BEST NOISE-CANCELLING TRUE WIRELESS
IN-EAR HEADPHONES
AIRPODS PRO vs. SENNHEISER MOMENTUM TRUE WIRELESS 2 vs. SONY WF-1000XM3
APPLE AIRPODS PRO
VERSUS
SENNHEISER MOMENTUM TRUE WIRELESS 2
VERSUS
SONY WF-1000XM3
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DESIGN & BUILD

Jumping straight into it, we will start off with the design and build quality of the cases, the Apple Airpods Pro boasts a small and compact case that is by far still the best on the market today. Next, we have the medium size case, the Sennheiser’s. Their case is manageable in day-to-day use but when put into the pockets of tight jeans, they do create a relatively uncomfortable bulge that you will always be aware that they are in there. However, the largest case is definitely the Sony’s. Although they are slimmer in their side profile, they take up a lot of real estate but didn’t bulge as much when kept in a pocket. The look and feel of the case of the Sennheiser is the most premium out of the three. With a fabric outer layer and satisfying click when you shut it close. Next, is the Sony’s case with the two toned colour scheme that screams luxury. But in prolonged use, the case does pick up a lot of scratches and definitely dented up when I dropped it accidentally. The last in position had to be the Airpods Pro case, it isn’t cheap feeling when handling but the gloss plastic body does scratch up a bit too quickly; like in a few days of owning them and using them without any cases. For charging, only the Airpods Pro provide wireless charging and charges via a Lightning port, the rest charges via a USB-C Port. Moving on to the earbuds themselves, we are looking at three very different styles even though all three earbuds use a standard silicone eartip to seal off the outside world. The Airpods Pro has a stem sticking out from your ears but has the least contact with your ears. The Sennheiser has a rounded design utilizes the entire surface area to keep it stable in your ears, meanwhile the Sony utilizes a deep sound tube that goes in really deep into your ear canal. They all do not rely on any ear hooks or ear wings to keep it in place like those of sport-oriented earbuds. The Sennheiser’s and Sony’s uses touchpads for controls while the Airpods Pro uses force sensors. All three earbuds control scheme can also be customized with the exception to the Airpods Pro limited to only IOS users.

COMFORT & FIT

Moving on to comfort and fit, the Airpods Pro have taken the crown as being the best in stability, durability as well as fit. The Airpods Pro rest nicely on the outside of your ear canal and does not intrude deep into your ears. After a while, you do forget that they are in your ears and they do truly feel very comfortable, the best of all the true wireless earbuds I have tested so far. On the contrary, the Sony’s are highly uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time as the sound duct goes way too deep into my ear canal and cause wearing fatigue around 2 hours of wearing them. The Sennheiser’s are in the middle, they do decently well of staying in your ear, they do not fall out but you will always be aware that they are in your ears as they do make full contact with the edges of your ears. Durability wise, the Airpods Pro and Momentum True Wireless 2 are IPX4 water-resistant while the WF-1000XM3 are not water-resistant certified at all. That is in layman terms, mean that the Airpods Pro and the Sennheiser’s are safe from splashing water but you cannot submerge or wash them in water. It is also good news, since the Airpods Pro and Sennheiser’s can double up as gym earbuds since they fit very well and do not fall out during intense workouts. The Sony’s are strictly for commute use as the tri-hold structure failed to keep up with strenuous exercises. On the feature of auto playing and pausing your music, all three earbuds do auto-pause when you remove one earbud and resumes when you put the earbud back in.

SOUND QUALITY

Next, we got the most important factor, sound quality. Now, before we go in further, all three earbuds have active noise-cancelling abilities as well as Transparent Hear Through functionality which feeds ambient environmental sounds through its microphones. The Airpods Pro Transparency Mode seems to work the best amongst the three, pumping in environmental noises and voice as naturally as if you are not having anything on. Next, the Sony’s and Sennheiser’s are on par with decent voice passthrough and ambient sound clarity. They are nowhere on the levels of the Airpods Pro but they are useable. You can even alter the amount to let in on the WF-1000XM3 via the Sony Headphones Connect App, available for download in the App & Play Store. For now, we will stay focus on the active noise-cancelling and talk about overall app experience in the later part of this review. Now for noise cancelling, the Apple AirPods Pro takes the crown as the best yet again. They cancelled out the most noise and are also resistant to wind noise. Meanwhile in second position, the Sennheiser’s noise cancelling is not too bad but they are prone to letting in wind noise and didn’t manage to cancel out louder environmental noises. Lastly, we have the Sony’s who are also prone to letting in wind noise but still didn’t managed to do as well as the top two. It is still very impressive that it managed to beat the competition and stayed as the third in line. Now moving on to sound quality, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 takes the crown this time amongst these three. Starting off with the bass response, the Sennheiser’s bass is really deep, tight and punchy. It also resonates and lingers in the song. The mids are clear and the bass does not bleed into the mids. The mids are very pronounced with vocals being in the forefront as they should be. The highs are well-controlled but they do retain their sparkle. The soundstage is definitely the widest I have heard. The instrument separation is excellent and distinct left and right channels could be heard. They also feature a fully-customizable equalizer in the Sennheiser App. Next, the Sony’s bass is deep and tight but it is fast and does not resonate as much. This is a good thing since the mids sound forward and loud, being careful not to take away from the surround and soundstage. The highs are bright and clear with vocals being in the forefront. Lastly, the Airpods Pro are more focused on the mids and highs but they managed to maintain a decent amount of bass only when the bass kicks in. There is sufficient clarity in the rest of the frequency response with crisp highs and forward-sounding mids. If I would to rank the sound quality, it will be the Sennheiser’s first, Sony’s second and Apple third. Moving on to the call quality, let’s look at the Airpods Pro first because as always, Apple did it again. They blew the rest out of the water with its superior call quality, leaving only your voice audible to the caller on the other hand. The Sennheiser’s are second in line but they do let in a small amount of environmental noise even though my voice is still always clear. Last in line is the Sony’s with its slightly muffled down voice capture that is still useable if you need to answer a quick call.

CONNECTIVITY

Last but not least, the connectivity of these 3 earbuds. Starting off with the Apple Airpods Pro, there is no official app but they do work on both Android and IOS. On IOS, they connect instantaneously but on the Android side, you have to go into Bluetooth settings to connect them. Basic play/pause and switch between Noise-cancelling and Transparency Mode works too, you will only lose the ability to call up Siri for smart assistant support. You can fiddle and change the control scheme on IOS, update the firmware, check the battery life and do an ear fit test to ensure that you have a good seal. Next, the Sennheiser’s have a decently well curated app. In the app, you will first see the Transparent Hearing setting which allows you to hear your ambient surrounding sound so you can always hear the next train announcement or traffic noise to stay safe. You can choose to mute audio or continue playing music with Transparency Mode on, however you cannot control the amount of noise you want to let in. If you prefer the faster way of removing one earbud to hear someone, the earbuds will automatically pause your music, and that you may turn off if you don't want it enabled. Next, you will find the Sound Equaliser which you can choose to customise your very own. This time, you can save presets and switch between them seamlessly. If you are looking for the cleanest sound signature, leaving the equaliser on Neutral will do the job. Moving on, you can also enable or disable Smart Pause, Active Noise-Cancelling, Auto Accept Calls, or SideTone update the earbuds firmware, change your voice assistant or change to use either voice or tones prompts. If you ever lose your earbuds, you cannot trace them back since they do not have Tile integration like the Momentum 3 Wireless Headphones. It is by far a very comprehensive app until you use the Sony’s app. In the app, you will first see the battery life status of both earbuds as well as the case charge on the top. Next, there is the Status settings, which has the music player controls to enable you to play/pause or skip forward and backwards right in the app itself. You can also adjust the volume levels. Adaptive Sound Control is also available to allows for toggling of different noise-cancelling modes like Walking, Staying, Transport and Running. Each has different levels of noise-cancelling and ambient sound modes. These are all automatically detected by the headphone itself through its smart Sense Engine technology built in. Now, the function has evolved to recognize the location you have been to and automatically tuned the settings when you are in that location. Of course, users can toggle the amount of ambient sound let in, focus on voice only or just turn it off completely. There is also a quick attention mode which allows users to strike up a quick conversation with someone without removing the earbuds from their ears. In the Sound settings, you are first greeted with the equaliser option where you can choose from the presets or customise your very own. You can save up to 3 presets and switch between them seamlessly. Moving on, there is the 360 Reality Audio, Sony’s object-based spatial audio technology that enables users to be immersed in music as intended by artists. However, this feature is currently only available to users of Deezer, nugs.net and TIDAL. There is no support for mainstream music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube Premium as of yet. The app will bring you through the set-up process of scanning your ear and face shape to determine and fine tune the music. You can also switch the Sound Quality Mode to put a Priority on Sound Quality or Stable Connection and enable or disable DSEE HX. Lastly, we have the System settings, where you can choose to enable or disable auto-pause upon removal of earbuds from your ears. You can also customise the buttons function scheme to your most used settings so you don’t have to take out your phone to control the earbuds themselves. There is also automatic power on/off to help you conserve battery life in case you forget to turn it off. Lastly, you can also change the language of notifications and voice guidance and enable or disable automatic download of software. There is also a quick attention mode which allows users strike up a quick conversation with someone without removing the earbuds from their ears. On Bluetooth connection, the Airpods Pro features Class 1 Bluetooth and the AAC codec while the Sony’s feature Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC codecs. Meanwhile, the Sennheiser support AptX Low-Latency, AptX, AAC and SBC codecs together with Version 5.1. So definitely high-quality audio codecs support with the latest Bluetooth standards. Both the Airpods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3 allows for listening with one ear with either bud but the Sennheiser’s only support the right earbud single ear listening. Comparing battery life, the Sennheiser lasts the longest with 7 hours on a single charge, the Sony’s second with 6 hours and the Airpods Pro with 4.5 hours. The Sennheiser’s case also holds the most charge with a total of 28 hours, while the Apple and Sony’s case with 24 hours.

THE BOTTOM LINE

All in all, the three earbuds excel in their various areas. But if I were to rank them, I would definitely go for the Apple Airpods Pro first, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 second, followed by the Sony WF-1000XM3. The Airpods Pro may have stuck to a safe and neutral sound signature but the rest of its features like call quality, IOS integration, compactness of case and buds as well as noise-cancelling and Transparency Mode all beat the rest of the competition. Next, the Sennheiser’s are not too far behind with an excellent and energetic sound signature, customization of sound and button controls are still compelling factors for those who really love a dynamic sound. Lastly, the Sony WF-1000XM3 with its customization of noise-cancelling, ambient sound, touchpad controls, sound signature and more. It is definitely better than the rest of the competition for it to be in top 3, but if we are nitpicking here; the case is too huge and Apple just proved it wrong that having a larger case does not equate to longer battery life. Not to mention, the tri-hold structure is over-engineered and causes wearing fatigue. For Apple users, the Airpods Pro is definitely the way to go if you prefer charging the buds and your phone with the same Lighting cable as well as take advantage of its H1 chip capabilities for Hey Siri. But for the rest of the Android users, I will say that the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 will be the way to go.

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