Ever since Apple removed the headphone jack back on the iPhone 7, the industry followed, but what also happened was a massive increase in the number of highly compelling Bluetooth headphones, especially in the Earphones / Buds market thanks to Apple’s tremendous success with the original Apple AirPods.
Only problem, AirPods suck for anyone who actually wants to hear something, and you looked a bit of a dufus wearing them. Thankfully, someone at Apple realised this, then out came the AirPods Pro. Even before the AirPods Pro, however, it was clear that the Bluetooth headphone market was getting better and better, but was fairly dense when it came to true ANC headphones, or Active Noise Cancellation, however now, there’s two options that are easily the best in the competing category and we’re going to compare these now.
We think it’s fair to say, our experience with the AirPods Pro hasn’t exactly been the most smoothest, countless replacement Buds have been needed, and early Software for the things practically made the ANC useless, but now we’re in the better side of polish they’ve seen and we can now compare these with an open mind.
What are we comparing to? The Sony WF-1000XM3 (great name) and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2, so some pretty big names in Audio. We’ll be comparing theses with elimination rounds, we’ll talk about the design, price, overall experience and more. We’ve spent days of listening to each on their own, as well as multiple comparing of the same collection of songs across a wide range of genres to reach the conclusion we’ve reached, however, one thing became very clear early on, that one of the three had to be eliminated fairly instantly.
We don’t know whether we got a dud, as everyone recommends these, but our experience with these was terrible. They’re easily the most uncomfortable of the three, likely due to the size of them, though Sony do offer smaller alternatives that should offer comparable audio performance as well as sweat resistance, which these lack. One thing we are big fans of Sony for is the amount of Ear tips they provide, including three sizes in both a felt and silicone material, whilst it wasn’t night and day they were a lot more comfortable with the felt tips, but then again, we know people who prefer Silicone but having the option is great.
However, that’s where the conversation closes, because everything else I’m afraid is a negative. First of all, something we already knew, the case is HUGE, so make sure you’ve either big pockets or somewhere else to store these as if you put that in your pants pocket, you may look like you’ve a problem.
When we received our M3s (we’re going to call them this for easier reference), they had a Software Update, which is fair, they didn’t just come out, however they automatically switch off, which makes sense, to save battery, but doing so kept pausing the update progress (which itself took over an hour), so we had to put them on and manually disable this just to update the Software, NOT a good experience.
If you’ve been listening to headphones like Apple’s original AirPods / EarPods or anything cheap, these are going to really hit you, bass is very punchy, even before you touch the EQ, almost too much bass for us, we prefer a more rounded sound profile and the highs certainly suffer from the drastic bass profile, but the biggest issue with the Sonys, and the reason we’ve had to omit them from this comparison first, is stable connection.
Sony offer two modes on their App to help with this, an option to prioritise Sound quality, which we did at the start to hear what these can really do, and an option to prioritise connection. We couldn’t tell the difference between either of them, but one thing we did keep getting, constant cuts in connection … we couldn’t listen to a single 4 minute song without at least a break every minute. Whether this is the latest Software of what, we don’t know, but we do know these are not recommended until Sony fix this.
Really surprised about the Sonys, we seriously thought we’d have those two pitted against the Sennheiser, but just goes to show how the in person experience can differ from the many reviews out there.
How Sennheiser and AirPods Pro compare to Sony?
Whilst the Sony’s certainly prioritised bass, we didn’t like that, we do like the more fuller sound of the AirPods Pro, offering mids and highs in the most clearest of the three. However, the Sennheiser too do offer a more richer sound profile than the Sonys, but we do notice that for each song on the Sennheiser’s, you do need to prat around with the EQ, but the results were in some cases incredible, but we’ll have a deeper dive at the Sennheiser’s now;
Sennheiser Momentum 2
Out of all the three, if we had our bets on any of them, it was the Sennheiser. Sennheiser has been such a big name in audio for years, respected by even the greyest of audiophile. Plus, they look better, slightly more compact design, still a fairly big case but not Sony bulk. However, it will be interesting how well the felt – almost denim material – will last over time, we guess time will tell.
Like the Sonys, as soon as we got the Momentum’s out of the box, there was a Software Update, however, unlike the Sonys, Sennheiser is, at least, clever enough to let the update go in one go.
So, we installed the App, paired smoothly and began listening. We’re happy to report that the Sennheiser’s paired and stayed paired reliably! And, unlike the Sonys, no drops in connection. They sound, by default, very rich, offer deep punchy bass, but, as a counter to this we were happy to hear also a decent amount of highs, a very impressive audio profile on these.
However, things began to change slightly when we switched gears. Whilst we’re not going to instantly contradict what we’ve just said about them, we do feel like the Sennheiser sometimes try a little too hard, whilst dance music, hip-hop this works perfect for this approach, we do find that if you’re listening to pop, that added bass can be a little distracting. Thankfully, Sennheiser do offer a number of EQ options, like the Sonys, and we think these are actually a lot more feature rich than the Sony ones and do allow for a better listening experience. But, we do wish the default was a bit more rounded.
Testing the Sennheiser’s was going so well, we were loving the audio profiles we’d made for our listening sessions, they have a fantastic ANC and ambient sound mode, however then it came to testing the Sennheiser’s outside, their lies our biggest problem with them, volume. For a pair of earphones, which were literally on track to easily overtaking the AirPods Pro, and the Sony’s (if they worked in first place), this problem however is quite frankly a deal breaker for us, and likely many others.
If you’re playing these indoors, you’ll be fine, seriously, they get plenty loud enough and sound great, however, go outside, perhaps maybe walk past some traffic or when travelling on the bus, these will simply not get loud enough. We had these on full volume and were still hearing the traffic (despite the decent ANC) and that’s a real shame as these were acing everything prior. Whilst we’re hopeful that Sennheiser can fix this in an update, we have to view these how they are today, and after what we said about the Sonys, it would be unfair to judge these differently for problems today.
Like them or hate them, Apple is partly responsible for such good wireless ANC headphones being available, thanks to the ever increasing popularity of the AirPods, which is great. How do the AirPods Pro stack up, well, a lot better than the originals that’s for sure. The biggest problems we had with the originals, outside of looking like an idiot wearing them, is they just sounded bad, they sounded like the included headphones you never use (back when they were) and for the money just were not good enough.
The AirPods Pro easily have the most rounded sound of the three of them, you’ve got bass, granted not as much as the others, you’ve great highs but also very clear mids, which is something the Sonys and the Sennheiser do suffer and lack. The biggest benefit with the AirPods Pro is the seamless integration if you own an iPhone, all testing was done on an iPhone 12 for a week, and this could be a turning point to which you do pick.
AirPods Pro benefits over Sennheiser and Sony
Both the Sennheiser and Sony’s are operated by the buds themselves, meaning the battery and the processor that powers them is embedded in one of the Earbuds. The problem with this, is that if you only want to use one bud at a time, you can only use one of the two, as one of them (typically the R) is required as its the brain. With the AirPods, the brain is inside the Case, and each bud has it’s own separate driver, meaning you can use either just L, or just R, regardless.
AirPods also wake a lot quicker as well, we’re not saying the Sony’s or Sennheiser’s were slow to start up, but their was a noticeable additional wait time when getting them ready, and that matters.
There’s other benefits such as the easy pairing we mentioned, the seamless switching between Apple devices. There’s also Spacial audio, though for us this is nothing that special. Hopefully the issues that keep plaguing the internal microphone on the AirPods Pro doesn’t become a constant as that has been resulting in many replacements being required, but we’ll see.
Overall winner: AirPods Pro … *but…
Let’s be real, all three have problems, all have their unique advantages, we’ve contacted Sony to find out if our issues are typical of other units, still waiting to hear back though we’ve never had the best experience with their Support, but we can say that our experience with the AirPods Pro has been the most consistent of all of them, both in terms of Audio playback and quality, and sometimes that’s what you need.
We’ve had issues with our AirPods, had to replace each side, they’re not perfect, but as far as the whole package goes, we’d recommend the AirPods Pro over the other two.
However, before you shout us down, we have to commend Sennheiser for their Momentum 2 and if you’re looking for overall sound quality and can put up with a lack of volume and slight discomfort in comparison, you can’t go better than the Sennheiser Momentum 2, they offer the most pop, and if you are someone who loves to tweak your audio, they offer that through a fairly intuitive app.
So, there you go, varying on which camp you fall into, it’s a real battle today between Apple’s AirPods Pro, and the Sennheiser Momentum 2.