Logitech UE 900 In-Ear Monitors

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Logitech UE 900 ($399.99)
Ultimate Ears is without a doubt one of the most iconic names in the world of in-ear earphones. In the late 1990s the company became responsible for popularizing custom in-ear monitors among stage musicians; in the early 2000s, UE was again among the first to recognize the demand for Hi-Fi in-ears for the iPod crowd. UE's product line eventually expanded from high-end, balanced armature based offerings to a full line of in-ear products before being acquired by Logitech in 2008. The UE 900 represents the culmination of the new Logitech UE lineup, replacing the Triple.Fi 10 model that has been a staple of the audiophile market since its introduction in 2006.

At the heart of the Ultimate Ears 900 are four balanced armature drivers with a three-way passive crossover. The design utilizes dual bass transducers and single drivers for the midrange and treble--a setup similar to that of the Westone 4 and many custom-fit earphones. Impressive as that may be, the UE 900 will need to provide a very compelling case for its performance in order to justify the $400 price tag.

Logitech_UE 900_Photo_Close

Design
Groundbreaking as it was upon release, the design of the Triple.Fi 10 has been in need of revision for some time now--pitted against modern in-ears from the likes of Shure and Westone, the aging TF10s are lacking in both aesthetics and ergonomics.

For the new flagship, UE chose to retain the blue-and-black color scheme of the old Triple.Fi 10. The new housings are a vast improvement over the TF10's bolt-like shells, sitting more flush in the ear and remaining in place without additional support. Isolation is good with the right fit, providing plenty of passive noise blockage for the daily commute. The tapered housings allow for a relatively deep seal and the tuning seems to favor a deeper insertion. Comfort is generally good but the shells do contain four armatures per side so those with small ears should, if possible, try before buying.

The UE 900's chrome-trimmed black faceplates are creased to match UE's new over-ear headphones. The new cables are braided and provide a massive ergonomic improvement over the TF10 cords in both feel and function. Cable noise is very low and the cords remain user-replaceable, though the old two-pin cable sockets are gone. The cables now use a rotating coaxial connector similar to those found on Shure's current models. Personally, I prefer fixed cable mounts as the rotating cable connectors can make it more difficult to keep the memory wire in place.

Ultimate Ears includes both a mic-and-remote headset cable and a standard stereo cable with the UE 900, eliminating the need for the separate "vi" headset version of some other Logitech UE models. The rest of the package is similarly well thought-out. In addition to the two cables, pack-ins include 5 pairs of single-flange silicone tips, 3 pairs of Comply foam tips, 1/4"-1/8" adapter, airline attenuator, soft carrying pouch, and plastic carrying case.

In terms of packaging, design, and functionality, then, the UE 900 easily matches the best of the rest. All well and good, but let's see how it sounds.

Company Info
Logitech UE
7600 Gateway Blvd.
Newark, CA 94560
510-795-8500
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Comments
boniceman's picture
Ue900 vs Audeo PFE232

Which one would you prefer?

ljokerl's picture
I have nitpicks with both

I have nitpicks with both earphones so it would depend on where I wanted to compromise. The PFE 232 has very good bass but the lower mids are recessed in comparison to the UE900, which I'm not a huge fan of. It's also got more prominent, and occasionally hotter and more sibilant, treble. The UE900 is smoother and has flatter lower mids but lacks the brilliance and prominence of the upper midrange of the PFE232 (especially noticable with certain female vocals in my experience). If I had both think I would reach for the Phonaks more often.

 

Although, if we're really talking personal preference, I'd probably end up with the HiFiMan RE272 instead. 

Alondite's picture
GR07 Mk. II

ljokerl,

Have you had a chance to hear the GR07 Mk. II yet? I'm interested in getting a pair, but only if they have some sonic improvement over the Mk. I. General consensus seems to be that the high end is improved a bit, but I'm not sure what to think. A review would be great, as the GR07s are great IEMs that are still relatively unknown. More exposure would certainly help.

ljokerl's picture
Not yet, but I may be able to

Not yet, but I may be able to get an MkII and GR07 bass edition in for testing soon. When I do get my hands on them, they'll be sent to Tyll for measurement along with my MkI.

Guitarist9273's picture
Custom IEMs

Hi, Tyll & ljokerl.

Are there any plans to review or measure any of UE's or JH Audio's custom-fit IEMs in the future? I understand that may be less practical than most universal-fit IEMs, but both Ultimate Ears and JH Audio have created & displayed universal-fit demos of their custom-fit IEMs (at trade-shows, meets & the like). Perhaps the manufacturers could send the universal-fit demos in for measurements?

I've been considering getting a pair of custom-fit IEMs, but am conflicted between various less-expensive models at JH Audio and Ultimate Ears. (Their entry-level & mid-level custom's don't seem to be reviewed very often by reputable sources.) Having measurements of various custom-fit IEM models would be a fantastic resource, and very interesting.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
.

We're currently working on a group review of custom IEMs that will appear this coming spring sometime. A number of the writers here have numerous CIEMs and we will all be receiving JH13Freqphase IEMs as a common reference. Unfortunately, this will be a subjective review only as we can't measure the custom earpieces in the head.

 

I have measured the JH demo units in the past and had quite a difficult time getting a decent fit in the head. Between the difficulty of getting seals with the demo units, and the fact that they really aren't the actual product, I'm very concernedt that the measurements might not reflect the objective performance of the actual headphones. I guess that's a long way of saying I'd love to do what you suggest, but kinda doubt it will happen.

rickysio's picture
.

Any user in that group with a FutureSonics mg6pro custom? I'm interested to see how it stacks up against the other more often touted brands...

 

(Fully satisfied with it myself, but of course...)

John Grandberg's picture
Don't think so

I've invited them to participate in the project (which Tyll mentioned earlier), but have not yet heard back. I'm curious about them as well so we'll see what happens. 

rickysio's picture
Aww

Too bad I don't have the cash to get another custom monitor... The mg6pros as they are ate my wallet.

Long time listener's picture
Nitpicks of my own

Tyll's comments referring to resonance issues in models like the UE700 provided some insight for me into why the 900 has greater clarity and refinement than the 700 (not to mention being a four-driver design of course). But to my ears, the low bass in the lower-priced 700 is clearly a little more solid than in the 900, which is probably the main thing that keeps me from falling in love with the 900. On the other hand, the 900 does seem better in this respect than the Wall-of-Fame Shure 535, with better extension in the treble as well, which I think gives the 900 better overall balance. That's why even though I'm not in love with it, I was expecting that, based on its lower price, it would be a Wall of Fame candidate too. But I guess we don't want the Wall to be overcrowded--especially with things I'm not sure I'm in love with myself.

Like the reviews here a lot--just wish we could see even more new ones!

Long time listener's picture
re: fewer nitpicks

Actually, after listening to these for another afternoon at work, I'm even more impressed. The only real flaw I hear is a slightly over-prominent upper treble, making instruments such as tambourines, cymbals, or triangles sound a little thin or strident and lacking in body, though the quality of the highs is very good. Overall to me they sound more transparent than the Shure 535s.

ljokerl's picture
I can definitely relate.

I can definitely relate. Personally I've never been a big fan of Shure's BA monitors but I am waiting on a product that will more convincingly knock the SE535s off the wall. The UE900 is close, and its sound works better for me than that of the SE535, but I just don't quite love it. 

 

Thinking about it, replacing the SE535s might be very difficult as I have not been "wowed" by a top-tier ($300+) universal in a long time. Impressed by the sound, maybe, but not the value proposition (looking at FitEar TG334). The big value gains are happening in the $100-250 segment and maybe soon one of those will eliminate the need for a $300+ wall-of-famer entirely. 

Long time listener's picture
re: value proposition

Pardon me if I'm not quite following your logic here, but you say the UE900's sound works better for you than the Shure 535, and it costs $100 less, but it's not a good value proposition? I have the 535s, and I enjoy and admire their sound, and I think they fully deserve a spot on the Wall. They have solid, big-boned, well-balanced, very realistic sound with great presence. But can be just a little grainy or harsh in the upper mids and highs, which means they don't work as well with older recordings, which can be grainy or harsh in that region themselves. For a list price of $100 less, the UE900 offers a package of very nearly equal strengths (and measurements), and its slightly more polite (i.e., slightly recessed) upper midrange makes it more forgiving of older or less perfectly recorded material.

The one area where I think the 535 is superior is in its sense of coherence and organic wholeness. Its frequency response curve shows smooth dips and rises, rather than the more abrupt dips and rises of the UE900--and the Hifiman IEMs; in my experience, smother looking curves mean smoother transitions between bass, mids, and highs, resulting in sound that is audibly more coherent and organic. So credit where credit is due. But there's no such thing as a perfect headphone, and I guess we must all be a little jaded to shrug our shoulders at an extremely well-designed product such as the UE900, which does offer very good value when realistically compared to more expensive choices such as the 535. I paid the full price for the 535s; got the 900s for less than $350. A good deal in my books.

Long time listener's picture
re: measurements

I'm curious as to whether the order in which measurements are listed (starting with frequency response and ending with impulse response) reflects an intuitive sense of their relative importance. I know that for myself, frequency response--the right balance of bass, mid, and treble--is absolutely the first and overriding consideration, whether listening to headphones or speakers, and any other factors--speed, distortion--tend to take second place. In the UE900s, there seems to be general agreement that the presence region dip goes a little too far, robbing it of that last degree of realism, despite its otherwise rich and detailed sound, and this seems to be all that keeps these from being really outstanding IEMs. (John Atkinson noted of speakers that a recessed presence region often means that speakers never really sound loud even at high volumes, because the "presence" is missing--the same seems true of these 900s).

boniceman's picture
ljokerl, Why do you prefer

ljokerl,

Why do you prefer the Hifi RE272 over the Audeo PFE232 and the E900???

Thanks!

ljokerl's picture
Subjectively...

If we're talking personal preference--and this is completely subjective--I just find the midrange and treble to summarily sound more natural on the RE272 compared to both the UE 900 and PFE 232. The UE900 has slight upper midrange veiling that bugs me when pitting it against the 272. I wrote the following comparison for Head-Fi:

Compared to the somewhat bass-light RE272, the UE 900 is warmer and punchier, with an overall presentation centered more on the bass and lower midrange, and a slightly “boomier” bottom end. The RE272 is more transparent and boasts better vocal clarity, as well as better instrument separation. 

I have a somewhat similar issue with the PFE 232--the more v-shaped signature makes its mids more recessed than I would prefer. Its midrange just sounds more distant and is not as clear and intelligible as that of the RE272. With the 272, the mids are not just more forward, but also more transparent. The PFE 232 also has a bit of splashiness in the upper midrange and treble that I don't really like whereas the RE272 is more forigiving.

Don't get me wrong - I like the UE 900 and PFE 232 and would pick them over lot of other high-end in-ears. I also don't think the RE272 is perfect - its bass is a little too soft/recessed for me, even compared to the Etymotic ER4S. Its presentation is also not that spacious and well-layered compared to some of my other top-tiers. At my preferred low listening volumes, however, the RE272 just sounds more natural to me than these two and most of my other earphones. 

boniceman's picture
ljokerl, Since I already

ljokerl,

Since I already have my westone 3 for electronic, metal and rock. I really need a well balanced headphone for the rest of my music, jazz,classical, Latin, progressive jazz, etc. I have the Grado GR10, I love them but sometimes it hurts my ears, it´s a very bright earphone. I will give a try to the RE272, It might give me the neutrality I´m looking for.

Thanks for the fast response!! yes

ljokerl's picture
That or...

That or the RE262 if you want to be really safe. It's still got the level bass but is less bright and warmer than the 272. $100 cheaper as well. 

sfoclt's picture
Still waiting for my Shure toppler

It looks like I will probably get to keep my Shure SE530's even longer.  They may not be perfect, but I've yet to hear anything else that is so involving and perfect for what I prefer (and at these prices, it better be noticably better to justify the expenditure).

ScaryFatKidGT's picture
I just got the SE535's for

I just got the SE535's for $350, it was those these or the westone 4's, I hope I made the right decision. I think i'll like the Shures better than the Westones from reading reviews but I really was looking at the UE 900's but I already have the SE215's and the $50 Shure iPod cable so I went with the 535's.

Audioaddict's picture
Logitech UE 900

Hello Tyll and |Joker| I've finally had the chance to get a budget to buy a good IEM. I was looking at the MTCP but issues with Build and a bit more money have lead me onto better IEM's. I'm looking at these but i was wondering if anything is better, I personally like a little bass (I own m-100's) But for an in ear i'd like a little less bass since the vastly improved isolation. A natural midrange ( 90% of my library is male vocalists so i dont think the slight veil will bother me) and the innofensive but pleasent treble is nice. If there are any other reccomendations for under 400$ out there i'd appreciate any help thanks!

ljokerl's picture
"Better"

... is quite relative at this level. The UE900 has few flaws and many strengths but that doesn't mean another set won't fit your needs better. 

 

That said, the UE900 is an easy one to recommend. The bass is tamer on the UE900 compared to the Coppers and the treble is not at all offensive to my ears. My V-Moda experience stops with the M-80, which is a very smooth-sounding headphone, but I don't think the UE900 will offend with its treble unless you're specifically looking for more laid-back highs. There are other options for strong bass and good mids - the Shure SE535, for example, as well as the Westone UM3X and Earsonics SM3 - but the UE900 is arguably the most balanced of these.

MGGWhite's picture
Are IEM inferior to equivalent over-ear headphones?

Dear ljokerl,

Yesterday I bought the Logitech UE900, as my first good quality IEM. I bought it based on your good review and I expected that it would have exquisite sound. My needs to get this IEM are due to complains from my wife of sound likeage when I am at bed.

Well, although it sounds well, I am quite disapointed because the overall sound is not better, and probably it is inferior in some areas, to my regular over ear or on ear headphones, the UE-6000, the V-Moda M80 and the AKG 550. Although the UE900 is punchy and has good bass, good mids, I find the highs not that good, indeed a bit strident and harsh at times. But what I found missing when comparing to the UE-6000 over ear headphone is that the UE900 doesn't appear to have the same airiness, it seems to have worse dynamic range and the music as a whole is less involving than the UE-6000. 

Is it really that IEM are inferior (at equivalent price range) that over ear headphones? If this is the case, it doesn't look like it is a great value proposition. The UE-6000 runs for $200 vs the UE900 for $400. Is there a mid-tier (<$200) IEM that you think would give a comparable exprience to the UE900 ... if the UE900 would be a $200 IEM I would not feel that bad, but paying top dollar for a headphone that sounds worse that the $200 overear makes me feel stupid.

Am I missing something here?

Thanks indeed.