The Jerry Harvey Sound
Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5 Pro and EB
It’s interesting how I still hear people talk about the UE SuperFi 5 more than they talk about the newer UE700. By now, everyone knows how bad the fit and ergonomic problem is on the SuperFi 5 and TripleFi 10 IEMs, and the small housing UE700 seems like the ultimate fix for that. UE did reintroduced a new style SuperFi 5 not so long ago, but I was surprised to find out that the new SuperFi 5 is a single driver IEM and not a double driver like the old model.
So, now you have four SuperFi 5 models:
- SuperFi 5 Pro. Double drivers. ($249.99)
- SuperFi 5 EB. Double drivers, extra bass tuning. ($199.99)
- SuperFi 5. New model, single driver. ($169.99)
- SuperFi 5vi. New model, single driver, with a microphone. ($189.99)
Since this review is for the dual drivers, I’m mostly going to be talking on the old SuperFi 5 Pro and SuperFi 5 EB, in addition to the UE700. The UE700, which Ultimate Ears claimed to have custom tuned drivers, is actually cheaper at $199.99, when compared to the older SuperFi 5 Pro model for $249.99. I have no idea what the marketing department is thinking when they set the price.
The SuperFi 5 Pro represent a different kind of Ultimate Ears sound, perhaps an era where Jerry Harvey was still around in the company. The signature of the SuperFi 5 Pro reminds me a lot to the TripleFi 10, and even the JH5Pro customs. The JH customs are a little more mature, and the SuperFi 5 more raw, but the same DNA can be found on both IEMs. The UE700, on the other hand represents a more refined sounding IEM, maybe not as raw as the SuperFi 5, but significantly more mature in sound.
With the SuperFi 5 Pro, the sound is mostly about the upper midrange, and the upper and mid bass. Yes, there is good treble extension, but the emphasis is on the upper midrange. The upper midrange is quite forward, and it gives a very forward sounding vocal. The good thing is that SuperFi 5 remains modest on the treble, and you can enjoy an agressive presentation without all the treble hotness and the sibilance. For someone looking for treble detail, the SuperFi 5 doesn’t have too much of it, and this is where the UE700 comes out better, as the more linear treble extension curve makes detail more evident.
The forward sounding vocal is then supported by a very punchy midbass. The midrange is good and quite full, not the best in this comparison, but there is more emphasis on the upper and midbass. Accordingly, the Super Fi 5’s bass, doesn’t go very low or deep either, but the punch is really quite strong. On quick listens, the Super Fi 5’s emphasis on the middle area of the frequency curve makes it seem like it’s lacking top and bottom extension, but it’s not. It just doesn’t emphasize the upper treble and low bass are as much. That may not sound very good on paper, but listening to it, it’s a very fun and musical sound. And even compared to the DBA-02, which is very technically capable, the fun factor on the SuperFi 5 remains superior, especially when you’re into fast paced rock music.
It’s probably flattering for the SuperFi 5 to be mentioned in the same line as the JH5Pro. Yet, the same house sound runs very strongly in both IEMs. Heck, even the naming convention is similar. I really don’t know who did the tuning on the SuperFi 5 Pro, but Jerry Harvey is my number 1 suspect. The JH5Pro, of course, sounds like a more mature SuperFi 5 Pro, with overall a “bigger” sound and better technicalities. Yet, the SuperFi 5 Pro, being the less sophisticated model, is still a good IEM to own because it’s so much fun. Between the two, the JH5Pro’s bass is more on the low and mid bass, where the SuperFi 5 more on the upper and midbass, yet both IEMs punches very hard and the hardest in this comparison. I do miss the upper bass of the SuperFi 5 when I listen to the JH5Pro, and that’s the only area on the JH5Pro where I feel that a little boost is needed.
The moderate technicality level is the biggest factor to why the SuperFi 5 Pro doesn’t shine as well as the TripleFi 10 Pro and the JH5Pro. But when I compare the SuperFi 5 Pro to the TripleFi 10 Pro, I actually prefer the SuperFi’s sound signature as a whole. The TripleFi 10 has better transients, frequency range, articulation detail, and bass. But there is less magic going on around the midrange, and the treble presence is quite excessive on the TripleFi 10 Pro.
I briefly listened to the SuperFi 5 EB (extra bass), it sounds like if someone has taken the SuperFi 5 Pro and boosted the mid and upper bass by 8dB. To be frank, I really couldn’t enjoy the sound of the EB. It sounds like a design proposed by the marketing department, and is really one of the worst implementation of a bassy IEM.
I also have the M-Audio IE-30 IEM, and I can confirm that it is identical to the sound of the SuperFi 5 Pro.