Sennheiser Momentum On-ear Review – A basshead’s Delight!

Sennheiser Momentum Onear boxshotThe explosion in portable entertainment gadgets have created a thriving market for suitable accessories to go with. The classic “white earphone & cable” is still a style statement for most iPod owners (though at the cost of sound quality!). The headphone market has lately been going towards this “Signature style” with either celebrity endorsements or distinctive styling. Sennheiser, not long ago released it’s Momentum, a premium circumaural headphone for on-the-go use and has made a follow-up with the Momentum On ear version. I tried out the Momentum On ear during my daily commute and used it as my primary headphone for listening to music (Spotify premium, Google Music etc.) over a fast broadband connection and my impressions follow.

Design & Comfort:

              If you have already seen the Momentum over-ear model, you know what to expect. A very tastefully done design, goes great with casual and formal wardrobe ;-). The sliding earpieces are nice but I always have the nagging feeling that they tend to move from their optimal position during the regular handling of the headphone. General disclaimer : I have never had a good experience with On-ear headphones!

The Momentum on-ear comes with a plush earpads made of Alcantara – a soft breathable material. The stainless steel headband running across the drivers provide the frame with good grip and a nice look as well. The cable is detachable (a comfort for portable headphones) and  remote for the microphone seems to be made of metal as well. There is an additional regular headphone cable with no microphone provided as well. The amount of detail that has gone into the design is once again reflected in the audio jacks as well, though they are not the wonderful self adjusting Momentum circumaural type, these look like works of art. The colorful hologram on the jack is an eyecandy in itself 😉 – this is the best designed headphone in my opinion – “drool-worthy” .

The comfort of the Momentum on-ear is good but nothing to write home about. The general comfort levels of On-ear models depend on the clamping force as well as earpad material on the headphone. Considering this is a mobile accessory, noise cancellation has to be a priority as well – the clamping pressure was on the stronger side for me and at about the half an hour mark I had to remove them (would have been worse without the Alcantara earpads I suppose!). I have to say that passive noise cancellation could have been better but I believe Sennheiser allowed the tuning of the headphones to do the rest. The robust low frequency presentation actually helps cut down on some noise that I experienced – traveling in trams, trains and generally in other public spaces. Though On-ear headphones have never been my thing (guess I’m sensitive to pressure on the ear lobes ;-)) due to comfort issues – the Momentum On-ear is the least uncomfortable on-ear I have tried.

Sound:

 This isn’t anything like it’s elder brother, the full size Momentum.The Momentum on-ear is a departure from Sennheiser’s house sound and is definitely aimed at audience who would otherwise be gravitating towards say, the Vmoda M100, Beyer Custom one Pro, Bose, Beats, AKG Tiesto and so on. All competitors of the On-ear Momentum pay special attention to the needs of the “bass minded” and genres such as Hip-hop, electronic, pop & EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and good looks ofcourse. I believe this introduction is necessary to put in perspective the tonality of the On-ear Momentums.

Sennheiser Onear MomentumI have to start with the BASS! of the On-ear Momentum, which is the most prominent aspect of it’s presentation. The lower frequencies are very strong (and overwhelming!) for such a small driver unit. The bass is actually quite good in tracks where it is reigned in, everywhere else there is bass”plosion” – highly unlike Sennheiser! The closed architecture tends to add to the bass tuned driver to push out more than required low end punch with some loss in musicality and fidelity in other parts of the presentation. As a HD650 fan, I can immediately realize the speed of the bass, its fast!  makes this good accompaniment to pacey, fast and bassy music. However, the Momentum On ear seems to have been designed to perform best with regular mp3 quality audio rather than high resolution music. As a portable headphone, I do see the wisdom behind the decision but sorely miss the bliss of playing high resolution or even lossless tracks through the headphone to bring out much subtler nuances in the music.

The mids are the least prominent part of the presentation, recessed and without much say in the overall musicality of the headphone.The highs are well extended and don’t appear too shiny, though pushed forward in the soundstage. The details that the treble presents is really overwhelmed by the pulsing strong low end, so there is nothing to complain about the higher frequencies here. Overall the Momentum On-ear carries good resolution in its presentation, the details are nice and clear, only distraction is the bass.

There are probably just a few headphones that can be on the shopping list with the Momentum on-ear. The fabulous Vmoda M80, rugged style and build with a very well balanced presentation and comes customizable accessories as well. For stronger bass the Vmoda M100, again has all of the above but with a presentation that leans to bass (more than I would like). The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro has an adjustable bass control – design is much more industrial. It is safe to say if you enjoy a reasonably balanced musical presentation go for the Momentum (Circumaural) – love thumping beats and bass, Momentum On-ears could be your best company!

Conclusion:

Sennheiser has probably taken into consideration the tastes of the Vox Populi and fans of Rap,Hip-hop, EDM etc, for whom the On-ear Momentums may be a great choice. If you are a basshead as well, I highly recommend trying them – but I prefer a bit of balance in my basshead can as well!. The On-ear Momentum is a great headphone for audience looking towards the likes of the Vmoda M100, AKG Tiesto, Beats & Bose but would prefer a more sophisticated design sense.

Here is a video review from a fellow head-fi’er

Now available in additional colors!

Sennheiser Momentum Onear new colors!

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The Vaudio Headphone Bag!

If you spent anywhere above 100 bucks on your headphones (a fullsize headphone) then it’s probably worth getting some sort of protective bag while storing or transporting it. Granted most if not some headphone makers at that price range, supply a pouch or some sort of bag – but there are several that don’t! And some of these options are not very practical for everyday use! The Sennheisers, HD600 and 650 come with a well made box but its more for long term storage and is not an ideal setup for everyday use. Some of the lower end Sennheisers come with a carrying pouch which actually is ok for transport but doesn’t really do a good job in the safety/protection department. The AKG 701 comes with a stand or holder but no bag, the recent AKG K550 is no exception as well!

The (select) Beyer dynamic headphones come with a well made bag (shown below) that’s actually good for both storage and transport. You can buy it separately as an accessory for about 20 bucks, but the foam support doesn’t really fit all headphones. If you have the time and skill the foam can be cut out to accommodate your specific model.

Beyer Dynamic beyerdynamic-vinyl-bag-568708-600x600

A third-party headphone pouch or carrying bag like the UDG headphone bag costs around 30 bucks – a much more substantial investment in my opinion. I have seen one of these and they are well made and worth the price! But if you are looking for something cheaper (in price), here is my recommendation – Vaudio Headphone Bag. Available from Ebay for 10 bucks with free shipping from Thailand, this is a good quality product for the money.

The bag does not compete with the hard-shell type of carry cases, so don’t expect super tough durability but it had everything that a reasonably priced headphone bag should offer. The bag is spacious and can hold just about every full size headphone out there with the exception of the Stax perhaps! I have tried the Sennheiser HD650, HiFiman HE500 and the AKG K550, all were easy to carry in the Vaudio bag There is a decent amount of padding in the all around to protect from accidental drops and bumps. The handy carrying loop on top is very practical and provides a good grip to carry the bag around. The bag also comes with a shoulder strap that hinges onto two standard plastic loupe on either sides. I have carried it around in slight rain and snow, so far so good and yes, the material is mentioned as waterproof (though not very curious to test that!).

The Vaudio bag may not be the last word in protection and safety for headphones but it sure is a good way to carry and prevent dust that will eventually settle when the headphones are just lying around. It also doubles up as a bag for my E-PL1 and psp (not that I need another camera bag 😉  There are always eclectic choices for special style enthusiasts (provided they have the money) and don’t even get me started on Headphone stands!

PS: Just noticed how similar it is to the Headroom Headcase bag!

Eken A90 Tablet Review

The budget tablet market is currently overflowing with several local manufacturers and chinese tablet makers. Needless to say that Tablets are the second coming of Netbooks that have taken off in a  big way! Tablet devices, the current trend in mobile computing, in my opinion will have a longer lifetime than the ill fated netbooks. The only thing that the netbooks and the tablet devices (of the current gen) is their pricing, the tablets add the fun factor of user interaction that well, the classical computer (netbook) could not offer

9 inch IPS Display Android TabletThe Eken A90 going by the hardware specs, seems to be a step-up from the average china made tablet and does offer something to look forward to, but is it a bit too late! (more about that in the concluding paragraphs). The 9.7 inch IPS display with 1024 x 768 resolution, 2 MP rear camera and a 0.3 MP front facing camera,   1 Gb of RAM and the A10 AllWinner Processor are what I would consider the standout specs of the A90. The regular low-end tablets skimp on providing dual cameras, granted the ones on the A90 are not good but decent enough to get through a Skype video call in a well-lit environment and  probably some ok images and video with the front facing camera.

Build:

To start, I never expected great build quality for a tablet of this price (those costs have to be cut some where..) and  Eken did not disappoint. An all plastic shell gives the Eken a good finish but not a good build. The plastic used is cheap and the back gives-in at a finger press! The glass display is good enough but I seriously doubt whether the tablet would survive multiple tumbles, of course a case of some kind would really help if you intend the tablet to be used by kids (or even grownups for that matter). The screen also tends to slightly give way along the edges when pressed or held (in that area), but that seems to be an issue with other branded tablets (nexus 7 review by geekanoids). The display shows a slight but perceptible flicker when the brightness is pushed below say 40%, of course there is no ambient light sensor in the A90 so there is no point in leaving the screen set to Auto for brightness control. Keep in mind, that the general build quality concerns expressed here seem to be uniform across all budget chinese android tablets that I have read about, so these aren’t Eken specific.

The Eken A90 comes with 2 micro-USB ports, HDMI out, 3.5mm headphones  jack and a microSD slot. Connectivity was ont a problem and the provided microSD slot allowed for upto 32 Gb of memory and one of the mini-USB port has host functionality and worked well with most external memory devices, though it did have problems in detecting one of my NTFS portable hard drives. The HDMI out was useful in mirroring the tablet display on a HDTV or other devices and actually was quite useful is sharing videos, photos and slideshows!

Performance:

The A90 is a very competitive product in its own market-position, there is no point in comparing it to regular tablet offerings from the likes of Acer, Samsung etc. and I will refrain from doing so!. I do have to state that I have had little to no experience interacting with the comparative tablets from Ainol, Onda, Odys and the likes.

Out of the box the A90 is definitely going to impress anybody with that gorgeous IPS display for the money you pay! However with time the Android 4.0.1 ICS starts to struggle every now and then for unknown reasons! The browser tends to freeze often while loading web pages and touch screen performance seems to be a tad bit off. Of Course I went about looking for answers on the web and came across newer firmwares and custom firmwares available for the Eken A90. I didn’t want to the go the custom firmware way, at least not yet! so I went for the firmware update available from Eken’s website. Right now my Eken A90 is running the latest firmware available from Eken and I have to say that there is a definite improvement in performance over the stock version of the tablet.

RSS READER

Flipboard, an RSS aggregator app that I was really looking forward to try on Android turned out to be incompatible with the A90 (or the T90A as the Google playstore detects it!). My default aggregator is Feedly on my computer, hence I went with Feedly on the tablet as well. Feedly provided a decent to good experience on the Eken A90, the great display (for the price) and the decent processor makes reading feeds easy. There are the frequent slowdowns here and there,especially when loading linked out content from the RSS feeds but overall the A90 delivers as a solid news reader. Currents is a recently released news aggregator app from Google to  provide an unparalleled reading experience and it delivers well on the A90. I would gladly recommend Google Currents as a worthy content aggregator and its onely a matter of time before it catches up with Flipboard or Feedly.

Feedly

E-reader

The tablet form factor is one of the most convenient of computing devices for reading. I am a Kindle user and I am sure that is going to reflect on any reading device that I review. The Eken A90 with its excellent display makes for a wonderful reading experience of web pages and ebooks. I use the Kindle app on the A90 and it performs well, reading experience is good, though one has to get the screen brightness down to avoid eye fatigue. The Google Books experience was also quite good on the tablet, fonts are crisp and it’s a pleasure reading. Page turn animations and reading experience was good to satisfactory. I am a Zinio subscriber and was eagerly looking forward to trying out the magazine experience on the A90. The Zinio app seems to “task” the better priced tablets, on the A90 it is decent. The app does take its time to load, but still very usable. The page turns are well executed but page rendering does have a noticeable delay. The graphics and images on the magazines are a pleasure to see from reasonable angles on the IPS display. The downloading of magazines and the time it takes to load a freshly downloaded magazine is a bit longer than I would like but again at the price range it still feels decent.

Gaming

The gorgeous 9.7 inch display is a tempting invitation to try out some gaming on the Eken A90 and coupled with the Mali 400 graphics processor, it should do fine with most casual games. My installs included Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and couple of other games. The A90 is good with casual games, though if you are moving up to even slightly better games be prepared to face constant slow downs and drop in frame rates. Does the tablet support some intensive games, yes, but its not an experience that you’ll want to go through! Stick to casual games and this tablet is very good, which actually makes it a great choice for kids.

I have also included a youtube video by Albertuain below showing some gaming sessions with the A90 to give you a better idea

On the connectivity side of things, the A90 does a decent job and as mentioned before only had problem with one of my portable hard drives. The USB host port also allows for connecting portable surfsticks that allow for connectivity via 3G. I tried out a Huawei device and it had no problems, though establishing a connection requires special software or apps. The music listening experience on the Eken A90 is passable, just another check mark on a list of features to be included! The stereo speakers provided on the tablet are decently loud but not clear! The fact that they would be facing away from the user also makes the this problem more pronounced. The mic was fine for skype calls and voice chats.

Battery life:

                   I have been using the A90 in a home setting and had left the WiFi on constantly, my battery estimate with slight to medium usage (email, twitter,RSS and browsing) is about 4 hours max. I haven’t been commuting with the tablet (yet) but if you are then switching off the WiFi wherever possible is definitely going add some more life to the tablet. I should also mention at this point that there is a Eken Advanced A90 model that seems to come with a higher capacity battery (8000 mAh, if I remember right!) but that tablet doesn’t seem to be from Eken or it seems to be an Eken branded product manufactured by a third party. That said, people must have already started hacking the hardware to try and get in a higher capacity battery..if you are the adventurous type go right ahead! I personally don’t see the point….but that shouldn’t stop you 😉


Concluding remarks..

The Eken A90 is a capable tablet for most users, if their tablet requirements are average. For casual email, gaming, feed reading and even browsing the tablet does a good enough job. Prospective users should be prepared for a sluggish performance every now and then with the default firmware from Eken. I cannot comment on how well the custom firmwares work on the A90 but they do seem to enhance the experience a lot, atleast from what I can see.

The release of the Google Nexus 7 tablet at a very appealing price point has now put tablets like the Eken A90 is dire straits. Specs wise the Nexus 7 easily bests the A90 and performance is on a different scale altogether. Ofcourse you might consider the A90 just as a media consumption device but then Amazon has also just released its new Kindle Fire as well as enhanced Fire HD models! The Eken A90 is a tablet that would best suit tweakers or tech enthusiasts who like playing around with gear, trying things out or if you are looking for a cheap tablet that you wouldn’t probably worry too much if the kids break them. The incredible quality that a 8 Gb Nexus offers is going to drive the low end tablet market crazy and the Eken A90 may just survive if the pricing gets competitive!…a good price for the A90 would be around 100 to 120 bucks!

PS: Oh! and lets not forget, you can add  Jelly Bean goodness to the A90 if you put in some work and are the adventurous kind 😉

Thanks to Techdolph! and don’t forget to check out his detailed 3 part video review on Youtube.