Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5EB
Ultimate Ears, maker of the custom-molded in-ear monitors you see bands such as U2 and Radiohead wearing onstage, decided a few years back to make commercial earphones, and the results have been overwhelming. The custom-molded UE-10s (just look at them), for a mere $900, will offer you one of the more accurate listening experiences you'll ever get from a set of in-ear monitors. So, naturally, we had high expectations for the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 EB--not a custom in-ear piece but a one-size-fits-all set for a substantially lower price ($200). Once you accept that EB stands for extended bass, you can appreciate these earphones for what they are--a high-quality set tweaked to cater to the booming bass lovers out there. Classical music, jazz, and folk lovers should look elsewhere, such as the .
The Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 EB is a beautifully designed set, so we'll start with our only complaint: Like many of the Ultimate Ear models out there, the cable is very short (46 inches), so unless you are very close to your sound source, expect to have your movement hindered. This annoyance aside, the company caters to stereophiles--which is why a bass-heavy model comes as a bit of a surprise--so the internal design for its sets is always impressive. In this case, we have a dedicated 13.5mm woofer (hey, when it's sitting right next to your eardrum, 13.5mm is big) and a crisp tweeter to match. Once you insert the earpieces and twist them upward, they fit snuggly--the different-size rubber earpiece covers will ensure this--and eliminate a good portion of outside noise.
Aside from the heavy bass boost, there really isn't much to speak about in the way of features here, but the 'buds do include a nice array of accessories. In addition to the aforementioned rubber ear fittings, which come in three sizes, you get an earplug-style piece and a compressible foam one. We found the foam to be the most comfortable. Plus, Ultimate Ears throws in a hard, metallic case; a black leather case; a 1/4-inch headphone-jack adapter; a volume attenuator; and a very handy earbud-cleaner pick.
In our tests, performance was stellar from a bass lover's perspective. When we pumped some electronic music or rap into the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 EBs, they certainly rose to the challenge: Fischerspooner's "Emerge" was a low-end tour de force, and the results were similar when we played M.I.A.'s Arular. The high-end frequencies are certainly overshadowed by the lows, but they are still quite articulate, albeit much lower in the overall mix.
Audio purists may be unnerved to see a company so squarely based in the audiophile realm to deliver a pair of headphones specifically designed to distort the EQ balance and provide booming bass. But Ultimate Ears still makes its non-EB line for the audiophile, and its new expansion into the low-end market is the most successful attempt at the most clear-sounding heavy-bass earphone set we've come across. Thunderous without completely sacrificing the high-end clarity, the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 EB is a good purchase for the discriminating bass addict.