Headphone Review: Ultrasone IQ

[IMG]Ultrasone | In-Ear Monitor | $ 949.00

Ultrasone is a high-end headphone company. In their past endeavors, they have stuck to full-sized headphones. However, they recently decided to widen their horizons in an attempt to break the ice in their IEM creations with the Ultrasone IQ being their flagship model. It features a dynamic driver to deal with the lows and a balanced armature covers the rest. Can this IEM match up to its hyped price? Read on to find out:

Specifications

  • Driver: 8 mm Dynamic (woofer) + BA (tweeter)
  • Frequency Response: 17 Hz – 21 kHz
  • Impedance: 20 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB

In the Box

  • Ultrasone IQ
  • Cables (Single-Button Remote+Mic’d; Standard Audio-Only)
  • Ear Tips (Silicone Cone: M/L; Silicone: S/M/L; Comply Foam: M/L)
  • Leather Carrying Case
  • TRRS to TRRS Adapter
  • Airplane Adapter
[IMG]
The Ultrasone IQ are coupled with a wealth of accessories.

Design

Ultrasone decided to use a beautiful die-cast metal body for the housings of the new IQs. They have a beautiful metallic texture to them with nice golden accents. They are really a marvel to look at. The construction and choice of materials, from the housing all the way down to the cable work in unison with one another to produce an IEM that looks absolutely beautiful. The Ultrasone IQ are really a marvel to look at, Ultrasone did a good job creating a flashy design.

[IMG]
The modern design of the IQ looks stunning in the right light.

Design: ★★★★

Audio

Ultrasone has tuned this IEM towards a sound that is more fun rather than more neutral. The IQ fits the profile for a well-tuned V-shape. It’s not perfect, and does well all the way up to the high end. It’s transparent with a tight mid-bass and sweet midrange. Highs are energetic and slightly edgy.

Bass

The Ultrasone IQ has a very strong low-mid bass focus. This focus leans closer to the mid-bass creating a tighter punch to the bass. However, still having that slight emphasis on the lower-lows, it gives the punch a nice defined impact with it without creating such a large body. This allows for ample speed. The bass has good depth into the sub-bass sections, which allows textures to remain delicate with decent imaging. The IQ has a very convincing low end, one of the best I’ve heard.
Bass: ★★★★

Mids

The midrange is very open with a more airy presentation. The higher highs hold strong clarity up high with an extremely sweet emphasis on the vocals. The lushness of the voice is not lost however, the result is a very strong vocal dynamic to the headphones themselves. Despite having a dip in the lower-midrange to create the V I stated earlier, the headphones themselves do very with overall detailing. Very impressive midrange.
Mids: ★★★★

Highs

The highs are hot with strong energy throughout. They extend very well into the highest octaves. The result is a very detailed splash to the high end. The treble has a very strong presence in the lower highs as well as the higher ones. Separation is beautifully rendered. The treble could be a bit sibilant at times however. The treble can sound a little too metallic at times as well. With some refinement, the treble could be perfect.
Highs: ★★★★½

Audio: ★★★★

Build

Ultrasone continues to ensure that their headphones will last long. This is shown easily through the materials used to construct the headphones, as well as the precautions that are bundled with the IQ. The thick leather case keeps the IEMs protected very well when not in use, as well as creates a nice sense of extravagance.

[IMG]
A beautiful, luxurious case is included with the IQ.

The housings are made of thick, die cast metal. This ensures that the housings have a strong structure at the core that won’t break. If anything, these could probably work as a nice weapon (assuming you don’t mind tossing your thousand dollar IEMs around). They seem like they could take multiple beatings and abuse and live to play the next note with their utmost perfection.

[IMG]Ultrasone uses strong materials to construct the housings.

The cable is removeable which is also a huge plus. Two cables are included for use (one with remote and mic, one without). The cable is braided and wrapped with plastic externally. It’s tough, yet flexible enough and shows quality in its build. It is also beautiful to look at. The cable’s housing connectors are similar to those of Shure IEMs as well as the new UE 900.

[IMG]
The cable isn’t just something pretty to look at, it’s strong too!

Both cables terminate at an angled headphone jack. The jack is made of a metal similar to that of the housings. That said, the headphone jack is strong and holds the Ultrasone name on it. Coming out of it is a flexible, but strong strain relief. The headphone jack is beautifully built.

[IMG]
The headphone jack is strongly built.

Build: ★★★★

Comfort

A square-framed, metal die cast housing is very strong for aesthetics and build, but it does the IQ very little in regards to comfort. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but you end up sticking a square into your rounder ears. This isn’t as bad as I make it sound though, but it may serve discomfort for smaller ears. Fortunately, however, Ultrasone does include a variety of tips for users to use. 5 sets of silicone tips ranging in 2 shapes with 3 sizes as well as Comply Foam tips are included to boost fit and comfort.

[IMG]
The tips included help ensure proper fit and comfort.

Comfort: ★★★★½

Value

If you’ve read this far, you probably saw my little off-note about the price of these bad boys. They are priced quite high; just under a grand. At this price, I don’t really see the quality justifying the price. There are slight discomforts with the IEM itself, and the sound quality up high could use some refinement overall. Ultrasone also does include two cables to give users the freedom of choosing a smartphone layout or a standard audio-focused one. The IQ is a good IEM, but definitely not worth the grand being asked for.

[IMG]
A remote and mic’d cable is a nice touch.

Value: ★★★

Final Thoughts

Ultrasone has done a fine job brining their sound to an IEM line allowing them to tap into the mobile-listener crowd. They do sound great and are also built strong. It stands aesthetically strong, with a slight weakness in comfort and a larger one with value. If it was priced about half its cost, it would be a real contender with many of the other flagship IEMs out there.

I would like to thank Ultrasone for the product sample loan.

Overall Score
[IMG]
Ultrasone IQ
† All prices are in US currency.
This review was written by the iFans.com Review Team. Cumulative scores are rounded to the nearest half or full star.
This accessory, product, or app was received as a sample. Thanks Ultrasone for the product sample.
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