For many people the thought of spending over £100 on a pair of earphones is a great way to waste money. However for the audiophiles among you, £100 is a fairly cheap price to pay for high quality sound. The Ultimate Ears 700 noise isolating headphones sit in the mid range price for earphones. At just over £130 are they cheap enough to get casual listeners to ditch their bundled white iPod earphones?
As someone who uses their iPod on a daily basis, sound quality and noise isolation is important. Most of the music on my iPod is either lossless or 320kbps mp3, but if the earphones are not up to the job why bother?
I first discovered these earphones after reading rave reviews about them on various tech sites. Ultimate Ears is perhaps not the most well known audio company, but they certainly have a distinguished background. Formed by Alex Van Halen (drummer in Van Halen) in 1995 they specialise in custom built in ear monitors for various musicians aswell as mid to high end consumer earphones. They were recently bought by Logitech in 2008.
The Ultimate Ears 700 earphones come packaged with a small black plastic case, 4 sets of different sizes of ear buds, 2 pairs of Comply foam tips and a 3.5mm jack attenuator for use on planes. The first thing you'll notice about the earphones is that they are small, really small. To put it into perspective the earphone itself is just slightly longer than my thumb nail. This also means that there incredibly light. The advantage of this is that you're less likely to notice that you're actually wearing earphones allowing you to become more immersed in the sound. The earphones are made from plastic but have a high quality silver finish to them making them look rather dashing. They also have some colour coding - red for right ear and black for left ear.
The earphone wires are rather thin and have a tendency to become distorted if you wrap them up to tightly. The wires can also rub together which can be somewhat off putting when listening to music. However this is a common problem with earphones and it doesn't really affect the Ultimate Ears 700 that much. It doesn't feature any inline control which also makes it a bit cumbersome for someone using an iPod touch to skip tracks. The 3.5mm jack will work with almost all mp3 players, aswell as televisions and computers.
In general the wires are of good length, not too short, but not long enough to form those knots which seem impossible to untangle.
I'm not going to pretend I know much about the technical aspect of reviewing sound quality; however what I do know is that I like what I hear on the Ultimate Ears 700!
On listening to a few Muse songs it's evident that the Ultimate Ears 700 earphones are of superb quality. Tracks seem much more detailed and accurate. It's fair to say that quality is miles better than on my previous Sennheiser earphones (admittedly they only cost £70).
Plug in Baby for example has never sounded so good. The mesmerising guitar riff with the punchy bass line in background and Matt Bellamy's vocals over the top of this is incredibly detailed and precise. I found myself listening to the same songs over and over again just because they sounded so good and yet so different compared to PC speakers. There are delicate little details which I hadn't notice when listening on my PC speakers, but the Ultimate Ears were able to reproduce them with distinction. Another example was on the song Showbiz; Matt's high pitched screams are reproduced with so much clarity it's enough to send shivers down your spine.
Turning the volume to maximum, the songs become more distorted and lose their crispness. This is a bit disappointing if you're on a noisy train and need the volume turned up high, but in most cases you won't need to go past 60% volume which is perfect for optimal sound quality.
Bass is something which many earphones fail to reproduce well, but the Ultimate Ears do admirably. Listening to the album Insomniac by Green Day the bass remains punchy but still sounds detailed. However when listening to the epic bass line in Only in Dreams by Weezer, you're left wanting a little bit more. Perhaps the bass could be a bit fuller but that's just me being picky.
Noise isolation is good, and the Comply foam tips are a nice addition. These tips work by expanding into your ear canal after you have squeezed them. Once they eventually expand, they make a snug fit in your ears blocking out as much external sound as possible.
I've been using these earphones are nearly a year and haven't experience any issues with performance loss or dimming of the sound.
Overall the Ultimate Ears 700 noise isolating earphones are well worth their £130 price tag. They reproduce sound with so much detail and clarity you'll want to listen over and over again to the same tracks. The bass is punchy but perhaps could be a bit fuller and heavier. For anyone wanting to experience high quality sound, these are an excellent choice. In my opinion they are the best mid range earphones available to buy.