Beats by Dre headphones might be visible on at least one head on a bus at any one time, but that doesn't mean they're your only option for stylish sound on the move.
The Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones are essentially a slightly smaller version of the existing Momentums. The smaller earcups make them more suitable for commuters and Euro-hoppers among you, while the sophisticated stylings won't get you thrown out of fancy cocktail bars.
At £170 they're not exactly cheap, so do they have the sound quality to go with the sleek design?
The Momentum On-Ear headphones are available now from John Lewis.
Should I buy the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones?
With the stainless steel headband and attractive colours, the Momentum On-Ears provide a much more sophisticated aesthetic than their plastic-clad, bass-heavy Beats by Dre rivals. They're small, lightweight and comfortable too. If you're looking for a pair of headphones to suit your business-class lifestyle, the Momentums are a good choice.
Sound quality is excellent too. They deal well with most genres of music, but with a slight emphasis on bass, they'll appeal most to rock and pop music fans. If ultimate clarity for folk, acoustic or classical music is your chief concern, look towards open-back headphones like the Sennheiser HD-700s.
For on-the-go sophistication, the Momentums are excellent and, while far from a casual purchase, won't force you to remortgage your house. Alternatively, check out the Philips Fidelio M1. They have a similar sound characteristic, a more industrial style and cost roughly the same.
Design and features
The Momentum On-Ears are instantly recognisable as being part of Sennheiser's Momentum range. They look almost identical to the regular Momentums, only with slightly smaller ear cups.
The earcups are padded with something Sennheiser calls 'Alcantara' which apparently is used by luxury yacht upholsterers. If you're not familiar with luxury yachts, just imagine it's suede and you're pretty much spot on.
The headband is a brushed stainless steel affair, again with the Alcantara covering across the top. The ear cups slide up and down the band easily. It's a smoother motion and allows for finer adjustment than headphones that use a ratcheted adjusting mechanism. I was easily able to adjust them to my own sizeable noggin, and they can be adjusted to fit comfortably over much smaller heads too.
The mixture of Alcantara, stainless steel and the sturdy plastic ear cups looks undeniably classy. My review model came in a mixture of brown and cream, but navy blue, pistachio green and pink models are also available. They all look incredibly sleek and stylish -- a much more sophisticated look than Dr Dre's brash, plasticky Beats.
While the Beats line will get you street cred hanging around the skatepark, the Momentums will earn you an approving nod in the first-class lounge of your transatlantic flight.
While the soft padding feels nice for a short time, they're not all-day headphones. I found the on-ear design to press into my head more than the over-ear design of the standard Momentums. After a couple of hours, I needed to remove them to let my ears breather. The larger models might be more comfortable for longer periods, but the smaller design of these makes them a better choice for out and about use.
The rubber cable feels a little on the flimsy side, but it resisted tangling slightly better than others I've used. It's also replaceable, so if you do rip it to shreds, you can easily pop in a fresh one. You'll find a three-button remote with a microphone built-in too, letting you control your music and make calls.
No matter how delicious a set of headphones look when they're perched on your barnet, if you're shelling out £170, you're entitled to expect good sound from them. The on-ear Momentums don't disappoint.
They give a very satisfying all-round sound with a bit of a lean towards the bassier end. Kickdrums and synth bass riffs sound clear and punchy, without muddying the rest of the mix. Lower mid tones are good too, but they don't have quite the same warmth afforded by the larger drivers in the full-size Momentums.
The on-ear Momentums dealt well with the roaring synth lines in Zomboy's track Hoedown. The kickdrum was powerful and punchy, although the warmth from the purring bass line wasn't quite as intense as it is on some larger over-ear headphones. For warmer, purring bass, look towards the Denon AH-D600s or the V-Moda CrossFade M100s for something more portable.
Higher end tones are handled admirably too. The folksy guitars and vocals on Newton Faulkner's Dream Catch Me were clear and well produced. They didn't quite have the same high end sparkle you'd expect to find on pricier headphones though. If you want the brightest and most open tone, check out Sennheiser's open-backed HD 700 cans.
If you do intend to use the Momentums out and about, bear in mind that they offer no active noise cancellation. While the soft padding goes some way to isolating outside noise, I found I had to crank my music up very high to compete against the din of the London Underground.
With their stylish, sophisticated design, lightweight construction and good sound quality, the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones will definitely suit those of you looking for good on-ear headphones without the brash schoolboy aesthetics of Beats.