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Ultrasone Pro 900 (J$ Pads + Blue Dragon V3) Review

post #1 of 78
Thread Starter 

Hello Everybody,

This is my third headphone review on here, and I just want to thank everybody on head-fi for making this website such an engaging and enjoyable community to be a part of. A good part of this review talks about the J$ Pads mod because so many people have asked about it. As always you can read the original review on my blog by clicking here.


 

Edit 5/17/2011 - Blue Dragon V3 Cable Mod Added

Ever since I was introduced to high end audio, I have been pursuing the holy grail of headphones. You know, something that just fits your music taste perfectly. Well I’ve discovered that because of my diverse music selection ranging from acoustic soft rock to bass heavy drum and bass, it is unlikely that I will find a single headphone that will do justice to all of my music. I have decided for the time being that my AKG K701 suites my acoustic and instrumental tastes quite well, but I needed something to fill in the gaps. Enter the Ultrasone Pro 900, a closed back headphone at the top of the pro line.

JMoney Denon V3 Leather Pads Mod

Alright let me get one thing out of the way here before we get started with the review. Upon receiving the headphones the only thing that I was immediately disappointed with was the quality of the stock pads. Luckily I read on head-fi that a member Nachkebia had swapped out the extra pair of stock pads with custom leather J$ Denon pads. I decided that the stock pads were so unbearably uncomfortable that the investment was more than worth it. When I received the J$ pads, the added comfort was simply phenomenal in comparison. The pads are soft, thick and lush, and have the perfect amount of depth to keep my ears from pushing up against the metal driver plate. I can happily wear these headphones for hours now with less fatigue, and I gotta say that I was thrilled to find that they don’t make my ears sweat at all.

Aside from the added comfort of the J$ pads, I was incredibly impressed by how they altered the sound of the pro 900s. The first most notable difference is the isolation. Before using the J$ pads these headphones leaked sound almost as much as an open headphone, however this has been greatly reduced as the leather simply contains the sound better. The second most notable difference was the deeper sound stage. There is no question about it, it is immediately noticeable how much deeper, wider and detailed the sound stage is with the J$ pads.

To help explain the difference between the two pads I decided to do a comparison with “Like a Stone” by Audioslave which is a song I know quite well and I think works wonders with the pro 900.

Stock Pads: The mids sound very recessed, and the vocals while present and noticeable tend to fall into the background as you focus on the demanding thump of the bass and kickdrum. The highs while extended still sound a little bit lacking, and could use a little bit more detail. I also noticed towards the end of the song the bass completely overpowered the mids for about 10 seconds. The sound stage is rather wide for closed headphones, however it sounds very shallow and sort of in your face. However I’m being very picky here in comparison to the J$ pads, and afterall it’s still the same engaging fun sound of the pro 900. Also many may enjoy the sound stage of the stock pads better because it’s so much more “in your face” sounding, it’s just a matter of personal preference.

J$ Pads: Wow where did that deep lushness come from!? I mean the sound stage is so much deeper in comparison, it no longer sounds shallow and anemic. With this instrument separation becomes immediately easier to focus on, and the entire spectrum just sounds much more balanced without loosing the authoritative engaging quality that make these headphones so special. One of the most pleasing changes I found is how much the mids are brought forward. The mid's arn't pronounced significantly and are still recessed, but there is at least a noticeable difference. The vocals are now more where they should be, without becoming overbearing. I’m now able to listen to the entire song as a whole instead of finding myself entranced by the fantastic pounding kick drum. There is also a slight peak in the treble and detail as it no longer escapes through the soft mesh of the stock pads, however it is still nowhere near sibilant sounding (post burn in). My last note is that the bass is much more controlled than it was before. However do not take that as removing the infamous bass slam that Ultrasone is known for, that is without a question still there in abundance. The bass just sounds better refined and more detailed than it did before, this is most likely because my ears are no longer hugging the driver.

To me the J$ mod is a vast improvement and makes the pro 900 a much better all around headphone. The improvement in comfort alone is worth it to me. However there will be those who simply prefer the narrow forward sound of the stock pads and there is nothing wrong with that, it's purely subjective. You can buy the J$ Denon V3 lambskin leather Pads online at either jmoney's website or over at headroom for around $70 - $90.

If you want to see pictures of my Pro 900 with th J$ Pads or want to know how I attached them then visit this thread. http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/527451/ultrasone-pro-900-appreciation-thread/840#post_7394842

  • J$ Leather Pad Mod: 4.5 / 5

 

10ft Blue Dragon V3 Cable Upgrade

Recently I made the decision to use money I had been saving up for a new amp on a cable upgrade for my Pro 900's. So I gave Drew from Moon Audio a call and he recommended the Blue Dragon (copper) V3 cable to me because it fits with the 900's bassy house sound. Now I have never heard anything other than stock headphone cables so I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but goodbye $230 and hello Blue Dragon.

 

Initial Impression: When I first opened up the packaging and looked at the cable I was a little surprised by it's appearance. I wasn't expecting the fully blue coloring despite it's name, and I was surprised that it was about as thick as the stock cable. The images on the website which I've since learned were images of the Silver Dragon mislead me a bit, but appearance is what I care about least here. The jack that connects to the pro 900 fits snugly and firmly, despite not screwing into place. I actually really prefer this, and even with some tug and pull it doesn't come out easily. This takes away the pain of constantly screwing and unscrewing the cable, while retaining a reliable and firm connection.

 

Sound Improvements: When I turned on my amp, the first song I played was "Getaway Car" by Audioslave because this was coincidentally the first song I ever heard on my 900's. The only thing is, they no longer sounded like the same headphone. The clarity was suddenly unparalleled to anything I had ever heard before. The best way to describe the change is it sounded as if a veil had been lifted from the pro 900's sound, and I could suddenly hear these headphones for what they really were. I never would have said that the pro 900's sounded muffled or as if they were holding anything back, but in comparison they simply were. The rawness of the music that I was hearing astounded me, and I suddenly understood why everybody says the pro 900 is among the most detailed headphone's they've ever heard.

 

With this incredible boost in clarity, the pro 900 is suddenly analytical and more demanding of high quality recordings. I've found that sibilance which was never an issue with the pro 900 for me suddenly was making me cringe. I actually switched back to the stock pads from my J$ pads because they added to the extended treble which was a serious issue, and they now don't sound as harsh to me. I guess that the J$ pads and the Blue Dragon cable arn't a good match with the pro 900 because they simply extend the already heightened treble to unbearable levels. This was a huge disappointment to me because the pro 900 is the type of headphone I like to listen to loud, and the J$ and blue dragon combination just didn't let me do that. So for now I'm taking a break from the J$ pads and enjoying the unmasked sound of the Blue Dragon Pro 900 combo.

 

The treble I've already explained is noticeably peaked with the Blue Dragon, but with this so is upper sparkle and detail. The midrange see's improvement aswell and can no longer be called recessed as it is brought forward and raised a good amount. Vocals sound much more raw and crisp, and snare drums have more of a snap to them. However there is still a gap between the midrange and the treble as I notice peaks in volume as vocals shift registries.

 

Bass Improvements: Yes that's right, bass get's it's own section here because the changes are that significant. Firstly the Blue Dragon vastly improves on the slam and quality of the already existing mid bass range that the pro 900 has made it's name through. But something more significant takes place in the bass department, something that I had truly wished for would come with the cable upgrade and I was ecstatic to find was delivered. The sub bass, that low end rumble has undergone a full re-examined facelift and is nearly unrecognizable compared with what the stock cable delivars. Wow, if anybody ever critized the pro 900 for lacking in bass extension they have not heard the Blue Dragon combo. This is a bass lovers dream, and I'm in utter disbelief at how powerful and good it sounds. Combine this with the incredible clarity peak that the Blue Dragon delivars and you have a headphone that sets the bar for all basshead equiptment to come. I will admit that with the abundance of sub bass the pro 900 looses out in some of it's flexibility with other genres and it can sound rather muddied. But with the pro 900 I've found that I simply don't want to listen to anything that isn't filled to the brim with bass so this isn't bothering me much. Overall I am loving the sound that the Blue Dragon cable provides me with, and I'm finding it even more engaging and fun than the stock pro 900. The Blue Dragon has literally made me feel like I was listening to hifi audio for the first time again. Of course the price is quite steep for one of these cables, so if you feel that it is worth the money then make sure the pro's outway the con's here. I would certainly be giving this mod a higher score, but taking price into consideration it is a solid improvement that comes within the pricerange of many other mid range headphones.

 

 

  • Blue Dragon V3 Cable Mod: 4.0 / 5

 

Design & Comfort

Ok now that I’ve explained what the J$ mod does, I can talk about the design, comfort, and build quality of these headphones (phew)! It’s been said before and it needs to be said again, Ultrasone makes seriously durable headphones. The body and earcups are not made of your typical run of the mill plastic, this stuff was made to endure. It’s nice knowing that even if heaven forbid I drop these cans, there will be absolutely no structural damage. Another fantastic feature about the design of the pro 900 is that they can be twisted and folded for portability. Although they are a bit large for on the go listening, this aspect certainly makes traveling with them plausible. On that note they also come with a quality traveling case that has little compartments for cables, extra earpads, and enough room to store my ipod and portable amp on top of the headphones.

The overall design and aesthetics of the headphone is very modern and appealing, and to be frank quite badass. The body is made entirely out of quality black (rhino like) plastic with aluminum plates on the flat side of the drive heads which have a nice embossed Ultrasone logo. Also “Pro 900″ is written in a custom silver font on the top of the headband just in case you forget what your wearing. dt880smile.png

Comfort wise I would say that these are satisfactory with the stock pro 900 pads, but well above average with the J$ pads. However they are still nowhere near as comfy as my Sennheiser HD595′s or AKG K701′s. The Pro 900 has a good amount of clamping force which if you arn’t used to can be a bit overbearing and uncomfortable. The headband is adjustable and has a quality velvet pad on the bottom which rests on your head. I’m very happy to say that this pad is of much better, softer quality than the stock ear pads. Overall I am very happy with the design and comfort of the pro 900, although no where near the best out there they do what they need to do in quality fashion.

  • Design Score: 4.4 / 5
  • Comfort Score (Stock Pads): 3.2 / 5
  • Comfort Score (J$ Pads): 3.8 / 5

Sound

Now let’s get to the interesting part of the review! If somebody asked me to sum up the sound of the pro 900 in one word I would say “authority”. It’s no secret that these headphones are all about hard hitting bass and a colored house like sound signature. While the pro 900 does not sound analytical in any way, they do sound very crisp and fun. I can honestly listen to just about anything with these headphones and seriously enjoy them. This is mainly because while the bass is plenty impactful, it rarely overpowers and leaks into the mids. I know that many people disagree and say that these are not good all around headphones but I have to disagree to an extent. If you want something that will sound fun, enjoyable, and engaging with nearly every genre with an emphasis on the low end then these are the headphones for you. However they do lack the detail and neutral response that many crave for analytical listening and instrumental/classical/acoustic/live recordings. So when I say that these are good all around headphones I mainly mean that they do excel with bass heavy tracks, however when you want controlled punchy bass to rock out to you will not be let down.

I will acknowledge that this is my subjective opinion and I understand that there are many people who disagree completely and feel that the bass is simply to overpowering for rock music. It's all about personal preference, we all hear differently after all!

Treble

From reading previous reviews, I was expecting the treble response to sound very metallic and sibilant. I was nearly ecstatic to discover that this is not the case. Although I will admit that it is likely that I am just so accustomed to the extended highs in my k701′s that the highs in the pro 900 just don’t bother me.

To test out and describe the treble response I have selected three songs, “The Funeral” by Band of Horses, “Crown of Love” by the Arcade Fire, and “One Day Like This” by Elbow. Starting with “The Funeral”, I was immediately impressed by the grandiose presentation the pro 900 gives this song. In fact these are the first high end headphones I’ve heard that I can listen to this song on without the highs seriously hurting my ears. Right from the opening explosion of guitar riffs I can easily distinguish two electric guitars. The guitars sound very satisfying without sounding piercing or recessed. Towards the end of the song when the guitar solo hits is one of the rare occasions where I nearly always experience musical bliss. Once again that authoritative demanding quality of the pro 900s is present. I could talk all day about how good this song sounds, but now it’s time to talk about “Crown of Love”. This is one of those songs that I feel really demonstrates the range of the pro 900s. The bass sounds quite controlled and I can easily distinguish the low piano keys over the kick drum and bass guitar. But we’re looking for treble response here, and I can say that the violin sounds very pleasing in this song. The strings in this song as always present, floating and striking down with fantastic impact. I will say that while not incredibly detailed, the treble sounds very fun and energetic, as cymbals sound crisp and distinct but not entirely natural and accurate. “One Day Like This” tells a very similar story, although the bass and vocals are much more powerful and seem to take center stage. That being said the floating distinct violin strikes in great fashion. The treble matches the enjoyable and colored sound signature perfectly. I did however at one brief point in this song expect sibilance, and it came quite close but ended with a pleasant sparkle instead.

Overall treble and strings in particular do sound extended, but more importantly they are distinct, smooth and very pleasing to listen to. I know it may be hard to make sense of, but expect emphasis, crispness and a light sparkle without much analytical detail. You will not hear the plucking of an acoustic guitar to the extent that other neutral headphones will give you, but you will be pleasantly satisfied with how it sounds.

  • Treble: 4.1 / 5

Midrange

To test out the midrange I decided to listen to “Getaway Car” by Audioslave, “Daria” by Cake, and “Warning” by Incubus. Starting with “Getaway Car”, the vocals even with the J$ pads do sound recessed compared to the extended presence of the bass and treble. However this seems to be mainly in the vocal department, as the lower guitar midrange sounds embodied with plenty of snap. The upper midrange actually sounds fantastic aswell, I can discern the difference in volumn as Cornell’s voice rises and falls. Although the middle of the midrange (vocals) do sound recessed, they are extremely crisp, smooth and always present – just behind the demanding presence of the other instruments. At no point in this song are they overpowered or difficult to focus on. “Daria” is another song that has very crisp vocals, and on my HD595′s it’s almost as if somebody is breathing in my ear due to how forward they sound. However I was slightly disappointed to find that even without the powerful guitar riffs of “Getaway Car”, the vocals were still in the background. Percussion instead takes the cake in this song (pun very much intended)! Listening to “Warning” once again confirms what I have stated before. While the vocals certainly are more present in this song, the bass and lower tones of the guitar have all the emphasis. Unlike “Daria” though while percussion is very distinct and fantastic sounding, the guitar is equally powerful. Another very enjoyable and engaging presentation from the pro 900s! But at the end of the day I wouldn’t place these are a competitor for natural profound sounding vocals. The HD650 is still king in that department of this price range! But I had wished that the midrange would have come forward more with burn in, it did not but this is not a deal breaker for me!

  • Midrange: 3.6 / 5

Bass:

 

Now if you don’t know already, the pro 900 is all about the bass. They have a very fun, engaging and energetic presentation that is often called a house like sound. I agree completely, and I decided to branch away from my typical bands to see what these things can do. To pound away at my hearing I choose to listen to “Flashing Lights” by Chase & Status, “How To Be Eaten By A Woman” by The Glitch Mob, and “Paranoid” by Dansette Junior.

“Flashing Lights” opens with a nice acoustic intro which quickly changes once the initial bass line hits. The bass sounds heavy and satisfying but not yet truly spectacular… and then it happens. The lower more powerful bass drop hits and my earlobes begin to vibrate. The percussion while slow keeps a nice beat with a powerful thump every time the kick drum hits. It’s amazing how it feels on my ears as the bass changes pitch, and there is no way around saying that this is some seriously heavy bass. I’m not talking about the overly bloated and muddied uncontrolled kind of bass either, I’m talking about impactful hammering sub woofer quality bass. In fact every hit of the kick drum sounds like a punch from a quality 12″ composite sub. On that note if you remove the pads and peek through the metal shielding on a bass heavy track you will be astounded by the excursion of the titanium plated drivers. Ahhh I got a little carried away in the addicting rumble of the bass in this song, but if you’ve heard the pro 900 before you won’t blame me. It’s hard not to loose yourself in the addicting grumble, thump and slam that these can’s throw at you in bass heavy tracks. Speaking of bass slam, let’s talk about “How To Be Eaten By A Woman”. The song starts off with a low abstract sounding bass line… ok where is this going? Then the synths hit, and wow I don’t think it’s possible to reach to turn the volume knob up faster than this inspired me to! Wow this sounds so good, I can’t even explain it. The synths sound so incredibly full and embodied it’s mind blowing. Then the synths die away and I find myself anticipating the next heavy dosage. Then about 2 minutes in it happens… the most impressive, demanding, powerful and kick ass drop I have ever experienced from any song on any headphones… ever! The kick drum goes low, real low. I can feel the entire body of the pro 900 vibrate as it hits all the way through the headband. The synths sound so engaging and lush it’s almost hard to believe. But what I was surprised by here was the snare drum. Guys, if you own a pro 900 and have a high quality recording of this song you know what I’m talking about. When that snare drum hits it’s like taking a punch to the face (in a good way)! In fact it’s so good that I never want it to end. But all good things must come to an end as we move on to the next song “Paranoid”. Remember a few lines up how I said that “Flashing Lights” made my earlobe’s vibrate? Well if the bass line in that song vibrate’s my ears, then the bass line in “Paranoid” is going to cause an earthquake. Right from the start I can not only hear but feel the subterranean grumble underneath the opening piano. Then the kick drum comes slamming down to give me a swift kick in the mouth, and what comes next is a bass lover’s dream. The drop in this song is so heavy, so powerful that the pressure that it creates around my ears alone is an indescribable sensation. By the way I’m not even listening at high volume as I’m describing this, just around 8 o’clock on the knob of my FiiO e9.

To sum up the bass, it is the best I have ever heard and it’s truly addicting to listen to. But the special thing here is that when listening from non-bass to mid-bass heavy tracks you will find that it sounds very controlled and non-obtrusive. This is what makes the pro 900 so special, as incredible as the bass presentation is, it almost never seeps into the midrange as every instrument remains distinct and crisp. As Katun from head-fi put it, “Examining the Pro 900′s bass is truly something unexpected. It throws you for a loop, and questions everything you previously knew about the laws of bass. It breaks the past rules, and rewrites its own”. I can’t think of any better way of putting it, the bass is truly special while not sounding muddied but rather powerful. At a lack of an ability to describe how incredible the bass impact is, I’m just going to end this with one word – epic.

  • Bass: 4.8 / 5

Final Thoughts

Costing a hefty sum of between $400 – $550, the Ultrasone Pro 900 is an expensive investment. However I am proud to admit that it more than lives up to not only the price tag but the hype surrounding it. The headphones come with an abundance of accessories, and the entire presentation they provide just oozes quality. I can’t recommend these headphone’s enough to anybody who loves bass or wants an enjoyable and engaging closed headphone with a very colored sound signature. I’ve got to say, the Pro 900 far exceeded my expectations, and while it may not be the end of all headphone’s for me, it does stick out as the most enjoyable I’ve heard. However when it comes to soft, classical, acoustic and live recordings, these leave me a bit wanting. This is why whenever I’m in the mood to appreciate and listen critically to music and these genre’s in particular, I reach for my K701′s or HD595′s. But whenever I want to rock out, head bang or listen to some drum and bass or other bass heavy music I can rest assured that I have that spectrum more than covered in the pro 900. Ultrasone, you have won over another fan. beerchug.gif

  • Overall Score: 4.6 / 5

*I’d like to note that I did all my listening on my FiiO e7 DAC + e9 amp system, with recording at either 320 kbps or lossless FLAC. I also put about 100 hours of pink noise and music through these headphones before this review.


Edited by colmustard - 5/17/11 at 8:15pm
post #2 of 78

Great review man.  beerchug.gif

post #3 of 78

Thanks. I'm definitely getting J$ pads now. 

 

I recently switched from my thinning ear pads to the beefier spare pads. And it made a HUGE difference. I like how you used "hugging the driver" because that describes wearing Ultrasones perfectly! With the fresh spare pads everything was definitely more refined and had a more coherent, pleasant soundstage; less in-your-face. So your review of the J$ and the improvements it brings pretty much confirmed how I thought the J$ would change up the sound of the headphones. 

post #4 of 78

Great review on the J $ pads! I think both you and Nachkebia have convinced me to get a pair of pads! beerchug.gif\

 

However, I will admitt, that don't agree with your impressions of the sound signature. These headphones are seriously detailed and both the mids and treble are among the most detailed I have ever heard and I have listened to a lot of headphones well more expensive than the pro 900s. They are also very bright headphones and, while their presentation is smooth, it definitely doesn't lack sparkle. Well, to each their own...

 

By the way, I noticed that you claimed to have around 100 hours. The pro 900s need around 400 hours to sound at their best, due to their very stiff titanium drivers. I guarantee that the midrange will come forward, the bass will tighten a bit more and the soundstage will further expand. You will probably want to revise your, already sublime, impressions... wink_face.gif

 

Edit: The side plates are made of aluminum and not titanium, hence they scratch easily.


Edited by Leander7777 - 4/14/11 at 7:20pm
post #5 of 78
Thread Starter 

@Leander7777 

 

Ahhhh good catch on the aluminum plates, thanks.

 

Also you are correct in that they are very detailed and crisp, and by most people's measures they are nowhere near lacking in those departments. However switching between my k701 and the pro 900 there is no question that there is nowhere near as much detail in the pro 900. Although it's a little unfair to compare them to a reference headphone like that, but I will agree that they are very detailed for a colored headphone.

 

post #6 of 78

Hmm, well I've listened to some Stax sr507, denon d7000, and beyerdynamics T1s all with a very good amp and none of them were as scrupulously detailed as the pro 900s. I haven't listened to the Akg 701, so I'll give you the benefit of doubt ;)

post #7 of 78
Thread Starter 

Perhaps our definition of "detail" isn't the same lol
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leander7777 View Post

Hmm, well I've listened to some Stax sr507, denon d7000, and beyerdynamics T1s all with a very good amp and none of them were as scrupulously detailed as the pro 900s. I haven't listened to the Akg 701, so I'll give you the benefit of doubt ;)



 

post #8 of 78

Awesome review! It's always great to see overlooked components, such as earpads, get proper reviews.

 

...especially for a headphone that has been getting a lot of love for the past little while. biggrin.gif

post #9 of 78

Zachkebia? eek.gif

Great review! popcorn.gif

 

Now you need moon audio cables very_evil_smiley.gif

 

And I would strongly recommend everybody sticking one round felt on the beck side of a headphone (from inside) beerchug.gif


Edited by Nachkebia - 4/14/11 at 10:26pm
post #10 of 78

Once again, I don't know if you caught it in my previous comment, but i suggest that you continue breaking them in. 100 hours is far too little for any pair of headphones, especially the pro 900. I think Nachkebia will second me on the changes that break-in provokes on the pro 900s. wink_face.gif

post #11 of 78
Thread Starter 

@Leander7777 

I will be sure to update this review if I notice any changes as burn in progresses!

 

@Nachkebia

ahhhhh! good catch my friend! ph34r.gif

 

Believe me, that blue dragon cable is next on my list... I'm going to need some funds first though!

post #12 of 78

Whats the difference in bass from the stock pads and the J$ pads? And these are the denon J$ pads I'm assuming?

post #13 of 78

Hi Colmustard,

 

I own a pair of these beautiful Pro 900 headphones. I don't mind the stock pads, but am very interested in trying those J$ pads. Can you provide some pictures or describe how easy it is to custom fit them for the ultrasone Pro 900 Headphones, as I gather they do not come with the speed switch pad adapters which these headphones require. Many thanks, and a great detailed review.

post #14 of 78

The J$ pads sound quite interesting, I never knew the pads would make that much of a difference before. After reading this I might have to give them a go.


 

post #15 of 78
Thread Starter 

I posted pictures in the appreciation thread along along with how I did it.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/527451/ultrasone-pro-900-appreciation-thread/840
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pcllau View Post

Hi Colmustard,

 

I own a pair of these beautiful Pro 900 headphones. I don't mind the stock pads, but am very interested in trying those J$ pads. Can you provide some pictures or describe how easy it is to custom fit them for the ultrasone Pro 900 Headphones, as I gather they do not come with the speed switch pad adapters which these headphones require. Many thanks, and a great detailed review.



 

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