At $400 (I know, I know - stay with me here), the Logitech UE900s are well out of many people's perceived reasonable price range for a set of headphones. Especially earbuds. But I'd like to remind everyone that there is a definitely a market for headphones at this level, and it's not just reserved for the well-to-do and audio geeks. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to sound, you can spend thousands of dollars to find the "ideal" system. Audiophiles amass huge collections of equipment over their lives devoted only to reproducing sound - setups that can be valued at more than the cost of a nice midsized sedan.
For most of us, though, the earbuds that come in the box are often enough. The idea of spending more than forty or so dollars on a pair of buds you're probably going to lose or break when they get caught in a door or wrapped around something as you're walking is silly. But four-hundred? Well, that's just right out.
But Logitech, after buying the world-renowned Ultimate Ears, has continued to produce stunning in-ear monitors used by hundreds of popular musicians on the stage. These "IEMs" can cost thousands of dollars per pair. Seriously, just go to the UE IEM website - you can find stuff like this. But they're also basically designed for use as on-stage equipment, and are balanced and tuned as such.
Logitech's Ultimate Ears consumer lineup has been relegated to less exciting fair, but has typically still produced top-notch earbuds. The TripleFi series, now defunct, ended on a sweet note with the TripleFi 10s, a pair of headphones I actually reviewed. When they went on sale a few years ago, the TripleFi 10s matched the UE 900's $400 price tag, though over time they could eventually be had for significantly less than half that amount.
The UE 900s replace the TripleFi 10s, and I'm going to spoil the ending now: they've managed to absolutely demolish the precedent those headphones set. It's like lifting the fog from your ears, going from the TripleFi 10 to the UE 900. But it's a fog that you wouldn't really know was there in the first place. You kind of have to hear to believe it. The UE 900s also just sound different. Gone is the intense, booming bass of the TripleFi earbuds, and replaced is a much more natural, though still thoroughly powerful, low frequency response. The UE 900s are simply a different animal.
Logitech Ultimate Ears UE 900
- What are they? Earbuds. Really good (and expensive) ones. They also have quad-armature drivers, a swappable cord, modular earbuds, and more.
- How much? $400 (buy here).
- What's in the box? A lot more than you would expect. 9 sets of earbud tips, including 3 Comply foam tips. A carrying case. An airline attenuator. A 1/4" stereo plug adapter. There's more I'm forgetting, too.
- What's so special about them? They. Sound. Amazing. If you haven't listened to something in this range, just know it really is a different experience. Your tracks will come to life.
- Do I want them? That all depends. The issue of actually wearing them may leave some folks dead set against the UE 900s, while others might not be bothered, or even like the loop method. The sound signature also isn't for everyone. And, of course, they are quite pricey.
- The Perks: Your UE 900s come with so many extras that accessories alone add exceptional value to the package. Like I said, tons of earbud tips, including foam Comply tips, airline attenuator, 1/4" adapter, a spare main cord (without controls), carrying cases (soft and hard), and a two-year warranty. Also, if your cord starts to go bad, no worries: Logitech will sell you replacement cords. And they're extremely easy to swap in and out. Remember, the inspiration here is something designed for musicians, so maximizing the lifetime and value of the headphones is actually something Logitech considers.
- The Sound: Oh. My. God. I've listened to some decent earbuds in my time, like the predecessors of the 900s, the TripleFi 10s. I also own a pair of Etymotic hf2s, a great entry-level reference headphone. I've used some mid-level Shures. The UE900s flat out blow them away. The premise for the UE 900s was bringing some of the performance of the company's professional IEMs to a more reasonably-priced consumer headphone (the cheapest quad-armature UE IEM with noise isolation costs $1150). The sound character of these is much flatter than the old TripleFi 10s, bass is more subdued, but also feels a little deeper. Mids and highs are decidedly superior - there is more detail, more range - the tone, though, is noticeably less warm. These are much more analytic. The 900s are clearly more concerned with accuracy than the TF10s, and less worried about providing an energetic, V-shaped response curve. This may be a turn-off if you want something with booming bass and screeching highs (eg, not natural). I'd say if you're into electronica, pop, or hip hop, the UE 900s may not be your cup of tea, at least not as much as the TF10s were. Equalization may help you tune them to taste, but that only does so much.
- The Fit: As long as you're looping them over your ears as is suggested, the UE 900s stay put, and easily get a seal. The TripleFi 10s were much more difficult about this. Once I found the proper size of rubber eartip, I felt confident every time I put them on.
- Isolation: When music is pumping, you're not deaf to the world, but pretty close. I wouldn't put the isolation on par with my Etymotic hf2s, but the UE 900s definitely drown out a great deal of ambient noise, decidedly more than the TF10s did.
The Not So Good
- The Fit: If you refuse to wear these headphones with the bendable cords looped over your ears, you'll hate them. With the TF10s, it was possible. With these, it's not. Some people find the looped wearing arrangement very annoying, but with the UE 900s, you simply won't be able to avoid it. You have to wear them this way, or they will fall out / break seal constantly. The bendable cord segment isn't quite bendable enough for my taste, either - it's extremely stiff. Fatigue was pretty standard for a headphone this size. Hours upon hours of wearing would probably get tiresome.
- The Cord: The cord gets tangled / knotted exceptionally easily. It's a task to unravel the earbuds - and it happens every time I roll them up. Major nuisance. It also just doesn't feel like a very robust cord in the first place, because it's twined (see pictures) and relatively thin.
- The Swiveling Earbuds: So, you may have noticed the actual driver housing "swivel" around the point where they connect to the cord. This does make it possibly to get a more comfortable fit, but it also means they'll spin around while you're not using them, and they have to be realigned appropriately before each use.
- The Price: $400 is a lot of money to drop on earbuds. Even ones with modular parts and amazing sound. Are the UE900s worth the price? Maybe. I'd say a slight drop from MSRP will happen within a year (maybe a $50 cut), but I'd also confidently assert that if you do buy them now, I highly doubt you'll feel like you've in any way been swindled. These are truly great headphones - I certainly love them.
The bottom line: The UE900s are an excellent choice for an entry-level IEM / high-end consumer headphone. They sound brilliant, they fit securely (if you wear them as suggested), and they come ready for almost any situation right out of the box. But if you're looking for something you can pull out of your bag at a moment's notice and stick in your ears without thinking, these simply aren't for you. The UE 900s require a little patience, a substantial investment, and the willingness to deal with a few ergonomic, shall we say, quirks. However, if you're looking to get into IEMs from a pair of mid-range headphones, they will absolutely open your ears up to a new world.