I do have some less positive comments on the UE900’s sound. It is not particularly airy, though airy sounding IEMs usually create other problems like sibilance and hot treble, so I can understand why UE tuned the treble this way. Sound stage and dynamics sound a bit compressed especially compared to dynamic drivers, so I wouldn’t be using this for classical music. While overall it has a more mature sound than the TF10, I do miss that extra snappy feeling presented by the TF10. I think the extra bass presence is what’s eating into the snap. Mostly it’s a welcome change (the bass), but there are some songs that I feel are still better presented by the Triple.Fi 10. Overall it’s a better IEM than the TF10, but I’d probably try living with the two IEMs for a few months before deciding if I’d sell the TF10.
I am a huge fan of single driver dynamic IEMs, and I’d still take the big driver on the Aurisonics ASG-1 or the Sony EX1000 based on qualities like timbre, sound stage, coherence, and pure effortless detail retrieval. Still, the two dynamics can’t compare to the frequency tuning of the UE900 which currently may be the best tuning for mainstream music in the market.
Recently I had the chance to listen to the Ocharaku Flat-4 which apparently is FujiyaAvic’s #1 selling IEM in Japan. Designed by the ex-Sound Development Director at Sony, the Flat-4 is incredibly natural, effortless and revealing. With good recordings, the Flat-4 is superb. Start playing some mainstream pop through the Flat-4, and you’ll hear flaws in the recordings more than the actual music. The idea here is that designers create IEMs with different goals, and the UE900 is clearly an IEM designed to cater to the mature but mainstream crowd. The crowd should be mature enough, having previous experience with several high end IEMs to know what good sound is about, and with a playlist mixed of modern mainstream music as to fully appreciate the tuning.
Ergonomics and Build
Far from the Frankenstein fit of the TF10, the UE900 ranks among the best fitting IEM out there. However tip quality is not the best and I find it a bit uncomfortable compared to the Sony Hybrids. The new connector on the removable cable looks like a more solid connection than the TF10’s two pin, but for some reason I keep on getting intermittent contact on the left channel if I bend the over-the-ear cable hook a certain way.
First, to the quad-driver Sony XBA-4, I don’t think think there is any comparison other than the fact that both use 4 drivers per side. The tuning on the XBA-4 is amateurish, the tuning on the UE900 may be the best in the industry at the moment.
Some people are asking about the quad-driver FitEar 334ToGo, priced at some $1,400 which is higher than a lot of quad-driver custom IEMs. I think the two are incomparable, the 334 being much more refined, smooth, spacious, all those good things you get from a high end full-size headphone set up yet in an IEM package.
Compared to the Westone 4, I think the biggest difference is while the W4 is smoother and more refined, it doesn’t have the bass and PRaT of the UE900. Compared to the SM3 and the SM3v2, I think the UE900 is more fun, more lively and more toe-tapping while the SM3s are always a little too neutral, too flat for me. The Sennheiser IE80? What Sennheiser did was they make a more forward, more engaging version of the IE8 but I don’t think they’ve done anything special with the IE80 (though I’m looking forward to the IE800 very much). The Shure 535 widely considered to be inferior to the SE530: the midrange too glaring, and you don’t get enough bass body to balance the frequency response. The only other IEM that I can’t compare to at the moment is Heir Audio’s quad driver 4.Ai, but other than that, without going to specifics, I think the UE900 is the best mainstream music oriented IEM on the market at the moment.
Initial hype would be very high. Not only because people’s been expecting this product for years, but because Ultimate Ears have actually succeeded in bringing a solid product into the market. Although I have to say that Ultimate Ears didn’t really come out with anything new here, only what we all know the market wants but nobody have yet to successfully implement. This IEM certainly has been executed very well by the engineers at Ultimate Ears, but only time will tell if it’ll succeed in becoming a widely loved IEM like the Triple.Fi 10 is.
Gear used for review:
Fostex HP-A8C 32 Bit DAC/Amp, Matrix Mini Portable, Ipod, CypherLabs Solo.