Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: which are better?

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: which is better?
(Image credit: Sony)

Fancy a bit of peace and quiet? You could move to a mountain in Tibet, but that's quite a bit of hassle. Instead, we'd recommend a pair of the latest noise-cancelling headphones. 

Whether it's loud traffic, jet engines, office chatter or shouty neighbours, a pair of premium noise-cancellers will shut out the outside world, allowing you to listen to music, podcasts and audiobooks in a zen-like bubble of solitude.

But which noise-cancelling headphones should you buy? The best wireless earbuds do a pretty decent job of blocking out unwanted sounds, but they're no match for a pair of over-ear headphones. And for the ultimate in convenience, opt for a wireless pair.

Below, we've pitted two of the best wireless headphones against each other to see which deserves to be crowned king of the cans. The Sony WH-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 are two of the best headphones on the market right now, so it could be nip and tuck all the way. 

Ready? Let's see how these headphones stack up in terms of sound, design, build, features and price...

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: price

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: which is better?

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

We tested the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones at £350 ($350, AU$550). They're relatively new to the market, so the price has remained steady, but keep an eye out for bargains come Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday.

The Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones hit the shelves at at £350 ($400, AU$575) in 2019. Since then, prices have dropped a bit – we've listed today's best deals below. 

**Winner** Draw

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: battery life

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: which is better?

(Image credit: Sony)

There's no point picking out the best wireless headphones if the battery's always dying halfway through your favourite album. So, how do these headphones compare in terms of battery life?

The Sennheisers deliver 17 hours of wireless playback with active noise cancellation – a relatively modest performance when you consider that the Sonys last 30 hours with noise-cancelling enabled.

Both headphones have a quick-charge function but, again, the Momentum 3s are the laggards in this contest. They generate 1.5 hours of playtime on a 10-minute charge, whereas the Sonys provide five hours playback from a 10-minute charge.

The Sennheisers offer enough juice for long-haul flights and weekly commutes but the class-leading Sonys triumph in the battle of the batteries. 

**Winner** Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: comfort and fit

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: which is better?

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

Marathon battery life is most welcome, but comfort and fit is just as important. Happily, Sennheiser and Sony have both poured every drop of their considerable engineering expertise into these high-end cans...

The Momentum 3s boast the perfect amount of cushioning and a classy stainless steel headband that sits nicely on the head and doesn't  'clamp'. Thick, sheepskin leather earpads offer decent passive isolation – handy if you’re trying to preserve battery by turning the noise-cancelling off. 

Want to travel light? Both these headphones collapse inwards to fit comfortably into a coat pocket or sit inside their supplied fabric cases.

The Sony WH-1000XM4s are even more comfortable than their predecessors, the WH-1000XM3s. Impressive, given that the XM3s are some of the most comfortable headphones we've ever tested. The XM4s pump up the plushness with softer earcups that are 10 per cent larger than those used on the XM3s. 

For some, Sennheisers use of metal and leather will be more appealing (that solid, weighty construction accounts for the fact that Sennheisers are over 50g heavier than the Sonys). However, while the Sonys are hewn of plastic and rubber they feel just as well-crafted and luxurious.

**Winner** Draw

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: features

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: which is better?

(Image credit: Sony)

This isn't Sony or Sennheiser's first rodeo, and both brands have come up with knockout noise-cancelling technology. But, which works best? And what other features do you get for your money? 

Sennheiser's third-generation Momentum headphones comes with earcup-mounted controls that let you toggle between three noise-cancelling functions – on, off and transparent. In our tests, traffic and office noise was almost entirely eradicated, as was the roar of planes flying overhead. It's not quite as sophisticated or flexible as Sony's noise-cancelling tech, but it sounds natural and is hugely effective.

Sony's noise-cancelling is nothing short of ingenious. It uses artificial intelligence, in combination with Sony's new DSEE Extreme processor, to automatically optimise noise-cancelling performance according to a range of factors. That's everything from the shape of your face (and whether or not you wear glasses), to the ambient sound levels measured at your favourite locations. This fine adjustment happens in real-time, a first for Sony headphones, and works brilliantly. 

Watch a lot of movies on the go? In addition to aptX, AAC and SBC Bluetooth, the Sennheisers support aptX Low Latency, which aims to improve the synchronicity of audio (through the headphones) and video content (on your source’s screen) when gaming or binging on Netflix.

The Sonys don't support any form of aptX Bluetooth code but they do support Sony's own LDAC tech, which does pretty much the same thing. Furthermore, they one-up the Sennheisers with support for 360 Reality Audio, Sony's 3D audio format which is supported by streaming services such as Tidal and Deezer.

Not to be outdone, the Sennheisers offer some unique features of their own. To help you hang onto your new purchase, the German firm has thoughtfully integrated Bluetooth tracking into its headphones, so you can locate your misplaced cans, anywhere, anytime, via the third-party Tile app. 

But still the Sonys have more to offer, including Speak-to-Chat, which automatically pauses your music when you start talking. Handy, as it  means you don't have to remove your headphones to talk to co-workers or order a coffee. It's not perfect but you can set the sensitivity of this mode to prevent triggering it accidentally. 

The Sonys also trump the Sennheisers with Multipoint, which lets the XM4s connect to two devices wirelessly simultaneously. So, if you're listening to music on your computer and your smartphone rings, the headphones will seamlessly switch over to your phone so that you can answer the call. That could be a game-changer if you work from home. Talking of which, the Sonys sound crisper during voice calls thanks to Precise Voice Pickup tech.

It's a close-run thing but while the Sennheisers support a better spread of high-quality Bluetooth codecs, we think the Sonys are the smartest headphones in the room.

**Winner** Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: sound quality

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: which is better?

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

Right, lets get down to business. Both brands are deadly-serious about sound and have the a cabinet-full of What Hi-Fi? Awards to prove it. Time for some intense sonic scrutiny...

Sennheiser is no stranger to five star reviews, but the Momentum 3s sound spectacular even by Sennheiser's standards. Their combination of class-leading clarity, superb rhythmic aptitude and deft timing is hugely impressive. If you're looking for dynamic-yet-disciplined headphones targeted at the discerning listener, the full-bodied Sennheisers won't disappoint. 

Decision made, then? Not quite. The choice is made a whole lot harder by the stellar-sounding Sonys. The Japanese giant's inspired DAC and analogue amplifier combination worked extremely well in the WH-1000XM3s and it impresses once again here, serving up a fabulously rich, warm sound. The Sennheisers might boast near-perfect tonal balance, but they can't match the Sonys for sheer musicality and enthusiasm.

This is a win-win situation. Choosing between these two five-star pairs of 'phones comes down to which sound profile appeals to you the most.

**Winner** Draw

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sennheiser Momentum 3: verdict

It was always going to be an epic battle, but the Sony WH-1000XM4s are the better all-rounders (by a nose). The combination of accomplished performance, class-leading battery life and sophisticated noise-cancelling is hard to beat at this price.

That's not to say you shouldn't consider the beautifully-engineered Sennheiser Momentum 3s. They might be less competitive when it comes to battery life, but they remain some of their best wireless headphones we've ever tested. And now they're discounted, there's every chance you could grab a pair at a bargain price.


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Best wireless headphones

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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