Review: Ultrasone HFI 2200

Ultrasone calls the hideous hue on these cans the “natural colors concept.” Uh okay. It more resembles the Nixon era barcalounger in my grandma’s basement. But hey, we all know with headphones it’s not about how well they look but how well they sound.

And the 2200’s do have sound. Well, for innocent bystanders it’s more like being on the business end of a loud blast. Here, let me explain. I listened to a little Sarah Vaughn at my desk this week and then turned around to see my co-workers staring at me. Everyone in a 15-foot radius was able to enjoy the soul of the famous blues singer. But on the bus ride home I jammed to some RHCP only to realize it was easier to listen to the conversation a couple of seats back than to hear Flea’s bass guitar licks. At that point I was, well, confused. Why would a set of headphones sound loud to everyone else, except the person who is wearing them?

The answer lies in the 2200’s open-back design. Meant to reduce sound pressure and make listening easier on your lobes, the ‘phones basically hemorrhage excess audio into the space around you.

So to get a true sense of the way the headphones handled (and to prevent my wife from filing divorce papers) I locked myself away in the privacy of my basement. In my concrete box of solitude, the headphones created a nice spatial sound, but the bass was a little thin, and the treble a little harsh. I never really found their sweet spot. Rachmaninov provided a nice surround-sound experience. But in the end, the 2200’s could not provide the warmth and depth I get from other headphones costing half the price.

The 2200s are not exactly comfortable either. The cans are big but they don’t so much cup your ears as swallow the sides of your head.

Ultrasone also claims that the S-Logic technology lets you listen to music at higher volumes without risk of damaging your ears. I think it works. I’m not any deafer than I was before. I’m all for preserving my auditory senses – I just don’t want to damage the hearing of those around me in the process.

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