Thanks to a fellow head-fier I recently got a 3-week audition of a new UE700 from Logitech. Having owned an original Ultimate Ears 700 for a while in the past, I was surprised to find several changes to the design that I've not seen documented anywhere. They are best seen on photos:
UE700, old version
UE700, new version
Aside from the obvious differences in photo quality, stock eartip shape, and 3.5mm plug type, the nozzles of the two sets are very different. Whereas the old ones have short, smooth nozzles starting right past the housing, the news ones have a 'stepped' nozzle design and an additional notch further down preventing the tips from being placed all the way back on the nozzle (shown). Overall the new nozzles are about 2mm longer. The filter is still placed forward in the nozzles, which means that the distance between the drivers and filter has most likely increased by ~2mm. Realistically, this should result in some sonic differences.
While I no longer have my original UE700s to compare to the new one, I was one of several people not particularly impressed with their performance in comparison to other TWFK-based sets. For those who don't keep track, other earphones that use Knowles TWFK dual armature system with no additional drivers include the JAYS q-JAYS, Phiaton PS200, Fischer Audio DBA-02 / mkII (aka Brainwavz M2), Audio-Technica CK10, NOCS NS800, and more recently the VSonic GR01. The old UE700 fell particularly short for me when compared to the DBA-02 and CK10. Most annoying was the treble peakiness, which was lower down in the UE700 compared to other TWFK-based sets except maybe for the PS200. This resulted in occasional ear-ripping sibilance and a generally greater tilt towards brightness compared to the DBA-02, q-JAYS, and even the CK10.
Here's an excerpt from the notes I took comparing the original UE700 to my CK10:
- More recessed bass than CK10s, softer impact, bit of a sub-bass roll-off in comparison
- More forward midrange but lacks the microdetail and texture, note articulation, ultimate crispness, and a tiny bit of clarity
- Brighter, sharper than CK10 / treble peakiness further down, does not add as much air/clarity, only acts to accentuate harshness/sibilance
- Wider soundstage but not as enveloping, imaging not as vivid and realistic as CK10
The new ones, however, seem to be more leveled-out and are only mildly sibilant. They are more balanced with the same tracks compared to the CK10 and don't lag far behind the CK10s in natural clarity, crispness, and texture, though they still sound a bit shimmery and glassy in comparison. All this could be because the longer nozzles encourage a deeper fit but I found the same to be true of the old ones and certainly followed my own advice of using them at lower volumes and with the deepest possible seal for the best SQ.
I know UE is now owned by a large corporation so hoping for an explanation of the differences is pointless but I wish they'd have changed the name of the unit to indicate that changes had been made. Furthermore, based on recent posts and impressions, I am not sure that the current UE600 is identical to the old SuperFi5, either.
Edited by ljokerl - 3/3/12 at 10:20pm