Friday, April 25, 2014

Ultrasone Pro 900 Review

Ah, the Ultrasone Pro 900's.  An extremely interesting pair of headphones to say the least.  With a persistently fluctuating price, having seen them cost anywhere from $250 to $550 dollars, it is extremely hard to illustrate my thoughts on these headphones without sounding overly negative.  In order to negate this issue, lets review some of the Pro 900's strengths first, and then discuss the issue of price and the possibility of better options.

The Pro 900's demand a price premium, that's for certain,  and for that premium, you do get a few nice features.  First of all, the products packaging is top notch.  The Pro 900's ship with an extremely well built and durable (albeit rather large) hard carrying case.  The carrying case houses two sets of detachable cables (coiled and straight) that fit into the Pro 900's secure, screw in removal cable port on the left ear cup.  The case also houses spare velour pads and the Pro 900's themselves.  Ultrasone is all about the fancy marketing names, such as using Neutrik connectors and S-Logic (which I will get into in a bit) and the coiled cable (which terminates in a larger, 6.3mm jack) has Neutrik plastered onto the connector.  Does Ultrasone utilization of Neutrik connectors result in better sound quality? In my experience, no it does not.  Does it aid in increased cable and connection durability? That is yet to be seen.  Is Ultrasones utilization of Neutrik connectors a marketing ploy designed to make you feel better about your $550 dollar purchase? That's a definite yes.

The build quality of the Ultrasones is acceptable in that the headphones feel relatively durable.  However, the Pro 900's use the generic style headband seen on many other, much cheaper headphones (Stanton DJ Pro 2000's for one).  For a $550 dollar headphone, I would also expect to see some material other than plastic used.  The ear cups are adorned with a very thin sheet of aluminum, that looks aesthetically pleasing and adds a bit of flair to the headphones, however the metal is quite prone to denting, something I have seen first hand.  As far as comfort is concerned, the velour pads are not particularly soft. While they are not neccesarily uncomfortable, they aren't nearly as soft and supple as the Alcantara pads used on the Shure SRH-1540's, a pair of headphones that costs $50 dollars less than the Pro 900's. For any sub $200 dollar headphone, these faults would be acceptable and simply the inevitable down sides of a headphone in a much lower price tier.  However, the Pro 900's cost a whopping $550 dollars, and the build quality and comfort simply do not live up to the $550 dollar price premium (fortunately the person who I borrowed these from got them on sale for a much more reasonable price.)

Sound quality.  The Pro 900's excel where the bass is concerned in that they reproduce bass relatively accurately. Bass is slightly boomy, but this is typically an inevitable side effect of a closed back headphone design.  That being said, the bass is not distinctly punchy, with my Audio- Technica ATH-M50's (a $150 dollar pair of headphones mind you) outperforming them in terms of sheer punchiness.  The sound quality of the Pro 900's continues to disappoint from this point onwards.  The mid range is recessed and is overpowered by the bass and exceedingly overbearing upper range.  Then there's the upper range.  Oh, the upper range.  The most defining characteristic of these headphones and a characteristic that I absolutely cannot stand.  Words to described the Pro 900's upper range include, but are not limited too: overbearing, sibilant, harsh, piercing, exceedingly fatiguing, metallic and shrill.  A cymbal hit? Feels like someone is driving a sewing needle into your head.  Female vocals? Completely ruined by the absolutely hideous sibilance, and the fact that every single upper range frequency has a metallic twang and hiss to it. For a much (and I mean much, much) cheaper headphone, faults like these can be accepted, but with a $550 dollar pair of headphones like these, the inherent sound quality issues simply cannot be ignored.  In the Pro 900's defense, the sibilant nature of the upper range does recede slightly when used from a quality source. such as my Objective 2 headphone amplifier.  The O2 tightens up the bass, increases punchiness and tones down the upper range slightly. However, they are still far too harsh, and forget about playing them from a standard iPod line out, or even a FiiO E7 portable amp for that matter.

Overall, the Ultrasone Pro 900's do not represent a good value.  Folks looking for closed back headphones in the $500 to $600 dollar range would be much better off looking at a headphone like the Shure SRH-1540's. The Ultrasone Pro 900's are barely justifiable at the $250 dollar price range, let alone the $550 dollar price range.  Honestly, Ultrasone should label the Pro 900's as dangerously treble heavy.  Being a treble sensitive person, I can honestly say that there is no conceivable way I can listen to the Pro 900's for an extended period of time.  The Ultrasone's may suit older folks with reduced upper frequency hearing caused by age, but even in this case the Pro 900's do not represent a good value.

CLICK HERE for Ultrasone Pro 900 product page
CLICK HERE for Ultrasone Pro 900 Amazon product page

No comments:

Post a Comment