A relative newcomer to the high-end headphone market, German manufacturer Ultrasone is making waves in the industry with their competitively-priced offerings that deliver excellent sound quality and value. We take their HFI-700 headphones for a spin, and find plenty to get excited about.
Until I was asked to review these headphones by our Editor-in-Chief Rob, I had never heard of Ultrasone. However, the company is working actively to make waves in the American head-fi market with their attractive, competitively-priced offerings. While they may not yet have the traction of other brands like Beyer or Sennheiser (to be expected in a market where brand recognition plays a huge part), believe me – they’re closing in fast, particularly among head-fi enthusiasts. The Ultrasone HFI-700 are an excellent example of why, with their excellent sound quality, superb comfort, and a price that puts them on competitive footing in their price category.
I’m not much of a head-fi enthusiast, but I do tend to be won over by products that display obvious attention to detail, and deliver on their performance promises. In the case of the HFI-700 headphones from Ultrasone, one of the highest praises I can give is that there are so few nits to pick – with the design, the build quality, or the performance.
The HFI-700 aren’t particularly opulent headphones in their design or materials, but they deliver lifelike sound that’s perfect both for critical monitoring applications and casual listening. They’re also comfortable to wear, and they look good. In my mind, they do everything a really good set of headphones at this price should do.
That’s not to say that the HFI-700 headphones are perfection in a ‘can’ – their somewhat ‘forward’ sound may not appeal to everyone. If you prefer a more laid-back sound that you could listen to for days on end and never feel tired, a more laid-back set of headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 770 may be a better fit for you. On the other hand, if the retrieval of detail in the recording is particularly important to you, and you’re looking for headphones that approach the character of studio monitors, the HFI-700 from Ultrasone are an excellent choice.
Should you buy the HFI-700 headphones? If you’re upgrading from ‘consumer’-level headphones, and do a lot of casual listening, these are easily the headphones for you. If you’ve got a home recording studio, these headphones’ flat frequency response and detailed sound makes them especially attractive.
If you’re a seasoned audiophile who knows that you prefer a ‘laid-back’ sound to a ‘forward’ one, then these may not be for you, and you may find them slightly ear-fatiguing. Audio, especially at the high end, can become an intensely personal thing, with your own subjective preferences carrying a substantial amount of weight.
The Ultrasone HFI-700 headphones deliver a superb, comfortable listening experience and balanced, detailed sound. I’m awarding them a Techgage score of 9 – they’re a must-have upgrade from the sub-par headphones so frequently foisted on the ‘gaming’ crowd. It bears mentioning, however, that while the HFI-700 is still available in the United States, Ultrasone has released their successor, the HFI-780, to the European market, and they should be hitting these shores soon as well. Ultrasone’s German web site already reflects the transition, but their U.S. site still shows the models available in North America.
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