in school (the scolding, the ear pulling – you know!). But, after a while, the ears do feel a tad stressed because it feels that the Momentums are pushing in.
The channels allow for fine adjustment of each earcup, which is a much more precise method than the ratchet mechanism a lot of headphones offer.
Listening to feedback, Sennheiser has changed the carry case from hard-case of the Momentum to the much more flexible soft-finish semi-crushable case.
But, what is true without a shadow of a doubt is the enhanced portability aspect. The smaller size and the redesigned semi-rigid carry case and fabric pouch do make this easy to be used on the train, or during a flight. Apart from its bulk, the Momentum also had the thick carry case that added to the footprint.
Sound: We can really find no faults
While good looks is one thing, when you are spending Rs. 14,990 on a pair of headphones, you would probably not settle for anything that is a compromise. And unlike Beats Audio or even the newer Sony MDR-XB920 which lean towards the bass heavy side, Sennheiser headphones have always tried to remain neutral. The Momentum On-Ear does that, but you will eventually notice a very slight bass bias, but that doesn’t mean that the balance is compromised. The slight bias is possibly to counteract the smaller drivers and not neglect on the lower frequencies.
But, between the two Momentum versions, you do notice that certain bass frequencies do not seem as warm on the On-Ears as on the bigger headphones. Sub-bass performance, like a rumble, can be clearly heard, but that does tend to hide away at lower volume levels. All in all, the bass performance is rather neat, but critically, does not have the attention seeking tendency that can kill the mids and the vocals.
Speaking of which, the trebles are handled brilliantly by the On-Ear. The high-mids and the high frequencies work brilliantly in parallel with bass. The clarity is even better appreciated because the entire range is handled in a way that is not sharp or uncomfortable on the ears. But that does mean the mids tend to fall behind at times. Glossing over that little compromise, the vocals sound brilliant and clear throughout.
In the midst of all this good sound quality experience, there is the issue of sound isolation. Or the lack of it in this case. No matter how the you place these on the ears, you will still get a steady dose of ambient sound. These will not be ideal for use in noisy environments, and that could be an issue for quite a few potential buyers.
In-line controls: have iDevice? Can use this.
The Apple device fanboys/users will get the additional benefit of in-line volume controls, while other platform devices can use the pause/resume via the big hardware key among the three. Across all phones, double tapping one would enable a call-back to the last dialed call, and receiving calls is rather neat as well.
The in-line volume and call controls work with the Apple devices. Rather neat and convenient, and we would not have expected anything lesser at this price.
Buy or not buy: Have money, must consider
The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones has most things going for it – classy build, lightweight form factor, excellent sound quality and in-line volume controls for Apple devices. Comfort level will depend on the person, and the comfort with the isolation level is again something very subjective. But, this will definitely appeal to anyone who doesn’t like the over-the-top designs of the Beats Audio headphones or the Bass-heavy Sony MDR cans.