Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: A Surprising Winner

by wanderingted

and The Greatest Song Team

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Summary and Rating: Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5

Sennheiser Momentum 4

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Headphones

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Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WH 1000XM5 headphones 1

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Momentum 4 – Our Rating

4.6 (out of five)

4.6 Sound

4.4 Noise-Cancelling

4.5 Build Quality

4.5 Comfort

5.0 Value

XM5 – Our Rating

4.5 (out of five)

4.3 Sound

5.0 Noise-Cancelling

4.5 Build Quality

4.5 Comfort

4.5 Value

Pros – Momentum 4

  • Best Value ANC Headphones on the current market
  • Well tuned (except for the bass) out of the box, very good sound for ANC cans
  • Respond well to EQ adjustments
  • 60 hours of battery life
  • Very comfortable
  • Intuitive pairing and hands-free controls

Pros – XM5

  • Good Sound for ANC cans
  • Best noise-canceling out there
  • Respond well to EQ adjustments
  • Very Comfortable
  • Intuitive pairing and hands-free controls

Cons – Momentum 4

  • Bass is overhyped, bleeds into lower mids
  • Okay Noise Cancelling

Cons – XM5

  • Bass is overhyped, bleeds into lower mids, veiled high mids, need EQ
Bottom Line

Both headphones have a lot to offer. The Momentum 4 offer the best overall value, best battery life, and slightly better tuning out of the box. The Sony XM5 have the best noise-canceling.

Introducing the Sony XM5 and the Challenger, the Sennheiser Momentum 4

Following the line of excellent ANC headphones like the Sony XM3 and XM4, the Sony WH-1000XM5 have improved upon the previous generations and have become some of the most popular over-ear ANC headphones on the market.

But the competition is heating up. On the face of it, it appears that Sennheiser has recently released the Momentum 4 which puts the XM5 in the crosshairs by offering more for less. Can this be true?

We got our hands on both of these headphones and gave them a thorough testing to see how these cans stack up.

See here for more in-depth reviews of headphones. And, here for all of our audio gear knowledge and reviews.

Who are the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and the Sony WH-1000XM5 for?

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony WH-1000XM5 are for everyone in search of quality noise-canceling headphones with good sound.

Both headphones are built for the modern urban grind. Both headphones are packed with all the hardware and features that we have come to expect from these kind of headphones: ANC (active noise canceling), Bluetooth, a dedicated mobile app, ambient mode so you can hear your environment, and the ability to take phone calls on it with handsfree controls.

Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony WH 1000XM5 ANC Bluetooth Headphones
Sony WH-1000XM5 (left), Sennheiser Momentum 4 (right)

Who are the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and the Sony WH-1000XM5 NOT for?

Neither of these headphones are recommended for critical listening. They are tuned to appeal to the average consumer and have a very affected frequency response.

For audiophiles in search of quality ANC cans, we would recommend the Focal Bathys. (See here for our complete review of the Focal Bathys)

Alternatives to the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and the Sony WH-1000XM5

Focal Bathys

ANC headphones for audiophiles – dynamic punch, excellent resolution.

Focal Bathys Headphones

Apple AirPods Max

For Apple lovers. Pricey, super-easy connections, great noise-cancelling, very comfortable with good sound.

apple airpods max white

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Great Noise-cancelling, decent sound, competitive price. (see our comparision of Bose ANC cans here)

bose noise cancelling headphones 700

Bowers & Wilkins PX8

Cans that are reportedly better sounding than most commercial headphones out there. (Haven’t reviewed yet) Built with luxurious materials. Pricey.

Bowers and Wilkins PX8 Headphones black

Sound

First Impressions

Right away, I’m getting more detail resolution with the Momentum 4 and an overall better tuning. The XM5 sound good but the bass is in the way and the midrange is a little weirdly distant.

The bass is a bit problematic on both of these headphones. 

Let’s dive into the details…

Frequency Response

Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony WH-1000XM5: Frequency Response Diagram

Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony WH 1000XM5 frequency response diagram
Measured on a MiniDSP EARS rig. Connected with Bluetooth, ANC on, average.

Looking at the frequency response comparison diagram here, you can see why I’m hearing what I’m hearing. The target curve is based on the Harman Over-Ear 2018 Target curve. It is essentially what most people want to hear when listening to headphones.  

The upper mids are the main area where the response of these two headphones diverges. This makes the text intelligibility and presence of the Momentum 4 immediately sound better and gives the Sony XM5 a slight old-radio distance.

Bass

The bass on the Sony XM5 and the Momentum 4 is overhyped – like that of most over-ear commercial headphones.  

The main problem is that the sub-bass region bleeds into the bass which bleeds into the lower mids. So the bass and lower-mid articulation is not as clear as it could be.  

With both headphones, by dropping the sub-bass down with EQ about 5 dB and dropping the 100-200 Hz area even a bit more, I was able to get more separation and overall, a much more pleasant listen with both of these cans.  

Both headphones are technically capable enough to respond well to EQ adjustments.

Midrange

I found the Sennheiser Momentum 4 to be very well-tuned in the midrange. Acoustic instruments sound realistic. In other words, they sound exactly as you expect them to sound without any distance or strange color added.  

The Sony XM5 need a bit of help out of the box in this area. As I said, there is a veil of old-radio effect to the mids here.  

For example, in the climax of the 3rd Movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, there’s a moment where the trumpets come in with a blazing single repeated note. On the XM5, the trumpets sound like they are being played through an old radio.

With a 5 dB boost from 2-6 kHz, I found that these trumpets and other recordings started to sound as they should.

Sennheiser Momentum 4 ANC headphones
Sennheiser Momentum 4 (white)

Highs

The high frequencies are tuned well on both of these headphones. Neither are too zingy or sibilant, while there’s still enough air at the top for my taste.  

Dynamics

The Sennheiser’s win in the area of dynamics by a few strides. They have a greater dynamic range and a little more punch and weight than the XM5.  

It is worth noting that neither of these headphones gives you the kind of exciting dynamic punch or microdynamics that the Focal Bathys offer.   

Soundstage

Both of these headphones offer a normal closed-back, limited soundstage. The soundstage is just large enough to separate instruments and voices but no larger.  

Noise Cancelling

In the area of noise canceling, the Sony WH-1000XM5 offer better performance than the Sennheiser Momentum 4.  

Bose has traditionally taken the crown on the best noise cancellation, but with the advances the XM5 has made, this is no longer the case. The Sony WH-1000XM5 , tied with the AirPods Max, have better noise canceling than the latest Bose flagship ANC cans, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

(See here for a direct comparison between the AirPods Max and the Sony XM5.)

Even so, the XM5 are better ANC performers than the Momentum 4 only by a small margin. If noise canceling is your highest priority when choosing ANC headphones, then choose the Sony XM5.

Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 attenuates just as much as the XM5 in the high and high-mid frequencies, but less in the lower-mid and bass frequencies.  

Both headphones offer adaptive noise cancellation, which adjusts the noise cancellation to match your environment. This feature adjusts the sound output based on your environment. 

Build / Design

Sony WH-1000XM5 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Sony WH-1000XM5 (in white)

Both the XM5 and Momentum 4 have excellent overall build quality. Both headphones use a combination of plastic and pleather and fabric to give you a durable, lightweight set of cans. (The XM5 weighs 250 grams, the Momentum 4 weighs 293 grams)

That said, neither set of cans should win any design awards. Although they are both on the more elegant side of the spectrum, both headphones look just like every other set of ANC cans out there.

The Sony XM5 come in white, black, or navy. The Momentum 4 come in white/brown or black/grey.

Comfort

The Momentum 4 and XM5 are both very comfortable to wear. Being super light, they can be worn for long sessions comfortably.

The earcups on the Sony XM5 are slightly wider than the Momentum 4 and are likely to fit more ears and heads.

We found that the Momentum 4 were a little better for glasses wearers due to the pressure relief notch in the headband. This offers a tighter seal with glasses on.

Both fold flat to fit in their carry cases and both employ more touch controls on the right ear cup in lieu of buttons, dials, or switches.  

Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony WH-1000XM5 in their respective carry cases
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony XM5 in their respective carry cases.

Controls

Pairing/Connecting

Pairing or connecting both of these headphones is a breeze. Out of the box, they connected immediately to my iPhone and computer without any effort on my part.  

Both headphones use Bluetooth 5.2 for connecting and offer the option of a wired connection with the supplied cable (Momentum 4 uses a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable, and the XM5 uses a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable).

Both remember devices and immediately connect to the last devices used. Both can connect to up to two devices at one time.

App

Both headphones also have a dedicated app for EQ, firmware updates, and ANC controls.  

Both apps are basic and offer nothing new or exciting. For what it’s worth, I found the Sennheiser Smart Control App a bit more intuitive and straightforward than the Sony Headphones App.  

Other Controls

The Momentum 4 and XM5 both come with a touch surface on the outside of the right earcup with swipe up, down, and tap functions for play/pause, volume up/down, track forward/back, access voice assistant, and instant ambient sound (so you can hear what someone is saying without taking off the cans).

Both headphones also have the useful ‘pause playback’ feature. The headphones pause when you take them off and restart when you put them back on.

The Momentum 4 have a pinch-in and pinch-out function for adding more or less ANC on a sliding scale for those who are sensitive to noise-canceling pressure.

Battery Life

As you can see in the comparison chart below, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 offer 60 hours battery life from full to empty with music on constant play and ANC turned on.

The Sony XM5, like most other competitive models, can only manage half that at 30 hours. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 are head and shoulders above the competition in this regard.

ANC Headphones Battery Life Comparison Chart

ANC Headphones Battery Life Comparison Chart
Battery life expressed in hours with constant music play, with ANC switched on.

This is no small advantage! It means that the battery on the Sennheiser Momentum 4 will last twice as many years as the Sony XM5 battery.

It’s better for the environment and better for you because you have a device that will last. There is the option of one day sending the headphones in for battery replacement or soldering on a new battery yourself, but why not just get one that lasts twice as long?

Both headphones are compatible with USB-PD rapid charging and can give you about an hour per charging minute on rapid charge.

Other Features

Both headphones support the default SBC Bluetooth codec as well as AAC. As for high-res codecs, the Sennheisers support aptX, aptX HD, and aptX adaptive. Sony uses their Bluetooth codec, LDAC.  

All of these will work on most iPhone or Android devices, but the aptX codecs tend to be more popular and widely supported than the Sony options.

Both work with Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri. 

Calls

We tested both headphones on calls in normal and windy conditions.

I thought the Momentum 4 performed slightly better in normal conditions than the XM5, while the XM5 did better in windy conditions.

None of the ANC heaphones we have tried do well in windy conditions, but the Sony XM5 manage something sort of intelligible.

Verdict: Which is better, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 or the Sony WH-1000XM5? And, Are they worth it?

Sennheiser Momentum 4

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Headphones

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Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WH 1000XM5 headphones 1

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Neither of these headphones are likely to disappoint you. Both succeed in making a daily commute more pleasant and on the whole, are worth their price tags.

The Sennheiser Momentum, considering the current price, is our top pick for value in ANC headphones at this moment. Other than a slightly bloated bass, which can be fixed with EQ, the tuning is excellent out of the box. And the amazing 60 hour battery life is unbeatable.

The Sony XM5, on the other hand, are some of the most popular ANC cans on the market, and they live up to the hype for the most part. The sound is good for ANC cans (minus the bloated bass) and they offer the best noise-canceling out there.

For overall value, battery life, and sound, go with the Sennheiser Momentum 4; for noise-canceling, go with the Sony XM5.

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