Pros: Excellent soundstage, Deep and fast bass, Decent treble extension, Good Isolation, Comfortable, Decent details, Best overall sound for 200$
Cons: Needs EQ to sound their best, Harder to drive than contenders, Straight cable is too short, Instrument separation is not the best
This was a long time coming now - my very own review of Dj One Pro! Made by me out of my own free will as I was not paid to do it, the headphones were bought from my own money over two years ago and I don't intend to sweeten anything out. Ultrasne Dj One Pro are some of the most interesting headphones I have ever tried. Their sound is U shaped and I have been using them for almost two years, so I have more than a few thoughts about them. As my gateway for better audio products, I gotta say, they have been a good trusty companion for me, for all this time.
You might know me as a long time speaker about Ultrasone Dj one Pro and tales of their bravery - but before this - you should know that I have a bit of a history with music and I'm a pretty biased listener when it comes to audio equipment. I value quality, details, soundstage, clarity and transient response over other aspects. I like U shaped signatures with a lot of bass and of treble, and a recessed but clear midrange. I don't personally felt burn in with any of the equipment that I owned nor do I believe in it, but I noticed some minor sound changes with changing cables before.
I'm also the director of Seven Heart Studios and I have roles as writer/programmer/editor for our games. You can check more about this here: https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/ and here https://twitter.com/7heartstudios
As my work implies a lot of time spent in front of the computer, I need a headphone that I can wear for this time and that will allow me to move while writing and that allow good noise isolation. We will see in a second in Dj One Pro is able to satisfy my needs.
About Ultrasone and the model in discussion
Ultrasone is a brand famous for their unique approach to music and for their technology namely S-Logic. The theory behind it is that the driver is displaced and shoots the sound in such a way that it reaches the outer ear before reaching the eardrum. Upon disscetion of the headphone, I can say that the technology in application is far more complex and it involves stationary waves and reflective waves that will interact with each other. It sounds like snake oil at first, upon dissection it looks and you would imagine snake poison but upon closer listening it feels like snake poison based medications as it does it's job. The effects are a rather large soundstage, with very good width and height albeit lacking in depth.
Their higher end models might sound better and have better separation - very short testing of Signature Dj revealed a good sound for them - though more testing is necessary.
For a 200$ headphone, Dj one pro offers a hefty package albeit some of it might be intended for specific needs
- You get a very nice hard carrying case (I use it to also carry ie800 with ie800 case or my FiiO DAP!)
- 2 cables:
Short cable with a 3.5mm ending, gold plated. The cable is short and it is stiff at times, but it is the ideal length to have Dj One Pro on your head and your DAP (player) in your pocket. As it evens out, it is also the most resistant cable I have ever touched in my entire life - it doesn't show a single sign of wear after 2 years.
A long cable - 6.3mm ending, gold plated and coiled. Well, I have not used this cable once since I bought this headphone, but it looks pretty well made. Since they are named Dj One Pro, I can understand the need to introduce this type of cable, but it's good to know that you will need a 6.3mm headphone output to use it.
- A set of bonus pads - really handy and this is one of the very few headphones that offer this. I wish I would see bonus pads on more headphones, and Ulrasone delivers well here. I know that Performance 880 comes with two sets of pads and they have different configuration, but I haven't held one in hand to say how they feel.
- The headphones themselves
- CDs with music from Ultrasone that is used to demonstrate how the S-Logic works. I would say that it wasn't really needed as I didn't personally like any of the pieces on the CD, but it's a nice addition nevertheless. I have purchased other headphones at a higher price point that came with less, so the package is good.
Dj one Pro is built like a tank. There is only one statement to that really. The fact is that they survived my abuse for the past years without a scratch. Okay, they have a scratch or two, but nevertheless they stood their ground much better than I expected them to before I started using them. I've noticed an effect going on - the white plastic can get a greasy layer over it - but this is easy to fix with just a little bit of scrubbing using a cloth.
They survived being in my school bag with my books, survived taken out at 45C and at -15C, survived in humidity (Romanian weather) and they sound just as good. Adjusting the headband is working exactly like the first day: Smooth clicks and operation in general. I adjust the headband daily and it didn't affect sound nor the mechanism.
The earpads need to be replaced at a 1.5 year period or so. The sponge loses it's strength and the pads become flat, your ears touching the metal plate of the headphone; The screws are placed in the metal plate exactly where they will be touching your ears if this happens to the pads. I haven't played with any aftermarket pads - But I will look into the option.
The cables are ever so slightly microphonic, but it didn't make a problem for me in general usage. I can walk with them without being bothered and they don't take any movement, but if your cable is rubbing on the zipper of your jacket, it might make some noise. The cable being a bit stiff, you can easily reposition it without much hassle.
Isolation and Comfort
They heat in summer - But so did all the headphones that I ever tested or owned, except for those with velour pads. Unfortunately, velour pads have other drawbacks. I want to test sheepskin pads and see if they work any better from this perspective. The cups are a bit shallow, but I've been able to enjoy them for hours at time before this became a real problem.
I can't really hear the outside world while wearing Dj One Pro, but I would probably not recommend them for a live performance since they don't sit tightly on the head and you can't really jump around without them falling off. I would use Dj One Pro in a studio, but you can't really use them as drum monitors or other type of live performance. They leak very little sound and you can safely listen to music at average levels without those around you even hearing your music even less be bothered about it.
|Connector||3.5mm female jack connector inside the cup that connects with the cables|
|Frequency response||10 Hz - 22 kHz|
|Max Sound Pressure (SPL)||102 dB (1kHz, 1Vrms)|
|Cable length||0.8m straight cable and 3m maximum length for the coiled cable|
|Transducer type||Dynamic Transducer, closed back type, NdFeB magnet, 50mm driver size|
|Weight without cable||295g|
|Passive noise attenuation||Up to 32 dB|
|Total Harmonic distortion||<1% (1kHz, 100dB SPL)|
|Contact pressure||4.5N approx|
The bass is profound and goes way down to about 40 Hz, but there is an attenuation around 80-120Hz and another one at 200-400 Hz, giving the bass a deep feeling with interesting texture, albeit a slightly hollow sound; The bass starts when it is supposed to and stops with a long decay. They don't sound boomy and the bass doesn't bleed into midrange nor affects any other frequency at all. Drums are where they are supposed to be and there is enough hit with every snare and drum pedal. Bass guitars in special sound very good.
The bass quantity would probably satisfy a moderate bass head, especially with some equalization - but they certainly don't appeal to the absolute bass head public like Ultrasone Pro900 or Sony XB1000. If you're an extreme bass head these might be slightly too balanced for you.
Mids are recessed (not extremely recessed, but still). The mid range has a sweet tonality to it nevertheless, giving the guitars a sweet tone and a good equilibrium to the piano notes. Female voices sound full of life and melodic, albeit they are sweetened and Dj One Pro doesn't act like a studio monitor headphone but like an enjoyable / enjoyment headphone with some color added to the sound. Male voices are deep and have a very good texture and reverberation to them - making especially low male voices sound full and strong. On the other hand, there is a problem with the mids that is around the range of the violins. Violins are not emphasized - but piano and voices and guitars are. You're going to find yourself looking for a bit more bite in compositions like Sonata Arctica - where the violins are very background you'll probably yearn for more. The mids are not grainy but rather smooth, transient sounds are slightly smeared out and you won't hear certain micro details in music that you would otherwise hear with more detailed headphones, but Dj One Pro recovers more details than most of it's direct competitors (not all, but most).
The treble is slightly rolled off, there is a smooth sound to the treble and adding some equalization will turn the treble more natural / harsh. You can't really turn the treble up as much as you might want since it's can become quite metallic / sibilant so you have to make peace with the limited treble. Don't get me wrong, they have more treble than most of their competitors and do sound more vivid, clearer and with better general resolution, but they aren't bright by any means (like say AKG K550 or Grado 325). The treble has good resolution to it, and it resolves fine textures and fine differences in the cymbal sounds but it's smooth with most cymbals and it won't become harsh regardless of whether this was in the recording or not.
What is more interesting about the treble is the soundstage, the treble has more soundstage than any of the other frequencies, the soundstage increasing with the frequency of the signal. This was to be expected given the technology Ultrasone employed there and I personally felt that this was going to be the case with them, but nevertheless it gives a nice impression to music.
Soundstage and imaging
The soundstage is pretty good for a closed back headphone and even better considering the price paid, but it's a pretty specific soundstage. I drawn and calculated the shape and path of the wave for sound inside the cups of Dj One Pro and actually it's interesting. The white paper filters on the outer part will filter out some of the sound waves that come from the back of the driver. There are also reflective waves that form between the driver and the metal plate that will reach the ear with some delay. Since the driver is not aligned with the ear canal, there are reflections forming between parts of the ear as well. Having owned Sennheiser HD380Pro for years, I have seen different technologies for driver displacement relative to the ear and Sennheiser's variant provided a more coherent yet smaller soundstage. In comparation, Dj One Pro extends much better in both height and width, but the soundstage size relative to the frequency causes it to sound a bit disconnected from itself at times.
If you want the best soundstage in a closed headphone that you can get - Dj one pro is probably your safest bet, albeit it will have it's particularities in this. At any rate, I enjoy the overall sound and fully recommend it at this price.
Separation is good - you can hear separate instruments, but they blend in together. You're not cutting any instrument out of the music, but the rather large soundstage helps with keeping a good separation while coherency levels up.
Out of most of 200$ price range, Dj One Pro does the best job at having a wide and tall soundstage and all of the contenders have a similar separation
I do believe that the more expensive Signature Dj does a better job at instrument separation, but I want to keep my thoughts until I can listen a pair for a longer period of time.
PRaT and ADSR
The PRaT is significantly better than I expected it to be from a 200$ headphone, but as it is with the soundstage, the PRaT is affected by the mechanism employed by Ultrasone. The stationary waves created by the whole mechanism that enhances soundstage will have an effect on the transients, but the whole PRaT is better than on most of it's direct contenders. All in all, you won't be disappointed for the price.
Dj one pro is a 64Ohm headphone with a decent efficiency. Adding an AMP will change the sound and most of times will help with the sound, but it's not really necessary with a good dedicated DAP like FiiO X5ii or FiiO X5-3, both of which I recommend.
I have driven the Dj One Pro from my laptop, phone, FiiO X5, FiiO X5ii, FiiO X5-3, FiiO E12A, FiiO K5, FiiO X7+AM3 and a few others.
Driven from your average smartphone, Dj One Pro sounds weak and loose, the bass is pretty bad and transients are very smeared. Driven from a good player like FiiO X5ii, the bass is much tighter, and the sound is considerably more precise. Separation gets really good, and the whole sound is coherent. Soundstage also gets better and that FR to soundstage dependency I spoken earlier about is alleviated. Since they are nowhere near as efficient as Sennheiser ie8 or Sennheiser HD380Pro, you need more power to drive them well - nothing unusual here.
I am a loud listener - for best results you need as much power as you can get. Happily for you - there is a decent priced solution: FiiO K5. K5 made an excellent combination with Dj one pro and you'll also be able yo use the longer cable!
Dj one pro is easily the most detailed headphone at under 200$ range. Those details are not forced onto you but are sent to you and you need to focus to hear an exact sound / detail, but they are present in the song. I compared Dj One Pro with HD800S to make sure of this, and macro details are present in the song, though sometimes you have to focus to hear those details.
Micro details are lost in the mix and there are many micro details missing that are present in more expensive headphones (HD800, LCD4, Ultrasone Dignature Dj, etc)
How do they compare?
There aren't that many other headphones I would recommend better than Dj One Pro at this price, but there are a lot of other headphones in the higher price range area that perform much better making Dj One Pro sound like it sounds relative to the very cheap other headphones.
ie800 leaves Dj One Pro in the dust on every aspect of the sound but soundstage where Dj One Pro has a wider and a taller soundstage.
Dj One Pro is slightly better than most of its direct competitors in this price range, for my tastes and expectations.
- Ath M50x : Dj One Pro has a much wider soundstage, less bass, less bass impact, smoother top end. Dj One Pro has better tonality and about the same level of details and PRaT.
- HD380Pro : Dj One Pro has a similar soundstage, has more bass and more treble, the mids are slightly clearer and the detail retireval is better. Dj One pro has a smoother sound and with less grain, so you might not notice problems with a recording and will let you enjoy music more.
- Ath-A700X : A700x has more treble, clearer sound. Tonality is not neutral on either, with a700x being slightly closer to natural but a bit bright while Dj One Pro has mids a bit recessed. Dj One Pro has much more bass, while A700X has tighter and more precise bass. Soundstage is good on both, with A700x having a more natural soundstage and Dj One Pro having a wider and taller soundstage.
- Akg K550 : K550 is arguably clearer but tonality is not neutral on either. K550 has a little bit of a treble spike that causes it to be a bit hot in the treble while Dj One Pro is a bit smooth. I also think that K550 rolls off a bit earlier in the treble and K550 has a bit less bass. They are on par as far as comfort goes, but K550 is slightly more detailed when it comes to macro details, and considerably more detailed when it comes to micro details. Dj One Pro has a bigger soundstage in both width and height and much better isolation.
Dj One Pro represents a solid value for it's price,, but I wouldn't overhype it. You get a carrying case and the sound is arguably better than it's contenders if you like large soundstages, but it lacks some bass and some detail, especially micro detail. There are other headphones that are slightly clearer at a similar price albeit they won't offer you the same package. As I found the coiled cable useless due to it's 6.3mm ending and the pads were necessary rather than a bonus (given the speed with which the first pair consumed), I would say Dj One Pro has a fair value, good for what it is.
I think that in general I would like to try another headphone, especially another ultrasone but I won't bother with any of the other low end models as the problems imposed by their technology makes almost all low end models rather obsolete for me. Their signature series might solve the problem of stationary waves and false reflections by embedding additional dithering like a very very small micro dampening layer on the inside of the metal plate.
Really looking forward for buying Signature DJ and reporting back whether they solved the issues present in Dj One Pro or not.