ULTRASONE PRO 900 REVIEW
Hi guys, to celebrate my 100 posts, I have decided to write my very first review.
The Ultrasone Pro 900 are my very first "audiophile" headphones and as such taught me many things about headphones.
They also helped me understand my music preferences, even changed them slightly.
I now know what I want from my next set of cans (the HE-500 or HE-5LE) and even after my currently mixed impressions, I would probably buy them again, probably...
More on that throughout the review.
Onto the review then
NOTE /I own these headphones 4 months already. These headphones should be fully burned in, so the sound signature is likely definitive/
THE PACKAGING AND CONTENTS
The headphone comes in a sturdy case. The contents are the headphones with velour pads on, a 1/4 gold platted plug 5 ft long (5 ft + the coiled part) Neutrik coiled cable screwing directly into the Pro 900, a 1/8 jack cable 5 ft long (also screwable), an extra pair of velour pads, manual and CD.
Both cables are fully and easily detachable
The stock cables are of good quality. Not as fancy as some of the aftermarket ones, but very durable.
To screw in the cable, you simply push it into the connector and twist it clockwise. Keep twisting and the cable will screw itself in.
The velours are quite comfortable and fit nicely, but I will get to that later.
The mechanism is similar to that of the cable. Push in and turn clockwise.
The CD contains some test songs. The manual is very brief and is mostly a showcase of all the Ultrasone products.
The headphones as they come in the box
The case, extra velours, manual, both cables as well as the headphones (stand not included!)
These headphones excel in this category. They are build like a tank, with very durable plastics. There is not a single metal part, which may make these feel a little cheap.
The only aluminium parts are on the cups. It is the signature logo as well as the 'Ultrasone' sign.
This is also the only part prone to scratching. It somehow got scratched when I carried them around in my backpack. It is only cosmetic though }It is the right cup, visible on one of the photos I posted]
Very unique looking headphones. I kind of like the design, but they look ridiculous when I wear them. They may not look it, but the caps are really big.
They are really one of the most original headphones as far as design goes. I, for one, enjoy owning things that are radically different from the usual 'casual' ones, so this is a plus for me.
With these cans, this is a hit or miss. My ears aren't particularly small but ain't huge either. But after a few hours [sometimes even minutes] my ears start to ache.
I was not able to pinpoint the source exactly, perhaps the cups are too small for my ears or maybe my ears are rubbing the drivers, or both.
So for me they are comfortable only for a given period or time, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.
Also, the headband padding as you can see is very narrow and increases the pressure on one part of your head.
The cups are really huge and can be comfy at times.
These cost me 500 dollars new. Their retail price was 550 when released, Now to make this clear, At first, I believed they were worth their price.
Now, however, after I have spent some quality time with them, I have to say they were overpriced. Vastly for me, for others... well, I will explain later on.
Let's move on to....
First off, I will rate how useful they are for individual purposes.
They work well when connected to a phone directly.
However, I'm inclined to recommend something like the Fiio E11, which has a slightly warm signature, which helps the 900 sound presentation ever so slightly.
The cables used are the stock 1/8 cable and an aftermarket NUforce interconnect 1/8 - 1/8 cable.
The Fiio has a bass boost and gain settings, as well as a protected volume knob to prevent it's accidental turning in your pocket for ex.
The Pro 900/E11 combo
The device is very compact and small, yet very powerful and capable. Fully worth it's 60 bucks asking price.
Now, I don't mind their larger size. It can be bothersome for others, but because they play really well as a portable headphones, I can recommend these for such purposes.
ISOLATION - They isolate very well, I was able to listen at loud volume levels, without disturbing people around me. They also isolate some ambient noise, just enough to be okay for portable use. They pass in this category.
Now, would I recommend these for your home rig...
This is where things get a little more difficult.
Due to their size, one might think they will benefit from better amplification and improve greatly with a desktop amplifier.
The truth is it does, but just a little and it depends on what amplifier you are using
I use the Audio GD NFB-16 as my main amp. It is a very neutral amplifier, with good dynamics and very transparent
The problem is, you don't want a neutral amp for these, not at all
I found the Fiio to be a better match than the Audio GD because it is a little warmer.
Now, why is neutral amp bad for these...
I will get to that later as well.
As of now, I wouldn't recommend them as your main set of cans.
YOU WANT TO USE A WARM AMPLIFIER WITH THESE.
The generally recommended Foobar player in use
Now, I am not saying they won't appeal to some of you, I just don't think they were meant to be used as a home rig but rather as a portable rig.
Ultimately, I was not satisfied with their performance with the desktop amplifier.
Now gaming, much like portable use, is a category where they perform well.
I use a DTS 7.1 converter as well as my PS3 as my gaming rig.
They are a very 'fun' set of cans. They have nice dimensionality for a closed set of cans.
With their deep bass and prominent highs, they make every game very enjoyable. Be it shooters, RPGs, racing games or sports games, they produce exciting sound throughout.
Deep explosions, nice accuracy... Its all there in your games. May be a bit too aggressive for some.
PS3 hook up
The way its all connected
Overall I enjoy these greatly with any and all videogames.
They may not be the last thing in pinpoint accuracy and soundstage, but due to their sound signature, they are hard to resist. In this particular category they exceeded my expectations.
Now, I will rate the Pros in individual categories across their whole frequency response.
These will be bass/lows,midrange,highs,treble,soundstage,instrument separation,bad source sensitivity and last but not least consistency
NOTE - if you listen to rap, hip hop and electronica ONLY, you can add a +4/5 points in the 'MIDRANGE','HIGHS' and 'TREBLE' categories.
From the start, it was obvious this will be their strong side.
They reproduce bass very accurately. It is not one noted or distorted.
The bass is deep, strong, slightly boomy [makes the earcups resonate sometimes] and very satisfying. Makes you smile once you get addicted to it.
Sometimes it gets slightly bloated or muddy, but overall the bass presentation is almost perfect.
Any low note instruments are presented with authority and domination.
Do note, that this makes the Pro 900 a very bass heavy headphone. So if you are a bass-head, crawling for more bass AND don't want anything else, look no further.
This is where this headphone falls extremely short.
The mids are extremely recessed. I would say the midrange is practically non-existent, making this headphone a prime example of V-curved cans.
To understand, the mids are overpowered by both the thumping bass as well as the aggressive highs, both bleeding heavily into them, leaving no place for the mids to reveal themselves.
Here and there, the rare moments when you can hear it, you may realize it is quite nicely detailed. But most of the times, the mids are simply absent from the sound spectrum.
Now, if you listen to rap and hip hop or electronica only, this shouldn't concern you. Such songs in general do not require pronounced midrange, as a matter of fact they do not require any at all.
But the moment you want to listen to other similar genres, such as pop or [alternative] rock, you will realize these headphones were not meant to be used with these.
They are electronica, hip hop and rap masters, but as far as other genres go, they leave much to be desired.
Aggressive, fatiguing, piercing, shrill, peaky, prominent, merciless, unforgiving.
These things come to mind when I think about them.
As a matter of fact, I'm terrified by them.
With burn in, they were tamed a little, but not enough for me, or my ears respectively.
I will explain - They are described as 'metallic'. They are detailed but not airy and at times unlistenable.
They sound very artificial and overemphasized. They are very peaky shrill. Cymbals for example, sound like a sharp knife, piercing your ear.
I have adjusted to this pierciness slightly, but even if I ignored the lack of midrange, this I can't ignore. Just no. Whenever there are highs, they are harsh. You expect it. You know its coming... I'm stuck with these phones until Christmas, but for anyone considering these, who listens to instrumental music, with female vocals of any kind, do your ears a favor and avoid this headphone at all cost.
Same problem here. Especially with female vocals. These phones are sibilant as anything.
Also, the vocals are not particularly detailed. They are very 'uninviting' shrill and unnatural.
With male voices, they are fine, so again, if you only listen to hip hop or rap or such, this does not concern you. There will still be some minor sibilance though.
Basically, if you listen to any high-pitched vocals or anything that is high-pitched in general. Avoid. Keep walking and don't look back.
For closed-headphones, the soundstage is good, still a little bit clustered/claustrophobic.
In the genres, where these excel, it is really good [again, for a closed can] as well as for videogames.
The soundstage is nicely defined there. I wouldn't call it 3-D like, but its ok.
But for their size, you might still expect a little more from them, in terms of width and depth.
Instrument separation is fine.
But, due to the prominently V-shaped signature and over-aggressiveness, the instruments are hard to follow and seem kind of clustered together.
Nevertheless, they are nicely defined. Some are much more pronounced than others and due to the recessed mids, you might have a hard time when trying to hear all the instruments.
Chances are, you won't be able to. But since this is not the main focus of these cans. I will say they still sound fun and exciting.
BAD SOURCE SENSITIVITY
Now what I mean by this is how revealing/forgiving are these of bad source material.
Many people stated that these are very unforgiving of bad source material, but I would say this is not entirely correct.
It largely depends on the song itself. For example some songs sound good no matter what the bit rate, while others sound harsh even if they are of higher quality
This is probably largely doe to the 'S-LOGIC' proprietary technology. I was not able to figure a specific genre where this was more apparent. But with older songs the harshness seemed to reveal itself more.
In general, however, they are pretty unforgiving. The problem is, that with worse recordings, the treble and highs are further exaggerated making these songs virtually unlistenable.
I think I made it pretty apparent that these headphones are highly inconsistent.
At one time, I find myself enjoying them greatly, but at the next I find myself in discomfort, with my ears ringing.
This leaves quite an unpleasant listening experience, forcing you to make a playlist of a few selected songs which sound good with these cans.
Long story short, the only consistent songs are the ones that are either bass-heavy or highs-shy.
- great build quality
- good accessories
- good comfort [for some]
- easy amping
- rap/hip-hop/electronica master
- great bass
- awesome for gaming
- good for portable use
- detachable, good cables
- overly expensive
- harsh treble
- shrill highs
- recessed midrange
- discomfort [for some]
- instrument separation
- narrow headband padding
Overall score 5.5/10
FINAL [AUTHOR'S] THOUGHTS
4 months back, I bought these headphones thinking they were just what the doctor ordered. Sure, back then, they were exactly what I crawled for. But perhaps my listening preferences have changed since back then or I simply chose the wrong headphone after all. The thing is, as of now I don't like them nearly as much as when I originally bought then... The new toy syndrome faded away... and now I don't enjoy my music with them anymore. They are still great for videogames though as well as decent enough for portable use and the music genres I mentioned above.
But my ears don't like them and neither do I anymore.
That's why my next set of cans will be the more neutral and 'boring; HIFIman cans be it either the HE-500 or HE-500, I simply need something much more relaxing, less fatiguing and something that will make a good all-rounder.
Also, this is of course subjective and my opinion is only there to steer you in the right direction, if you so desire.
This is also my first review, so please be tolerant.
I gotta admit they are pretty though
The very last photo
Please, post your impressions and opinions on the Pro 900. I know there is an appreciation thread, but not for me... anymore amyways.
Thanks for your read.
Best regards, Luke