Airpods Pro 2nd Generation vs. Sennheiser Momentum 3 vs. JBL Tour Pro 2 Review
This is one of those reviews that hardly needs an introduction. Today we’re going head-to-head-to-head with three of the most popular wireless buds: The Apple Airpods Pro 2nd Generation, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3, and the new JBL Tour Pro 2. After recently reviewing a $4,500 electrostatic headphone, there’s nothing like a good old wireless comparison review of some modern classics to bring me back down to earth, and perhaps back to my senses as well. Let’s see how these popular wireless buds fare against one another.
What’s In Their Boxes?
|Apple Airpods Pro 2nd Gen||Sennheiser Momentum 3||JBL Tour Pro 2|
Look and Fit
Let’s start with how each of these are going to feel in your ears. The JBL Tour Pro 2 and the Airpods Pro 2nd Generation have very similar fits, sitting at a shallow point at the opening of a listener’s ear canal. The Sennheiser Momentum 3, however, was designed with a longer nozzle, and finds a moderate depth in the ear canal that reaches deeper than either the JBL Tour Pro 2 or the Airpods Pro 2nd Gen. In order from the most relaxed to the most snug fit, we have the Airpods, followed by the Tour Pro 2, and then the Momentum 3. While I find all to be conducive to working out and casual listening alike, the snug Momentum 3 might be the best workout pair, and the Aipods the best pair for more casual uses (this is only considering their fits).
One feature on the Airpods Pro 2 that’s somewhat concerning is that the fit might be a little too shallow and relaxed; I had to use the largest ear tip size to have them sit securely in my ears despite usually needing only a medium ear tip size for nearly all other buds that I’ve worn. While this may not present an issue for most listeners, those with larger ear canals might struggle to get the fit quite right with the Airpods Pro 2nd Generation.
When it comes to style and build quality, have a look for yourself. In general, all of the buds have pretty neutral and subtle presentations, and this category may not be the true deal breaker or maker for anyone choosing between these three. However, I can’t help myself from pointing out how much cheaper the Airpod Pro 2’s plastic build looks and feels in comparison to the sturdier and more fortified plastic that went into the Tour Pro 2 and Momentum True Wireless 3. There’s also something similar to be said for the different carrying/charging cases; the Airpods Pro 2’s case is composed of the same cheap plastic that went into the buds, and is glossy in a way that seems like a magnet for for smudge and scratch marks. The JBL Tour Pro 2 case is very impressive for its inclusion of metallic materials as well as a touch screen – but I’ll talk more about that shortly in another section. And finally, the Momentum 3 has a classy and sophisticated case that’s covered in a textured, mesh-like fabric.
So when it comes to general build quality, I’ll call it draw between the JBL’s and the Sennheiser’s. The Airpods Pro 2 are a step below in comparison.
|Specs||Apple Airpods 2nd Gen||Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3||JBL Tour Pro 2|
|Battery Life (ANC On)||5 hours, 24 hours stored in case||7 hours, 28 hours stored in case||8 hours, 24 hours stored in case|
|Wireless Codecs||AAC, SBC||AAC, SBC, AptX, AptX Adaptive||AAC, SBC, LC3, LC3+ pending|
|Dedicated App||No||Sennheiser Smart Control||JBL Headphones|
The active noise cancellation heard in all three of the wireless buds is of a similar, standard quality, and ultimately it’s their passive cancellation qualities that set them apart from one another. I was surprised to find that the Airpods Pro 2 perform the best with passive cancellation, despite their loose and relaxed fit. The JBL Tour Pro 2 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 still perform respectably in this category, but there seems to be a more effective isolating character present in the silicone used in the ear tips on the Airpod Pro 2 that reduced lower frequency sounds to a virtual silence – before I even activated ANC. The Airpods take first place here, followed by the Momentum 3’s, which are closely followed by the JBL Tour Pro 2.
Wireless Connections and Codecs
Note: I used a Pixel 6a for this review.
I have very little in the way of criticism for any of the buds in terms of the stability of their wireless connections. I’m pleased to report that once I followed the simple pairing instructions for each pair, I stayed connected for hours without a hiccup. Drop outs only occurred when I walked about 30 feet away from my phone and turned a corner into another room. I’m not too surprised as we’re dealing with Bluetooth 5.2 and 5.3 connections, which have pretty much always served me well enough for wireless audio purposes.
As for the wireless codecs we see in each pair of buds, the hierarchy is pretty simple: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 is #1 for its high quality AptX Adaptive codec. In second is the JBL Tour Pro 2, and in last is the Apple Airpods 2nd Generation as it only offers the bare bones: AAC and SBC.
JBL and Sennheiser’s buds are neck and neck here with solid 8 and 7 hour bud battery lives respectively, while the Airpods Pro fall disappointingly short and below market average at 5 hours (ANC on). Reference the chart above.
Apps and Interfaces
For a third consecutive wireless performance category, the Apple Airpods Pro 2nd Generation come in last. This is an easy call to make, as they lack the dedicated apps we see with the Sennheiser True Wireless 3 and the JBL Tour Pro 2. While you can optimize their tuning and ANC features on Apple devices when you first connect, that’s about the extent of their customizable features – notably, no EQ options.
The Sennheiser Smart Control app is pretty basic with a nice enough UI. You can check battery levels, make some adjustments to ANC, and apply an equalizer. While it’s nice to see some form of equalization offered, it’s the bare minimum: 3 bands, generalized as Bass, Mids, and Treble. It seems intended to be used only for minor, broad adjustments.
The JBL Headphone app, however, is simply awesome. Aside from the basic features like checking battery levels and turning ANC on or off, you can run various tests to customize and improve your ANC experience, check whether or not the buds have a good seal in your left and right ears, precisely control transparency mode volume, and most importantly, use an equalizer that may be the most impressive and customizable in-app EQ I’ve ever seen. It seems to support up to 15 EQ points, which you can use for very accurate control over not just levels, but “Q” as well. This equalizer may be a little more appealing for the audio nerds out there – if you’re more of a casual listener, there are a number of diverse EQ presets you can choose from: Vocals, Bass, Jazz, etc. Also, something that may be a given at this point, you can name and save any of your favorite custom settings, or make and save adjustments to the default presets.
The JBL Tour Pro 2 goes above and beyond with the touchscreen featured on its charging case, which simply acts as a quick menu for the features you can adjust in the app. Take a look at some of the pictures below.
It’s just one more level of convenience and customization that makes the JBL Tour Pro 2 the clear winner when it comes to features.
Sound Quality Comparisons
Apple Airpods Pro Second Generation
The Airpods Pro are souring on me in more ways than one. Sometimes wireless buds lack clarity but give you fun bass energy, or vice verse. The Airpods Pro are neither clear nor fun, and veiled/masked most tracks I listened to. They’re dull in the low end and higher frequencies alike, and seem oddly tented in the mid range. This gives vocals a somewhat “cupped” sound, and leaves meaty mid range parts (vocals and guitars, for example) competing with one another for presence. There are two places where I find their sonic performance adequate: a pleasant enough warmth in their high bass and low mids that can do drums and pianos justice, and a decent soundstage. Though I wouldn’t say that they sound wide, they’re fine in terms of their accuracy in spatial layering. At times, there’s an internal 3D quality to them that can situate parts of tracks as if they’re inside my head. Last bit of credit I’ll give to the Airpods is that their dull tuning is pretty inoffensive, and listeners don’t have to worry about shrill, painful, or “peaky” higher frequencies – in fact, they’ll probably be left wishing for something extra in the treble.
Honestly, the solution here is simple: listeners should be given an EQ option rather than getting stuck with this bizarre, lifeless tuning. But it’s Apple, and thus I doubt that will ever happen. Apple seems to have gone with the safest tuning they could imagine in order to sell Airpods to the entire world, and the result is a lowest common denominator that lacks vibrancy or excitement.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
The Momentum 3’s balance is distinctly V-shaped; that is, boosted in its highs and lows and quietest in its mid range. Some people may have strong opinions on V-shaped balances, but the one heard in the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 is fun and well done, mostly avoiding the overly-quiet vocals that V-shaped frequency responses can sometime produce. A more balanced sound can be achieved by giving the mids a light boost on the in-app equalizer.
If big, fat and fun bass is what you’re after, the Sennheiser Momentum TWS 3 might be your best choice of three pairs. While the JBL Tour Pro 2 can pack a tight, punchy bass, it can’t quite deliver the wall of rumbling bass energy heard in the Momentum TWS 3. If you’re a bass-addicted degenerate, you can take things to another level by turning on the bass boost setting in the Smart Control app. While this setting was a step overboard for my ears, bigger bass heads than myself are sure to enjoy it. A quality that makes its low end particularly appealing is its avoidance of slow, floaty, or muddy bass that’s commonly heard in bass-heavy wireless buds.
In terms of layering and instrument separation, its spatial character is mostly limited to a 2 dimensional, left-right linearity. This is fairly common for wireless audio, and I find that its flat sound stage is nonetheless well done for what it is, avoiding congestion and clutter. The cleanly divided balance picks up most of the tab, keeping the overall performance articulate even in the midst of its throbbing bass energy.
While the Momentum 3 has a nice clarity all through out the frequency spectrum that is sufficient for a wide array of genres, pop and electronic seem to mesh best with its bass-centric balance.
JBL Tour Pro 2
If you’re after a pair of wireless buds that are bassy but more genuinely eclectic than the Sennheiser Momentum TWS 3, the JBL Tour Pro 2 is a very worthy option. JBL products usually go for Harman targets in their tuning; for those who don’t know what that is, it’s an ongoing project that uses scientific methods in pursuit of the most “universal” tuning – one that sounds best for the greatest number of people. In other words, it’s the smarter version of what Apple is trying to do with their Airpod tuning, and it works a lot better.
It’s somewhat difficult to definitively say what the JBL Tour Pro 2 really sounds like, as it’s by far the most customizable wireless bud on this list – and maybe off this list, for that matter. Going by the “JBL Tour Pro 2” EQ preset, however, seems like a fair way to judge it.
Bass comes through fast and punchy with a mid-bass focus. Subs can be dialed in moderately to a nice effect, but if taken too far, can result in a slower bass with somewhat muddy results. This wasn’t an issue for me, as my preferred sub-bass levels sat just right with the Tour Pro 2. Likely my favorite parts of the balance reside in the buds’ mid range, as vocals sounded detailed and natural, absent of the pillowy and awkward fundamentals I heard in the Airpods Pro 2nd Generation, and more present than they are in the Sennheiser Momentum TWS 3. Higher frequencies are perfectly present, but take on more of a supporting role that keeps the overall balance informed and realistic. If you want a brighter balance from the buds, they respond to EQ in their higher frequencies surprisingly well and avoid plasticky timbres, so long as you don’t boost everything above 2 kHz with a fat finger.
Besides being compatible with the widest array of genres than any other bud on this list, the Tour Pro 2 surprised me with its layering and soundstage as well. The right tracks were able to produce a genuine depth in their stage, something I’m not usually expecting from wireless units in this price range. Combined with a clean and natural balance, this modest 3D quality makes the JBL Tour Pro 2 the most articulate and detailed bud on this list – and honestly, my personal favorite.
So I’ll wrap things up with this: if you’re primarily a pop or electronic listener, there’s a fun yet clean forcefulness offered in the low end of Sennheiser Momentum TWS 3 that might give you what you’re after. If you’re a more eclectic listener, the JBL Tour Pro 2’s exceptional versatility and articulation makes it a very appealing option. As for the Airpods: why? Just why? Apple is woefully behind the curve at this point, and legitimate audio companies like JBL and Sennheiser – and plenty of others – are making vastly superior wireless buds in the same price tier. Get yourself something that offers you the most, rather than choosing a name you’re the most familiar with.
Purchase the JBL Tour Pro 2 here from Audio46.
Purchase the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 here from Audio46.
Checkout the full wireless catalog at Audio46 here.
|JBL Tour Pro 2||Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3||Apple Airpods Pro Second Generation|
|-Well balanced default tuning with a very high level of customization
-Punchy mid bass and clean treble
-Awesome and extensive app
-Comfortable and relaxed fit
-Good for a variety of genres
-One-of-a-kind touchscreen on its charging case
-Above average battery life
|-Fun and articulate bass-focused tuning
-Firm and secure fit
-App is a bit basic
-Decent battery specs
-Good wireless codecs
|-Inoffensive but dull tuning
-Odd mid range balance
-Cheap plastic feel
-No dedicated app
-Lackluster wireless codec options
-Poor battery life
-Comfortable and relaxed fit
-Solid passive noise cancellation
-Warm high bass and low mids
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