Gear, Reviews

Ultimate Ears 700 Earphones: Get Ready To Hear Things Good! (Review)

March 7, 2010 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Ultimate Ears 700 Earphones: Get Ready To Hear Things Good! (Review)on Twitter

We’ve talked a lot about headsets on the site, but I think it’s fair to say that these aren’t really a portable solution given their large size. If you’re anything like me, you probably can’t stand the stock earphones that come with iPods or a multitude of other products. I often find them too big, making it difficult to tolerate them on extended listens, and the sound quality they provide leaves a lot to be desired.

So I found myself on the market for a nice pair of earphones. There are a lot of options out there, but I consistently came across the name Ultimate Ears, which is actually a company that focuses on professional custom-fit earphones for on-stage performances. That doesn’t mean that they don’t cater to music enthusiast and audiophile as well, as they have a number of lines that have been created specifically with users on the go in mind. The Ultimate Ears 700s fall into their universal fit line for just this purpose, and while they will set you back $199.99, I was quite impressed with what I heard.

Yes, you read that price correctly! Hit the jump to find out if they’re worth the cost in our review.

The Ultimate Ears 700s come in a rather unassuming box. It’s metallic green and silver, with a cut-out window for the earphones themselves on the front and the different eartips on the back. Given the price, I would have expected these earphones to come in a treasure chest, but if anything, I think this points to Ultimate Ears’ confidence in their product: they need no fancy marketing ploy to sell their products, they rely on their name alone.

When you remove the earphones from the box, they won’t necessarily dazzle you with their design. They’re simple, silver, and small. They come with the medium-sized silicone ear cushions already attached. The included eartip kit that I mentioned was visible from the back of the box contains a pair of small, medium (yes, another pair), and large silicone ear cushions along with two sets of their Comply foam ear cushions. As to which one you’ll pick will depend on the size of your ear and your preference regarding foam or gel. I personally love the Comply foam ear cushions, which you compress with your fingers before inserting, allowing them to expand and conform to the shape of your ear, creating an excellent seal. At least for the listener.

Since I’m on the topic of what’s in the box, there’s also a pocket-ready hard case that I was actually rather excited about, as I’ve gone through plenty of earphones in the past that were destroyed in my pocket or in my backpack. As it turns out, this case is a very thin plastic with a plastic tab that locks the case closed. It doesn’t feel like it’s all that durable, but it gets the job done. Just watch to make sure your Comply foam doesn’t get cause in the plastic tab when you close the shell, as it will damage the foam. There’s also a nifty sound level attenuator that basically adjusts the volume of the earphones for noisy sound sources like laptops and airplanes. This is really awesome, as it cuts out all the background static, pops, and loud bursts from these sources.

The most important thing here, however, is the sound. In terms of specs, the Ultimate Ears 700s use a dual-armature layout to separates the wide 10 Hz to 16.5 kHz frequency response into two channels per ear. The seal provided by the ear cushions also blocks outside noise in the 26 dB range. They connect to devices via a standard 3.5mm (1/8 inch) jack, so it’s easy to plug into your iPod, laptop, or any other device.

As far as my experience with the earphones is concerned, I found their range to be quite impressive, getting some great low end, but also handling high frequencies without any noticeable distortion. I was actually able to pick up on and distinguish a lot of individual sounds that I had never heard before with my desktop speakers, even within songs that I’ve been listening to for years and thought I knew backwards and forwards. I’ve listened on my PC, my iPod, my laptop, and even my Nintendo DS, and it all sounds great. Using the sound attenuator on my laptop cut out the crackles and pops that I’m used to hearing with other earphones, and on the DS, I was able to hear the music almost too well, as these games generally aren’t optimized for such precise sound.

Ultimate Ears also made a lot of clever design choices with the Ultimate Ears 700s. My favorite innovation is the red metallic ring on the right earbud which allows you to quickly identify which earbud goes in which ear without having to turn it around and look for the microscopic “R” and “L.” I also like the plastic tab that connects the left and right cables, as it’s loose enough to easily glide up and down the length of the cable without having to fight with it when it’s time to put the earphones away. Lastly, I like the thick and sturdy cabling that Ultimate Ears uses for this set, as I’ve purchased earbuds in the past with awfully thin cabling that was prone to tearing. If I had to come up with one criticism, it’d be that the cable is relatively short (42 inches). I say relatively, because this is the perfect length for portable devices like a laptop, DS, or iPod, but I’ve actually been using these with my PC, and it just barely reaches the front of my machine. It would be cool if Ultimate Ears included some sort of cable extension for this purpose.

So, are the Ultimate Ears 700s worth the $199.99 price tag? It’s hard to say having already experienced them. They are certainly an excellent product, and I can’t see myself ever going back to using the stock iPod earphones after hearing these. The great sound quality, unique design choices, and included accessories all make a strong case for checking these out if you’re in the market for a new pair of earphones. Just prepare yourself to feel compelled to relisten to your entire music collection to find out what you’ve been missing all these years!

What’re your thoughts on a $200 pair of earphones? Would you ever considering treating yourself to something like these?

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