Logitech UE 900 In-Ear Monitors
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.
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.