Wireless noise-cancelling earbuds are finding their way into more and more cabin bags as travellers embrace cable-free convenience.
I long ago moved over from large over-the-ear headphones to compact earbuds.
While not providing the same high degree of isolation, they’re close enough that the upsides of small go-anywhere size (so they take up less space in my carry-on bag), comfort and the flexibility to be unobtrusively used anywhere always wins out.
The latest entrant in the booming market for noise-cancelling earbuds is Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3, arriving on 10 May for $399.95.
Sennheiser offered Executive Traveller the opportunity to test-drive – or maybe that should be test-fly?– a pair of the Momentum True Wireless 3s ahead of their release, so off we went.
These third-gen earbuds confidently build on the solid audiophile foundation of the Momentum True Wireless line with improved noise cancellation, voice calling and comfort.
Intriguingly, they’re $100 less expensive than the True Wireless 2 – which also gives them a fresh edge against competing models from Bose and Sony, among others.
Pairing the Momentum True Wireless 3s is a doddle. While there’s no Bluetooth multipoint for simultaneously connecting with two devices, typically a smartphone and laptop, Sennheiser says this will be added through a future firmware upgrade.
In addition to four pairs of silicone eartips (sized from XS to L) you get three wrap-around ‘earfins’ – although without the notable fins of many sport earbuds – which encircle the point at which the True Wireless 3s nestle into your ear, with the aim of providing a snug and secure fit.
It’s worth taking the time to try each eartip and earfin – even allowing that one ear might require a different-sized tip or fin than the other – to find the combo with the most comfortable fit and tightest seal.
(To help find your perfect fit, Sennheiser’s Smart Control app includes an ear adapter fitting test.)
I was delighted with the Momentum True Wireless 3’s noise cancellation tech, both during my flight and when using public transport on the ground.
External noise such as the interminable low-frequency rumble of a plane is pushed way down into the background so that music cuts through, and the sound stage created by the German-made 7mm drivers is as wide and richly detailed as you’d expect from Sennheiser: the bass is punchy without being over-driven, the mid-ranges nuanced, the highs sharp as a tack.
If you’re especially fussy about your music, or listen almost exclusively to a particular genre with a specific sound profile, the app’s equaliser is the key to fine-tuning what you hear; in-app customisation extends to setting tap and hold preferences for each earbud.
(For those interested, my go-to albums for testing headphones include The Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Session and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here – two very different LPs with very different soundscapes.)
‘Adaptive noise cancellation’ continuously monitors external noise and adjusts the noise-dampening response in real-time to match, with a tap of the touch-sensitive earbuds shifting into ‘transparency mode’ to let more of the outside in – handy for conversing with cabin crew or the barista at your local cafe.
Also through the app, ’sound zones’ let you define locations where a pre-set audio profile kicks in, such as at the office or gym (where the IPX4 rating will help these earbuds survive the sweatiest workout, as long as you wipe them down to clean them, rather than rinse them under the tap).
The Momentum True Wireless 3’s also perform double-duty for handsfree voice and video calls – so there’s one less bit of tech to tote around – with three beam-forming microphones (up from two in its predecessor) and wind suppression which worked well during my testing during a blustery Sydney day.
Battery life is rated at seven hours – during inflight testing with noise cancellation, my Momentum True Wireless 3s hit low battery state closer to the six hour mark – with the diminutive cloth-covered battery case putting 28 hours (or four zero-to-hero recharges) on tap.
The case in turn powers up via wireless charging or its own USB-C socket – the supplied USB-A cable means you can plug it in just about anywhere, including your business class seat.
One practical way to extend the usable daily life of your Momentum True Wireless 3s if you’re using them for phone calls plus a bit of music is to use just one earbud at a time (something the Momentum True Wireless 2 couldn’t do).
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 noise-cancelling earbuds go on sale in Australia on 10 May for $399.95 in black, white and graphite.