Logitech UE9000 Review
Where do we start with this product, Ultimate Ears (UE) started a long way back, they were formed by Jerry Harvey (now owns JH Audio) and started off making the first CIEMs as stage monitors. Over the years they announced new models and some universals showed up or what I call the .fi series. This was led by the wonderful and infamous triple.fi 10 among others. In 2007 Jerry left and then in 2008 Logitech brought the company. They changed a few things round and launched a few new IEMs but the triple.fi 10 remained their flagship universal…. until 2012. With Logitech, Ultimate Ears have brought us a brand new line up with a new universal flagship and for the first time ever, headphones. Initially I was a bit disappointed at the look of the headphones as they all seemed to be covered over with gimmicks and that in the past as never seemed to be a winning formula. Gimmicks you say, well here we have the flagship headphone from Logitech UE, the UE9000 and it has noise cancelling and Bluetooth and my hopes were that it still pulled off a good sound regardless of the added features.
I talked to the PR over at Ultimate Ears and they sent me this UE9000 to review and I thought I would see what they managed to pull of with the gimmicks in terms of sound and with my liking for the rest of the UE stuff I have had, I was very intrigued on what the outcome would be.
The UE9000 is priced at £299 and can be picked up online or from the apple store.
Also throughout this review I will mention active and passive mode, passive mode is with a cable and noise cancelling off and active is using wireless mode with noise cancelling on (only way you can use wireless mode).
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier. I also have paired these with a few other amps such as the MiuAudio MRB.
The design has thankfully not tried to be something else or imitate another much ‘loved’ headphone brand which a lot of companies seem to want to base their design on and this headphone is completely UE down to the bone. Black and metal with that subtle bit of blue on the headphones that I always loved when I used too make gooey eyes at the triple.fi 10’s design (before I saw what it looked like being worn). It is distinct and different and I love that. The metal yokes on the headphones also look very nice, they give the headphones a sturdy look and also a bit more mature than the likes of beats by dre that are all plastic (minus the Pro).
These are wireless but they still come with a wire and it is built very nice. It is pretty much an identical cable material to the beats cable I have apart from being in blue and not red. The 3 button control on it is the best made one of these I have ever seen, rubbery and solid and with almost flawless seams, not like the cheap feeling Accutone one and even the one that the beats have does not feel to great. Both ends have a 3.5mm jack and they both are rather understated, not huge housings just that same little rubbery plastic that the remote has and thankfully one is right angled for ease of use and they are also both recessed nicely for use with smart phone cases.
The headphones themselves are built flawlessly. All the buttons on the housings of the headphones are low key and hidden by the rest of the parts and that is great. Alignment of the headband and cups is also tidy and not out of place. The combination of the plastic and metal is very strong and everything clips into place where it should do. The slideable adjuster of the headband is very smooth and the cups rotation works without a single problem being far from loose and spinning on its own etc. I spent some trying to find a fault in the build quality but I could not, so yeh, nice stuff.
Accessories with these kept up the good promise and we got a lovely bundle of stuff included. The first of these is an awesome case. It is on the large side, not pocket size or even close but can be put in your bag and will offer nice protection as it has a hard outer shell. Inside we have a accessory pouch big enough for everything you could want to stick in it and opposite that is two lumps which the ear cups sit on and it helps them stay nice and in position.
Even though these are wireless, they do include a wire so that you can use them when they run out of charge or with other sources, they come with a cable that has a 3-button remote and it is of good quality.
One thing that I have always hated about gimmick ridden headphones is the need for batteries like I had to use with the TD ST800 and Beats Studio but these are actually rechargeable and never use a battery, you get a USB cable that plugs into the headphones and charges them up, you also get a adapter so that you can charge this straight from the mains. This was a great surprise and I highly rate it.
Lastly you get a little microfiber cleaning cloth so that you can keep these looking great as well as a quarter inch adapter jack!
Fit with these, I knew would always be good, well it was likely anyway. This is because these are circumaural or over the ear as opposed too superaural/on-ear that many of the ‘best’ portable cans are. I always have trouble sealing with the on ear design of superaural cans and this always causes problems, with some being a lot worse than others. As I expected these sealed just perfect with just a little bit of adjusting of the headband and my ears got sealed in with ease.
These are circumaural of course and designed to completely enclose your ear but my lobes are trapped under the pads as these are slightly too small for my ear, is this a big deal, not at all and these memory foam pads are super comfy and I feel no sort of pressure on my ear. The same applies for the clamping force, enough to never cause a loss of seal but never and I mean never painful, I have listened to these for 5 hours sittings with no pain. Just one thing I have found though is that the headband padding is rather sticky and it does like to stick to my hair that is not ideal as when adjusting it on the top of my head but that may just be me.
One thing that could be a bother is the weight of these. They do incorporate a fair bit of metal in the construction and they do have some weight to them (still lighter than beats pro). I personally do not find it a problem but when showing these of to my beats fan club friends in sixth form a few girls did comment how they found them to heavy and I think that is worth noting.
Isolation and Sound Leakage:
Sound leakage unfortunately is a problem with these, it first occurred to me with a few odd looks on the bus (from my friends) and then when my friends in my ICT class asked to turn them down at a moderate level. I then confirmed the leakage with some tests and all in all these do let some out, I also found them to leak more when in active mode but then maybe I was playing it a tad louder when in active mode. However, it is not a crippling problem and will not stop them being used out or anything, in fact it is only them dead quiet environments like my ICT class in which it is noticeable that sound is leaked.
Isolation is obviously effected by if you’re using these in passive mode or active mode. Active mode both (in wireless and wired) has the same affect and this is using the internal amp, first of it affects sound and this helps block out ambient noises with more bass frequencies and it also uses the amp to make them get to louder volumes, however, I do not think they do anything too special that really makes it a better isolator and this does a pretty good job in both modes, active is better but I am not going to call it night and day.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
I have said in the past that IEMs or headphones have had little to no cable noise or microphonics, well these are wireless so yes, they have absolutely nothing and its rest, these are great fun to wear wireless and this is one of the reasons.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
Tech and Awesome Stuff:
Yes it really does have some awesome stuff that has wowed all friends and my self. So I have mentioned before that this is noise cancelling and wireless, so how does this all work?
I will start by saying to use in passive mode you do not touch any switches and just plug the wire into a source and the headphones. However, with passive mode on these are actually in need of a fair bit of juice and to drive efficiently I would say you need some sort of amp. Nothing serious, just something that provides that bit extra output that these need.
To move into noise cancelling with the wire, we move the switch on the back of the right cup up and it is on. The light will shine green and there will be a slight delay without music playing and then you will here a sound change and a volume increase that is the internal amp kicking in.
Now to get it into wireless mode we do not need a wire in but an iDevice with its Bluetooth turned on and searching for devices. You then move up the switch on the back right of the headphones and will get a rapidly blinking blue light. UE9000 will appear on your iDevice and you select it and you voila, you’re paired.
Compatibility is a problem though and with it not supporting windos this is a minus for some people but being an iPhone 4 owner it was not a problem for me but my friend who went to use these with his HTC Titan was not impressed. Here is the list of compatible devices:
iPad (3rd generation), iPad 2, iPad
iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS
iPod touch (2nd, 3rd and 4th generation)
The remote and mic are supported only by iPod nano® (4th generation or later), iPod classic® (120 GB, 160 GB), iPod touch® (2nd generation or later), iPhone 3GS® or later, and iPad®.
Supported by iPod shuffle® (3rd generation or later)
Supported by all iPod models and iPad
Some functionality may vary for non-iOS devices.
(could also pair with my iMac and I think it works with android or some android anyhow)
Once you’re in wireless mode (or noise cancelling for speak through) you get access to the on-the-headphones controls. For a start you can take phone calls through the headphones like a Bluetooth handset and secondly you can use the 3 button remote on the back of the headphones to do all the stuff an on cable one does and it is actually really easy to use and reach. Lastly is the most weird and spectacular feature and that is the speak through button. It does not pause the music when pressed but mutes it and what you hear is the sound that the two microphones on the cans pick up, so you will hear all of the surrounding but also yourself speaking, through the headphones, it really is fun but takes some getting used to hearing yourself though a microphone as you speak with the slightest bit of lag.
This is packed with features and you can have some right playing around with the headphones as well as listening them.
Finally we are here, to what in my opinion is the most important bit, the dealbreaker. Yes they have done pretty darn well so far, no major faults and outstanding in many errors but are the gimmicks a let down in terms of sound? Not really, in fact they add something to the headphones, you get two signatures in one headphone and you don’t have to mess around with mini screwdrivers, ports or filters, to take advantage of this, you can just flick a switch. In passive mode the UE9000s are closer to my preferences but in full wireless mode they even surprise now when I listen to them. In passive mode, they are more neutral in signature than in active, when I say that they are far from neutral with a rather large bass boost which lasts all the way down low and is not a mid-bass concentration by any means. The mids and treble sit in line just behind and ate very pleasant and as well as that the soundstage does pretty nice for a closed headphone. Then we go to the switch… a slight pause… and boom here we go, treble shoots up as well does the bass and we seem to be revisiting a full sized sized triple.fi 10 with this huge but fun v shaped signature. It is not as refined, it is muddier, the bass is really big and the mids have gone back a fair bit, but it is so musical and fun and with the wire completely gone, you can not help but have fun, considering there is no wire, the sound quality is pretty impressive.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
Open headphones will always rule her as far as I am concerned, the HD800 are like having speakers on your ears and my HD580 do not do a shabby job. Well I think UE do pretty well with the soundstage, no I am not saying they are bridging the gap are anything along those lines but compared to the closed in claustrophobic soundstages of the likes of the V-Moda M-80, HD-25 (amperior included) and the AiAiAi TMA-1, it is perceived as quite big considering. The width it is out of your head which is perhaps the best part of the soundstage and very nice to see. It is still not overall that great in depth and I would be pushing to say 3-D, in fact I would be lying, it only really has some width going for it but that is better than most can boast in the closed back category. I think I will leave on saying it satisfies.
Instrument separation is fairly nice, imaging is not close to some open backs that I have heard and the soundstage is not to airy either but it handles songs of most speeds with fair amount of ease and nothing sounds muddy.
Bass is the dominant force here; it slams in the mid-bass and rumbles in the sub-bass. It is not much more mid-bass orientated than it is in the lower regions which is nice as mid-bass humps are never too pleasing. Sonic characteristics of it are not to bad, it is a tad loose at time but does the job for the most part and it has enough speed to never miss a bit and the decay only lingers a little to long in my books. Its hits really are satisfying and the bass is the main focus and it is rendered very well. The sub-bass frequencies are textured very nice with a good feel and rumble to them and the bass is a complete package, nothing missing.
Stick it to active mode and then you get a fair few decibels more, it is slower but more powerful in all regions and really rumble and hits like the incredible hulks fist. A bit too much now but a bundle of fun.
The bits that I guess you’re worried about are the mids behind that bass, no sweat because it takes little damage. It is warmed up but not veiled, actually rather impressively clear. In acoustic tracks when the bass is not to present it even takes center stage and performs just great and when the bass is a bit more present you can always here the vocals, they are never lost in the background. Male vocals do a better job than females because there is a dip that starts as we near the higher mids but nothing tragic. Guitars sound great here as they are all cozy and warm and the drums have great impact but a touch to much decay. The smoothness is great and they are un fatiguing and soft, almost gentle in a audiophile kind of way and details are not terrible either but there is not exactly a load of transparency.
When active mode comes on the mids take a real back seat and vocal can sometimes be heard under the huge thick bass but I have heard a lot worse.
Without the boost of active mode the treble does suffer a bit, they lack a tad of presence as well as detail and extension. At times I found the sound to dark and I wished that the treble would come and satisfy and it did not. Guitars sound like they just lack that bit of top end shimmer and cymbal crashes just wish they had more dominance when they take the stage. They are however super smooth and gentle again and will not be harmful to anyone however sensitive to treble.
When active mode is on the treble gets a huge boost and they come wailing into action, cymbals gain that dominance and they sound more complete, its just a shame that they now sound a bit artificial and the mids have done a disappearing act.
These in passive mode are bassy and they are BASSY in active mode but this is far from in a Beats kid of way and the sound is full and soft in a way that the real audio lovers like myself can enjoy and I am not one who really likes a signature these bassy, I surprise myself. I have tried many of the portable cans that are meant to be great and they have never been keepers or done the job because IEMs done the same thing but loads better, well these have a unique sound that my IEMs can not do and they are needed for me because after swimming my ear canals are wet and IEMs are a no go, with these my quest is not finished but I am in less of a rush and when I am not in passive mode I do enjoy jamming to these wirelessly. If you like the sound of the signature then I would have a go with these and the same applies to you if you want a good sounding wireless headphone. UE and Logitech have surprised me in a good way and it is the first gimmick ridden headphone that I have enjoyed, no I just hop the streets clean up of beats and everyone starts wearing a pair of UE!