PLAYBACK 23: Ultrasone Edition 8 Headphones

Equipment+
Categories:
Headphones
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Products:
Ultrasone Edition 8

                                                                                                                                                         

Overview

Consider this headset if: you want headphones with very even frequency balance and excellent tonality, without making major sacrifices in any other sonic parameters.

Look elsewhere if: you want the absolute last word in transparency and dynamics (and you might be willing to sacrifice other sonic parameters to get these two qualities).

Ratings (compared to similarly-priced headphones)

  • Tonal Balance:  9.5
  • Clarity: 9
  • Dynamics: 8.5
  • Comfort/Fit: 9
  • Sensitivity: 8
  • Value: 8.5

Sonic Character

Disc after disc, the first impressive aspect of the Edition 8’s is their ability to render instruments and ensembles without obviously emphasized (or de-emphasized) frequencies. This strikes me as one of the most basic design requirements of any transducer, but with headphones as with speakers, it seems that truly neutral tonal balance is something very hard to achieve.

Most headphones have some range of treble emphasis, however narrow. The Ultrasones mostly avoid this problem, though I did occasionally feel that the upper treble was slightly stronger than is purely neutral. This is a masterful achievement.

Bass is a potential strong point of headphones (because unlike speakers, headphones face a mostly known acoustic environment). But you still hear rolled off bass and bumps or dips from many headphones. Again, the Edition 8s are almost as neutrally balanced as I think a headphone should be. They might be slightly mid-bass heavy, but as I’ve argued in the past, this is a musically grounded choice.

The Ultrasone’s bass is not perfect, however. Drums and bass can be slightly indistinct. In addition, I didn’t get the impression that the bottom octave was as powerful as on, say, the Sennheiser HD 800s. These are small problems, however, and overall the Edition 8s have very good bass.

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