Since 1995, Ultimate Ears has revolutionized the way artists perform music onstage with their professional custom-fit earphones. The company got their start in the back of a tour bus and has since grown to be a standard for touring musicians around the world.
In 2008, industry giant Logitech purchased Ultimate Ears and has continued to innovate, adding more research and development into bringing new and better products to the market for both musicians and music lovers.
I have long wanted to listen to and review both their custom in-ear monitors and also their entry-level UE6000 noise cancelling headphone to see how the two sounded and what they had to offer. The two products reviewed here are at the market extremes: the UE6000 is the noise cancelling headphone developed for iPad, iPod, iPhones and portable MP3 players and retails for $199, while the UE18 is a unique reference quality, $1350, custom in-ear monitor used by professional musicians and audiophiles who demand the highest quality from music reproduction. Both of these products are very musical and excellent built products that can satisfy most music lovers looking for portable solutions for their music.
The UE 6000 is an on-ear portable noise cancelling headphone. It has two 40mm drivers. Its 32 Ohm impendence and 92dB sensitivity make it a fairly easy load to drive. The noise isolation is pretty decent going down to 7dB. It uses two AAA batteries for the active and noise cancelling features and provide up to forty hours of playtime before the batteries need to be replaced.
The UE 6000 is compatible for use with iPod Touch, iPad, iPod Nano, iPod Classic plus iPhones and other MP3 players and phones. The UE6000 can be folded and stored in the portable travelling case included with the headphones.
The UE6000 provides a nice, warm, balanced sound with a very balanced midrange and
neutral presentation. The Beyerdynamic A20 desktop amplifier produced a liquid sound. The instrument textures were well defined and the tunes were musically satisfying.
Listening to Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges’ excellent Back-to-Back recording, the UE6000 provided an excellent and wide sound stage. There was nothing offensive in the sound. Hodges’ saxophone was impressively clear and textured. There were air and space around his instrument. Duke Ellington’s piano sounded transparent and well focused to the left of Hodges. The music being played was impressive for a headphone so modestly priced.
The vocal presentation from Muddy Waters’ classic album Folk Singer was excellent. I could hear the crystal clear sound of Muddy’s vocal coming through clearly, and realistically defined on the iPod Touch. Muddy’s voice on this album is so live it is spooky; the UE6000 let me feel the emotion and kept me involved in the music.
Pink’s “Just give Me a Reason” duet with Nate Ruess from the group Fun had a nice tight and deep extended bass, though it lacked some tight control of the lower bass. The UE6000 did well in portraying texture. I could also hear some outside leakage coming from the headphone, but all in all it is still pretty good for a headphone in this price category.
Willie Nelson’s unique vocal was realistically portrayed from his Heroes album. The track “A Horse called Music” has Willie’s vocal up from and Merle Haggard’s voice very close to the center of the front stage, and both sounded excellent and enjoyable. Instrument separation was good and had each musician in his/her own space.
The treble extension is excellent in a headphone in this price category. It is very clean and never harsh. There are no spikes or anything offensive in the presentation. Cassandra Wilson’s voice was crystal clear on “Redbone” from her Blue Light Till Dawn album. The instrument separation on this track was extraordinary. The bongo coming from the far right had great detail and the percussion coming from the far left was also separated well away from Cassandra’s vocal. I was very impressed with the UE6000’s soundstaging on this track.
Alison Krauss’ Paper Airplane is another excellent acoustic recording. The separation on this album was also excellent with Alison at the center of the stage and surrounded by her band Union Station. Jerry Douglass Dobra sounded sweet and revealing. I was drawn into Alison’s vocal on the Paper Airplane and listened to the entire album without thinking about the headphone. The UE6000 drew me into the music and was very enjoyable.
The UE6000 is a very impressive portable headphone for people looking for a nice easy headphone that can provide decent noise isolation. Its active feature helped with the iPad and provided some more power and made the headphone quieter. I still could hear some noise coming from the outside but the UE6000 was also quiet enough not to disturb people around me. Using the active feature also added some weight to the instruments and music sounded more alive. This is an excellent headphone and very competitively priced.
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