A few days ago, alerted by Kinja Deals, I ordered the Audiotechnica ATH-M50x on sale (refurbished) for $90 on Amazon. About a week before that, I had ordered a pair of Sennheiser Momentum 2.0's (open box) for about $180. I had mentioned below the Kinja post that I planned on comparing the two to see if the Sennheisers were worth the twofold increase in price. There seemed to be some interest, so I’m posting my results here. (Caveat: I am not an audiophile, nor do I know professional audio or headphone parlance. I’ll be using plain English and words I know)
I spent about an hour wearing each set and listening to a variety of music, which I’ll list below.
Appearance and Materials
For me, this isn’t even close. The Sennheisers, which I ordered in Ivory, look amazingly stylish, with a slightly opalescent sheen to the white that’s hard to see in photos. If you’ve ever seen BMW’s “frozen white” paint scheme, this is similar. In addition, the genuine leather ear cup pads are a dark brown that contrasts beautifully with the ivory of the covering. The headband on the Sennheisers is also the same brown leather with brushed steel, hinged supports for the ear cups. They just look great. A useless but nifty bit of aesthetics is that the “S” on the side of the headphones is rainbow-reflective, so it looks different colors as light passes over it.
The materials on the Sennheisers feel as primo as they look. The earcups are memory foam, the band is steel, the padding is supple, genuine leather. Everything about them feels quality and premium. The microphone and volume adjustment on the cord is a plus too.
The M50s look good, but pretty plain. They look like high-quality, black plastic headphones. The padding on the ear cups and headband is comfortable, but it’s not memory foam or real leather. There isn’t much flash or style put into the design of the M50s, which is fine- they’re not fashion headphones. They are, however a lot of plastic and foam, and that shows, especially sitting next the the Momentums. I do REALLY like Audio-Technica’s locking cable system, though. It’s great and I wonder why more headphone makers don’t do it.
Winner: Sennheiser, hands down.
Comfort and Fit
Sennheiser has the edge here too. The M50s feel very large, bulky, and plasticky on your head in comparison to the lighter, more elegant Momentums. The Momentums rest lighter on your head, feel better on your ears, and have better adjustability. In addition to sliding up and down on the band, the earcups on the Sennheisers rotate some to accommodate different angled ears. In addition, the Momentums have deeper ear cups, so there’s less pressing on your ears during long listening sessions. There’s also no real comparison between the feel of real, soft leather against your head and the vinyl of the M50s.
The M50s also feel much stiffer, and clamp down on your head a good deal more.. I felt like this fact, combined with the shallower ear cups, might result in some discomfort after a while.
Without trying them on, I expected the M50s to feel lighter, but that just wasn’t the case. Everything about the M50s feels bulky, stiff, and heavy when compared with the Momentums, which surprised me. I don’t know if there’s even much of a weight difference, I think they just feel heavier because of how much more they clamp down on your head.
Winner: Sennheiser, again. They feel like $300 headphones, period.
Note: Music I listened to on both sets included tracks by Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Florence and the Machine, Yo Yo Ma, Glitch Mob, Drake, The Beatles, Kongos, Daft Punk, and Neil Young.
Here’s where I expected things to be far more even. I’d heard and read amazing things about the M50s, and was fairly certain they’d be very close to the Momentums when it came to sound.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
The first thing I noticed was how much more sound the Sennheisers passively block, just by virtue of the memory foam and deeper ear cups. It’s not as drastic as when you turn on a pair of Bose noise cancelling, but I’d say the block 20% more sound than the M50s.
When actually listening to music, the M50s have kind of muddy bass and low tones. The whole sound signature of the M50s felt lower and bass-ier than the Momentums, even on songs without a ton of low sounds. That slightly over-bass sound kinda washed out some of the more subtle sounds in stuff I listened to.
The Momentums, on the other hand, sounded much crisper and lighter, EXCEPT when they needed to for bass-heavy notes. Everything about the sound on these felt cleaner and tighter, including heavy bass. It’s just an amazingly crisp, clean, accurate listening experience. It’s amazing.
Winner: Sennheiser takes all three rounds. The M50s sound VERY good, just not as good as the Momentums.
At $90, the M50s are an amazing pair of headphones. They have a rich, high-quality sound that will be miles above any $20 pair of headphones you’re used to wearing to the gym.
That said, the Momentums are otherworldly good for the price I paid. The thing about them is, they’d amaze me just as much if they cost $300 or $500. They’re good enough that I’d believe they cost that much. They feel it, look it, and sound like it.
Bottom line: If you have the money, or can get a deal, the Momentums are unbelievably good headphones, and better in every way than the very good M50s.