It’s really getting hot in here.
Every headphone brand worth its silicon tip is out to get a true wireless stereo model out in the market and while they’re generally getting better, most of them have sound quality that leaves a lot to be desired if you’re an audiophile. TWS add immense convenience and all-day wearability, especially if you’re a stockbroker or a real housewife of Malabar Hill, but they never appeal to the serious music lover in the same way as over-the-ear cans do. But Sennheiser, with its 75-year history of converting legendary German engineering into tools for sound and audio lovers, seems to have cracked the code. Sort of.
Form factor wise, the Momentum True Wireless 2 are on par with the Jabra, Sony or Samsung options, but their metal end caps give them a more premium and purposeful look. Not very different looking from their first-generation counterparts and you’ll have to look closely at the details to tell them apart. The big difference though is the addition of active noise cancellation (ANC) and a hugely extended battery life. In fact, the claimed jump is from 8hrs to a frankly insane 28hrs! That’s in line with big, brawny over-ear headphones that have a lot more real estate to pack in bigger batteries, so it’s evident where Sennheiser has spent all that engineering money.
The TW2 fit well in their premium-looking, fabric-wrapped case too. Although the case is larger than the usual AirPods Pro or Samsung Buds+ case, it feels built to last, just like the earbuds themselves and no one should really mind the added bulk. The case does hold a massive 21hrs of charge in it, so you’ll be good for a long-haul flight across the Atlantic when the virus scare is over or when you’re 88, whichever comes earlier!
Only the basics are provided in the packaging, which include four different ear tips and a short USB-C cable., but that’s all you really need too. For me personally, the standard size ear tips fit perfectly and I didn't even bother with trying another size. They provide a high level of passive sealing too, so the ANC is just a massive bonus that’ll come in handy in the noisiest of environs. Compared to the AirPods Pro, which happens to be my everyday go-to TWS buds since I use an iPhone most of the time and you can’t refute the convenience factor, the Momentum TW2 takes some getting used to while wearing it.
The AirPods Pro with their prominent stalk make it easy to put them in your ears even without looking. But the Sennheiser Momentum TW2, you have to look and feel for a proper fit although it does get easier with time. What is actually commendable is how Sennheiser has managed to offer a full suite of touch controls on either L/R earpod to do everything from toggle between ANC and Transparency modes, track and volume changes, bringing up Siri or Google Assistant and more! These can be customized through the rather spartan Smart Control app but it took me a quick few seconds to learn the commands and didn’t feel the need to customise the number of taps a particular action required. Also, the touch sensitivity is just right, so you won’t have to tap hard on your pods, which usually upsets the fit. A gentle tap, once you get the measure of the right amount of pressure and you’ll be interacting with them without ever needing the partnering app.
The app by itself isn’t something that is critical like on the Sony WF series for example. You can’t control the level of ambient noise you want seeping in and you can’t reset the sound to account for air pressure changes while flying etc. What you CAN do is use the built-in EQ to alter the sound signature, but honestly, I found the factory-calibrated tonality to be perfectly judged for my own tastes.
Onwards to the meat of the sandwich and it is a well-seasoned cut of meat, this Momentum. From the first few seconds of the panned guitar on WhoMadeWho by Ember, they capture your attention and force you to stop what you’re doing and just...listen! The delivery is smooth and linear, making for a sound that is instantly likeable without leaving room for subjectivity. The palpable bass line is juxtaposed with the layers of electronic sounds with perfect unison, letting you appreciate the production and the artist's intent like no other TWS in-ears I've heard before. The active noise cancellation just adds another layer of micro detail and etches out the bottom octave for a sound that just immerses you in the mood of the song, irrespective of where you are. Our Pathetic Age by DJ Shadow is a great test for rhythmic abilities and how well a driver can maintain definition over its frequency response. The slightly recessed vocals were superbly reproduced over the constant bass loop in the background without ever sounding congested or lopsided.
An older song, Harvest Moon by Neil Young was presented with all its simplicity yet keeping the timbral accuracy of the acoustic instruments intact while letting Mr. Young soar with his harmonica. Even much older blues tracks like Good Morning Little School Girl by Muddy Waters are reproduced with a lightness and trueness that gets your feet tapping involuntarily. Sennheiser has used all its sonic prowess to flex and it shows. Switching to the AirPods Pro felt like half the music's soul was missing and I had to physically check for a proper fit, hoping that it had not sealed them in my ears properly. Such is the precision and power of the Momentum TW2! James Vincent McMorrow’s I Lie Awake Every Night allows you to fully appreciate his falsetto against the stark instrumentation without any harshness to the top end or an overcooked bass. Just a clean, precise presentation that makes other TWS in-ears sound like toys really.
What I did miss compared to the AirPods Pro is the instant switching between devices and the intelligence it offers. Connecting between the iPad, iPhone and Mac, I had to constantly keep disconnecting from one device before connecting to the other. It does support Bluetooth 5.0 so you can connect multiple earphones to the same device and you get support for AptX, SBC and AAC but honestly, when the inherent driver design and engineering is this good, you tend to overlook the shortcomings (or shiny Hi-Res Audio badges).
The bespoke 7mm drivers in the Momentum TW2 are a huge step up from off-the-shelf components used by other competitors and Sennheiser’s massive experience in the headphone industry shows in how well they fit and provide passive sealing as well. In their new form, they now also gain an IPX4 rating that helps with light splashes and sweat resistance. Voice quality was adequate too and none of my callers complained of any anomaly while I used them for phone calls. After charging fully once, I never bothered to go back to the charging cable for a week and although I may haven’t tried it out on a pan-Atlantic flight, it feels like it’s up for that job too.
They aren’t the cheapest option out there but if I had to buy a pair of TWS purely on the basis of sound quality, the Momentum TW2 would be my first choice. Sure, they miss a wireless charging case, they miss quick switching, they don’t offer a cool animation for pairing or battery life but start playing some tunes and you won’t mind any of those oversights. Sennheiser is clearly after the audiophile who’s always on the move, not the baniya who’s minting gold during lockdown. My new favourite travel in-ears have just arrived!