PLAYBACK 23: Ultrasone Edition 8 Headphones

Ultrasone Edition 8
PLAYBACK 23: Ultrasone Edition 8 Headphones

For those of you unfamiliar with Ultrasone, they are a German headphone company (as are Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic, with AKG hailing from nearby Austria). Founded in 1991, Ultrasone is focused exclusively on headphone design and manufacture (whereas the other Germanic brands also make microphones among other devices) and has many patents in this field.

The Edition 8s are Ultrasone’s top audiophile model and are priced like it at $1499. They are sealed back headphones, which makes them more suitable for noisy environments or offices where you don’t want to disturb others. 

In addition to careful attention to design detail (e.g., Ethiopian sheepskin earpads), the Edition 8s have a technology called S-Logic Plus. The idea is similar to the concept that Sennheiser has employed on the HD 800: place the drivers so that your outer ear is involved with the result that you get a sense of space that is closer to that of live music. If you’ve read my HD 800 review, you’ll know that I found that the Sennheiser technology does indeed add a sense of space around instruments but that it doesn’t simulate the imaging of speakers or live music.  I’d say the same thing about Ultrasone’s S-Logic, though I think the HD 800s do a bit better job of conveying a sense of airiness. In any event S-Logic is good technology backed by (somewhat) inaccurate marketing claims.

But before you get the impression that I think S-Logic is a minor thing, I need to tell you about one other important design goal behind it. Ultrasone’s Dr. Florian Koenig has done detailed experiments that were conducted to find the headphone architecture (closed, open, centered driver, offset driver, offset geometry) that minimizes perceived frequency response variations between listeners. It seems that, partly due to different ear shapes, different listeners perceive headphone frequency response differently. All other things being equal, a headphone would be better if there were a smaller variance in perceived response across listeners. S-Logic Plus is the latest version of the architecture that Dr. Koenig found minimized perceived response variance.

 So, the Edition 8 is an interesting headphone, but can it compete with top models from Sennheiser, or for that matter Denon, Audio Technica and Grado? Let’s find out.

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