After Jays released its dual micro balanced armature Q-Jays at $180 in late 2007, there was a big party. For the next few months everyone raved on and on about their unique design and sweet, neutral sound signature. About a year later, and in response to the Q-jays, Ultimate Ears released the UE700 that house, you’ve guessed it right … dual micro balanced armature drivers. The bottle shaped plastic UE phones come at a $50 premium to the q-Jays at $229.99, but how do they stack up the the cheaper Swedish earphones?
When Ultimate Ears generously sent a UE700 demo unit, we were gripping the edge of our chairs in anticipation. The earphones arrived in a simple square retail box with a clear facing window – it was a beautiful moment. Without waiting a second, it was business time with these “bling bling” jewels.
Variation: Silver with Red and Blue Accents only
Transducer: Dual Micro Balanced Armatures
Impedance: 40ohm (@1kHz)
Frequency Range: 10Hz-16.5kHz
Sensitivity (1mW): 113dB SPL/mW
Weight: 11.6 grams
Cord Style: Y-cord
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated Straight (First Gen iPhone Adaptable, and tested individually)
I was rather disappointed, however, after opening the box looking for the “Ear Jube Jubes”. Inside was pretty spare – two Sets of Comply Foam sleeves, four sets of soft silicone sleeves, an Airline Attenuator for reducing loud bursts volume and a cheap-looking plastic case. The competing Q-Jays tramples the Ultimate Ears 700 in this category – complete with seven pairs of silicone sleeves, two pairs of foam sleeves, two extension cables, four pairs of filters, along with a leather carrying case. In the end, if you are someone that usually has problems finding a perfect fit because of sleeve sizes, the Ultimate Ears jewels may not be suited for you.
I am one of the lucky ones – usually never experiencing fit issues with universal in-ear monitors and earphones – the UE700 fits me spectacularly. However, I have found each earbud so small, that they tend to fit better with the smallest sleeve that goes deep in the ear. This way, the fit is better, they will not fall out, and provide a clearer, more accurate sound. The medium silicon piece fits me well, and when I say well, I mean well as in the sense of going deaf. Isolation on these isn’t shy of 30dB. In other words, trains and bus stations sound like exam halls; even lawnmowers are hushed in likeness to bees collecting pollen.
The UE700 are one of the most comfortable earphones I have tried, whether over the ear or straight down and using both the Comply sleeves or the silicon pieces. After ten to fifteen minutes, you stop realizing you’ve got earphones in your ears and they begin to feel like a part of your body. Even when you are walking, hiking, running, biking or go-carting with them on (I really wouldn’t recommend swimming with these), the UE700s are still as comfortable as when you are still.
The only problem I found when running and biking to work is that their non-braided cable is “bouncy” – they get hooked on my hands, etc., but they hardly emitted any microphonics at all. These, like the Q-Jays also don’t hiss too much, but you will notice the rushing sound like a whisper in your ear with noisy sources.
If you are coming to high-end earphones from iPod earbuds, then you may not appreciate these as well as you could if you have other hi-end gear. Owners of other hi-end earphones, however, who are looking for something that is small, portable and lively, have just hit earphone central.
During this review, I focused on several of of my favorite songs that I truly think a headphone or earphone needs to perform well on in order to receive praise. First, “When You Believe” By Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. This song tests an earphone’s ability to present deep, separated and smooth bass while clearly describing high and high mid frequencies. “Whenever you call” by Mariah Carey and Brian McKnight is an excellent test revealing a headphone’s soundstaging character, emotion and the lushness of mid frequencies. Last but not least, “When you were young” by the Killers stresses the low frequencies which need power, speed, and depth in order to sound good. I believe that this combination really covers everything important. Let’s get testing shall we?!
If you are familiar with Ultimate Ears, you will know that the company has some of the most impressive high frequency performance in the Industry – and the UE700 is no exception to the rule. The inner earphone is characterized by crystal clear highs with lots of detail. Some may find them irritating as they are extremely crisp and sometimes even a little sibilant. Even when compared to the king of high-frequencies, Etymotic’s ER4, the UE700’s are not far behind for clarity and detail. When listening to “Whenever you Call”, high notes sung by Mariah are no less then extraordinary with the Ultimate Ears 700. They reached the pinnacles of her song without distortion and deliver her music and her calibre of performance perfectly to the listener. Just great.
Overpowered, why? The Ultimate Ears 700’s mid presentation is definitely not disappointing. Smooth, gentle and buttery, mids are characterised by decent detail and excellent manners. However, because the high frequency band on the Ultimate Ears 700 is so forward and powerful, the mid frequency tends to be overpowered so that you lose a sense of vocal and instrumental emotion which is especially evident in “When You Believe”. When comparing these to the Shure SE420 and the Q-Jays, both competing models are above and beyond the Ultimate Ears 700 mids by a couple of leagues.
Ahhhh, finally the most popular frequency band. Looking at reviews of Earphones, where most comments reflect in unison, “There’s no bass!” gets me to think why is it the most popular frequency band and why many won’t listen to music without it. The low band gets your foot tapping – that has to be it. Ultimate Ears 700 is definitely quick enough, punchy enough, and low enough for “When You Were Young”, however, they lack power. When directly comparing to the q-Jays, or Earsonics Sm2 which are both dual driver configuration, the UE700 is blown away. If you are someone who likes to be enveloped in low frequencies (the so-called bass), you may want to stay away from these.
Soundstage is the accuracy of a speaker system or monitor to produce the size, shape, location, and depth of a specific sound in the recording. The UE700 is a tad on the small side. While not disappointing and much wider than stock Earbuds or low-End Earphones, I was expecting more from an earphone that costs $50 more than the similarly staged Q-Jays. The Earsonics SM2 on the other hand, really puts you in the centre of a live performance where you hear every instrument clearly. The UE700 gives you a very good stereo sound and feel, but won’t envelop you in the music.
When comparing sound quality to the competing q-Jays, the Ultimate Ears 700 presents a more detailed, clear high, with a faster low-end – wrapped up in a wider soundstage. The q-Jays, on the other hand, better the Ultimate Ears 700 in mid frequency band and add a more powerful punch to the low end.
The Ultimate Ears 700’s are one of the best-built plastic earphones that I have come across. The molding and gluing of the earpieces are smooth, and bind together tightly. Ultimate Ears use hard, dense acrylic that is almost as solid feeling as the Q-Jays’ polycarbonate. Its cable is very well made, but again the Jays’ Kevlar cables are a step up in quality. The Cables are also connected and managed very well, so microphonic is not a problem at all – not as good as Westone’s or Earsonics’ cable design, but better than the Jays cable. Strain relief is the only down side I see as these do not have any at all; only little plastic rings that lead the cable out from the Earpiece protect the cable. However, I understand that it is quite difficult to make strain reliefs on earpieces that are so small, as the strain relief may come into contact with the wearer’s ear and could cause discomfort.
Overall, the UE700’s are earphones endowed with a great listening experience. Music is lively and “fun”, just not as neutral and balanced as the Q-Jays. What they provide is a dynamic listening experience which many look for. However there is a big problem that you have probably guessed: the competing Q-Jays. Jays offers the same comfort, same isolation, better build material, three times the accessories, and 95% of the 700’s sound, with a two-year warranty instead of one. What’s more, you have to pay $50 more for the UE 700. So in the end, it is easy to conclude that the Q-Jays are a better price/performance purchase. However, if the Ultimate Ears 700 price ever reaches down to the same level, it might be better to grab at the Ultimate Ears 700 for its slight edge in sound quality over the Q-Jays’ package.
|Title:||Ultimate Ears 700||Developer:||Ultimate Ears|