With apologies to David Pogue and inspiration courtesy of Mr. Terry Britton, I have assembled some of the knowledge that I have acquired through my own personal experience with Ultrasone headphones into a one-stop post covering different aspects potentially of interest to fellow users.
With many products in this day and age, truly usable “real world” instructions provided by the manufacturer can be difficult to come by, and Ultrasone is certainly no exception. For a range of products that are certainly exceptional and ultimately very different, the printed matter that accompanies that otherwise impressive packaging seems rather insufficient. So hopefully, this guide can fill in some blanks and help to enhance the enjoyment of these remarkable headphones.
This is by no means meant to be conclusive, but, rather, a fluid overview that will continue to evolve as our collective experience expands. Future topics to be added in the near future will discuss burn-in, suitable amplification, after-market cabling, good sources for purchasing, etc.
So I encourage all interested members to contribute additional thoughts and ideas to me via PM. While I may not be able to reply directly to every message, I’ll do my best to edit these contributions into this de facto wiki/FAQ hybrid, wherever appropriate.
Ultrasone Threaded-Connector Cable (Headphone Cord)
On the majority of its higher range models (all PROlines & HFI-2200 ULE), Ultrasone uses a proprietary 3.5mm threaded-connector cable that terminates in either a 6.3mm or 3.5mm plug, depending on the model or application.
One of the advantages of this detachable cable system is that a variety of different headphone cords may be rapidly interchanged, according to differing needs. The PROlines come with two 3-meter cables terminating in 6.3mm plugs: one straight and one coiled. The HFI-2200 ULE is furnished with one 3-meter cable terminating in a 3.5mm plug. The DJ 1 PRO comes with two coiled 3-meter cables, one of which features a sliding, dual-channel remote volume control with a mono/stereo switch. Finally, there is also a shorter 1-meter “portable” cable terminating in a 3.5mm plug that may be purchased separately from Ultrasone. Any of the other cable types are available individually as well.
The secured-screw design of the cable reflects Ultrasone’s heritage in the studio and professional audio sectors, where maintaining connectivity under potentially adverse conditions is crucial for success. Since a simple plug-into-jack arrangement could easily pull free under stress, this threaded-connection serves to assure a secure interface.
So the first challenge facing any new Ultrasone user is to achieve the proper connection interface between the 3.5mm male-threaded plug on the upper cable and the corresponding female-threaded jack into the bottom of the left ear-cup.
PROline 2500 with detail of threaded 3.5mm cable plug and ear-cup jack
Of course, this can be easier said than done, since we have already seen quite a few instances of owners reporting sound dropouts, channel and tonal imbalances, and other intermittent behaviors with their recently acquired Ultrasones due to improperly connected cables.
Grasp the plug by the two flat, tapered flanges on either side of the plastic outer sleeve with the thumb and forefinger of one hand while holding the left ear-cup with the other. Align the plug with the jack and then push firmly inward just as you would any regular plug. As you feel the plug moving past the detent (catch), you will hear a solid “click”. The plug should now rest flush against the ear-cup of its own accord without any gap. Maintaining pressure toward the jack begin to rotate the plug clockwise. You should feel the threads engage and continue until reasonably tight (approximately 4 ½ rotations). Take care not to over-tighten.
Optimal Positioning of Ultrasone Headphones
Ultrasone’s circumaural headphones incorporate a proprietary off-set driver positioning design known as S-Logic. S-Logic is an entirely passive system that, when properly aligned with the ears, results in an enhanced, more three-dimensional loudspeaker-like soundstage and presentation that Ultrasone terms Natural Surround Sound:
| Originally Posted by Ultrasone website|
As the sound of a normal headphone will sound direct and even on both sides, the Natural Surround Sound system literally pushes the sound out! It appears as though you are listening to speakers meters away from your head. Even at very low levels, this spacious sound allows you to hear and listen to each and every individual sound.
| Originally Posted by Ultrasone website|
Without the outer ear… we would have been bear food a long time ago.
This is because our outer ear or pinnea, allows us to perceive distance and direction when we hear sounds in the real world. As sounds come into the ear, they bounce off the folds and peaks of our outer ear creating cues that help our brains figure out where the sound came from and how far away it is. This is very useful information for outrunning hungry cave bears and also when listening to your favorite music through speakers or headphones.
Ultrasone headphones with patented S-Logic are the first headphones to utilize your entire ear, including the pinnea, in the listening experience. Through the use of decentralized driver positioning, S-Logic headphones aim the sound at the pinnea instead of directly down the ear canal. The sound does not go directly down you ear canal as with conventional headphones, but instead filters off the outer ear as you listen. By doing this, your perception of distance, depth and instrument placement is greatly enhanced. You can hear the mix exactly as the engineer heard it in the studio.
S-Logic does not change your personal hearing, it intensifies it for your individual needs and listening pleasure. The S-Logic system does not use any DSP or other computer aided tricks. All you need to enjoy Ultrasone headphones with S-Logic is your favorite music or movie and your ears.
Trew Audio, a professional sector vendor devoted to location sound recording for film and television production, has posted this diagram of the outer ear, detailing its sensitivity to specific frequencies:
Interestingly enough, Jan Meier's positioning tips for "conventional" headphones appear to agree in principle with Ultrasone's offset-driver design:
| Originally Posted by Meier Audio website|
It's so easy, but did you ever test for the optimal position of your headphone? With many headphones the soundstage and the balance of sound are strongly dependent on the position of the driver to our ears.
Scientific research has shown that our perception of depth is increased when the driver is placed more forward and lower with respect to the entrance of the ear channel.
Unfortunately, the literature provided in the Ultrasone packaging contains very little useful direction about correct positioning. This sketch, however, from a white-paper by Ultrasone designer, Dr. Florian M. König...
...illustrates the optimal positioning of the ear in relation to the driver, specific to the Ultrasone S-Logic design.
Here, we discover the reasoning behind Ultrasone's recommendation to wear the headphones with the headband directly across the centered top of the head, without any tilt either forwards or backwards as one might be inclined to wear more conventional headphones.
My experience at meets has shown me that there is a tendency for people (trying out Ultrasones for the first time) to wear the headphones with the rear of the ear-cup positioned flush against the back curvature of the outer ear. (Indeed, perhaps they are accustomed to heeding Dr. Meier's advice as above.)
Since Ultrasone has already incorporated this into their design, such an adjustment is unnecessary and ultimately detrimental to the sound quality. With ears sitting flush against the rear of the pads, the soundstage collapses somewhat and the timbres lose some vibrancy. And vocals can sound distant. So this could be the cause behind some users’ reports of midrange imbalance.
But, as we can see from the illustration, the "sweet spot" is attained by positioning the ears just a few millimeters more centrally into the cup. And since everyone's ears are uniquely sized and shaped, each listener needs to learn to locate this "sweet spot" for themselves.
Adjusting for Comfort
Ultrasone employs an out-sourced, OEM headband design that has also found its way into headphones sold by Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic, among others.
There have been concerns raised about the clamping force exerted by the headband, resulting in disproportionate sideways pressure being applied by the ear-cups. While my experience has shown me that this generally eases through normal usage, there is a remedy that can be applied immediately to alleviate any discomfort from excessive clamping force.
The key lies in the rubberized midsection comprising the very top third of the headband (with the respective model number written on it and also housing the top-padding directly underneath it). This contains a strip of metal running throughout its length that will retain its position once sufficient force is applied, ultimately decreasing clamping force if desired.
Top midsection (in black) of the PROline 650
Grasp the headband, with both thumbs facing each other across this top section. Align the remaining fingers along the underside of the headband. Push firmly, directly downward with the thumbs, while simultaneously pulling outward and upward with the fingers evenly, taking extreme care not to stress the “joints”* on either side of the rubberized midsection where it meets the two more plasticky outer thirds of the headband (the blue sides depicted in the photo above). Don’t overdo it; a little movement in this manner eases a good deal of clamping force. If, for some reason, the result is insufficient, repeat the process, going just a bit further until satisfactory results are achieved. This method is reversible if more clamping is desired.
*These joints are structurally the weakest point of the headband and are held in place by two metal screws on either side (as depicted in the photo of the PROline 2500 above in the Installing the Threaded-Connector Cable section). In some early shipments, these screws were fitted overly tight, occasionally resulting in cracking in the plastic sections, even through normal use. While this appears to have been remedied by Ultrasone, be mindful that the joints were designed to flex only to a very minimal degree and were not meant to absorb undue stress.
Users have also raised concerns that the padding on the top of the Ultrasone headband is thinner than that found on headphones from other manufacturers. In my experience (and, yes, I also wear glasses), I've managed to adjust the headband so that the top is just barely resting on my head so that I'm virtually unaware of any contact up there.
For me, the Ultrasone headband design, if far from perfect, is ultimately very smart in its own way, in that it distributes the pressure along a 3-point triangular axis, without relying too heavily on either the top or the ear-pads as exclusive pressure points.
But if one has them adjusted so that they fit like other headphones, i.e. depending on either the very top or the sides to accept a disproportionate share of the load, then I can certainly understand how they might be uncomfortable.
I took me a good amount of trial and error to discover the proper balance, but by now it has become second nature.
Securing the “Speed-Switch” Ear-Pads on the Ultrasone PROline models (also HFI-2200 ULE)
Some users have reported instances where their ear-pads have shown a tendency to detach from their Ultrasones.
The "Speed-Switch" ear-pads on the PROlines are a bayonet-mount type, as commonly found on many camera lens interfaces. Nonetheless, they can be somewhat fiddly. However, one simply needs to make sure that the 6 tabs on the perimeter of the pads are lined-up with their respective slots before securing them clockwise to the ear-cup.
PROline 2500 pads, note tabs extending outward at the bottom.
PROline 650 pads, note slots along the perimeter of the inside ear-cup
But if just one tab rests on top or outside its slot, the remainder will follow and the ear-pad will ultimately fall off.
My method consists of visually lining-up the tabs and slots, then backing-off (rotating) the pad counter-clockwise until it cannot move any further. Then, maintain even downward pressure while rotating the tabs home into their slots in the clock-wise direction. You can then visually check that the tabs are all seated correctly and secured by pushing the outer edge of the pad in towards the center at various points around the pad's circumference.
Another tip is that if you need to shift or adjust the positioning of your PROlines on your head, do so by first pulling the ear-cups outward and away from your ears, since the rotation against your head might otherwise cause the tabs to move free of their slots.
Since following these ear-pad procedures, I haven't had any unfortunate surprises!