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Ultrasone HFI-2400: Should you take the red pill?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Well, after a few months of being satisfied with my rig, I felt the upgrade itch once again.  Curse you, Head-Fi!  I swear, this place is an addiction. :P

The primary genre of music that I listen to is metal, and I absolutely love my Grado SR325is for metal.  However, I also enjoy some electronic/trance music from time to time, and the Grados just don't quite have enough bass oomph for trance.  I used to own a set of Beyerdynamic DT770/250, but I sold those a few months ago since I found them boring and lethargic, even amped.  My Sennheiser HD595 are OK(ish) for trance, but they lack the bass depth and hit that really makes this type of music engaging.  So, it was back to the drawing board.

My absolute must-haves for this set of cans were a powerful, impactful, tight bass with as little blubber as possible and a dynamic, in-your-face type of presentation.  

After a bit of research, I had almost settled on the Ultrasone HFI-780.  However, there was one major drawback with them: they're closed.  I heavily prefer open cans to closed cans because I find that they're more comfortable for long listening sessions.  They make my ears feel free, rather than feeling like they're locked up in solitary confinement.  So the search continued...

Until I found the HFI-2400, that is.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of reviews around here, I wasn't able to research them as thoroughly as I normally do before I make a purchase.  So, do I take the blue pill and stick with the tried-and-true HFI-780, or do I take the HFI-2400-plunge-into-the-unknown with the red pill?  

Boy, am I glad I took the red pill!  The HFI-2400 were exactly what I was looking for.  

So, for any of you who are in a similar boat as I was, I'll offer you my impressions.  (You may notice that I compare and contrast them with my SR325is a great deal.  This is mainly because the Grados are my favorite cans, and I use them as the basis against which I compare all of the other headphones I listen to.  Yes, I love them that much!)  I really wish that I could offer a side-by-side comparison to the HFI-780, but alas, it's just not in my budget.  

What's In the Box?

The cans come with a velvet(ish), cinch-top carrying pouch (meh), a detachable cable (sweet!), and a demo CD completely in German (mein Deutsch ist schlecht).  The CD is full of binaural recordings that, ironically enough, sound better to me on my Grados and Senns than they do on the Ultrasones.  That's not to detract from the quality of the Ultrasones, though, because these are some really great cans (as I'll get to in a bit).

Comfort (9/10)

These are probably some of the comfiest headphones I've ever worn (however, being a guy who finds Grados comfy, that's probably like sitting in a La-Z-Boy after snoozing in a lawn chair).  They've got just enough clamping pressure to keep them stationary on my melon, but not so much that I feel like part of the sledgehammer routine at a Gallagher show.  The pads are soft and seat themselves very nicely around my ears.  Visually speaking, they have the appearance of being heavy, but they're actually lighter than one might think.  All in all, you're not likely to forget they're on your head (like I have with the HD595), but they're not at all bothersome.


My listening rig consists of the following:
Dell Studio XPS 16 Laptop (Ubuntu 10.04 + Amarok) > KECES DA-151 MkII USB DAC > Little Dot I+ (Voskhod 6ZH1P-EV tubes) > HFI-2400

My music collection is mostly FLAC or 256kbps+ VBR MP3.

I've pumped approximately 10 hours worth of music through them so far.  If my impressions change with continued listening and burn-in, I'll be sure to provide the updates.

Highs (8/10)

The highs are clear and crisp, without even a hint of sibilance, but they're not as prominent those on my SR325is.  Many people might find this to be a positive thing, since one of the most common complaints I hear regarding the SR325 is that the highs are piercing.  I, on the other hand, love the SR325 highs because they make the cymbals come alive, as if I'm standing on stage with the band.  To get back on track, I don't necessarily find the highs lacking on the HFI-2400, but I feel that bringing them a little more forward could have taken the highs from great to fantastic.

Mids (7/10)

The upper mids are clear and smooth, yet recessed, while the lower mids sound a bit more rich.  Overall, the mids have a very detailed presentation with a pleasing texture.  There's not much to write home about here, but that's OK with me in this instance because I wasn't really looking for much in the mids department.  What I was really looking for was...

Bass (9.5/10)

Wow.  The bass on these things is phenomenal; it's deep, punchy, and alive.  There's maybe a slight hint of blubber from time to time, but it's only momentary and doesn't detract much from the rest of the spectrum.  The bass is much fuller and tighter than what I recall hearing from my DT770 (which I no longer have available for a side-to-side comparison), and is in a completely different league from the HD595 and SR325is.  I can feel the low notes that I could only hear on my other cans.  The bass isn't overbearing for rock and metal, but it's more than I would personally want, and it's exceptionally well-suited for trance music.

Overall (8.5/10)

These cans are actually pretty forgiving with lower quality recordings, and tend to smooth out some of the edges on overly bright recordings.

Electronic music really comes alive through the HFI-2400.  The tight, punchy bass establishes a fantastic groove, and the mids and highs spin and swirl around on top of it in a really enthralling musical light show.  They don't quite have enough speed for faster genres of metal (which is where my SR325is really shine), but their sound fits very well with electronic music, especially trance.  They've got an engaging and dynamic presentation that's more of an experience than a listening session; they toss you right down the rabbit hole and into the fantasy world.  I could listen to these all day long.

Edited by MetalGeek - 12/2/10 at 7:15pm
post #2 of 20

SWEEEEEEEEEEETTTT I'm going to a headphone boutique to scout out my next buy, and I'm interested in these, thanks for the heads up on the DT770 by the way.

post #3 of 20

I'v said this in the other thread as well, do about 20-30 hours of pink noise to them, and it will become much more balanced (highs will calm down, mids will become more prominent).


I think this is Ultrasone's best 'bang for the buck' headphone, it comes as close to the ed9 as the ALO-780, but only with a slightly more balanced sound (so maybe a little less exciting, but a little more neutral).

I really like it very much, and so far its the ultimate portable headphone for me (portable as in to travel with).

Edited by vvanrij - 11/19/10 at 1:03am
post #4 of 20

Well I just bought HFI 780 a week ago and I compared them to Grado SR 225. After playing them for 50 hours you will notice how much better they will become. These headphones are more fun than Grado you will notice. Grado is pure precise sound, however I personally get tired very quickly from listening to them. Ultrasone on the other hand with its technology of not driving the sound directly to your ears made huge difference in soundstage and even more importantly you can listen to them way longer without feeling tired. I love them even though I have to admit that for rock metal Grado has marginally better sound overall. For electronic music Ultrasone is 10 times better. Also 98% EMF emission reduction makes feel pretty good about them.

Now I need to find something good for my iPod to replace iGrado that also irritate me after a while just like SR 225.

post #5 of 20

Grado is pure precise sound... ?! Its the most colored headphone out there, that is still considered hifi.

post #6 of 20

Yea Graod's are nothing but color, that's why i love them...that and the aggressive fast bass and aggressive highs.

post #7 of 20

Awesome. Great impressions. I'm glad the HFI-2400 is finally getting some attention.


Now I believe you are HFI-2400 reviewer #2 here on Head-Fi... Glad to see your contributions.

post #8 of 20

Personal tastes, thats what its all about.

post #9 of 20

Another Hfi 2400 owner here.


My thoughts on the headphones are almost exactly like the person I bought them from (kesslerjesus) nice deep bass that takes the front over all the other spectrum.  Good mids with pretty strongly rolled off highs.


These are definetly not your "all in one" headphones because how rolled off the highs are but they make super excellent trance/electronic headphones.  Actually pretty good for classical too.


Comfort?  Not too bad but not even close to how comfortable both of my Audio Technica headphones are.  The clamping pressure is important on these without it the bass would be gone so its a nessisary evil.  I find them to sound more like a closed pair of headphones than open ones.


I thought I would like them for my heavy metal type stuff with the pounding double bass drums and bass guitars but actually not so much since the detail in the cymbals and things are kind of lost.


Im finding things to even out as I burn them in though, the bass is relaxing and letting some of the mids/highs come back into the picture after about 24 hours of pink noise.

Edited by ViciousXUSMC - 11/19/10 at 12:01pm
post #10 of 20

This is a great review for me! I'm another 325i owner who really likes the Grado sound. However, if only I could find a phone with the same basic sound, but better bass and a larger, clearer sound stage. (ok, mor comfort wouldn't hurt(pun, yah)) I would have found my audio nirvana. So tell me, how's the sound stage? Another question I always have, how are female vocals? I really like female vocals, and if a phone won't do them right, I'm also unlikely to enjoy the tone in other genres as well. I also own HD590s, from which I love the comfort and sound stage, but they're too dark and veiled.

post #11 of 20

What I did I put many books vertically together(as many as you can fit them) and placed them on the books and let it play music for 50 hours. That streched the tight grip just enough to make them more comfortable and improved the sound a lot in the mids). For electronic music they are awesome, better than any other headphones I listened to.

post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 

I'm not really a good judge of soundstage, so I can't help you there.  As for female vocals, I just listened to my favorite female vocalist, Anneke van Giersbergen, singing "Hyperdrive!" from Devin Townsend's Addicted.  I wouldn't say that they were terrible with female vocals, but they didn't stand out.


As far as whether or not I'll ever prefer the HFI-2400 over my SR325is for metal music...that's pretty doubtful.  They're both open and have a dynamic, aggressive sound, but that's basically where the similarities end.  I don't like the sound signature of the HFI-2400 for metal; there's too much bass, they're not bright enough, the attack and decay aren't quite fast enough, and drums don't quite have the same tangible feel to them.  Grados have a very "live music" type of sound; they make drums and guitars come alive like they're right there in front of you.  Both of these instruments take the back seat to the bass on the HFI-2400.  I sincerely doubt that any amount of burn-in will change my opinion here, because it's not like it's a subtle difference that can be fine-tuned by burn-in.  They'd basically have to take on a whole different sound signature.


None of this, however, should be interpreted in a negative way.  To me, what makes the SR325is ideal for metal makes them fall short for electronic, and what makes the HFI-2400 stellar for electronic makes them miss the mark for rock and metal.  It's not even close either way because they sound so different.


But, just as ilia7777 said earlier, it's all about what the listener prefers.  I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would absolutely love the HFI-2400 for rock and metal, but I heavily prefer the Grado sound for those genres.

post #13 of 20

I used to be a Grado man myself, but in a while it gets very tiring. Its like McDonalds compared to a real meal. (Keeping it child friendly)

post #14 of 20

MetalGeek I absolutely agree with you regarding Grado sound for metal and rock, its amazing how good Ultrasone sounds for some electronic music like Infected Mushrooms for example while for Heavy Metal I just can't use them at all. Ultrasones are just not for metal period. But the same Grado precise reproduction of live sound is what makes them so harsh on the ears.

post #15 of 20
Originally Posted by DarkWolf View Post

This is a great review for me! I'm another 325i owner who really likes the Grado sound. However, if only I could find a phone with the same basic sound, but better bass and a larger, clearer sound stage. (ok, mor comfort wouldn't hurt(pun, yah)) I would have found my audio nirvana. So tell me, how's the sound stage? Another question I always have, how are female vocals? I really like female vocals, and if a phone won't do them right, I'm also unlikely to enjoy the tone in other genres as well. I also own HD590s, from which I love the comfort and sound stage, but they're too dark and veiled.

Ultrasone Pro750s are great for female vocals

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