Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ultrasone Headphones

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

I’m not certain that everyone who dons Ultrasone headphones will be able to notice the difference between these S-Logic technology-equipped cans and other high-end ‘phones, but a difference exists and it could save your ears. S-Logic? It’s not new technology so much as it’s smart design.

In most headphones the drivers in the ear-cup aim more or less straight into the hearing channel, to hit the eardrum head-on with sound. But we don’t hear sound directly; it reflects off and is absorbed by the curves and crannies of the auricle, the outer ear. That’s a large part of why we can perceive directional

sound, why we hear in 3D. So, to create a more natural-sounding headphone, Ultrasone positions the drivers off-center from our eardrums and aims them in a direction that utilizes the outer ear. Additionally, the driver positioning makes for a less fatiguing headphone, because the driver doesn’t bombard the

eardrum with sound pressure.

Two pairs of Ultrasones were sent for review: the semiopen HFI-2000 model ($249) and the closed-back HFI-650 ($249). Both use the S-Logic design, have a frequency range of 15 to 25,000 Hz and a generous 10-foot leash. The 650s aren’t noise-canceling headphones, but they manage to shield a listener from a majority of outside noise. Listening to the title track from pianist Andrew Hill’s Passing Ships, the richness of the varied timbres and complexities of Hill’s nine-piece band-Ron Carter’s articulate, plump bass tone, Joe Farell’s smoldering tenor solo and Lenny White’s crisp cymbal work-came to life in a space around me, not inside my head. It’s more like hearing music played in a giant sphere around your head. Listening to the same track on the 2000s revealed that the 650s have a slight, bright edge to the sound-nothing grating, though-and also that S-Logic can sound even more natural. Hill’s band sounded every bit as accurate and the total sound was wider. The 2000s are the Ultrasones for the acoustic-music listener and anyone searching for headphones with a clean and even sound; they’re perfect for mixing engineers. The only drawback is their semiopen design, which allows outside noise to creep in and for those close by to hear what you’re listening to.

Originally Published