The Best Headphones Available? — Recommendation Ultrasone

From time-to-time I recommend a product or service that I use or try because I think its a good value or even a best buy.  I’ve read about Ultrasone before while doing research on headphones, trying to decide which ones to buy, and like most people I didn’t buy a pair because I wasn’t familiar with their name.

Turns out that they’ve been one of those top players that no one’s heard of.  Well, obviously some people in-the-know have been very fond of their headphones.  They’ve won numerous awards and I was wondering just how well they reproduced sound.

I grew up as a musician and around music.  I was in the top vocal ensemble as well as in the #2 orchestral band in the country.  I was a DJ and played music for all kinds of dances, weddings, etc.  And I’ve been disappointed.

Music reproduction with headphones has always been tricky and a rather personal-taste driven business.  Many of today’s headphones seem to emphasize the bass far too much, leave the mid-range muddy and good luck finding crisp, clean high frequencies.  I’ve liked a couple of in-ear monitors (which I’ve written about before), but I haven’t found open-air headphones that I’ve really liked in quite a while.

I received a press release from Ultrasone’s Press Agency describing how their headphones provide safer listening volumes than other headphones or ear buds.  [Technical Jargon Warning] Turns out that due to their technology, the ear’s perception of sound level is improved so that the sound itself can be 3 to 4 db lower when using their headphones.  This will lead to a safer listening experience as you’ve cut the actual SPL by at least 40%.  (A 3db drop is a 50% drop in power with a corresponding drop in the sound pressure.)  [End Technical Jargon]

Ok, so these are some of the safest headphones available.  Jello is safe, but it doesn’t sound very good.  So… I asked them to send a pair, and they did: the HFI-680 headphones.  Don’t tell my wife, but I think I may have another childhood crush brewing.

I listened to everything from AC/DC through Puccini, Bluegrass through Buddhist Gongs.  Simply amazing.  Particularly with my background in music and sound I’m thoroughly impressed.  This 20-odd-year-old German company has done it.

Their S-Logic™ Natural Surround Sound Plus Technology injects the sound off-center from your ear canal, thus giving you more of a feeling of listening to speakers or even “being there.”  They are designed to allow your ears to bounce the sound waves around your outer ear so that you have some additional sound depth perception, and it works.

Not only do they sound great, but they’re very light and look impressive.  When you go to pick them up, their substantial look just doesn’t match their weight.  I thought I might get a sore neck from wearing them for a few hours.  As it turns out, I hardly even knew I had them on.

With a current list price of $249 (I found them online for less than $200) they’re about the right price point for someone who’s looking for a great pair of headphones at a reasonable price.  If I were in the market for a new set of headphones, there’s no question that Ultrasone is the company I’d be looking to.

I’ve had my eye on their Pro line of headphones, too.  Some other people have said some great things about them.  [Ultrasone, if you’re listening, I’d like to try them out, too…]  But then again, maybe I shouldn’t try them out.  Once you’ve had the best, it’s hard to go back — and as good as the HFI line is, their high-end PRO line must just be the best there is.