Sennheiser's newly announced noise-cancelling headphones, the Momentum 4 Wireless, promise world-beating battery life and next-gen noise-cancellation. But how do they stack up against their top-tier rival, the Sony WH-1000XM5?
Having tested both of these premium headphones and therefore compared their specs and performance, we are ready to reveal all. Below, you'll find our full comparison, including our verdict on comfort, features, sound quality and overall value.
Join us as two of the best noise-cancelling headphones around battle it out for supremacy...
Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: price
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 launch at £300 / $350 / AU$550. Pre-orders opened on August 9th, ahead of their general availability on 23rd August.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 arrived in May 2022 priced at £380 / $399 / AU$550, so a little more in the UK and US, although the same in Australia. Discounts are still hard to come by – not surprising considering their newness – but keep an eye on our best headphones deals page and you might spot them at a knockdown price. Black Friday in November could throw up a Sony XM5 deal too.
Bottom line? Not only are the Sennheisers the more competitively priced headphones of the two, they actually debuted at a cheaper price than their 2019 predecessors, the Momentum 3. Looks like Sennheiser means business...
*Winner* Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: design and fit
The Sony XM5 are some of the most comfortable headphones we've tested and deliver just the right amount of clamping force, meaning they feel secure without threatening to crush our ears. The frame is predominately made from an eco-friendly material partly formed from recycled car parts, while the new headband features a classy stepless slider, allowing the XM5 to adjust in a smooth motion rather than clicking into place in increments. The band is covered in a new synthetic leather that also covers the memory-foam earpads. It’s soft and smooth to the touch.
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless offer a similarly high level of comfort, with a slightly tighter (but no less satisfying) clamping force and nicely cushioned headband. We can't help but find their minimal design a little bit "safe" compared to Momentums of old, though. Gone is the grainy leather headband and chunky metal slider of the Momentum 3, replaced by a neat fabric headband and sleek-looking ear cups cushioned by synthetic leather (Sennheiser reckons the synthetic stuff improves acoustics and wearability). In fact, they don't look much different from the Sonys now, so aesthetics probably won't be why you choose one pair over the other.
Both of these headphones ditch traditional buttons in favour of responsive touch controls on the earpads, and both headphones' earcups fold flat to fit in their supplied cases or sit more comfortably when worn around the neck. The Sonys are the lighter headphones here (250g vs 293g), but that aside there isn't really much between them.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: battery life
Both of these premium headphones have plenty of get-up-and-go, but one is the electronic equivalent of Jane Fonda... and that would be the Sennheiser Momentum 4.
The Sennheisers offer a staggering 60 hours of playback from a single charge – and that's with active noise cancellation and Bluetooth switched on. That's a huge improvement on the distinctly average 17 hours offered by the Momentum 3.
By comparison, the Sony XM5 deliver what is a more typical 30 hours of playback with noise cancelling on. That's still a creditable figure, and a full 10 hours more than you get from the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700... but it's nowhere near the bar set by the new Sennheisers.
The Momentum 4 have the edge when it comes to fast charging too. They generate six hours of playback from a 10-minute charge, while the Sonys offer five hours from a 10-minute charge.
It’s not often we are only required to charge a pair of headphones once during testing, and such longevity will surely be a blessing to those who opt for the Momentum 4.
*Winner* Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: features
Sony has carried over a lot of great features from its XM4 to the newer XM5, including support for Sony's LDAC Bluetooth codec, which lets you stream at a higher bitrate than standard Bluetooth from a compatible LDAC device.
Wearing Detection has been improved for the XM5, pausing music when you take the headphones off and restarting it when you put them back on. And call quality is class-leading thanks to Sony's Precise Voice Pickup technology, which uses four beamforming mics with AI-powered noise-reduction to ensure you don't have to shout when taking calls outside.
Sennheiser's fourth-generation Momentum headphones, meanwhile, have a similarly impressive spec sheet. They support aptX Adaptive – like LDAC, one of the highest-quality Bluetooth codecs around – for the benefit of those who own a compatible aptX source device.
You can manage the Momentum 4 via the Sennheiser Smart Control app, which is the gateway to experimenting with EQ, adjusting ANC settings, and performing a ‘Sound Check’ for beginner-friendly EQ selection. You can even create ‘Sound Zones’ – essentially profiles characterised by specific EQ and noise isolation levels – that will automatically activate or deactivate when you and the headphones enter or leave a specific radius.
Neither of these headphones require battery life for wired listening, though they do in order to deploy the noise cancelling function. They're both Bluetooth 5.2-compliant, meaning, among other things, that they can simultaneously connect to multiple Bluetooth devices and switch seamlessly between them.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: noise-cancelling
Sony's active noise-cancelling technology is among the best in the business, only bettered by Bose's ANC technology. There's no need to fiddle with settings either as the XM5 automatically optimise the ANC intensity depending on your surroundings. This works brilliantly, especially when it comes to noise such as train or plane engines.
The fourth-generation Momentum Wireless’ noise-cancelling is similarly impressive. and, like the Sonys, an 'Adaptive' mode can automatically optimise the level of noise-cancelling in real-time, according to the ambient noise around you. You can, however, turn 'Adaptive' off and just manually adjust the ANC levels in the app.
Both the Sonys and Sennheisers have an ambient/transparency mode that lets sound in when you want it to – when, say, you want to hear a train announcement. We prefer the Sonys' implementation, as the ‘Speak to Chat’ feature senses when you start talking, pauses playback and engages the ambient sound mode.
Ultimately, the Sonys have a slight edge when it comes to thwarting louder noises, which is handy when trucks pass by and you're playing no, low-volume or sparser music. Nine times out of ten, though, both headphones prove just as effective at eliminating external noise when music is being played through them.
*Winner* Sony WH-100XM5
Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: sound quality
So, what do these two pairs of headphones sound like? Well, in two words, extremely good – as you might expect from two brands who have been at the top of this game for a decade.
The Sennheisers are clear and direct, delivering a sharp and sprightly sound with plenty of substance. They may have lost a touch of the warmth that characterised the Momentum 3, but we don't mind the extra dose of tonal neutrality. They're musical and detailed and provide a generally entertaining listen that will please most folk.
Spending a bit more for the Sonys will pay off, mind. The Sony XM5 sound slightly richer and bassier than the Momentum 4, though it's their added midrange clarity and transparency that really put them the XM5 in a league of their own (and justifies the greater expense). Their extra insight offers a wider window into a piece of music and they're a touch more rhythmically talented too.
While the Sennheisers sound excellent for the money, we'd consider splashing out on the XM5 if you can for that extra transparency.
*Winner* Sony WH-1000XM5
Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: verdict
Looking for the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones on the market? These two should be high on your list.
The five-star Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless have two big plus points: they're more affordable and offer twice the battery life of the Sonys. If you have an aptX device, that might be another reason to go Sennheiser over Sony.
Ultimately, though, we believe the (also five-star) Sony WH-1000XM5 are the better pick if you can comfortably afford the extra outlay – and that's mostly down to their more detailed sound quality.
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