New headphones: Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro

by Volker Weber

Super.fi 5 Pro

When it comes to headphones, I always check HeadRoom first. This is where I found the Koss Porta Pro, possibly the best inexpensive headphones of all times. OK, that is not entirely true, because Ute had consulted with my favorite experts, and then gave me a pair many years ago. They were simply amazing, and Headroom was the first place I came across them again, and they shared my judgement.

When it was time to find a headset best suited for travel, I turned to Headroom again for advice:

Noise-canceling headphones typically provide only about minus 10dB of isolation, principally in the lower frequencies between 100Hz and 2000Hz. Unfortunately, they don’t get rid of as much higher-pitched external noise as standard full-sized "passive" sealed/closed headphones, which usually provide an equal minus -10dB of attenuation BUT across a much broader sound spectrum than the "active" noise-canceling design. Further, noise-canceling or even 'sealed' headphones can’t approach the nearly-total isolation possible with in-ear canal headphones/ECHs (not to be confused with lowly 'earbud' designs!) which typically attenuate outside noise by at least minus 20-30dB or more!

I have a pair of Sony noise-canceling headphones, but I am not too impressed. They are unable to cancel out human voices, so you can't lock out the chatting ladies on the train or the crying babies on a plane. Sealed headphones also don't work well for me, if I have to wear them ten hours straight. So it was ECHs.

ECHs provide a tremendous seal against external noise; you will have absolutely no idea what the stewardess is talking about or even that there's a crazy banshee-ing kid two rows back.

Headroom recommends the Shure SE310 as their choice, but I was not comfortable to fit the driver into my ear as well. Instead I starting looking at Ultimate Ears, the original manufacturer of ECHs for professional applications. The final choice was the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro which provide a whopping 26 dB of isolation and have a dual driver design delivering a better frequency response than a single driver. You can find an excellent review over at Gadgeteer. There is absolutely nothing I can add, besides: they work very well for my ears.

Thank you Lukas for this great present.

Comments

Wow, they seem to be great, hope I can get them somewhere in Japan.

This would ease the pain of travelling by night bus a lot. :)

Daniel Haferkorn, 2007-12-29

You don't necessarily need to get the Ultimate Ears. The current Shure ECHs may be even better. There are huge price differences depending on the driver design. On a bus you will hardly have a Hi-Fi experience, so cheaper ones may do the deal. Headroom also recommends the Shure SE210. For those who like a phat bass Ultimate Ears also has a version of the Super.fi with an enhanced bass design.

Volker Weber, 2007-12-29

I like the ECHs from Etymotic Design. I have a pair of the 6i Isolators. They are great and have given me many child noise negative flights. They also come with about 4 different ear canal adaptors to get the best fit possible. The only downside is that they come with a very long lead. Almost a metre long. When your ipod us hung around your neck it's a bit annoying. Although now I've got a 3.5 to 2.5 jack adapter, it's great for watching Doctor Who on my e90.

chris lindley, 2008-01-01

I have found these guys to be quite good on price and service
http://earplugstore.stores.yahoo.net/

And I would be interested in a comparison of the Shure range vs Ultimate Ears - towards the top of the range. I've only had the Shure Ec5's and Etymotic 4R. I like them both although Iiked the Shure model over the Etymotic one.

Slawek Rogulski, 2008-01-02

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