Hello everyone, I am rather new to this board. I recently bought the Ultimate Ears 500 and found that there are not many reviews of it around. So I decided to try my hand at reviewing it. Please forgive me if I have used / abused any audio terms.
General + Testing
The UE 500 retail for 99 SGD (around 78 USD), which pits it in the sub $100 market. It is a single dynamic driver earphone. For this review, I will be using the RE0 as my benchmark (since most Head-Fiers should know that earphone). Listening was done with about 20 hours of burn in and connected to a Sansa Fuze V2. Listened to mostly pop and some progressive metal.
Build Quality, Size and Fit
Strain reliefs? Don't see any
The UE 500 are made with chrome-silvery plastic for their outer shell and have 5 sets of silicon single flanges. They also include a pair of comply medium. These things are incredibly tiny for their sound. The housing fits easily and comfortably into my ear with no issues. I found them much more well-fitting than the RE0 or the A-Jays One because they are small and do not press against the outside of your ear. The flat cables are decorated with some weird metro patterns on the outside, but are generally good for use. The only problem I had with the build quality were the markings on the earphones. The L and R indicators are white paint and they fall off easily. Mine faded off within a day of use. The chrome surface is too smooth. Also, without the markings, it's virtually impossible to identify which side is which, because the earphones are shaped the same.
The filter is actually very thin and like 'paper'. It is interesting.
When I compared these earphones to the RE0, I felt that they were balanced. What I mean is the frequencies are represented in equal proportions, resulting in a rather warm sound that is friendly to most ears.
The RE0 has great treble and extremely crisp detail, but does not do bass well. In contrast, the UE 500 has very deep bass (I could feel the thumping bass when listening to hip hop beats) which seems to rock your skull. The bass is strong when it is required. It is not fast enough to catch up to beats cleanly like the RE0 but it makes you feel like the song actually has a bass section. I felt that it reached to the lower (sub bass?) frequencies very much more than the RE0.
The UE 500 is not the best at mids. While female vocals turn out generally smoothly and sound natural, the guitar riffs tend to sound thin and 'unnatural'. They just don't sound like guitars on the UM3x. Sometimes I felt the mids were put slightly forward because they sound louder than the rest of the song and may be fatiguing to listen to for long periods of time. Snare drum beats and percussion instruments are rather well represented because they do not end up sounding like a 'sea of sound' but are clearly differentiated. The RE0's mids are more accurate and sharp. On the UE, there was no sibilance, while with the RE0s I could hear sibilance on the 's' and 't' sounds with female vocals if I wasn't using comply foam.
Treble is sufficiently differentiated from the rest of the song. I can hear cymbals and hi hats sounding very natural. While the RE0 has extreme accuracy and a very airy presentation of the treble, the UEs are less so. Some details are lost in the emphasis on bass and mids. Generally though, the highs are sufficient because they capture cymbals properly.
If I were to describe this, it would probably be a 120 degree arc around my head. It is definitely not as wide as the RE0's. When listening to orchestral songs on the RE0, I could more or less differentiate the positions where the different instruments were coming from, but the UEs didn't achieve that. They were more of a 'between your head' sound.
Right angle jack makes it a relief to paranoid people
The presentation of the UE 500 is smooth. It is very easy to like the sound because it is both accurate and emphasizes the bass and mids. It is one musical package that is enjoyable to listen to for long periods of time, and among the clearer dynamic IEMs I've heard. These blow the UE MetroFis (the metrofi2 black with silver) out of the water because they are so much clearer. Fans who love a balanced sound that is friendly to listen to and a very easy fit will love these IEMs.
Thank you for reading. I hope you find audio nirvana.