We've reviewed a number of Ultrasone headphones over the years--everything from the iPod-inspired iCans to the luxurious HFI-2200s. But the new Edition 8s are, in so many ways, a very different Ultrasone. First, the Edition 8s have, according to Ultrasone, a completely original design that doesn't share any parts with any other Ultrasone product. Ultrasone's previous Edition series (the Edition 7 and Edition 9) were limited-production offerings and they're all sold out. The Edition 8s are an "open edition," so they'll remain in the line for at least a few years.Features and Design
Ultrasone headphones have always had round earcups, but the Edition 8s do not. Their shape follows the outer ear's contour, so they're smaller than other top-end headphones we've reviewed from Denon, Grado, Sennheiser, and even Ultrasone itself.
The industrial design is unique and we think it's gorgeous. Ultrasone claims the Edition 8s' mirror Ruthenium earcups are extremely scratch resistant. We didn't go out of our way to try to mar the finish, but we didn't baby the headphones either, and they remained blemish free. Genuine Ethiopian sheepskin leather covers adorn the Edition 8s' ear cushions and headband.
With a list price of $1,500, the Ultrasone Edition 8s compete with a select group of luxury full-size headphones, most of which are targeted specifically for in-home use. But unlike the 6.3-millimeter phono plugs found on equivalent Grado and Sennheiser models, the Edition 8s sport a 3.5-millimeter plug that works with portable audio players without the need for an adapter. Indeed, the Edition 8s were a perfect match for our iPod. The headphones are equipped with a thin, 4-foot "Y" cable (one that goes to both earcups), and a 13-foot headphone extension cord is also included for home use.
Which reminds us...when we first started listening to the Edition 8s we found the earpad pressure against our ears to be rather high. After bending the headband a bit to relax the pressure, we achieved a more comfortable fit, without any loss of the Edition 8s' noise-hushing abilities. But the pressure was still a little higher than we would like, and since we wear glasses the pressure against the glasses' sidepieces was annoying. Please understand: comfort issues vary for each individual so our experiences may or may not be a concern for you.
The Edition 8s' mechanical design was conceived with durability in mind. Their leather-covered steel-and-plastic headband looks fairly slim, but extra care was taken with the way the earcups are mounted on specially machined metal-alloy fittings, and the cable connectors--at the earcup and male plug ends--are reinforced.
According to Ultrasone, the Edition 8s' 40-millimeter titanium-plated drivers are individually computer-matched for each set of headphones. (The headphones are handmade in Germany, and each set gets its own serial number.) The Edition 8s' drivers don't fire directly into ear canals; instead, using Ultrasone's S-Logic Plus feature, the sound first reflects off the outer ear, which is the way we hear sound in real life. S-Logic Plus is said to provide a more open, less "in-your-head" sound than more conventional headphones.
As we'd expect with such a pricey set of headphones, Ultrasone includes a travel/storage bag--in this case, one that's made of soft goatskin. The headphones come with a three-year warranty, which is extended to five years after the owner registers it with Ultrasone. So while they're extraordinarily expensive, the Edition 8s should last a long time.
The Edition 8s are closed-back, sealed headphones, so they have a fundamentally different sound than open-back headphones from Beyerdynamic, Grado, and Sennheiser. Specifically, the Edition 8s' bass is bigger and fatter than you'll hear from open-backed headphone designs.