Not unlike studio monitors, engineers have greatly varying opinions when it comes to headphones. I first heard Ultrasone headphones at a NAMM show about two years ago and frankly, I wasn’t impressed. I don’t recall the exact model but I do recall that I felt they were lacking compared to my Grado SR-80 phones. This past January I heard the new Ultrasone PROline 750 phones and was immediately blown away.
Studio, broadcast, post production, sound reinforcement, location
Titanium drivers; MU metal shielding; S-Logic Natural Surround Sound technology
Ultrasone at 615-599-4719,
The PROline 750 headphones ($399) have some impressive specs, the .65 lb. (without cable), closed-back, foldable headphones boast a frequency response of 8 Hz – 35 kHz. Their impedance is 40 ohms and they have a maximum sound pressure level of 94 dB. The headphones feature a 40 mm titanium-plated driver and MU metal shielding. Titanium drivers are the stiffest type available and they offer precise sound reproduction. The headphones include two detachable cables with gold-plated 1/4-inch jacks, a gold-plated 1/4-inch-to-mini adapter, a spare pair of speed-switch velvet ear pads, a demo CD, an instruction manual, and a transportation bag.
The majority of today’s headphone drivers convert electric signals into acoustical signals that produce low-frequency magnetic fields. Medical research shows that these emissions can be hazardous to your health. In response to this problem, Ultrasone developed a special MU metal shielding that reduces the radiation by up to 98% compared to current headphones.
Ultrasone headphones make use of S-Logic Natural Surround Sound technology. This moniker deceptively sounds like some kind of 5.1 surround sound processing but it actually refers to the way the headphones work and how they interact with your ear. Ultrasone engineers designed the headphone speaker to be in a decentralized position which allows the ear to perceive sound the way it does in the real world, by first striking the ear’s pinna and then being reflected into the ear canal. The precise anatomy of everyone’s individual ear drastically affects the way they perceive audio.
Traditional headphone designs bypass this stage of the listening process creating a very unrealistic environment that fails to translate into the real world. In contrast, S-Logic technology relies on it for improved listening accuracy. Another benefit of the S-Logic Natural Surround Sound technology is that it allows an up to 40% lower decibel output (3-4 dB) for the same loudness sensation. This significantly reduces the risk of hearing damage and decreases listening fatigue.
As is true with speakers, it is important to give headphones an adequate burn-in period. After familiarizing myself with the sound of the 750s, I proceeded to hook them up to my CD player which I set to a moderate volume and put in repeat mode. As expected, 72 hours of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here could only improve the sound of the headphones.
I’ve always believed in the concept that you can’t adequately mix using headphones. That is until now. Since using the Ultrasone PROline 750 headphones for the past several months I recant this point of view. Besides being extremely comfortable to wear, I found that these headphones provide an extremely accurate and realistic monitoring environment with very little fatigue. In the last two months I have mixed several songs entirely on my laptop using the PROline 750 headphones and have been extremely pleased with my results. My only real complaint is that while the headphones sound extremely smooth and natural at low volumes, I did notice that at fairly loud volumes they tend to sound a bit harsh and edgy.
Besides sounding great, these headphones have professional written all over them. I don’t understand headphones that require major work to replace a cable. Fostex was the first company to have a replaceable cable. Well, Ultrasone has taken it a step farther and they have included two cables with the PROline 750s, one straight and one coiled (like a telephone cord) and they have also included a spare pair of speed switch velour ear pads (called ‘speed-switch’ because they switch in an instant!). Let’s face it, if you are using headphones in the studio they are going to get dropped, tripped over, sat on, etc. It’s nice to see a company recognize this and create a no-compromise headphone that allows quick and easy maintenance.
Included with the PROline 750 headphones is a CD that provides 20 tracks for demonstrating the quality of these headphones. The CD has a wide variety of tracks that including jazz, rock, choral, classical and even a few sound effects tracks that can make you feel like you are paddling a rowboat across a Tennessee lake, sitting in a trench in the middle of a battlefield or, my personal favorite, relaxing on a Hawaiian beach.
Since they sound so different from traditional headphone designs, the Ultrasone PROline 750 may take some time to get used to but I predict that most users will, like myself, find them to be an extremely natural and accurate headphone monitoring experience.