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Positive Feedback ISSUE45
Edition 8 headphones
as reviewed by Robert H. Levi
Ever wonder if Cartier or Bulgari made headphones what they might be like? All right then, get ready for Ultrasone Edition 8 Headphones imported from Germany. Now in production, the 8s replace the 9s, a limited production run that is now sold out. The 9s sold for $1799, but the 8s appear to retain all the bells and whistles for $1499 and more.
The Edition 8 is hand-made in Germany and the outer ear cups are "covered in Ruthenium. This precious metal is known for its brilliant metallic sheen and durable properties. The outer ear cups are emblazoned with a decorative clasp of noble metal." The interior ear cups and the headband are covered in "very soft genuine dark grey Ethiopian sheepskin leather." [Just finding sheep in Ethiopia must have been quite a task.] They claim that this provides the finest isolation of any leather. In addition to a "new titanium plated tri-bass-tube driver, this is the first Edition series headphone that follows Ultrasone´s newest S-Logic™ Plus technology." The Edition 8 also contains "MU-Metal shielding" to reduce magnetic field emissions. These headphones also come with an "exclusively manufactured bag made from smooth, fine grain Madras goatskin produced in France."
The 8s patented "S-Logic™ technology is described as Natural Surround Sound." This technology is supposed to push the sound around your head. "It appears as though you are listening to speakers at the other side of the room." This technology doesn't need any additional electronic enhancing equipment. It works primarily by focusing the sound at your outer ear rather than straight into your ear canal. The 8's are closed cans to maximize acoustic isolation from external sources.
The Reference Setup
Okay, enough of their physical description. Let's talk about the sound. I set up a small system of the Benchmark Dac1 fed by the Alesis Masterlink using the fabulous Kubala-Sosna Emotion AES-EBU balanced digital cable [the best I've heard to date.] Powercords were the excellent new K-S Elation AC cords. The gear was placed on Townshend Seismic Sinks. I used my trusty Grado RS1s ($700) and Stax SR 404 Signature Electrostats with SRM 006T tube amplifier ($2400) for comparison. I also spent last weekend at a recording session that used Grado 1000's and AKG 701's for live monitoring. I owned Sennheiser HD 600s. I very much enjoy listening to my Koss ESP 950 electrostat cans just for fun. Here are my impressions.
The Edition 8s are the flattest sounding, most extended headphones I have ever heard. No headphone I know of will equal them from top to bottom for evenness of performance. My Grados and Stax sound somewhat lumpy by comparison. I have never heard or thought I would hear headphones this extended and flat in both directions in my lifetime, but here they are.
The 8s highs are open, very accurate, and superbly detailed. They fall less into the organic and sweet camp and more into the you-are-there love-it or leave-it camp. The Grados were slightly less detailed in the highs while the Stax were slightly more detailed in the same range. Both the Grados and the Stax sounded a bit euphonically enhanced while the Edition 8 was just neutral and a more direct conduit to the performance.
The Edition 8 mids are also neutral and super detailed. A cut above my Grados for sure, but a bit behind the Stax, overall. Astounding for a non electrostat, the Edition 8 is also a closed box design! The enhanced silence and separation from room noise is awesome and does not affect the performance of the headphones… certainly a breakthrough design! The closed box makes the midrange pop and makes it easier to listen into and around the performance. It's also harder to manufacture and maintain optimum musicality in a closed box… but the Edition 8 pulls it off.
The Edition 8 headphones have amazing bass, end of story. Never, ever has there been bass this deep, accurate, and powerful in a pair of headphones by any manufacturer! It eclipses the Grados and Stax by a very wide margin. No Sennheisers, AKGs, Grados or Denons are this extended or dynamic. The 8s sound like a REL is built into the phones! No kidding! This immense low band foundation to the music gives you goosebumps. You must hear the Edition 8s bass to believe it!
This is a nice feature, but subtle. Don't expect major league surround sound, because you won't get it. You will get a nice movement of the image somewhat forward to around your nose rather than in the middle of your head. Nice. I never heard anything behind me. I liked the effect and it did not interfere with the musical performance in any way. It made listening a bit more comfortable and realistic without mucking anything up.
I have to comment about the fit and finish. The Edition 8s are a 10 out of 10 for pure beauty. Though somewhat heavier as a result of the metal construction, I found them comfortable overall during long use. You truly feel like you get your money's worth. Even the included tote bag is gorgeous looking.
Yes, I have two. The cord attached to the earphones is only about a meter long. If you intend to listen and move around, be prepared to have the 8s pull on your ears. Ouch. A nice long extension cord is included and is 98% as good as no added cord at all. I am a perfectionist and would prefer not to compromise the sound even 2% or drag around 15 feet of wire.
The ear cups are shaped in a broad oval to accommodate your entire ear for best isolation. Only problem is German ears are smaller than my ears. I get the top of my ear into the cups, but my lobe would not fit. They worked fine sitting on my ears like this. When will Europeans learn that Americans are the biggest people in the world? Never-the-less, the Edition 8s are generally comfortable even on my big head.
With fantastic bass, near perfection of frequency response from top to bottom, almost complete isolation, and extraordinary definition, the Edition 8s are a magnificent achievement. They look expensive and are the most expensive [non-electrostatic cans] I know of. Nothing can touch them for accuracy or bass response. The amount of research and pure science included in their construction is extensive and forward thinking. Only the much more costly Stax cans yield more overall definition, but not the neutrality, bass, linearity, or ease of use. These are a professional recording guru's very best friend. The Ultrasone Edition 8 Headphones are the clear leader for the recording and audiophile perfectionist where cost is no object. My highest recommendation! Robert H. Levi
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