Pros: 50mm driver, crystal clear and clean sound delivery
Cons: Strong clamping, price
The Signature DJ is the new addition to Ultrasone's Signature series. It's basic exterior design is based on the Signature Pro design sharing many components together (except colour) however the driver is a new 50mm mylar driver.
A very big thank you to TimeLord Japan for loaning me a pair of Signature DJs and Signature Pros to do this impression and review.
The Signature DJ comes in a hard case just like the Signature Pro. It also comes with 2 cables (3.5mm and coiled 1/4" jacks), both with locking mechanisms into the left cup. The jack that goes into the left headphone cup is a 2.5mm mini-jack.
Fitting and Comfort
Like the Signature Pros, the Signature DJ are true circumaurals. Since there's so many similarities to the Signature Pros, I found the isolation to be extremely comparable (that is - good isolation). Similarly the clamping pressure seems to be the same (which is strong clamping pressure). I feel I can't really wear these headphones for more than 2-3 hrs at a time.
The headband and earpads seem to be the same thickness too.
The weight of both the headphones are the same. I guess the weight of the larger driver is negligible.
Differences To The Signature Pro
Here's where the Signature DJ's start to differ from the Signature Pro. Ultrasone has managed to fit in a 50mm driver into a cup housing the same size as the Signature Pro (which is a 40mm driver). For that the S-Logic has shape and size has to change.
Below is a comparison of the S-Logic between the two. The left being the Signature Pro, whilst the right is the Signature DJ.
How Does It Sound?
Having enjoyed the Ultrasone Edition 8 Limited Edition for 9 months, I sold it to buy the Signature Pros which I felt were sonically more to my liking. However I never did get around to buying them. As such when the Signature DJ's came out, I was very keen on giving it a listen, and to my ears, they don't disappoint.
Sadly the Signature Pros loaned to me seemed to sound different from some of the other Signature Pros, as such I wasn't able to do a direct comparison between the two. But from memory at a very very high level, the Signature Pros seem to have a more forward mids than the Signature DJ's.
I was on the other hand able to compare the Signature DJs to the V-Moda M-100 which I recently gained possession of and with the Fostex TH-900 which I bought a few months back. And yes I am fully aware that the Signature DJs are 3.38x the cost of the M-100s, and the TH-900s are almost 2x of the Signature DJ's.
To my ears, the Signature DJ has the U-shaped signature reminiscent to quite a few of the headphones released in the 3rd quarter of 2012 - but each to varying degrees. The first and foremost impression I get of the Signature DJ is its ability to deliver a crystal clear and clean presentation. As with other Ultrasones, with the S-Logic plays its part well in these headphones too.
As the name implies being a DJ headphone, bass is one of the primary features of this headphone. It reaches deeper than the Signature Pro but manages to control it tightly. There is no boominess, not bleeding into the mids. In addition, like the Signature Pro, there's a nice reverberating texture to the rendering of the bass. Interestingly though, despite the bass reaching in deep, it's not as deep as the M-100. It almost seems like a conservative deep bass.
I'd describe the mids to be recessed, however the clean and clarity of the overall signature, I personally don't find the recessed mids to be an issue for my tastes. Only some songs I find the Signature DJs mids don't work well with (e.g. Kenny Loggins' Top Gun - but I'm very sure Ultrasone didn't have that soundtrack in mind when they developed the Signature DJ ). On the other hand, the M-100s which I personally felt also had its mids pulled back somewhat (but not recessed like the Signature DJs) weren't as clear. Vocals on that headphone sound like the vocalist has his/her mouth right over the microphone. Whereas the Signature DJ's mids just deliver the voice more cleanly. The TH-900 on the other hand does have more forward mids than either of those but deliver cleanly.
The trebles on the Signature DJ are forward, and again, crystal clear. But there's no sibilant (however I may add possibly borderline...anymore and it would be sibilant). The trebles are smooth too unlike the Edition 8s which had a reputation of being harsh. There's also a sense of airiness to the treble that, to my ears, is well received.
S-Logic, Soundstage, and Imaging
To me there's something special about S-Logic. At least for my ears they work and they work well with the Ultrasone headphones. The Signature DJs are no exception. When I listen to jazz on this (yes I know, they're DJ headphones), I feel like I'm in the band with the music and instruments around me. Along with the soundstage and imaging, I feel how wide and deep the stage is. This is naturally more apparent for certain genre that employs acoustic instruments, rather than modern music with electronically produced sounds (I'm not limiting this to electronica). As such the reference of listening to jazz earlier. With modern music, I don't feel there's any congestion in the presentation too.
At least for my music preferences and these pair of headphones, this is another big feature of the Ultrasone Signature series. In all honesty though, I haven't really worked out in my mind how this feature plays a part in a DJ scene - where these headphones are intended to be used.
The M-100s on the other hand, despite having a wide soundstage and decent imaging, isn't as wide, and presents the music in front of you. With the TH-900s too, I feel the music is presented in front of me, however has a vast soundstage and great depth image.
[Added: 19th Nov '12] In Comparison To Its Signature Pro Older Brother
Earlier I mentioned of the 1st demo Signature Pro didn't sound correct especially compared to the Signature Pros in the shops. I went back to the distributor and told them of my findings and they pulled out 2 other Signature Pros for me. One with an older serial number (in the early 100's, and another in the high 400's - whereas the first demo I had was in the low 500's. All 3 sounded different and they didn't appear to be batch ro serial grouping related. The 500's sounded closer to the low 100s whilst the best of the 3 was the high 400's. As such I swapped the initial 500's demo for the low 400's.
Doing a comparison between the two Signature DJ and Signature Pro, as DigitalFreak replied in the Signature DJ thread that the the DJs hit the bass with a bigger slam than the Signature Pro. That is to be expected as these days, the trend of DJ headphones seem to be hard hitting bass.
I feel the mids to be somewhat more recessed than the(se) Signature Pros - more specifically the lower end of of the mids. Whilst the higher end of the mids seem to be somewhat comparable.
As for the trebles I feel they both are about on par on how forward they are. Now on initial listening the Signature DJs seem to have more forward mids however I feel that this is more merely relative to the recessed low mids and in other soundstage and instrument separation factors.
During my A/B-ing (and I'm still doing it now) with the two Pros and DJ, it wasn't the bass difference that I noticed first but I feel soundstage. Again, I don't know if it's my particular unit of Signature Pro or if it's consistent across all Signature Pros, but they feel congested in comparison to the Signature DJ. On the DJ, the instruments and vocals feel they have more room to breath and as such instrument separation also is better to my ears. Furthermore, since they are clearer separated, I feel that I can hear more details. As such back to the treble difference, I think that initial impressions that the DJ's feel more forward is actually isn't the case. I feel the congestion tends to "hide" the trebles of the Pro.
Having my wife as a 2nd pair of ears, for the kinds of music we listen to we prefer the Signature DJ over these pair of Signature Pros. So far the only exception to this is with classical. The Signature Pro does sound more natural and airy whereas the DJ has a more "Hi-Fi" kind of sound.
As a pair of headphones for the audiophile consumer, along with it's Signature Pro brother, I feel both of these are a great introduction to high end quality sound. It's not just a matter of its frequency response signature but the little details such as texture rendering, good quality imaging, airiness, etc. that start to show - of which the other higher ended headphones carry on and emphasise.
To me the Signature DJs present such a classy sound that I actually wonder where it plays in the DJ scene. It's almost too classy for the average nightclub scene and am more inclined to think thats sound would suit more in a high end classy nightclub or lounge rather than just standard one down the street. For consumers seeking quality sound, on the other hand, these should impress.