Review: Logitech UE 9000, 6000, and 900 Headphones Page 4

Logitech UE 900 Universal Fit In-Ear Monitors ($399.99)

As I mentioned above, the L/UE 900 is the replacement for the long-in-the-tooth UE Triple.Fi 10, an in-ear that won many an advocate and detractor back when headphone choices were far more limited than they are these days, and maintained its place in the old Ultimate Ears line through countless variants. But the 900's real reason for being is to go up against the Shure 530/535 series, Westone 4/4r, and a host of latecomers with a new multi-driver, replaceable cable universal fit IEM that outdoes its leading competitors on price and features while meeting them head on in terms of performance.

As is true across the new Logitech UE line, the broad accessory kit (airplane attenuator adapter, 5 sizes of silicone tips; 3 sizes of Comply tips) comes to you wrapped in an elegant cardboard box. Within, you will also find a very nice little carrying case, a drawstring pouch, two very nice braided cables, one traditional behind-the-head configuration and a slightly maddening mic/remote sporting unit (in the new brand's signature blue color).

The case is fantastic; one of the nicer ones I've seen (piano black glossy finish; angled corner treatment that matches the look of the 900s themselves), though it lacks a secure latch. It's got two little posts to hold an extra pair of ear tips, and a clip to secure a 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch adapter. The 900 itself looks very cool. The blue/black highlights and angular shape give it an immediately recognizable look, and the braided cables signal "high-end," while the translucent housing shows off the quad drivers.

Fit (at least to my ear) and overall ergonomics are vastly improved over the somewhat  polarizing Triple.Fi, whose longish casing fit some ears well enough, and others not at all. The more compact housings should find favor with far more ears. There's one oddity, however (and if you haven't worn a similar headphone before you might not notice it all, but it's worth a mention). The housings are lightweight, and the over-the-ear "hook" portion of the cable (which uses a stiff-but-flexible plastic sheath) feels superior in construction and comfort to Westone's (which uses a length of wire incorporated into the first inch or so of the cable braid, surrounded by a similar length of tubing). 

The cable (and perhaps there was no way around this, considering the necessity of having the mic located someplace between the wearer's chest and neck), though designed to be worn over the ear, is also designed to descend in front of, rather than behind, the neck. A clothing clip is included to secure it to wherever you're wearing, but this doesn't seem to be an optimal solution.

Given the fact that the cable attachment to the earphone housing is quite flexible (it rotates freely and easily), not having a sliding adjuster to tighten the yoke meant the 900s felt less secure with the control cable than they really should. But I suspect those coming from traditionally worn in-ears may actually feel more at home with this arrangement, and there really isn't another good way to make sure the mic is within shouting distance of your mouth.

Performance

Getting a good seal with the stock silicone ear tips was simple - the angled nozzle slips easily into the ear canal, and the ear-facing shape of the 900's driver housing fits into the bowl of the pinna quite well, even in my smallish ears. One issue - compared with both the Shure 535 and the Westone 4r, with their smaller, rounded shapes, the 900 is a bit bulky, and I found that after an hour or so the sharp edges of the housing rubbed a bit on my pinnae. This may resolve over time, but as with any headphone - and any in-ear, especially - fit is paramount, and you've got to go audition things in person (or be prepared to deal with returns) to find the model that fits your ears. The stiffened over-the-ear portion of the cable is easy to adjust, and the construction is confidence inspiring; likewise, changing cables is easy, but the connectors join with a secure snap and seem unlikely to detach accidentally.

Sonics are, in short,  excellent. I've been listening a whole lot to Blue Note/EMI's recent remasters of bop-era classics (as 24/96 FLAC files via our friends at HDtracks), and sound quality is on par with the Westone 4r. Bass has more weight than on the Westones, and is more on par with the Shure, at least to my ear (personally, I am biased towards the Westone's leaner, more controlled bass, but this is more a matter of personal taste). Detail, resolution, and stereo imaging were all admirable; the 900s are also, as you might expect, sensitive enough to drive easily and effectively with an Android device or iPhone.

Dense, cluttered, contemporary productions like Animals as Leaders' "Cylindrical Sea" (from Weightless) are well-served; Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes's mind-boggling 8-strings clearly separated against the heavily processed background, with the triggered kick drum maintaining the requisite synthetic punch. The Logitech UE sound seems to work pretty well for heavy rock - as it does for most everything else).

Large acoustic ensembles don't fare quite as well. Listening to Richard Elgar's take on the Brandenburg Concertos with the Academy of Ancient Music, the bass had just the slightest bit of exaggeration; the Westone is more to my taste for classical music, with the 535 a little too dull. For small ensembles, singer-songwriters, or acoustic jazz, the extra warmth and slightly narrower focus of the 900s was welcome, though overall I still prefer the 4r - but not by much.

Measurements

To measure the UE6000, I used a G.R.A.S.43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio FW audio analyzer, a laptop computer running TrueRTA software with an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface, and a Musical Fidelity V-Can headphone amplifier. I used the medium-sized Comply foam tips, which fit the ear simulator best, then tried reinserting the tips several times and measuring again, settling on a position that yielded the most representative measurement.

The frequency response of the UE900 suggests a subjectively flat response with perhaps a little more energy than usual in the midrange. (This is somewhat similar to what we saw with the outstanding PSB M4U 2[[http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/photogallery/measured-psb-m4u-2]].) Adding 70 ohms output impedance to the V-Can's 5-ohm output impedance to simulate the effects of using a typical low-quality headphone amp substantially tilts the tonal balance toward the treble, because it reduces the output below 800 Hz by -2 to -3 dB. This result suggests that the UE900 will sound better with source devices that have a low output impedance, such as iOS (Apple) devices and external headphone amps.

Total harmonic distortion (THD) at 100 dBA is next to nothing: below 1.5% at all frequencies. As we'd expect from an IEM using multiple balanced armatures, the impedance goes through some pretty large swings, starting out at 23 ohms in the bass, rising to 52 ohms at 1.7 kHz, dropping back down to 23 ohms at 9 kHz, and rising to 43 ohms at 20 kHz. Thanks probably to the large driver housing and the Comply tips, isolation is excellent for an IEM, running -15 to -45 dB at most frequencies.

 Average sensitivity with a 1 mW signal at 30 ohms rated impedance is admirably high: 108.4 dB from 300 Hz to 10 kHz, 109.9 dB from 300 Hz to 6 kHz. - Brent Butterworth

Bottom Line

The Logitech UE 900 is nice update to the Ultimate Ears TripleFi - and a real contender for your multi-driver IEM dollar, doing as well as or bettering what similar models from Shure and Westone have to offer in the same configuration, with a more complete accessory kit, for around $50 to $100 less. That's a bargain you can't really ignore if you're in the market for a quality set of in-ears and you're not interested in exploring custom options.

The 900 is also - as you might expect given the UE heritage - the most impressive in this round of Logitech/UE offerings. The full-size headphones at this point offer some impressive performance in the midrange and treble registers and are good-sounding headphones overall, especially in passive mode, but are diminished just a bit by unwelcome resonance and overall exaggeration in the low end, more so in noise-cancelling mode. The 9000's quirky NC implementation is also a bit off-putting. The more portable 6000 is the better bargain of the two for now, but we'll be curious to see where Logitech/UE goes next - with a bit of tweaking, both of the full-size models could be excellent choices in their respective categories.

 
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