The Ultrasone Edition 10

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I’ve heard so many conflicting opinions on the Ultrasone Edition 10 that I just had to get my hands on a pair. At $2,749, you’d reckon the praise ought to be a little more consistent. So I gave my buddy Todd (the Vinyl Junkie) a call to see if he had a pair I could play with, and sure enough, he had a slightly used pair for me to audition.

Wow! What an experience!

The Ultrasone Edition 10 ($2,749!)
The Edition 10 is truly a beautiful headphone. The Ethiopian goatskin on the ear and headband pad is soft and luxuriant. A mix of Ruthenium and wood inlay are sculpted into elegantly designed earpieces inspired by the wings of a butterfly. Machined aluminum fittings on the headband provide a comfortable range of adjustment and swivel.

Like most headphones in this price range (well … there are VERY few really in this price range) they come with a very nice storage case. The wooden case has custom foam inner lining cut out to hold these cans with care. Also included is a headphone display stand, which echoes the butterfly design of the earpieces and makes for a truly lovely display.

In hand, the first thing that struck me is how amazingly light they are. Once on the head, the headphones are light as a feather. With the sumptuous leather surrounding and caressing your head, you’ll feel like you could wear them all day without the least discomfort.

That is, until you turn the music on.

The Sound
Oh. My. Goodness! My senses feel assaulted … as would my wallet, if I had had to pay for these. With every smack of the snare and blare of a trumpet my eyes wince in pain. Fast transient edges are transformed into indiscriminate micro-bursts of tizz. Likewise, low notes are powerful, but have lost all definition as they are reduced to a bloated blur. The mid-range seems like it could be pretty good, but I hear it as so disconnected from all else that I could hardly keep track of what’s what in the confused aural picture. I’ve heard worse headphones before, but for $2749 these have got to be the worst price/performance headphones I’ve ever experienced.

Of course, maybe I just don’t get Ultrasone’s S-Logic.

Ultrasone’s S-Logic
Ostensibly a method to improve the audios spatial qualities on headphones, Ultrasone’s S-Logic attempts to improve the image presented by placing the driver off-center, somewhat forward and down from the entrance of the ear canal. It’s widely known by headphone enthusiasts that moving headphones forward and down some generally improves the audio image. I’ve experienced this myself and agree that there’s some truth to it. In Ultrasone headphones, this placement is somewhat further forward and down than one could normally move a pair of headphones as they would no longer fit on the ear normally.

Ultrasone claims that by placing the driver this far forward and down next to the jaw, sound travels past the ear in a more natural way, eliciting acoustic reflections off the pinna (outer ear) that create the psycho-acoustic cues used for audio localization. Ptschyeah right, sound from my living room speakers doesn’t travel from my jaw and move up the side of my head past my ear. Sound from a speaker is essentially a planar wave front hitting your head at an angle.

In his 2004 AES Convention Paper: “The Causals of Headphones Tone Coloration Variations related on the Human Pinna Influence,” Ultrasone’s President, Florian Konig talked about the evidence for this belief, and had this to say about the measured observations of people wearing S-Logic Headphones:

    “One [headphone] with a spatial reproduction of sound was much more conspicuous statistically, because of a higher quantity recommended sound quality judgements as 'too much' and 'less high frequency range' parallelly.”
What he’s saying here (I think --- the paper is terribly confusing to read, and I’ve attempted to understand it a half-dozen times over the years) is that the evidence that S-Logic works can be seen from the fact that people’s opinion is strongly split as to whether there’s too much or too little high-frequency response, and that strong deviation person to person is because their outer ears are able to do more spatial filtering of the sound. I don’t understand this logic. I would think if sound is more lifelike on the headphones, then people would tend to have a more consistent impression of it being lifelike. (I’ve linked to the paper in the resources at the end of this article. If you can figure it out, I’d love to hear about it.)

There are a number of headphones out there that are almost universally recognized as painting a good aural picture; the Sennheiser HD 800, some Stax, AKG K1000, are all very consistently heard as having good imaging. The common characteristic of these cans is that they project a planar wave at the listener’s ears from a slightly forward angle. It is believed that this plane wave coming at the ears produces a geometrically different set of reflections than a normal headphone where the small driver essentially acts as a point source and radiates a spherical section wave front towards the ear. I think I agree with this, and the improved imaging of moving a pair of headphones slightly forward is, in my opinion, just getting it closer to the angle at which sound approaches from speakers.

The Ultrasone S-Logic position is, however, dramatically off-center, and creates a situation where virtually no sound is radiated from the driver directly into the ear canal. (How many people think the Bose 901 Direct-Reflecting speaker imaged well? [crickets] Yeah … didn’t think so.) When I read the threads discussing Ultrasone headphones and the imaging performance of S-Logic, I see a lot of diverse opinion, that’s for sure. If Ultrasone was going for a headphone with lots of “sound quality judgements as 'too much' and 'less high frequency range' parallelly,” well, they’ve done it. Doesn’t sound like a good theory upon which to design good sounding headphones to me, though.

Let's have a look at the measurements ...

Company Info
ULTRASONE AG
Bernrieder Str. 17 b
D-82327 Tutzing
Germany / Bavaria
infodesk@ultrasone.com
+49 (0) 8158 9078 0
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Comments
donunus's picture
Although I haven't tried

Although I haven't tried these, I'll still say... Two Thumbs Up on the negative review! I think ultrasone deserves that for putting out utter crap at ridiculous prices. The ultrasone proline 750s I had before already gave me a clue of how ridiculous it was priced for the performance given. I felt that the prolines shouldn't have been priced above $50 but even at that price, I would rather listen to my AKG K44 LOL

Looking at those ed10 measurements, those couldn't possibly sound good.

SoulJazzBass's picture
ouch... don't think Ethiopia

ouch... don't think Ethiopia was the best place to raise goats anyways.

maverickronin's picture
Already stirring up trouble on Head-fi...

The impressions thread you linked to is getting pretty amusing. It'll probably turn into a flame war before long...

Slightly off topic, you said you've never heard an Ultrasone you thought was worth its price. I presume that would include the ED8 too?

I'm looking for a good closed phone that isolates a bit (unlike the Denon Dx000 series) and was wondering about the ED8s. The Beyer T5P also caught my eye until I saw the distortion numbers you posted here. That definitely makes it a try before you buy. None for the ED8 yet though. I'm interested in the THD over frequency chart which isn't on Headroom.

Do you have any articles about closed 'phones coming up? I'd be very interested in that.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Ain't it the truth ...
... expensive, full size, sealed cans are a buggaboo. There are so few that sound really good. I find the Ed8 pleasant to hear, but still seem overpriced. And it sucks that the DX000 Denons don't isolate well, because they sound pretty good. I like the D5000 with JMoney pads, but the isolation still sux.

I will be doing a "Buyers Guide" to expensive sealed cans soon ... within a few weeks I reckon. I've got all the cans in-house and will be in listening sessions for the next week or so. Problem is, when looking at $250-$400 sealed cans, it's hard not to say, "Save some bux and buy the SHure SRH840 or save even more and buy the AT M50. Neither are great (both still seem to have a bit of a bity edge to them) but it's hard to come up with anything better.

(Well geez, I've just written the buyers guide, eh?) :)

donunus's picture
what about the fischer fa-003

what about the fischer fa-003 that LFF has been raving about. Have you tried those? My pair is coming but its taking its time

jherbert's picture
If "sealed" is about isolation...

...why not choose the DT1350. Having owned the whole Denon range from D2000 to D7000, the DX1000, the SRH840 and Sony's MDR-Z1000 I prefer the DT1350 to all of them. But then it is not full size, so it does not qualify.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Damn ...
... the DT1350 is so new on my radar that I keep forgetting to mention it, but yeah, they sound very good and the isolation is good. The BW P5 is good too, quite colored, but very enjoyable and very good isolation.
maverickronin's picture
Awesome

That's just what I was hoping for. Thank you.

aopu.mohsin's picture
AKG K-702

Tyll, what's your take on AKG-702? Where do they stand, in your opinion?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Q702
Not enough bass; a bit bright; but competitive at the price. Prolly would go for the HD600 myself.
dalethorn's picture
Ultrasone Edition 8

The Ultrasone Ed8, for those who missed it, is Ken Rockwell's favorite, and Ken basically said the HD-800 is too bright and harsh etc. (just like some of those "experts" at Head-Fi). Rockwell usually does cameras and photography, but when he opines so heavily on anything else, it's like God speaking to the masses.

WhiteCrow's picture
"Higher" end ultrasones leave me with a headach.

I feel your pain, one listen of the HFI-780's my ears hurt like mad, the HFI-580 IMO are the sweet spot for ultrasone. Your reaction to these and the Beats Solo HD were pretty much my reaction to my sr80i's the first time Judas Priest popped up.

Oren's picture
Thanks

Tyll, just wanted to say thanks for ACTUALLY MEASURING headphones. It is especially important for headphones like this that are extremely polarising within the community, and cost a bomb.

Coloured headphones can be fun, but it's nice to see the measurements ourselves, rather than trying to divine them.

Kool Bubba Ice's picture
Very harsh, but give you

Very harsh, but give you credit for not dancing around the subject like other reviewers who tend to be 'polite.' I do wish you were a little more balanced in the sound department, & gave some, um, positives.. I didn't see any, really.. Maybe I missed it.. They do look like a million bucks though.. Ultrasone must be the most hated headphone company ever.. I still need to hear a pair..

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Um...
... well, I said they were comfy.
dalethorn's picture
It wouldn't matter if....

Even if the video were just for fun (which I suppose it is in part), it pays for the whole show. A classic.

jerseyd's picture
Loved this review...

Thanks for an unvarnished review. So refreshing to have a reviewer call it like he hears it! And that video is priceless.

Kool Bubba Ice's picture
Tyll has angered the DT48

Tyll has angered the DT48 community & the U10 community.. Where are the pitch forks...ARGH!!

dalethorn's picture
Listening and more listening

I think I would be discouraged from buying the Ed10 if it were $200, much less $2750. That video alone would be a knife in the heart to anyone who felt motherly about this headphone. I'd give $50 right now for a video of Konig's reaction to seeing Tyll's video. And hey sports fans, don't sweat it. At $2750, there are probably three or four more people in the world now who are willing to have a listen to these things *after* the review than before. This review did 'em a favor - softening 'em up a bit in advance of the shock.

LFF's picture
Sorry about the pain...

but that video made me LOL! Thanks for the good laugh Tyll!

I've never been a fan of Ultrasone headphones with the "best" ones only making me go..."hmmm...ok". I'd much rather plop down my spare change on the HiFiMan HE-500's.

svyr's picture
he-he-he-he-he :) nice.

he-he-he-he-he Smile nice.

SAS's picture
Paper

From my reading of the paper, he accepts the statement a priori that decentralized drivers create a better image, but finds that different listeners report different experiences regarding frequency balance with this design. Essentially I would summarize as: decentralized drivers will give you better imaging, but the frequency response won't be perceived the same way by all listeners. The differences in perceived frequency response may have to do with differences in the outer ear between subjects.

I'm not saying that I agree or disagree. I'm just trying to interpret.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
That "a priori" bit ...
... that's what I don't get. Thanks for giving it a shot --- it's a hard read.
ysyung's picture
Sharing the same pain...

Hi Tyll,

Sharing the same experience. Worst Ultrasone headphone I have never experienced.... Wasting my money...

Jazz1's picture
Jazz1

That was the funniest headphone video review I've ever seen. Thanks for making me feel less guilty for buying "lesser" equipment.

svyr's picture
lol, wonder how many people

lol, wonder how many people clicked on the ED10 link above on head-fi to proceed trolling people who bought a pair there Laughing out loud

and whether they'll be an off response from ultralol.

cansman's picture
How about the A-T W5000?

Hello Tyll,

Thank you so much for your informative website and humour - much appreciated! Sorry, I might be jumping the gun before your expensive closed-cans review, but will you be including the A-T W5000? What are your thoughts on this set of cans?

Finally, before people shoot me, have you ever tried the new Bose AE2 phones? I know previously that you found the QC15 pleasant enough!

Cheers!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Jumping the gun?
You think the AT-W5000 need a review like the UE10? :) Nah, I haven't given them their due yet. I'll be listening to a lot of cans as I build the buyers guide. Not heard the AE2 and did like the QC15 .. I wish they'd return my emails.
cansman's picture
Call an egg an egg!

I actually quite like the AE2 but at the same time, I am looking for a 'flagship' closed cans, so I really look forward to your buyers guide. More importantly, I really appreciate the fact that if a headphone sounds good to you, it sounds good, period, regardless of its brand or popularity (or unpopularity) - like for instance, the B&W P5s, QC15 and some Monster products.

Bose probably doesn't return your emails because of the frequent 'bose bashings' they receive from the audiophile community.

Nevertheless, thanks for your objectivity and being willing to call an egg an "egg" (for whatever reasons, I seem to be into idioms and expressions at the moment!).

Cheers mate!

shandy's picture
I must admit I have yet to

I must admit I have yet to hear an Ultrasone product (including the much fabled ED8 that I have liked. I just find them cold and unemotional, I think I would rather have Dre's (and I purely hate those atrocities!)