Polk Audio Launches Its UltraFit Headphone Line

Count Polk Audio among the growing ranks of veteran speaker manufacturers entering the rapidly expanding headphone market. The company yesterday launched its new UltraFit line of athlete-inspired, workout-friendly headphones with a party on the roof deck of the Cooper Square Hotel in Manhattan's East Village. The UltraFits are available in four models, three in-ear and an on-ear, rear-headband model (the UltraFit 2000) reminiscent of  the old Sony Street Style models. Prices range from $49.99 for the entry-level UltraFit 500 in-ear to $99.95 for the flagship UltraFit 3000.

Rather than ally themselves with a recording artist or release a genre-specific set of 'phones as others have, Polk have decided to fill a niche that most of the fashion-forward brands in the market haven't occupied - creating the "first line of performance headphones designed specifically for athletes - and underscoring that by assembling for the launch party NBA forwards Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies) and Thad Young (Philadelphia 76ers), along with women's soccer star Heather Mitts, Major League Lacrosse MVP Paul Rabil, and sportscaster Linda Cohn, who all offered some insight into their own listening habits (Who knew that Nirvana was such a popular warmup music choice for basketballers? You live and you learn.) and what they liked about the Polk designs.

Following the panel, the assembled journalists got a chance to play around with the products, with representative samples of UltraFit 2000 and 3000 available at listening stations set up in the hotel bar. As you'd expect given the target market for these, ergonomics was clearly a significant design consideration here, and addressing the problems of interfacing any headphone design with the vagaries of human anatomy, the UltraFits are packaged with about the most complete sets of cables, eartips, and pads I've yet seen in a reasonably-priced line.

The on-ear 2000s come complete with two densities of foam pads, one pair of "cold-weather" faux-shearling donuts, and a pair of sweat-resistant silicone models. An iOS controller is integrated into the right earcup; the microphone lives on the attached cable (which is of the flat variety made popular by Monster's Beats offerings); a reflective band is added as a safety feature (though joggers should keep aware of their surroundings at all times, of course - there's something of a conundrum in designing audio gear aimed at athletes, but that's a topic for another article).

The 3000s go even further than their on-ear siblings, with a staggering lineup of accessories including three sizes of standard silicone tips, two sizes of triflanges, and two pairs of memory foam tips. The 3000 comes with multiple cables (the attached cable stub terminates around what will be mid-chest for most wearers, suitable for use alone with a clipped-on iPod shuffle), including one with an iOS controller, and an adapter for Nokia-style subminiature stereo jacks. It's about as close as I've seen a manufacturer come to making sure their cans'll fit most users. And all models come with a sweat-wicking mesh storage bag. Smart thinking.

So how'd they sound?