Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5

Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Sony XM5: Which sounds better?

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 and the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are really good noise cancelling headphones from two of the strongest headphone brands, with the Sony XM5s being their latest iteration of its effective noise cancelling headphones from the XM4s and the Momentum 4s being the biggest upgrade since the Momentum 3 headphones were released in November 2019.

While both are active noise cancelling headphones, it is necessary to caveat that both headphones are designed with different sound signatures. The Momentum 4 headphones have a more flat and analytical sound signature that is designed for soundstage and to appreciate the minute details in the music, while the Sony XM5s are designed for a more bass-heavy music sound signature. This means that you are getting completely different sound signatures with both headphones, and the Sony XM5s are obviously designed for bass heads.

The Momentum 4 comes equipped with a 42mm transducer driver that provides a pleasing balance between detailed highs, clear and balanced mids, and bass-boosted lows, catering to detail-oriented listeners who appreciate analytical and more neutral sound quality.

On the other hand, the Sony XM5 is known for having the best noise-cancelling performance and deeper bass, making it a great choice for bass heads. The XM5’s noise-cancelling capabilities are slightly better than the Momentum 4 particularly in attenuating lower-mid and bass frequencies which makes the Sony XM5s and all-round better noise cancelling headphone. The Sony XM5s are designed with a smaller 30mm neodymium driver unit with a really wide frequency range.

Comparing the Specs

FeatureSennheiser Momentum 4Sony WH-1000XM5
TypeOver-Ear, CircumauralClosed, Dynamic
Bluetooth VersionBluetooth 5.2 compliantBluetooth Specification Version 5.2
Battery Life (Music Playback)Max. 60 hrsMax. 30 hrs (NC ON), Max. 40 hrs (NC OFF)
Battery Life (Talk Time)Crystal-clear Calls (details not provided)Max. 24 hrs (NC ON), Max. 32 hrs (NC OFF)
Charging TimeApprox. 2-3 hoursApprox. 3.5 hrs
Noise CancellationAdaptive Noise CancellationYes, with Auto NC Optimizer and Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing
Ambient Sound ModeTransparency ModeYes
Weight293 gApprox. 250 g (8.82 oz)
Frequency Response6 Hz to 22 kHz4 Hz–40,000 Hz (JEITA)
Impedance60 ohms48 ohm (1 kHz) (powered on), 16 ohm (1 kHz) (powered off)
Driver Unit42mm30mm
Supported Audio FormatsSBC, AAC, aptXSBC, AAC, LDAC (makes a big difference)
ConnectivityAround-the-ear, circum-aural2.4 GHz band (2.4000–2.4835 GHz)
Included in the BoxHeadphone, Carry case, USB-C charging cable, Audio cable, Airplane adapterCarrying Case, Connection Cable, USB Cable

Sound Performance

In terms of sound performance, the Sony XM5 delivers a slightly richer and bassier sound compared to the Momentum 4. The Sony XM5s also offer added midrange clarity and transparency, allowing you to listen to music soundtracks with crystal clear vocal reproduction and nice midrange details. On the other hand, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 delivers a clearer and more direct sound, making it ideal for those who want a neutral sound signature that allows you to take in all the details of the music. The Momentum 4 also has a notable bump in the sub-bass range from the Momentum 3 headphones, offering a unique sound profile compared to the XM5.

The Momentum 4 definitely has a more balanced and detailed sound signature that feels analytical in nature. It delivers a well-tuned sound profile with a notable emphasis on the sub-bass range, although the bass output does not go as deep as the Sony XM5 headphones. The Momentum 4 has a more traditionally flat response curve and is something that you would expect from Sennheiser if you want a headphone that delivers a more analytical sound signature with clean details and midranges. We did find that the Momentum 4 headphones are more suited for classical music where you get pretty good soundstage and separation which allows you to pick up minute details in the music such as the sound of plucking of guitar strings and the stroke of the piano keys which become more apparent with the Momentum 4s.

On the other hand, the Sony XM5 delivers a slightly richer and bassier sound along with added midrange clarity and transparency, and they certainly have a “fun” sound signature with a lot o dynamism. We listen to a few classical piano pieces by Chopin and we really liked the way the Sony XM5s was able to bring out the midrange and lower end bass notes with precision without sounding muddy or bloated at all. The Sony XM5s have a more “artificial” sounding signature that feels bass-leaning and slightly boosted at the highs which can be good if you enjoy a lot of EDM and rock music, but the Momentum 4 headphones simply nail it when it comes to natural sound reproduction and delivers really nice analytical sound that does not feel colored at all.

The differences between both headphones actually becomes more apparent at higher volume levels. At higher volume levels with ANC turned on, the Sony XM5s actually sound very bright and slightly boosted in the highs, which affects the coloration of the music soundtrack. The Momentum 4 headphones however maintains the natural balance between the highs and midrange, and you get really clear and pristine details that allow you to appreciate the finer details in the music without any hint of coloration – they feel very much like the Sennheiser Pro HD280 or the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro headphones for studio monitoring, but with the added benefit of active noise cancelling.

The Momentum 4 headphones also come with a bass boost function that allows you to boost up the low-end if necessary, although if you are planning on getting the Momentum 4 for its balanced and natural sound quality you would be hardly using this feature anyway. The Sony XM5s certainly feel more artificial and colored in the sound signature, but the bass performance it delivers is very deep and very much like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones which provides exceptional bass with full immersion.

The Sony WH-1000XM5s provide much better active noise cancellation and deeper bass as compared to the Momentum 4

Noise Cancelling Comparison

The Sony XM5 is definitely the better headphone when it comes to active noise cancelling. It excels in attenuating lower-mid and bass frequencies, providing an exceptional level of isolation from external noise especially if you are listening to music in a noisy apartment or building. Sony’s inclusion of the V1 processor alongside the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 in the WH-1000XM5 has really upped its level of active noise  cancelling and the ANC is fully adaptive, which means that you don’t need to adjust the ANC levels as this would be automatically done for you.

That being said, we felt that the Sony XM5s should have provided a more customizable ANC listening experience but allowing the user to adjust the levels of ANC rather than providing a simple “adaptive” feature, as this means you can’t control the active noise cancelling levels which may be necessary depending on your listening needs and environment. We did get the problem of the ANC not being powerful enough in a noisy environment, or the ANC being too much when we wanted more ambient sounds for a more airy sound signature. With the Sony XM5s, you can either choose between adaptive ANC or full transparency mode and there is no customization option available.

To be fair, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 also provides effective noise cancelling which attenuates just as much as the XM5 in the high and high-mid frequencies, but slightly less in the lower-mid and bass frequencies. Like the XM5s, the Momentum 4 headphones do not allow you to customize or manually adjust the ANC as this is done automatically for you. In terms of noise cancellation, the Sony XM5s are the clear winner here as they can block out higher frequency sounds and ambient sounds more effectively than the Momentum 4 headphones, and they are much better at getting rid of low-end hums from electric fans or air conditioning which you might hear even with the Momentum 4s.

While both headphones have their drawbacks in terms of active noise cancelling, I would definitely go for the Sony XM5s over the Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones when it comes to noise cancelling as it is more effective. In fact, the Sony XM5s are able to cancel background sounds on par with the Bose’s latest QuietComfort Ultra headphones which is considered to be the best ANC headphone currently available and a little more effective than the XM5s.

In terms of design, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 is equipped with a larger 42mm driver and a longer battery life, although it is slightly heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM5s

Design and Specs

The Sony WH-1000XM5 features a closed-back dynamic design and 30mm neodymium driver unit. These headphones feature an impedance of 48 ohms (1kHz) when connected via the headphone cable with the unit turned on, and 16 ohms (1kHz) when connected with the unit turned off. The frequency response ranges from 4 Hz to 40,000 Hz (JEITA), providing a wide range of sound reproduction capabilities.

We liked the fact that the XM5s are very comfortable to wear for long periods of time and are equipped with a noiseless design featuring “Soft fit leather” material that fits snugly around the head while reducing pressure on the ears. The XM5s also come with touch sensor volume control, ambient sound mode and quick attention features which make it convenient to adjust the sound settings on the go. The XM5s also come with a built-in battery that delivers up to 32 hours of listening time on a single charge or at 24 hours with ANC switched on.

One of the huge advantages of using the Sony XM5 headphones is its support for LDAC audio which drastically improves the entire audio listening experience. With LDAC switched on, you will notice an immediate jump in the audio quality of your soundtrack and the midrange and vocal details start to become much clearer and crisp. We can confidently say that with LDAC audio on the Sony XM5s, the sound quality becomes much more detailed and clear than what you would get with the Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones and is a huge step up. In fact, the LDAC file format support may be reason enough to pick the Sony XM5 headphones over the Momentum 4s.

Having said that, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones provide a much longer battery life of up to 60 hours on a single charge – and delivers much longer battery even with ANC switched on than the XM5s. The headphones feature a fold-flat design for easy portability and smart features that enhance ease of use, making them ideal for on the go music listening. The Sennheiser Smart Control app also allows you to customize the sound output using the built-in EQ, sound modes, and the new Sound Personalization feature. This feature assesses individual listening preferences to tailor the audio experience accordingly.

The Verdict?

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones are certainly really good headphones for those who enjoy a flatter and more analytical sound signature that is closer to studio monitoring headphones. They have a really nice flat sound signature with very clean highs, smooth midranges and decent bass that can be boosted (although we wouldn’t recommend this if you are looking for analytical clarity which is the whole point of getting a Momentum 4 headphone). The active noise cancellation works decently well, and these are very comfortable headphones that come with superb battery life of up to 60 hours.

With all these in mind, however, the Sony XM5 headphones are in our view much better headphones to get than the Momentum 4 headphones. They offer a much more fun and engaging sound signature with really nice highs and deep punchy bass that make them ideal for EDM and rock music, and they are much more entertaining to listen to even though their sound signature can feel rather “artificial” at times. The deciding factor for us here was the support for LDAC file codecs which really push up the sound performance substantially and allows you to enjoy music in a way that delivers so much more detail and vibrancy. While both headphones are comfortable, the Sony XM5s take the icing on the cake and are slightly lighter than the Momentum 4s with a large over-ear design, making them the ideal headphone to use for long hours of music listening.

Overall, if we had to choose between either the Sony XM5s or the Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones, we would definitely go for the XM5s due to the stronger and more effective active noise cancellation and LDAC support that the XM5s have. The XM5s also have much more rounded and deeper bass which can be an advantage over the Momentum 4 headphones, although if you still prefer a more studio monitoring type of headphone with an analytical sound signature, then the Momentum 4 headphones would arguably be a decent choice.