I am taking the liberty of starting a new thread to collate post-op impressions of what I think might one day be seen as a reasonably significant - although far from outstanding - headphone.
To recap: Like many folks I have liked many parts of many Ultrasones, and I hoped that one day they would put all the good parts and none of the bad parts into a single flagship. I thought the Edition 10 might be that phone, so I ordered a pair in the middle of last year, and on December 24 serial number 273 was delivered to me as part of the first U.S. shipment.
Because of the holiday season initial audition was fragmented, and possibly because of holiday cheer I first noticed the good points - which were considerable. The Edition 10 was very comfortable, quite good looking, and in particular had outstanding midrange qualities - intensely airborne, ethereal, natural, and organic. Midrange sounds seemed to exist spontaneously in the air in front of me. There was no sensation that mechanical devices near my ears were creating the music I was hearing.
Then I noticed how bad the treble was. It was ragged, with peaks at ugly intervals. Some hidden part of my brain always seemed to be whirring, trying to make harmonic sense of the peaks, which was of course impossible. Hence irritation and fatigue.
And even behind the peaks I felt the treble was intensely grainy. And I felt the bass was flawed too. It was certainly present and powerful, but it sounded synthetic - as if elves in the night had stripped away the real bass lines and replaced them with note-perfect replicas played on a Moog.
The mids were still fabulous, but as the bass and treble irritations wore me down I began to feel as if the enjoyable parts of the range were getting narrower and narrower. With regret, I gave up on the phones and put them away, very frustrated because I felt Ultrasone had come reasonably close to building a world-beater, but had ultimately blown it.
Then I heard about the pad issue. It was claimed that the wrong pads had been fitted to some pairs, including mine. These claims were made amid unbelievable corporate dysfunction. Both Ultrasone Germany and Ultrasone USA became poster boys for nonsense. Only two U.S. employees - Randy, who we know, and a repair tech named Mark Butler - stood up for old-fashioned business ethics. I sent my pair in for new pads.
I did so with great skepticism and very little expectation of success. I thought the initiative was nothing but smoke-and-mirrors damage control. I knew about the Beyer pad issue, and Grados, but I thought the faults I was hearing were beyond what could be fixed with pads.
I was partly wrong, and partly right.
The new pads are noticeably different. They’re slightly larger, have a different cross section, and are made from different foam. Whereas the old pads were perfect doughnuts wrapped in leather, the new pads have a trumpet- or tulip-like cross section, smoothed off soon after the “bell” begins. Whereas the old pads were pillow-soft, the new pads push back a little more - they’re meatier, heavier, denser, and more springy.
In passing, I have to mention: without being an expert on industrial assembly, I find it impossible to believe that the difference between “correct” and “incorrect” could not be easily determined by anyone. From my experience of repetitive manual tasks, the hand becomes attuned to the slightest difference in samples. For an assembly worker to pick up ten “correct” pads and then one “incorrect” pad and not notice is almost inconceivable. So unless Ultrasone had a really, really careless anything-goes attitude, this is a definite “Mk. 2” revision.
The new pads work wonders with the bass and treble. Pre-op, a quality-vs-frequency graph would have had a low, flat shoulder on the left, then a huge, phallic SQ spike in the middle, returning to a low, flat shoulder on the right. The new pads have dragged those shoulders way up, to the point where the post-op Edition 10 now has bass and treble just about - almost - competitive with the best available.
But having said that, it can’t be denied this is still a bright phone. It can sound hard and relentless with the wrong amp. Pre-op, my favorite partner for it was the Luxman P1-u. Not anymore. Now, even on my tubed-for-warmth Leben, it’s still slightly bright.
And unfortunately the midrange magic has gone. The pre-op SQ spike has been dragged downward as the shoulders were dragged upward. The result is consistency and conventional high quality right across the band, but that’s no consolation.
So where does it fit?
I think there are three great current-production low-voltage phones - the HD800, the LCD-2, and the HE-6. The T1 comes close, and the post-op Edition 10 sounds a little like it - not so much a T1 on steroids, but a T1 after some really good weed. A fun, bouncy T1. But if we’re charitable for a moment and let the post-op Edition 10 play with the big three, and we imagine a triangle with, say, the HE-6 in the top corner, and the LCD-2 in the bottom left, and the HD800 in the bottom right, then the Edition 10 would place somewhere low down in the space between them, further away from the HE-6, closer to the line that connects the HD800 and the LCD-2, about halfway between them.
Which might be its only selling point. I can’t imagine anyone placing it top of the heap per se - except that it does manage to blend perhaps 75% of the LCD-2’s bass virtues with maybe 75% of the HD800’s other virtues. Personally I would rather have 100% of the HD800, and I know many will prefer 100% of the LCD-2, and others will want 100% of the HE-6, but for those who have mused about a mixture of strengths, the post-op Edition 10 just might fit the bill. In fact I'm sure it would have been the perfect blended one-phone-for-all - but it's too bright.
So ... pre-op it was a train wreck, and post-op it's close but no cigar. Pity.