3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Ultrasone's nicely built, full-size, closed-back headphones hush outside noise; includes 10-foot-long cable, soft carry bag; sounds swell on iPod.

The Bad Overly bassy sound.

The Bottom Line The Ultrasone HFI-680 headphones' abundant bass power, forgiving treble, and isolation from external noise should make these an attractive choice for some buyers.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0

Ultrasone has carved out a notable niche in the high-end headphone market since its founding in 1991. One of its latest models is the HFI-680, a full-size pair of headphones that retails for around $220. The HFI-680 is a handsome design, and its build quality is about average for a model in this price range. (For what its worth, many of the Ultrasone headphones we've tested over the years were made in Germany, but the HFI-680s are made in Taiwan.)

The central part of the HFI-680s' outer earcup is covered by machined metal; the other side that faces your ears features an oval faux-leather covered cushion. We like the oval shape because it better conforms to the ear's natural contour, which is an improvement over the round earpads featured on other Ultrasone headphones. Some people may find the faux leather makes their ears perspire in the summertime, but we didn't have any problems on that front.

The sturdy padded headband adds to the design's overall comfort. A 10-foot headphone cable is permanently attached to the left earcup; the cable is terminated with a standard 3.5mm mini-plug and there's a screw-on 6.3mm adapter. (There's also a second 6.3mm-to-3.5mm adapter, too, but why you wouldn't simply remove the first adapter instead is beyond us.) The HFI-680s can be folded for compact storage, and Ultrasone includes a soft carry bag and an Ultrasone produced demonstration disc of music.

The headphone features Ultrasone's S-Logic Natural Surround Sound Plus technology that bounces the 40mm gold-plated driver's sound off your outer ear (instead of firing directly toward your eardrum). Ultrasone claims the technology produces a less headphonelike sound, so it's a little closer to the sound of speakers. We can't say that's what it sounded like to us; the HFI-680s were more "closed in" and sounded more canned than comparably priced Sennheiser and Grado models, which use an open-back design instead.

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