All In Your Head

Earbuds may be all the rage these days, but audio connoisseurs know that private listening sounds best with circumaural headphones, which cover the outer ear and offer larger drivers for deeper bass than most buds can produce. Among the finest headphones in the world come from Germany's Ultrasone, including the new top-dog Edition 8.

At the heart of the Edition 8 are titanium-plated Mylar drivers with a frequency response from 6Hz to 42kHz. The positioning of these drivers is decentralized as part of Ultrasone's S-Logic Plus technology, which causes the sound waves to reflect from the surface of the outer ear before entering the auditory canal. This results in what the company calls Natural Surround Sound, enhancing spaciousness by engaging the outer ear in the listening process, something no earbuds can hope to do.

Not only does S-Logic Plus enhance the spaciousness of sound, it also decreases the sound pressure level (SPL) by 3 to 4dB while maintaining the same perceived loudness. This can help reduce the risk of hearing damage and provide hours of fatigue-free listening. Even so, the Edition 8 can reach an SPL of 96dB, which, according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) can cause hearing damage after 3.5 hours of exposure, so Ultrasone advises you to avoid listening at high volumes to protect your hearing.

ULE (Ultra Low Emission) technology is another important feature of the Edition 8 that comes from Ultrasone's line of professional headphones. A material called mu metal provides an effective shield against the low-frequency magnetic fields that arise when electrical signals are converted to acoustic energy, reducing this radiation by up to 98 percent compared with conventional headphones.

Of course, technology isn't the only story here—a $1500 pair of headphones had better offer some luxury, and the Edition 8 certainly does. The outer ear cups are fashioned from ruthenium, a rare and precious yet durable metal with a brilliant sheen. Also, the ear pads and headband are covered in ultrasoft Ethiopian sheepskin leather. Performance, style, and comfort—now that's what I call ultimate gear!