Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review: great sound with noise cancellation

Patrick

It’s not often that I have to refer to a manual while I’m reviewing something, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing while reviewing the $300 Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 (MTW2).

The earbuds, which are Sennheiser’s second stab at the true wireless form factor, shouldn’t be particularly complicated. They’re basically the same as Sennheiser’s first true wireless earbuds, albeit with added noise cancellation and better battery life. But at their default settings, their touch controls take quite a bit of getting used to. They’re annoyingly unintuitive.

Thank goodness, then, that these controls are customizable. With a little tweaking, you can end up with a pair of true wireless earbuds that sound great, feature excellent noise-canceling performance, have improved battery life, and are also fairly easy to control. They’re expensive compared to most of their true wireless competition, but I think they just about justify it, even if it won’t make them a top pick for everybody.

The Momentum True Wireless 2s don’t come with many accessories, but they cover the basics. You get the earbuds, the charging case, a piddly 20cm USB-C cable to charge the case, and four different sizes of silicone ear tips, ranging in size from extra small to large. There are no extra little wings to hold the earphones in your ear’s cartilage, but thankfully, I didn’t find them necessary. I popped the MTW2s in my ears, and they fit snugly the first time.

In fact, whether I was exercising or out on a cycle ride (with noise-canceling turned off, naturally), the earbuds stayed snugly in my ears. The only time I had to take them out mid-exercise was when I couldn’t remember if they were IP rated high enough to deal with my sweat. I needn’t have worried; they’re IPX4 rated, meaning they should survive light splashes. They protrude a little more from your ears than the smallest of earbuds like the Jabra Elite 75ts, which don’t offer noise-canceling. But the important thing was that they still felt snug, and they didn’t feel like they were dangling at all. I tried wearing them while eating, and they held firm.

In terms of tech specs, the earbuds support Bluetooth 5.1, and supported codecs include SBC, AAC, and aptX.

Both the earbuds and charging case feel solidly made. The charging case is magnetic, so the earbuds slot in with a satisfying click, and you won’t lose them if you turn the case upside-down. You can use just the right earbud on its own to listen to music (useful if you’re doing other things at the same time), but the left doesn’t support the same functionality. It’s minor, but it’s a bit of flexibility that Apple and Sony offer with their earbuds that you won’t find here.

Finally, while Sennheiser tells me the earbuds can remember a connection to eight different devices, you can only be actively connected to one at a time. If you’re the kind of person who likes to keep your headphones connected to both your phone and your laptop while you’re working, then that won’t be an option here.

Sennheiser says you should get seven hours of charge from the buds themselves, with 21 extra hours from their charging case. That’s respectable compared to the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours with ANC on, plus 19 from the case) or Sony’s WF-1000XM3 (six hours with ANC, plus 18 from the case). Sennheiser also told me it’s using a newer Bluetooth chip design that should mitigate any problems with battery drain like people reported with its first-generation true wireless earbuds. In my experience, these claims held up. I was able to use the earbuds intermittently over the course of several days with no battery issues.

While it’s great that the earbuds’ case (like its predecessor) charges over USB-C, the case doesn’t support wireless charging. That’s something I could excuse on a less expensive pair of true wireless earbuds, but when you’re paying $300, you deserve all of the bells and whistles. It’s a shame to see it missing, especially now that an increasing number of phones can wirelessly charge other devices.

You control the MTW2s by tapping or holding the flat surface either earbud. However, rather than using buttons, the earbuds instead each have a touch-sensitive surface. It certainly gives them a sleeker look, but I always find it harder to avoid accidental touches when it comes to touch controls like these on true wireless earbuds. You can overcome it with practice, but there’s a little bit of a learning curve.

I think that everyone should customize the controls of the MTW2s when they first get them because, out of the box, the controls are wildly unintuitive. By default, you tap the left earbud once to play / pause, twice to skip to the next track, three times for the previous track, and you hold it to turn the volume down. The right earbud summons your voice assistant, turns on transparent hearing, turns on ANC, and raises the volume using the same commands. It feels oddly one-sided.

That’s dumb, so here’s what I suggest you change it to: one tap on either earbud to play or pause, two taps on the left earbud to skip back, two taps on the right to go forward, three taps on the right for ANC, and three taps on the left for transparency. You’re more limited by what you can switch the long-press command to so I kept it as a volume control. This was broadly fine, but it means that changing the volume is a slow process. I’d hate to find myself needing to turn down the volume of the earbuds in a hurry after accidentally setting the volume too loud, for example. I dropped the voice assistant command entirely because it’s not something I use (though I’d swap it for transparency mode in a pinch).

I ended up with a set of controls I was broadly happy with, but if you’re someone who prefers physical buttons, then no amount of tweaking is going to be able to replicate that. You’ll also have to download and use Sennheiser’s app to customize the controls, which involves agreeing to a bunch of license agreements. (See the Agree to Continue sidebar.)

One of the biggest strengths of the original MTWs was their sound quality, and that’s still the case here. Sound separation and clarity are excellent, and even when the complexity of a track ramps up, the soundstage doesn’t get overwhelmed. I torture-tested the earbuds with a track from punk band Ghost of a Thousand called “Up to You,” and both screaming guitar lines and the bass guitar came through clearly and distinctly, despite oodles of distortion. Turning up the volume didn’t introduce any more harshness — if anything, it revealed yet more detail.

The track “Parallel Universes” from the Sayonara Wild Hearts soundtrack reveals the sheer control the Momentum True Wireless 2s have over their bass. Yes, it has depth and kick but never at the expense of the rest of the track. There’s no hint of harshness to the sound of these earbuds, and bass levels are nicely rounded. It’s a great, rich sound.

I also used the earbuds to listen to some podcasts, and not only did each of the hosts come through loud and clear, but I could also hear differences in the sound quality of their microphones as well as the different amounts of echo in each of their recording rooms.

The earbuds’ microphone quality was generally good when I placed calls. People I spoke to reported that I sounded a little quieter and muffled when speaking through the MTW2s, but that I was still easy to hear and understand. I also didn’t experience much in the way of connection hiccups, and the earphones synced up well while I was watching video.

The big addition for the new pair of earbuds is noise cancellation, which has, understandably, been a little harder to evaluate at a time when catching a flight is impossible and getting on public transport like the London Underground is downright reckless. So you know what I did? I sat in front of a big pair of speakers, turned them as loud as they’d go, and played the ambient sound of the Underground.

Sennheiser’s true wireless earbuds performed admirably, cutting out almost all of the bass rumble from the sound. I also compared them with my over-ear Bowers & Wilkins PX wireless headphones. It sounds like an unfair comparison, but I actually think Sennheiser’s headphones did a better job overall. They matched B&W’s pair on their ability to cut out the low rumble, while cutting out more of the high-pitched whine. That bodes well, considering I’ve long used B&W’s headphones on my commute without issue. I also compared them against a pair of 1More True Wireless ANC earbuds I had on hand and found Sennheiser offered far better noise cancellation. In short, noise-canceling performance is not an issue for Sennheiser’s latest true wireless earbuds.

The double whammy of excellent sound quality and ANC performance makes the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 a formidable pair of earbuds. Then again, at $300, you’d hope for as much, especially since that makes them more expensive than other noise-canceling earbuds like the AirPods Pro ($249) or Sony WF-1000XM3 ($229.99). Sennheiser’s earbuds just about earn this price premium in terms of raw quality, but it’s a shame to see them missing out on features like wireless charging.

Their premium price (and, for some, the touch controls) mean they won’t be for everyone. But if you’re after a pair of true wireless earbuds that come close to matching the quality of a premium pair of noise-canceling over-ear headphones, then Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 are easy to recommend.

Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge

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