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Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless vs Apple AirPods Max
Sennheiser’s newest pair of active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones adds to the already dizzying list of headset options. The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless‘ highlight features include its great battery life and OS-agnostic mobile app. Compare that to the Apple AirPods Max, one of the best and most expensive wireless ANC headphones available, with many features relegated to Apple’s ecosystem. We’ve spent weeks with the AirPods Max and MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, and are ready to share their pros and cons with you.
Editor’s note: this versus article was updated on January 19, 2023, to update formatting.
What’s it like to use the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless compared to the Apple AirPods Max ?
The Apple AirPods Max and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless have two very different approaches in terms of aesthetics, but there are some commonalities in the overall design of the two headsets. Both headsets are very comfortable so you can wear them for hours at a time. Just be sure you’re not caught in a downpour; they’re not IP rated, so you can’t take them out in the rain without some risk. From there, the two headsets deviate a bit.
The AirPods Max is designed like a typical Apple product: minimal and sleek. It has a largely metal build, with aluminum ear cups and a stainless steel headband. The metal frame makes it on the heavier side at 386g (13.6oz), but that doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable. The headband is just a mesh canopy, and that same material covers the memory foam ear pads. This keeps the weight down and distributes weight evenly across the crown of your head.
Apple provides a Smart Case with its AirPods Max which doesn’t provide much protection. For that, you’ll need to buy a separate case for your AirPods Max. That said, placing the AirPods Max into the case immediately enables low power mode, and when the headset is in there for more than 18 hours, it enters ultra-low power mode. You don’t need to use the Smart Case to power down the headset, because it will enter low and ultra-low power mode after five minutes and 72 hours, respectively.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is made mostly of plastic, making it much more lightweight than the AirPods Max at 293g (10.3oz). Like the AirPods Max, the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless features memory foam ear pads, but Sennheiser wraps them in a leatherette fabric instead of mesh. Unlike the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 3 Wireless, the new model’s ear cups don’t collapse toward the headband. With the fourth-generation headset, you can rotate the ear cups to lay flat, which is good for transport and fitting the angle of your ears.
Sennheiser includes a protective zippered carrying case that can store the charging cable, flight adapter, and aux cable. This is a great inclusion and similar to what you get from Sony’s WH-1000X series headphones.
How do you control the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Apple AirPods Max?
You need to interact with a few physical controls on the Apple AirPods Max to command your listening experience. The Digital Crown button on the top of the right ear cup adjusts volume and playback, while the noise control button on the top front of the right ear cup toggles between ANC and transparency mode.
|Action||Media controls||Call controls|
Noise control button
Toggle ANC and Transparency mode
Digital Crown: rotate
Digital Crown: one press
Answer/end call; answer incoming call and put current call on hold
Digital Crown: two presses
Reject incoming call; answer incoming call and end current call
Digital Crown: three presses
Digital Crown: hold
Reject second incoming call
Yes, ANC toggle only
To control the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, you need to remember a dance of touch gestures on the ear cups, using the same controls for each ear cup. There’s also a power button on the right headphone, so you can actually turn off the headphones, unlike the AirPods Max.
Toggle ANC mode
Hold / cycle
Multifunction button tap
Which wireless headset has better software features?
The Apple AirPods Max is made specifically for iOS users, meaning you can only get the most out of the headphones with an Apple device. The iPhone Settings app is where all the software features can be found and customized, including installing firmware updates, customizing the Digital Crown, enabling Spatial Audio, and toggling automatic head detection.
The Sennheiser Smart Control app works on iOS and Android, so anyone can access the same software features. In Sennheiser Smart Control, you can change your noise cancelling level, get firmware updates, and customize the headphones’ EQ. There’s also a feature called Adaptive ANC that allows you to set ANC levels for different locations, though this requires you to allow location permissions, which isn’t ideal for the very digital privacy-inclined.
How do the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Apple AirPods Max connect?
The Apple AirPods Max and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless both use Bluetooth, and both support wired connections–though you’ll need an Apple accessory to do this with the AirPods Max, which doesn’t support audio over USB. Beyond that, how the two headsets connect to your devices does vary.
The Apple AirPods Max supports only the AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, which work perfectly fine on Apple devices, but AAC performance on Android phones varies significantly. While you probably won’t want the AirPods Max if you have an Android phone anyway, it’s still something to keep in mind if you ever use an Android device with AirPods Max. Connection strength with Apple devices is solid, given the H1 chip in the AirPods Max. When you first take the headphones out of the case, your iPhone will immediately recognize the headset and ask to connect. Once you’re connected to your iOS device, the AirPods Max will automatically connect to all devices on your iCloud account. To listen with a wired connection, you’ll need a 3.5mm to Lightning cable, which doesn’t come with the AirPods Max.
To connect to any other device, hold down the noise control button until the AirPods Max shows up in your Bluetooth menu. Select the AirPods Max in that menu and you’re done!
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless supports the SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive codecs, meaning Android users have plenty of high-quality Bluetooth codecs to choose from. The headset also comes with a 2.5mm to 3.5mm TRS cable and a USB-A to USB-C cable for wired listening over USB. With all of these connectivity options, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is a more versatile headset overall.
To connect the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless to your devices, make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your device, and hold down the Bluetooth pairing button for three seconds until it shows up as MOMENTUM 4 in your Bluetooth menu. You can even connect to two devices at once with multipoint.
Is battery life better on the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless or Apple AirPods Max?
In our objective battery testing playing constant audio peaking at 75dB(SPL), we found that the Apple AirPods Max has a battery life of almost 21 hours with ANC on. The lack of power button isn’t great, but again, if you leave your AirPods Max on a desk for five minutes, it will enter low power mode. When you need to top the AirPods Max up, grab the provided Lightning cable.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless has a long battery life of 56 hours, 21 minutes with ANC on. Not only is this fantastic battery life in the short term, but longer battery life means your battery’s life will be longer. Fewer charge and deplete cycles mean the batteries will degrade slower than something that needs to be charged daily. If you care about not creating battery e-waste, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is the better option.
Does the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless or Apple AirPods Max cancel noise better?
This is where the Apple AirPods Max truly shines. The ANC performance on the Apple AirPods Max is fantastic, with especially impressive noise cancelling at the low end. The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is still really good at cancelling out noise, just not the best. Where Sennheiser rises above Apple is passive isolation (though Apple performs well here too). As you can see in the chart above, the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless blocks out more noise when it comes to frequencies above 1.6kHz. Ultimately, the AirPods Max is the better option if you want some of the best noise cancelling money can buy—yes, even better than the Sony WH-1000XM5.
To get the best attenuation possible from your headphones, make sure the ear pads are fully sealing your ears, so no outside noise gets in. Otherwise, ANC and isolation won’t perform as well, and you may end up turning the volume up too high and risking hearing damage.
Does the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless sound better than the Apple AirPods Max?
In our testing, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Apple AirPods Max both have sound profiles that are quite close to our target curve overall. The main difference here is that the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless has a little bit more of a boost in the bass frequencies, while the AirPods Max under-emphasizes a section of the highs from 1-6kHz and slightly boosts the sub-bass.
If you don’t enjoy the bass boost that comes with the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, you can always change your EQ in the Sennheiser Smart Control app.
Does the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless or Apple AirPods Max or have a better microphone?
Both headsets have good microphones that are perfectly adequate for video calls, phone calls, and voice memos. The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless has a clear-sounding microphone with plenty of level, and if you need better quality for recording, you should probably use a dedicated mic for that. Noise suppression isn’t great in windy conditions, so take your calls inside if you can. The Apple AirPods Max sounds good in ideal conditions as well, but in situations with background noise like wind, the noise suppression also leaves something to be desired.
The Apple AirPods Max has issues when it comes to non-Apple devices. When using the AirPods Max with an iPhone 12, the audio is much more detailed in the high frequencies which makes voices more clear. When connected to a Google Pixel 4a, audio is much less clear but still intelligible. Avoid using the AirPods Max with non-Apple devices.
Apple AirPods Max microphone demo (iPhone 12):
Apple AirPods Max microphone demo (Google Pixel 4a):
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless microphone sample (Ideal conditions):
Apple AirPods Max microphone sample (Ideal conditions):
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless microphone sample (Windy conditions):
Apple AirPods Max microphone sample (Windy conditions):
Which microphone sounds better to you?
Should you get the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless or Apple AirPods Max?
The most important factor in deciding between the two headsets is whether you have an iPhone or not. If you don’t have an iPhone, don’t get the Apple AirPods Max. It will not be worth the high price, and you will probably regret it. Call quality won’t be good, and you’ll miss out on customization, firmware updates, Spatial Audio, and more. If you do have an iPhone and don’t plan to switch to Android any time soon, the AirPods Max is easier to justify. That said, there are plenty of cheaper headsets that perform just as well and cost less than $549 USD. With amazing ANC, good sound quality, great connection strength, and a comfortable and unique design, the AirPods Max is a worthy choice as long as you have an iPhone.
If you want something that doesn’t entirely depend on what operating system you use, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is a great noise cancelling headset. It’s significantly more affordable than the AirPods Max, though still expensive at $350 USD. The ANC isn’t the best-in-class, but with phenomenal battery life, great sound quality, and good software features, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless checks a lot of important boxes for those looking for noise cancelling headphones.
What should you get instead of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Apple AirPods Max?
One of the best noise cancelling headphones you can get is the Sony WH-1000XM5, which falls between the price range of the AirPods Max and the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless at $398 at Amazon. It has amazing ANC, a truly outstanding array of microphones with some of the best noise suppression, Bluetooth multipoint, and it also supports the SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs along with wired connectivity. For a bit less you can get its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4, which supports the same connectivity options, has good sound quality, and standout ANC. At $299 at Amazon, it’s similar in price to the Sennheisers, making it a really good alternative.
Another solid option is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which at $329.64 at Amazon is very comfortable, has good ANC, and it’s even IPX4-rated. You can take a little walk in the rain with it and it won’t suffer, unlike the headsets above, which all lack IP ratings.
If you really don’t want to break the bank, the Monoprice BT-600ANC offers great noise cancelling and a phenomenal battery life, along with aptX HD support, all for $69.99 at Amazon. The sound profile isn’t the best and there’s no companion app, but that’s the price you pay. Those willing to splurge a bit more should check out the Anker Soundcore Space Q45, which has noise cancelling similar to the Sony WH-1000XM3 and a good mic system for $149.99 at Amazon.
Frequently asked questions
While there’s no power button or ability to turn off the AirPods Max, if you put it in its case it will immediately go into low power mode, which preserves battery life.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless has quick charging, which supposedly will get you 6 hours of listening from 10 minutes of charging The Apple AirPods Max will get 90 minutes of listening time from 5 minutes of charge.
The Apple AirPods Max comes in five colors: Silver, space gray, sky blue, pink, and green. The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless comes in black and white.