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Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless vs Sony WH-1000XM5
Sennheiser’s been nipping at the heels of industry leaders like Sony, Bose, and Apple for a few years now in the noise canceling headphone market, turning out very good results at a slower pace. Now the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is out and ready to challenge the best, so how does it stack up against the current king? The Sony WH-1000XM5 has pretty much the best noise canceling on the market, but the MOMENTUM 4 wireless is no slouch.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on May 29, 2023 to discuss new features in the Sennheiser Smart Control app.
What’s it like to use the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless
Both the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 and Sony WH-1000XM5 make big changes to their visual design compared to their predecessors, and largely to great success.
The WH-1000XM5 moves away from the solid molded plastic headband and foldable headphone hinges of yesteryear and features slightly different shaped headphones, in favor of a band with a friction rod for adjustment, and very soft vegan leather ear pads. Sony’s headset is light and offers just enough tension to keep it secure without feeling tight. And Sony isn’t just changing the outside—the headset features brand new drivers and an upgraded microphone system. If there’s one drawback, it’s that the WH-1000XM5 can’t fold up like the WH-1000XM4 or WH-1000XM3.
Compared to the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 3 Wireless, the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless looks quite a bit more approachable. The old headset has an all-metal construction, with leather covering the ear pads and headband, foldable hinges, and adjustable sliding headphones to account for different head shapes. It’s comfortable, but a little on the heavy side.
On the other hand, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless loses the metal in favor of plastic construction, with fabric covering the headband. The hinges no longer fold down, but there’s a lot more capacity for tilting the headphones. However, while the headset is very comfortable, it looks less distinctive than its predecessor. Arguably, it may also be less durable over time, though we didn’t run into any issues during the review period.
Both pairs of headphones are very comfortable over extended periods, but the Sony headphones make the biggest gains in this area. Neither are IP rated, though, so you may have to look somewhere else for a workout companion.
How do you control the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Sony WH-1000XM5?
Both the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Sony WH-1000XM5 feature on-ear touch and gesture controls. They’ve got minimal buttons, but plenty of control options.
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless controls
Toggle ANC mode
Both products offer pretty much identical audio controls—they’ll even both pause your music if you take your headphones off. However, the Sony WH-1000XM5 has a couple of extra bells and whistles. For starters, there’s a virtual assistant integration turned on by default, and a quick audio passthrough that only stays on for as long as you’ve got your hand cupped over the right headphone.
Sony WH-1000XM5 controls
Double tap center
Pause / resume
Ambient sound passthrough
Should you use the Sennheiser Smart Control app or Sony Headphones Connect?
Both the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Sony WH-1000XM5 have fully featured companion apps, and they’re worth getting. Sennheiser Smart Control is the company’s companion app for most of its Bluetooth audio devices, and it brings a bunch of worthwhile features to the MOMENTUM 4, not just firmware updates.
Smart Control lets you adjust the intensity of active noise canceling (ANC) and turn on the adaptive ANC feature, which will automatically tailor the intensity to your environment. Adaptive ANC can even link to up to 20 geotags and set an ANC level for each associated location. The app also has an EQ, though there’s no option to customize the controls as well. In a May 9, 2023 update, Sennheiser also added new Sound Personalization features to Smart Control.
Developed jointly by Sennheisser and the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT, sound personalization “calibrates a custom audio profile from a sophisticated analysis of user reactions against a series of benchmark sound samples.” Basically, you can listen to samples, say if you enjoy aspects of them or not, and the app will tailor the EQ to reflect that.
Both mobile apps let you equalize, access firmware updates, and more.
Similarly, Sony Headphones connect brings lots of features to the WH-1000XM5. The app brings EQ customization, control customization, firmware updates, and the ability to set up the Sony 360 Reality Audio feature.
Both apps actually work reliably, which is less common than it should be among mobile companion apps. However, while they’re definitely useful, they also both ask for a lot of your data in return. If that’s something you’re comfortable with, fine—if not, maybe just delete the app once you’ve changed the setting you want.
How do the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless connect?
Both the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless both connect to your Bluetooth device of choice using Bluetooth 5.2, with support for the default SBC codec, as well as AAC and one other high-quality codec. The Sony headphones use LDAC, Sony’s proprietary Hi-Res Bluetooth codec, and the Sennheiser supports aptX, aptX HD, and aptX adaptive, which are more widespread but also very good. Both headphones also support wired connection—the WH-1000XM5 comes with a 3.5mm cord for plugging into your device’s headphone jack, and the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless comes with a comes with a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cord for the same.
These connection options mean that whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone, you’ll have a high-quality Bluetooth option with both headphones. We’d probably recommend all the different aptX variations of the MOMENTUM 4 over WH-1000XM5’s LDAC, but it’s hard to imagine being disappointed with either option. Having a wired option on both only sweetens the pot if you happen to still have a headphone jack on your device.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is a battery champion compared to the WH-1000XM5
While both the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless have very good battery life, there’s a clear winner here—and it’s not even close. In our testing of music peaking at 75dB (SPL), the Sony WH-1000XM5 lasted 31 hours, 53 minutes with ANC on, and over 53 hours with ANC off. This result is definitely nothing to sneeze at, and a big improvement over the comparatively meager 19-hour battery life of the Sony WH-1000XM4.
However, with ANC on, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless lasted 56 hours, 21 minutes under the same conditions, more than 20 hours longer than the WH-1000XM5. Turning off the ANC will lengthen battery life even further. Battery life like this doesn’t just mean that you’ll have more listening time between charging sessions, it also means that your headphones’ battery will last longer overall. The more times it needs recharging, the faster its capacity will shrink. Having a battery with a big upfront capacity means you won’t need to replace your wireless headphones as quickly, which means fewer headphones (and batteries) going to the landfill—having a wired option to rely on after the battery dies helps even more.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Sony WH-1000XM5 both have excellent fast charging. After 3 minutes plugged in, the Sony WH-1000XM5 will gain 3 hours of listening time, and 10 minutes plugged in will net the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless 6 hours of playback.
Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless block out noise better?
Both the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless have very good ANC, but there’s a clearly superior option in this regard. While Sennheiser makes gains compared to the MOMENTUM 3 Wireless, it doesn’t measure up to the superlative ANC and isolation performance of the WH-1000XM5. Sony’s headphones are particularly adept at canceling noise below 100Hz, which is where a lot of droning and rumbling sounds come from.
Good ANC and isolation are important for listening to headphones—it helps you hear detail in your music, at a volume that won’t cause harm over time. It’s really not hard to accidentally listen at higher-than-safe volumes, so never feeling like you need to pump up the volume is an important aspect of avoiding noise-induced hearing loss.
Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 sound better than the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless?
Both the Sony headphones and the Sennheiser’s have similar sound profiles, and both measure close to our target curve. It’s in the low end where they really show the biggest differences in our testing. The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless has a notable bump in the sub-bass range, with around 5dB of extra emphasis under 50Hz, and then comes back more in line with our in-house target around 100Hz. A frequency response like that means the lowest sounds in the rumbling of a bass guitar or the deep droning of some electronic music may come through a little more dominantly than you expect. Other than that, things should sound pretty nice—there’s just not a lot of sub-bass content in instrumental music or singing.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is a slightly different story. These headphones output sounds more loudly by about 5dB from the sub-bass range, all the way through to around 300Hz. This means that many elements in your music will come through louder, including vocals, bass, and drums. You’ll probably acclimate pretty quickly to the added bass emphasis, but you can also EQ the headphones and never have to deal with it (you can EQ the MOMENTUM 4, too).
Does the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless or Sony WH-1000XM5 have a better microphone?
This is another category where the results aren’t terribly close. The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless has a pretty good microphone for an embedded microphone in Bluetooth headphones. It’s loud and clear enough that phone calls and Zoom calls will go fine. However, Sony really bet big on its new microphone array and the results are pretty great. The WH-1000XM5 doesn’t exactly have a podcasting mic in it, but it features excellent rejection of external noise—far better than just about any other similar product out there.
This means that in ideal conditions, both will sound pretty good, but when conditions worsen, the Sony headphones definitely hold up better. Just check out the difference between the samples taken in our simulated windy conditions:
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone sample (Ideal conditions):
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless microphone sample (Ideal conditions):
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone sample (Windy conditions):
Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless microphone sample (Windy conditions):
Which microphone sounds best to you?
Should you get the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless or the Sony WH-1000XM5?
If you’re on a tighter budget, you should probably opt for the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless. It’s $50 USD cheaper, and it still sounds great. The battery life is way better, and the comparative shortfalls in ANC and microphone performance aren’t so huge they’d be disqualifying—on both fronts, the MOMENTUM 4 will cover your needs just as easily most of the time.
However, if you’ve got to have the best of the best, the Sony WH-1oooXM5 is arguably still it when it comes to noise canceling. The sound may not be quite as generally pleasing by default, but you can EQ it—there’s no improving ANC that doesn’t measure up (at least, not without a firmware update). The battery life is definitely more on the average side, but it’s arguably still plenty to get you through the average week of commuting and then some.
What should you get instead of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Sony WH-1000XM5?
If you’re looking for a pair of good noise canceling headphones, there aren’t many great options that can really hang in competition to the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, but there are a few decent spots to look. For starters, these are high-end noise canceling headphones, and if you’re an Apple user the best high-end noise canceling headphones you can buy will almost certainly be the AirPods Max. Apple’s first over-ear headphones, the AirPods Max is among the best noise canceling headphones on the market, but it’s dang expensive—it also integrates with Apple’s software ecosystem, which makes it hard for Android users.
Outside of that, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is still probably the best option from the other big noise canceling audio companies out there. It sounds great, has good ANC, and it’s a few years old now, so finding a discount isn’t hard. And if the price still isn’t low enough, it’s hard to find cheaper the Monoprice BT-600ANC (at least while still being actually good)—these sub-$100 USD noise canceling Bluetooth headphones sound good, cancel a lot of noise, and support a lot of codecs.
Frequently asked questions about the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless and Sony WH-1000XM5
The Sony WH-1000XM5 comes in either black or silver varieties, and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless comes in black and white varieties. So, not exactly the most vibrant options, but there’s a little choice.