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Controversal Ultrasone HFI-780

A Review On: Ultrasone HFI-780

Ultrasone HFI-780

Rated # 379 in Headphones
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Price paid: $220.00
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Pros: Bright, detailed sound, powerful bass, wide soundstage

Cons: Uncomfortable, too aggressive sounding

Ultrasone headphones are getting a lot of attention all over the internet due to probably very good marketing efforts. Before buying it for some reason I thought that I will be getting one of the best headphones on the planet in the price range.


After having it for a month or so and having at least 175 hours of burn in on them I still can't decide if I like them or not. If I had to describe sound signature of this headphone I would use one word: aggressive. It seems to attack your ears with very powerful bass and extremely bright high frequencies at the same time. Some will say that its not a bad thing and generally I would agree because usually I like such sound signature. At home I have Energy C series speakers that produce similar type of very bright and accurate high frequencies. I like them and dislike them at the same time. I know from experience that the sound produced by titanium or aluminum tweeters makes me tired. I know more about speakers than about headphone drivers, so I really wonder what exactly Ultrasone is using in these. In my car I have Focal KR speakers which are also very bright but not tiring at all, because the material used in the tweeter is kevlar which is a type synthetic fiber. Coupled with powerful woofer my car system has very similar sound signature but at the same time its very different.


Back to Ultrasone sound:


BASS: the bass is very punchy, powerful, tight and well controlled. However its not soft pleasant type of bass that I like its more on the aggressive side. Some may like it, some may not.


MIDS: slightly recessed, get better with burn in. I don't think that the main problem of this headphone is the mids, I think its the sibilance of the high frequencies and too powerful presence of the bass that somehow overshadow the mids. Comparing it to Grado SR-225 my impression was that Grados have much more forward mid and much more overall balance.


HIGHS: extremely bright to the point of being fatiguing especially at higher volumes. The highs sound very metallic, its a bit hard to describe but there is a particular sound in the highs which you can hear regardless of the track. However the highs of HFI 780 don't really make Rock/Heavy Metal sound good the best as its often the case with other bright headphones. Bass guitars IMHO don't sound as realistic as they should. Having said that I really enjoyed "Wheel Of Time" by Blind Guardian (orchestral version) in these. This is a killer track on my opinion.


DETAIL: this headphone reveals incredible detail, I guess this is why it has the reputation that it has. On detail level it outperforms many headphones out there including Grado.


SOUNDSTAGE: its quite wide, which makes it a lot of fun for some records. S-Logic is something that is hard to describe it needs to experienced. I think it does more good than bad overall. Again using Grado as reference HFI 780 soundstage is wider and surround effect promised by marketing is present indeed. One of the things I didn't like about SR 225 is that its very close to my ears. So Ultrasone really made an improvement with its S-LOGIC.


MUSIC: It sounds the best for electronic music. Vocals sound great, there is plenty of detail and to me everything aside from Rock/Heavy metal sounds not bad in these. However the sound seems to be kind of synthetic at times.


COMFORT: The headband is too big, they are clamping too tight (could be corrected by stretching), but no matter what you do, you still very much feel them on your head. The only thing I can say is that Ultrasone should really learn from DENON and Beyerdynamic because they are miles away from them in terms of comfort.


Like I said I can't make up my mind on these headphones, I have mixed feelings about them. My experience is ranging from ecstasy while listening to certain tracks to fatigue and frustration listening to others. There is no question that this is unique headphone and there is no question that it is a high quality headphone but its really not universal and not for everybody.


If you want to enjoy these the key is to listen to them at low volumes. At low volumes they are quite enjoyable. At higher volumes the sibilance of highs and too powerful bass at time can get very fatiguing.


UPDATE: After 300+ hours of burn in it becomes much better headphone, much more balanced, highs calm down, midrange becomes more forward. Initially I thought 150-200 hours are enough but it wasn't even close.

1 Comment:

I have the ALO Audio modified version of the HFI-780's, and I bought them used. I don't think they are broken in yet because their sonic signature is changing for the better with each listening session. I like them playing soft, but especially loud (not crazy loud). They really sing then. I don't know how much the ALO Audio mods go into the final sound, but I do like these headphones. They really do clamp down on my head in a bad way, and I'll work on stretching out the the headband. That's my two cents for now.
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