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Universal Fit item created by nightmancometh, Oct 14, 2010
Pros - Great sound, incredible value, nice bass
Cons - Terrible durability, poor cable, no strain relief whatsoever, somewhat hard to drive
I'm giving these a 4 based on sound quality alone. I'm a cheap headphone user; I've gone from cheap headphone to cheap headphone over the past decade or so. I started with the Skullcandy Ink'd headphones, moved onto the Sennheiser CX400s, then the Meelectronics M6 and M9, and finally, this. I've also tried the Klipsch S4's. I'm currently on my third pair of these because well, they're so damn cheap. The sound quality for these blows every other comparably priced headphone out of the water. These are the best dynamic driver headphones I've ever had. Every other headphone had issues with overwhelming bass and lack of clarity, but these, although they don't lack bass, don't have that issue. Good clarity and sound overall with a good punchy bass and a fun sound signature overall. It embodies the best parts of dynamic driver ear buds with little of the cons.
My biggest issue with these is that although they're cheap, the quality is terrible. The cord has insane microphonics and although it has never cracked on me over a year of heavy use as some people have feared it might, its certainly not good. My first pair broke because the cable connection near one of the drivers tore, the second because the cable near the plug tore, and now I'm on my third. There's no strain relief whatsoever on these cables; I'm going to try to use Sugru or shrink tubing to try to add some ersatz strain relief, but keep this in mind if you plan on using them to work out (like I did).
Pros - Privacy, clarity, beautiful sound seperation
Cons - The cord concerns me
My current set. My favorite and my private oasis. These beauties will cut out most if not all ambient noise like while driving in a car and household noise when the music is flowing. I became a fan of music all over again when I bought a pair of UE 350's at Best Buy at a discounted price. I was drawn by the nice packaging of the artists on the outside wearing UE's. I was blown away at the detail and clarity of the set. It didn't cut out the ambient noise like the 500's do but it got my to buy these. I took it as upgrade, the next step up from the 350s. They were. Especially putting on the Comply comfort plus tips included puts you in that private theater. Its so clear with Jazz and classical. Its beautiful. Even acoustics and vocals are so clear. Most IEM's I've tried they sound great but you couldn't wear them everywhere and still hear music. These, you can wear them anywhere and seclude yourself with your favorite music. My favorite part about these and there maybe some sets out that do better but I can crank these up to 100 and have no distortion and the great part there is no noise bleeding with the Comply tips on. They're amazing. I want to buy several pair their so good. They do have a two year limited warranty which is great. I am bothered by the cord but I definitley don't use the crappy case they include. If I wrap these up in the case long enough they'll sure fall apart. As of now, UE has impressed me. I'm not sure if I'm ready to put these down for anything else. Yet I am new to falling in love with music again. I want to buy every new IEM of course but its not practical and not a healthy financial decision. If I didn't buy another set anytime soon, I'm very content. The sound, privacy and comfort of these satisfy me completely. For $25 on Amazon, you can't go wrong. Thanks for your time folks.
Pros - Very comfortable; Tiny; Smooth, relatively clear and non-fatiguing sound signature; Inexpensive.
Cons - Not very sensitive; Poorly designed cables; Poor strain reliefs; Useless carrying case; UE tips can become loose over time.
Why another iem?
The Creative EP630 was my 'beater' pair of iems- ie, a pair I used for casual and rough use. It was no SQ king, but it served me very well- it was more than 5 years old (IIRC) and it was still working when I gave it away to a friend. Now I didn't have a beater pair to use. I use the W4-s during my long commute and while studying, the Grado SR60-s when I don't feel like using an iem and my bro uses the Pana HJE900-s. I had my eye on the UE 500 while I had been shopping for an iem earlier. I saw that it was going really cheap on ebay and upon seeing that the seller was legit, I pulled the trigger on those.
Packaging, Build quality, Accessories
I found the packaging to be really cool. Quite elegant. Okay.. the accessory bundle wasn't too big- but all the essentials were included- a good selection of UE single flanges, a pair of Complys and a Logitech branded clam-shell carry case. The iems itself turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for me in the fit and finish department.
First off- the cables. I've got only one word for these- ****ty. I had read that the 500's cables were bad, but I didn't think it was this poor. The flat cable design and the tacky prints look cheap. I'm sure that these cables would stiffen and crack with time. They are microphonic too- every time they rub against your clothes..aargh. This can be solved to an extent by wearing them over-the-ear and using the cable cinch to hold it in place.
Next, there aren't any proper strain reliefs- either at the place where the cord exits the housings or at the 3.5mm plug (which is pretty sturdy, btw). Many people might not have an issue with the cable design or the strain reliefs, but I've been spoiled silly by the most excellent W4-s braided cables. It's not a fair comparison, but I've seen cheaper earphones with better designed cables than the UE 500.
Lastly, the chromed plastic housings. Lot of bling, but I don't like it because it can attract stains and oils quite easily. Quite a subjective opinion- feel free to disagree here. On a positive note, the housings are tiny and appear to be well made.
Comfort and Isolation
These things are really comfortable- aided in no small part by the small housings and the soft UE single flanges. The isolation is pretty good too- not as isolating as the triple flanges in my W4, but it comes close. The drawback with the UE tips are that they become loose over time- an issue my brother is already experiencing on his Pana HJE900 (he uses UE tips on those).
Bass: Strong, not at all boomy, extends very well, has lots of slam and air, good impact. The bass is not a prominent part of the sound signature, but when called for it can be powerful, deep and impactful. The bass quality and presentation isn't natural like the Pana HJE900 but the UE 500 costs less than half of the Panas and I have to admit, sounds more enjoyable too- especially for casual listening and while watching movies.
Mids: Would have been slightly recessed if it weren't for the mid bass hump. Smooth, in offensive and non-fatiguing. Guitars and vocals sound clear- but do not jump out at you or envelop you with its warm, liquid smoothness like mid-focused iems.
Highs: Extends well and isn't harsh or sibilant. Smooth and relatively detailed. No complaints at all.
Sound staging: Wide and airy. Must be the widest among all the phones I own, as a matter of fact. Positioning is good and so is the instrument separation. There is no sense of intimacy for the tracks that demand it, though.
The UE 500 has a v-shaped sound signature. Unlike the HJE900, it isn't as drastic- it's only mildly v-shaped. The overall impression is that of a smooth, relatively clear and likeable sound signature.
A big drawback of the UE 500 is that they are not very sensitive. I need to go up to higher volumes on my Clip Zip to drive these things properly. Hisses a bit when connected to my LG Optimus 4X- none with the Clip or my laptop.
For the price I paid for these, the UE 500 provides good sound quality for the dollar. There are certain caveats like the poor cable design, strain reliefs and the low sensitivity. If none of these are an issue, the UE 500 makes a good buy. However, the competition is stiff in this price range and if you are willing to extend your budget to $100, there are a lot of ace performers in the market. The sound signature and quality is hard to fault, but the feeling of fragility the cables give makes me a bit hesitant in recommending this whole heartedly.
Pros - Amazing sound, they look good, great audio jack angle, comes with carrying box.
Cons - Cable can be stiff.
I'd just like to say the audio jack on these are of a very smart design; the cable goes into the jack at a 90 degree angle and doesn't shoot straight out. My last pair of earbuds died because of my hand accidentally smooshing the standard jack. I can already tell that these UE500s will last a very long time.
That said, they sound fantastic. I prefer these over my mothers UE600s because the 600s sound...flat? The 500s sound more rich than the 600s. The only thing the 600s are better at are fitting in your ear. But, the overall value you get from the 500s is, in my opinion, better in terms of sound and isolation.
If you get these brand new, they include a little box to carry them in and some comply-foam tips. However, if you have other buds that you like, you can just slide any on or off.
You will not be disappointed if you get these. They can serve a variety of activities and have good noise isolating capabilities.
The link below is a total steal on these earbuds. I suggest you buy now.
Pros - Sound quality, Comfort
Cons - very stiff cord, tips pop off easily
These are some of the very best earbuds that I have ever owned. The sound quality is very very good, clear and crisp along all frequencies. Very good good highs too. I got some free UE-350's and put them in to compare them and they sounded offensive! I threw them in the trash. I also got some free 150's and they sounded surprisingly good compared to the 500's. If you don't care about the goofy design of the 150's you can save 30 bucks and get those instead. These are also very good to fall asleep with. I can lay on my side with it in my ear and have no discomfort, which is very important to me and I couldn't seem to find anyone mention when I was reading reviews. The cords do transfer A LOT of sound at the slightest movement but this can be abated by bending the ridgid cord in a certain pattern (you'll figure it out). Definitely a recommend buy for anyone that wants great sound without spending hundreds of dollars. Thanks for reading.
Pros - Balanced sound, Comfortable fit, good isolation, sleek design
Cons - Hard-to-drive, bad strain relief @ plug
I'm not too experienced of an audiophile, but out of the IEMs that I've tried, the UE 500s are the most balanced that I have heard to date. Compared to the Klipsch Image S4 (to which they seem to be compared most often, due to availability), the Ultimate Ears are more detailed and balanced. Whereas the S4s seem to have more of a v-shaped (Bass/treble-heavy) sound, the UEs have a more balanced (some might say bass-light) sound. However, though the bass is not as heavy on the UEs, it is very nicely textured and is less boomy than that of the Klipsches. In addition, the UEs provide a very good seal and isolation, and can be comfortable worn over-the-ear or straight down. The only caveats that I have are that A) they can be slightly harder to drive than mainstream IEMs, requiring 50% - 70% volume on my iPod nano 2G, and B) the strain relief at the right-angle plug is nonexistant, leading to some concerns regarding durability at that strain point. All in all, though, the UEs are excellent IEMs, and are also relatively easy to acquire, as Best Buy carries them in their brick-and-mortar stores.