Review-First Impressions of Proline 550
Jun 18, 2008 at 1:58 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 30

Kernmac

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I wrote this review to help all those people that looked at my previous threads when I was asking questions about the “lower” end Ultrasones, this is for both of you. There’s something about Ultrasones 200,000 hits and 5,000 plus replies; Kernmac’s Ultrasone threads have less hits than the boys that released “My Sharona”.

The Pro(line) 550 is a headphone totally overlooked at Headfi. The flagship models (Edition 9 aside) Pro 750 and HFI 780 have considerable following, however lower down the scale Ultrasone models are almost non existent in the ownership stakes, in fact most Headfiers don’t seem to have even heard them.
I guess that is because in relative terms the pricing structure doses not reflect massive variation from bottom to top, certainly not in the same way as Grado SR60-RS1/ GS1000, or Sen HD555 (or lower) to HD 650 or Beyer or AKG or ATH etc. The temptation to jump straight to the “top” is easier with Ultrasone (Edition 9 exempted again), and most Headfiers seem to have done just that. I for instance paid $300 Aus. for my Pro 550 and I could have got a Pro 750 for $380 (OEM), which I must confess was tempting.
I stuck with the 550 for two reasons. First, because I wanted monster bass (tight, impactful) for watching action movies (DT 770 without the need for amplification but hopefully with clear mids for dialogue) and all reports state that the 550 are the bass centric of Ultrasone. Secondly, because a well-respected headphone guru who has spent time with all Ultrasones models believes they do reflect their pricing in regards to performance, that is to say that they suffer diminishing returns. Apparently not much gain as you climb the Ultrasone ladder (Puts on flame suit). If I didn’t have my much loved MS2i Alessandros, I would have gone for the Pro 750 as reportedly it has a broader sound spectrum, particularly in regards to highs, had I required a more versatile fon..

On to the review. Can the Pro 550 meet my movie needs and then provide a bonus of being decent enough musically to contrast with the MS2i’s particularly for trance/house bass centric music that I also listen to?

Proline 550-Fun slam or doof doof pretender?

My first impression of these fons out of the box is, they are big, they have massive cup circumference, not depth. This is not to say they are big in terms of other circumaural phones, but they are much bigger in the flesh than photos indicate.

Well first up this is a closed headphone, so how does the Pro 550 isolate and how much does it leak? On my head they hardly leak at all, (unless my kids are having a lend of me). They seal sound in as well as any closed phone. They isolate pretty well too. They’re obviously not noise canceling, but with moderate music levels pumping through them you can’t have a conversation with the person next to you unless you can lip read. They do the closed fon thing pretty well, they meet my expectations easily there.

Some say this is an uncomfortable fon (poor weight distribution), so what are my thoughts on this? Keep in mind I find the MS2i comfortable critters, so you can probably take my opinion on this one with a grain of salt. I have a small/average head, and small/average ear size, they don’t clamp too hard on me. They’re not light, and although they’re not heavy in terms of other headphones they do feel like they are at the heavy end. For me not uncomfortable, but certainly not Sen HD555 comfort. In a different way, they are about the same comfort level as my MS2is. The comfort shouldn’t be am issue for me, however I’m not sure how the pleather pads (bloody warm on my ears) will go long term. Perhaps I should invest in some velour replacement pads. (Might have to PM you shigzeo) The Proline 550
build also seems very robust, I can’t see them falling apart in a hurry.

Well on to the sound-and I am starting with movies.
Bottom line. They do movies very well. They have the bass (not quite sub woofer) kick I was looking for, for action movies, no question. Dialogue is clear (still can’t understand a word of Stallone, but that’s not the 550s fault) and they are fairly spatial/airy, I guess the s logic does a good job, as they sound like open fons (Grado open, still not a wide soundstage). Ear placement is critical, the sound variation is quite significant dependant on head/ear placement in the chambers. These guys meet my primary purchase requirement totally. Sorry to Rocky fans for the Sylvester comment.

Big deal they do movies, so how do they do music?

I bought these Ultrasones as a bass fon, and they do that very well. They are certainly not doof doof pretenders. They are bass orientated, however they are not ‘muddy bass overpowers everything else’ cans in my opinion. The bass goes fairly deep, they have bass impact, but I wouldn’t call them bass monsters, nor would I describe them as dark. They are smooth, liquid at times, slower than my MS2i, less dynamic, they don’t seem to have the same overall detail as the Alessandros. They are warmer, but as I have already stated not dark. The mids are at times a bit recessed for my ears. They appear to be less consistent that the MS2i, with some tracks almost perfect, very enjoyable, but sometimes they seem a bit thin. They are a fun fon with plenty of pratt at times, but at other times they are mushy, confused in the mids, struggling with separation and sounding too blended. Although they don’t seem to have the detail of the MS2i they are unforgiving on lower grade MP3 files. CD and 320 mp3s fair much better than 128 mp3s.
My comments seem fairly harsh, as I am coming from a highly critical prospective, I actually do like the Proline 550, a lot. They are a great fon, at times brilliant. Can they match the Alessandros for rock? not to my ears. Do they do trance, house and some contemporary Rock ballads well? you bet. With simple music they are clear, fairly well balanced and very enjoyable, with the capacity to deliver powerful bass, warm vocals and crisp punchy non sibilant highs. With complex, busy music, they seem a bit muddled, really struggling with separation and therefore they loose their fun factor.

The Proline package is also pretty good; two detachable cords, set of replacement pads and 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch (mini plug) adapter. And a Cd of sound/music tracks.

Don' write off the lower end Ultrasone fons would be my advice, not for everyone, but what can is?
icon10.gif


These are my first impressions with a Proline 550 that is 5 minutes old, I will post another review when they have 50 hours on the clock, and I will see if my impressions have changed any.

Cheers
Kernmac
 
Jun 18, 2008 at 9:23 PM Post #3 of 30

shooter

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my Proline 550 has really burnt in, as I did not like their highs at the beggining. Strong, tight bass, quite wide soundstage, this is really good competition for DT770. Now I can only compare to Creative Aurvana Live which are revelation in my country ( great reviews in Poland) but Ultrasons seem to be more grown-up, more detailed, and more open like cans.
 
Jun 18, 2008 at 9:26 PM Post #4 of 30

Kernmac

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Hi denl82, I couldn't find anything on the proline 550 here on headfi, I went from reviews from other sites, which are far less trusting as a generalisation in my opinion. They are a pretty good closed fon all up, not perfect but a solid package that can compete very well against similar price fons. I will see how they burn in, and also see how I adapt to their sound signature.
 
Jun 19, 2008 at 9:55 AM Post #5 of 30

Kernmac

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Well it looks like this mini review is about as popular here as a pair of Bose headphones. This is a bump before the post fades off in to the distance. Probably a waste of time doing a more comprehensive follow up review in a few months time, no one is interested in reading it.
 
Jun 19, 2008 at 1:18 PM Post #6 of 30

REB

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Thanks for the great read, Kernmac. I for one would be very interested in hearing how the 550's change during burn-in. Do they have the slightly shrillish treble the other Pro(line) models have before burn-in is completed?
 
Jun 19, 2008 at 9:25 PM Post #8 of 30

Kernmac

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Hi REB,
Trebble could be described as only slightly shrill or sibilant, and only on a few tracks to my ears, which could be more to do with the track/file itself then the 550s. And not so much that I would say that it is a noticable problem/issue, I wouldn't describe them as having shill highs really. In fact they handle highs fairly well, probably not as extended as my MS2i but detailed enough and fairly well balanced for a bass centric fon. Yes I do use amps (Porta corda III attached to my Sony DAP and a Corda Move driving out of my computer) Neither amp are very powerful, but both do a fair job in extending and rounding out the sound, giving a fuller sound for my ears. The 550s certainly don't require an amp, but because I think I get a fuller sound than straight from my sources, I always use them. I would love to try my fons through a dedicated home amp with plenty of juice to see the difference in sound quality (Maybe a Cantate). However I would be looking at $600 for anything worth while and I can't justify it at present, as the sound I get from both the Pro 550s and my MS2i is very satisfying.

The only issue I really have with Pro 550 is it seems to struggle with instrument separation, the mids become a bit confused/blended particularly on complex/busy tracks, I am hoping that this might improve once the drivers are burnt in a bit. They almost seem a bit tight, restricted, and as I stated in my review it is inconsistent to my ears , sometimes they seem more detailed with good clear mids than at other times.
Maybe it is just me, I am no audiophile and describing what you hear is difficult and maybe I am the one that is inconsistent. They are big in circumference and because they are closed and have this s Logic, ear placement does have a fair bearing on sound, and perhaps this might also play a part in the inconsistencies i hear. I think I need to spend a lot more time with them before I post any more impressions, playing with ear placement and listening more analytically as to why I feel that the separation is at times not as good as I would like it. Bottom line at the moment, I think the 550 is a very good fon (they do action movies very well), generally not as enjoyable as my MS2i for music but who knows as I adjust to their sound signature. For some tracks these deep, warm but fairly balanced (now thats a contradiction) performers, are a fun listen, most of the time.
 
Jun 20, 2008 at 6:17 AM Post #9 of 30

denl82

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Kernmac /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Well it looks like this mini review is about as popular here as a pair of Bose headphones. This is a bump before the post fades off in to the distance. Probably a waste of time doing a more comprehensive follow up review in a few months time, no one is interested in reading it.


I sometimes feel like this too Kernmac, but one has to realize that first, any info added to head-fi truly makes this site what it is - great. Another thing is that if just one person reads it, well, that's a lot more people than if we didn't have the internet to share our thoughts, eh? That's how I look at it haha=] And I guess the most rewarding part of writing a review that doesn't get a lot of "exposure" is looking at how many views it has pulled a few weeks, or months, after it was originally written. It always increases...so you just know people are indeed in need of your thoughtful generosity to contribute info on something they will spend $100, maybe even $200 or more, on.

You feel me? hehe, hope I'm not too out of place tellin you this hehe. Besides, it was a great review.
 
Jun 20, 2008 at 6:46 AM Post #10 of 30

kjpmkjp

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Nice to see the "lower-end" Ultrasones getting some attention here. If I'm not mistaken, the DJ1 Pro's (which I use) were built upon the Proline 550, since the specs and design seems identical. Maybe I'm wrong though.

Bang up job on the review in any case!
 
Jun 20, 2008 at 8:45 AM Post #11 of 30

Kernmac

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Hi Denyl82, and thanks.
Hi kjpmkjp, and although I haven't heard the DJ1pro, I do believe your right. Not much difference in these two cans at all I would suspect.

Cheers
 
Jun 20, 2008 at 9:13 AM Post #12 of 30

equinox_zero

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Thanks for the review Kernmac.

I heard that Ultrasone fons has a different sound signature from out-of-the-box condition and after burn-in. I look forward for your impressions when they reach more burn-in time.

I'm currently using the AKG K518DJ, and planning to go into Circumaural fons. Maybe going to Pro550 is a good decision since Pro 750 is quite out-of-reach for my budget
biggrin.gif


Cheers,
 
Jun 20, 2008 at 10:02 AM Post #13 of 30

Kernmac

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equinox zero, I can't comment on the sound of the K518dj in relation to the Pro 550 or DJ1 pro as I have never heard the AKG fon. It gets good reports as a budget DJ headphone, so I assume it may have some similar traits to the Ultrasones.
One would hope that the more expensive Ultrasones will give you a significant improvement in sound quality. I am very hapy with the Pro 550 performance (sound does seem to be getting better with more use) competing with the open MS2i for musical sound is a fairly tall order from a closed fon that costs less than the Alessandro. They are an excellent fon, but as I said they do struggle with instrument separation at times, making them less enjoyable than they could be. Bass and highs for my money are pretty good (Bass is excellent). Have a read at Headphonic forums (Aus) regarding the Pro 550 in comparriosn to the 750. If Marcus is right (and he knows headphones) then purchasing a set of 550s may not be significantly different to being the proud owner of a 750. And dependant on where you live and the going price locally, you may save yourself quite a bit of coin.

Headphonic - Australian Headphone Forums :: Index


Good luck.
 
Jun 20, 2008 at 10:25 AM Post #14 of 30

equinox_zero

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I will have a read at that Pro 550 vs Pro 750 comparison, thank you for the info
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I need a piece of advise though.
Since I'm still new in this world, I don't understand what you meant by instrument separation at complex music. I rarely listen to classic.. I mostly listen to Rock, Heavy Metal, Jazz (contemporary, swing) and Blues. How do you think the Pro 550 fare on those music?
 

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