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UE 900 review, and why I'm a terrible audiophile.

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

If you take nothing else away from this review, this is probably the most important piece: UE 900 is an amazing IEM in almost every single technical way possible. Also to be noted, UE 900 is not really a "successor" to the TripleFi, it is an entirely different beast. I think this actually puts the old school UE users, who might have been extremely happy with the Triple.Fi, and might have been just looking for an aesthetic or ergonomic update (perhaps with a dash of sound quality boost thrown in), into a very difficult situation.

 

 

Balance Between Neutrality and Musicality

 

UE 900 is not for people who love thumping, rounded bass. You're also not going to get the explosive sparks from each hit of the cymbal. The bass presentation of UE 900 wasn't surprising to me, because it reminded me of the UE-10 Pro. It was deep and accurate, without a mid-bass hump. However, the bass has a slightly warmer sound as compared with UE-10 Pro, and also a more liquid-like texture without being muddy. The bass extension is deeper than even UE-10 Pro while retaining the same ability to resolve texture.

 

The trebles are very controlled, and depending on one's need for more forward presentation of the high ends, this could be seen as a weakness. Personally, as my ears has always been particularly sensitive to sibilance, I found this aspect of the UE 900 extremely surprising and satisfying. Even though the trebles aren't as forward, they are clearly and accurately presented, but it is going to take a little bit more effort to identify them as compared to any other UE headphone I've ever heard. What was really shocking, is the sibilance control on the treble is even better than on my Sensaphonics 2X-S, which is notoriously less aggressive with its treble than UE headphones of its time.

 

Detail resolution continues to be a strength through the mids. To the point where I found new, unheard-of-before background sound to some of my favorite tracks. A few of them were the "pre-recording extra sound from the background", a few of them were additional sound in middle of the song that I've never noticed. Not that all of these sounds were consequential the final music production, but it's neat to have those things resolved anyway.

 

Perhaps due to its neutral presentation, I don't feel as much of a sense of space in the soundstage. Although it should still be perfectly adequate for most people.

 

Overall, UE 900 struck an amazing balance of getting a neutral sound without being completely analytical. It is by far the most balanced universal IEM I've heard.

 

 

Ergonomics & Design

 

It's pretty amazing that UE managed to cram four drivers into this tiny little package. The size of UE 900 is just slightly bigger than SE535, but it could still pose a problem for people with small ears. Turns out, even with my fairly large ear, the back of the casing could still bump up against the back of my ear and cause some irritation over time. It's not a big deal for me, but people who have small ears should be aware. The good news is UE 900 included five sizes of silicone sleeves and three sizes of comply sleeves. So finding a fit for your ear canal, at least, should not be a problem at all. My right and left ear canal is just ever-so-slightly different size that usually isn't covered by most universal IEM's size availability, but I was able to find the 2 different size sleeves that works for my ears from the finer gradation of sizing that UE 900 offered.

 

I don't really get why both Shure and UE switched to the "swivel-able" cable plugs. It makes the initial discovery of finding the right angle for the cable to loop around the top of the ear a little bit harder. I'm used to looping the cable over my ears before inserting the IEM, with these swivel cables you're probably better off the other way around. Just put the IEM first and then loop the cable around your ear. The cable is twisted to prevent tangling, and the memory wire section is integrated into the cable with a sleeve. 

 

Lastly, for those of us who has iPhone/iPods, the integrated remote/mic has one of the best "feel" to the button I've ever seen from a third party. The recessed groove in the middle button makes it easy to locate, and the "clicking" action felt just right. It's even better than the remotes made by Apple.

 

 

Miscellaneous

 

Taking a phone call on the UE 900 was a rather weird experience. I don't know if it's because UE 900 exposes the horrible low bandwidth cell phone sound quality that we're all subject to, or if it's just a particular frequency that doesn't play back well. Most phone conversation I've had on UE 900 was horrible. It's like I'm fully aware of every single sound drop-out, I hear background noises that I normally don't hear, I have problem making out some of the words the others side is saying. Changing back to the cheap Apple earbuds made for a better phone call experience. It was... very strange.

 

I wouldn't recommend these as a go-to earphone for making day to day phone calls. It's strictly for music listening and having to answer phone calls on in a pinch.

 

 

But... I'm a horrible audiophile...

 

I have to be honest, part of the reason why I wanted the UE 900, is that it's one of the few high-end IEM that comes with a integrated iPhone remote. Hey, quad driver, iPhone remote, what can go wrong, right? What I found is an amazingly neutral, balanced IEM that could be considered one of the best universal IEM ever made. It's available at reasonable price range, which given its universal nature, will eventually see that MSRP come down over time (you almost never see custom IEMs reduce price to any degree, even years after its release).

 

Technically it's superior to my Sensaphonics ($750), UE5c (discontinued, but UE5-Pro is $600), and possibly even the UE-10 Pro (discontinued, but I guess either UE-7 Pro or UE-Reference is the closest analog now). So if you look at all of those factors combined, it's an extremely compelling product.

 

But... (there's always a but, eh?) I don't like the UE 900 that much.

 

Intellectually, I know why I should like it, and if I was asked for a recommendation for an universal IEM, I would definitely recommend UE 900.

 

However, after listening to hours and hours of music, I realized that my mind was always drifting away when I'm listening to UE 900. I start off focused on the music, but every single time my attention shifts away to some other task after a few minutes. Two hours later, my playlist was still going, and I realized I haven't been "listening" for the past hour and fifty minutes. I was just never able to sink into the music and make that emotional connection that I get when I listen with Sensaphonics 2X-S. 

 

I preferred the muddier & warmer bass of the 2X-S, I liked the less defined vocals and more sticky sound. It's stupid, it's borderline crazy, it's as if a supermodel is in love with me and I'd rather date the girl next door. How long before I just give in and order myself a set of Bose QuiteComfort?~!!!!

 

So at the end of the day, my personal preference, from a totally subjective and non-scientific and horrible way, is to stick with my Sensaphonics. However that should not detract from the original point that I made, at the very, very beginning of the review: UE 900 is absolutely amazing. If you were looking for an universal IEM, you should definitely give UE 900 a try.

 

As for me... time to order myself some Bose!... *sigh*

post #2 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by lindrone View Post

But... (there's always a but, eh?) I don't like the UE 900 that much.

 

Intellectually, I know why I should like it, and if I was asked for a recommendation for an universal IEM, I would definitely recommend UE 900.

 

However, after listening to hours and hours of music, I realized that my mind was always drifting away when I'm listening to UE 900. I start off focused on the music, but every single time my attention shifts away to some other task after a few minutes. Two hours later, my playlist was still going, and I realized I haven't been "listening" for the past hour and fifty minutes. I was just never able to sink into the music and make that emotional connection that I get when I listen with Sensaphonics 2X-S. 

 

I preferred the muddier & warmer bass of the 2X-S, I liked the less defined vocals and more sticky sound. It's stupid, it's borderline crazy, it's as if a supermodel is in love with me and I'd rather date the girl next door. How long before I just give in and order myself a set of Bose QuiteComfort?~!!!!

 

So at the end of the day, my personal preference, from a totally subjective and non-scientific and horrible way, is to stick with my Sensaphonics. However that should not detract from the original point that I made, at the very, very beginning of the review: UE 900 is absolutely amazing. If you were looking for an universal IEM, you should definitely give UE 900 a try.

 

As for me... time to order myself some Bose!... *sigh*

 

Dude, I hear ya. I had iems that I know to be superior on technicality levels but just couldn't stand them. 

Sort of reminds me of some snobby 'dress code strictly enforced' restaurant experience.

Yeah, the damn 2oz duck breast with fried green tomatoes and mango salsa was probably prepared by some well trained french chef but I personally enjoy wearing comfortable clothes, eating a good hamburger and spilling bear all over my shirt while listening to some small town rock band that's got no chance of signing the big record deal but are just having fun. 

After all, music should be enjoyed. People have the right to like what they personally find enjoyable.

 

Nice review btw. I think I'll stick to my TF10's, although they're just too big to wear outside.

post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 

Apparently Logitech has a patent on the triple bore design of the UE 900.

 

http://rinchoi.blogspot.com/2012/10/ultimate-ears-part3-in-depth-analysis.html

 

Edit:

max pl is correct, sorry about that. I misread the article. UE 900 is dual-bore, Logitech just has a triple bore design patent as well. O.o

 

I went through the article too fast, what's intriguing is the pin-hole bore and the resonance thing.


Edited by lindrone - 11/5/12 at 2:30pm
post #4 of 23

ue900 is dual bore.

post #5 of 23
Next Future Shop sale in Canada for the Sony XBA3 grab a pair. It only only 3 drivers but the bass and treble will be way more to your liking and he mids are pretty good as well.

If you want the iPhone model though you will have shop around. Personally I prefer the iPhone cabling as well but when I got my XBA3 for only $99 I thought I could live without the iPhone controls and mic.
post #6 of 23

Finally heard the UE 900 tonight. It's what the TF10 should have sounded like, but IMO it doesn't beat the W4. The W4 sounds more refined to my ears. The UE 900 will have to go back tomorrow. Again, it's quite an improvement over the TF10. If there's ever a sale and it goes as low as say $200, it will be worth having, but not at $400. The packaging is outstanding though. That's pretty much all I will say about them. I enjoy the W4 way more than the UE 900.

post #7 of 23

not sure if last one posted

 

UE 900 vs. Grado GR10

 

I am a newbie, so please forgive the multiple posting of this question in different threads...

 

I am interested in any thoughts fellow members have on the UE 900 vs. Grado GR10.  Particularly, I am wondering about sound quality, and especially which is more realistic and less colored.  Preferences?

post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ericp10 View Post

Finally heard the UE 900 tonight. It's what the TF10 should have sounded like, but IMO it doesn't beat the W4. The W4 sounds more refined to my ears. The UE 900 will have to go back tomorrow. Again, it's quite an improvement over the TF10. If there's ever a sale and it goes as low as say $200, it will be worth having, but not at $400. The packaging is outstanding though. That's pretty much all I will say about them. I enjoy the W4 way more than the UE 900.

 Would love to hear more of your opinions.  TF10 is regarded pretty high.....UE900 is a significant improvement over TF10.....but you like W4 way more than UE900? 

 

Other than W4 sounding more refined....anything else?  Any area you prefer UE900?

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spyro View Post

 Would love to hear more of your opinions.  TF10 is regarded pretty high.....UE900 is a significant improvement over TF10.....but you like W4 way more than UE900? 

 

Other than W4 sounding more refined....anything else?  Any area you prefer UE900?

 

 

I really liked the female vocals in the UE900. I seemed to hear more details in female vocals (not a huge amount, but some) in the UE900 than the W4.

post #10 of 23

lindrone: Nice review. It was a bit subjective for my tastes (subjectively lol), but your acknowledgement of your own preference for less accurate sound deserves massive respect imo. It's a very honest way to treat this hobby, an approach others can learn from.

 

If you get around to trying out the mod from Rin's blog I'm sure many of us would love to hear impressions.

post #11 of 23

Sorry to bump a sleeping thread-

 

I'm curious for those that have tried both the triple.fi and UE 900, how much of a difference is there in housing size between the two? I currently have the triple.fis and while the canal fit and sound is great, the housing size is just too big for my ears and gets uncomfortable after a couple hours. Getting comfort inline with my long gone e4c's and better sound quality would be money well spent.

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 

UE900 is definitely more comfortable than Triple Fi. The housing is smaller in length, so it sits better in your ear. I think for most people they will feel less of a "tug of war" between the cable weighing down the earphone and pulling it out of their ear canal. The fact that it's designed to be worn with the cable over the top of your ear also helps.

 

However, although the housing is overall much smaller, for me the shape of the housing still brushed up against the inner backside of my ear. After wearing it for a while I did feel irritated by it... I suppose if I stuck with it I will eventually grow callous or something to protect against it... hehehehee. For people with smaller ears you might find a fit where the whole housing sticks out a little farther so it's not an issue. For people with bigger ears, it might just fit without any part of it brushing up against your ears. I just happen to be the magical in between where it does brush up against the back of my ear.

 

If you want something as comfortable as the Shure E4c's though... I would say that Shure's design is still more comfortable and compact compared to the UE 900. You may want to look at Westone W4 or even Shure SE535 instead.

post #13 of 23

TF10 ergonomics as far as cable goes is great!  Even with the large housing the form fitting memmory wire cables make sit very good over the ears and in your ear canal...i would think.

 

I think the only real issue is the wide diameter of the nozzle.  THAT'S what makes the IEM uncomfortable.


Edited by Spyro - 12/16/12 at 5:12pm
post #14 of 23

Judging by your liking for a warmer sound, the Shure SE 535 or SE 535 Red Special Edition suit you better as they have a far warmer sound with two woofers and one tweeter.

post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ericp10 View Post

Finally heard the UE 900 tonight. It's what the TF10 should have sounded like, but IMO it doesn't beat the W4. The W4 sounds more refined to my ears. The UE 900 will have to go back tomorrow. Again, it's quite an improvement over the TF10. If there's ever a sale and it goes as low as say $200, it will be worth having, but not at $400. The packaging is outstanding though. That's pretty much all I will say about them. I enjoy the W4 way more than the UE 900.
Same thoughts too. Felt that W4 is better than UE900 across the spectrum. W4 is just a more musical IEM to listen to.
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