Ultrasone HFI-700 Sealed Headphones

Ultrasone HFI-700 Sealed Headphones

Sealed design that is very well balanced. Good punchy bass for a sealed can. A lot of detail. Easy to fold up and place in a computer bag. Mucho comfortable. Great 2-year warranty.

Not quite as transparent as the more expensive AKG and Sennheiser models. Bass doesn't have the punch of the Sennheiser HD650s. Don't come cheap.

The Ultrasone HFI-700 really impressed with their overall sound quality, level of comfort, and portability. Well constructed, healthy technology that will save your ears, and priced reasonably. We're buying them.

Ultrasone HFI-700 Headphones: Healthy Listening that Rocks!

German headphone manufacturer has a real winner with these set of headphones that are downright spooky good with jazz.

German headphone manufacturer, Ultrasone, has been designing and manufacturing unique headphones for more than sixteen years, but it has only been in the past ten that its ULE (Ultra Low Emission) technology has been available in its products. The ULE technology was designed for people (reviewers, musicians, and recording engineers) who spend many hours wearing headphones. Headphone drivers convert an electrical signal into an acoustical signal, which creates a low-frequency magnetic field. In response to this, Ultrasone created a MU metal shield (ULE) to reduce the radiation by up to 98%. A voice in the back of my head keeps reminding me that I read something about cellular phones committing the same sin and giving everyone cancer. If Ultrasone comes out with a Bluetooth-enabled headset with the same ULE technology, I am buying the first one.

Not all of the Ultrasone models come with the ULE shield, but a version called the LE (Low Emission), which reduces the radiation by up to 60%. The HFI-700 come with the LE technology and that worked just fine for me. Healthy listening could never be a bad thing. The second technological advancement that Ultrasone implemented in its headphones was its S-Logic™ Natural Surround Sound system. The technology is designed to unlock the image that is sitting between your ears and give it greater soundstage width and depth. It is a dubious claim that I have heard in the past from more than one headphone and loudspeaker manufacturer, and one that I take with a serious grain of salt most of the time. What interested me more was Ultrasone’s claim that the S-Logic™ technology allows you to lower the volume by 3-4 dB, yet experience the same volume sensation. If you spend as much time as I do each week, auditioning new headphones, it is not hard to understand why this claim peaked my interest.

The HFI-700 does not reside in the top series from Ultrasone, and at $249 are actually priced closer to the middle of the range. It has been my experience with many loudspeaker manufacturers over the years (amplifiers and CD players as well) that their “mid-level” products are the real sleepers and the ones that impress long-term. Some manufacturers even make great entry-level gear, but that is a topic for another review. The HFI-700 is manufactured from a unique all-plastic polymer that is not only strong, but also great for portability. You can either fold the earcups flat using the swivel (I really liked this method for my laptop bag on the subway), or you can fold them upwards into the headband, which reduces the amount of space they take up.

The sealed design uses earpads that are cushioned with foam pads finished with decent quality leather. I found them to be very comfortable and easy to wear. As an experiment, I wore the HFI-700 in bed each night for a week while working on my laptop and listening to music. Not only did they not disturb my 6 month-old son, who was resting on my shoulder, but also they survived more than a few gallons of his drool. I wore these for hours and really felt that they sat well on my oversized noggin. The headphone cord exits from the left earpiece and terminates after 10 feet with a stereo 1/8” mini-lug. Ultrasone does provide a 1/8 to ¼” adapter plug. The overall package is quite good and well thought-out.

Sealed headphones suffer from resonance issues, so I was most curious to hear how they would deal with tougher material from Metallica, the Smashing Pumpkins, Akon, and some heavy-duty jazz.

Turn the volume up slightly.

Click the ‘play’ button on iTunes (using lossless rips only).

The opening to Metallica’s “One”, from And Justice For All, kills a lot of products. It has bone-crunching bass, and guitar chops with bite. I have heard $20,000 loudspeakers humbled by this tune. Rightfully so.

The folks at Ultrasone must dig Metallica, because the HFI-700 reproduced this track about as well as I have heard from a pair of headphones of late. They do not have the bottom end heft of the Sennheiser HD650s, but they certainly don’t embarrass themselves when it comes to midrange punch, inner detail, and top end sparkle. The presentation was slightly more forward than the more expensive Sennheiser’s, but that worked in its favor with a lot of music. Music has a pulse with these headphones, even if they do not have the same level of resolution as the more expensive AKG K 701s or HD650s.

I switched over to some jazz from Wes Montgomery and Eric Dolphy, and figured out rather quickly that the Ultrasone are terrific with this type of music. Horns had a lot of bite, but not too much; bass had that meaty snap, and guitar notes exploded and then vanished with a nice amount of decay. Pace was another strong suit of the HFI-700. These headphones are not “ideal” for all types of rock/alternative music, but I could live with them for 90% of the music that I enjoy. Vocals are clean, well defined, and easy to differentiate.

The S-Logic™ technology works very well, reproducing the soundstage more convincingly than I have heard from other headphones. The overall sonic presentation seems more natural to my ears. One area where the HFI-700 is not quite in the same league with the more expensive reference headphones is in its ability to put the entire package together. The best cans sound complete from top-to-bottom. The HFI-700s do not sound quite as seamless. Not a major flaw, but it does exist.

From a value perspective, the HFI-700 are excellent headphones for the money. The ability to fold them up, use them with a good portable amplifier and iPod, and not blow the monthly pay check makes them a real find. They have become my favorite pair of sealed headphones. Buy them with confidence.

Technical Info

Brand: Ultrasone
Model: HFI-700
Impedance: 75 ohms
Frequency response: 10 Hz – 25,000 Hz
Sound Pressure Level: 96 dB
Coupler Size: Large
Cord Type: Straight Left-Side
Ear Coupler Type: Full-Size
Acoustic Seal: Sealed
Connector Type: 1/8" with 1/4" adaptor
Detachable Cable: No
Driver Type: Dynamic
Cord Length: 12 ft.
Weight: 12.3 oz
Price: $249.00

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