I’ve little doubt that Thomas Tsai will cough up a cat over this article. I love the IQ. I’ve loved it since the first day I picked it up. And, I have hated it. It’s an earphone that not only sounds great when things are in its favor, it’s an earphone that fits like few other cable-over-the-ear earphones out there.
But it’s got gotchas out the wazzoo. And does does the IQ Pro.
In typical Ultrasone: IQ is all flash and bang in its gawdy-awful gold and glint. Its matte aluminum shell is great, its solid metallic body feels luxurious. But the flashy bits, which Ultrasone trimmed from the IQ Pro, are simply ridiculous. Far too easily, flash picks up scratches, and prints, and glints too much in the sun. If I lived in a big American city, I’d stick them up with gaffer’s tape to keep my ears safe from thieves.
IQ is too much Edition for their own good.
And then there’s the Pro. Its stoic color scheme reflects much less light. It looks serious. It’s got the same cable, and the same ear tips. From its zippered carrying case to its slim box, it is understated.
It is German.
Chassis and Fit
The strange angles Ultrasone’s art director chose for both earphones’s commercial imagery show neither earphone in the best light. But those odd angles and inexplicable weaving angles do a good job of showing it stoic, at least next to the IQ.
Strangely, IQ Pro’s matte gray surface picks up oil and wax more so than the IQ. Its sides and bottom look mottled after just a few days, and never wipe away as clean as IQ.
Apart from that, they’re basically the same thing. Aluminum, Volvo-boxy, flat-sitting, and horned by ergonomically-angled sound tubes. Despite neither earphone being a custom-cum-universal earphone, they fit fine. but assuming that your ear concha is large enough (medium-sized ears will do), IQ and IQ Pro are über comfy. They lie flat and low in the concha while the narrow sound tube drives gently up, into the ear canal. Fit perfectly, IQ is one of, if not the most comfortable cable-over-the-ear earphones I’ve ever used. And for all its comfort, it is stable, and robust.
Just so you know, beside the Comply foams, I didn’t get on with any of the included tips. They are awful. Not only do they not fit, nor isolate, they do a horrible thing with IQ’s contrasty treble, casting too much sibilance into the canals.
Instead, I use Shure’s low-density yellow foams, with are comfortable and make the best-sounding combination with either IQ earphone. Their problem, of course, is that they get nasty pretty quick. The Olives work nearly as well and isolate even better.
The basic difference between the two is this: IQ’s cable comes off; IQ Pro’s does not. That, and IQ comes with two: one with a remote and two evenly yoked channels, and one with a horrid wrap-around-the-neck j-cable. Both cables are strong, free from microphonic noise, and the right length. They are resistant to the deleterious effects of sweat and body oils.
I do not like memory wire. IQ and IQ Pro’s cables are strapped with lots of memory wire. In the IQ Pro, that wire is long, semi-flexible, and can be tied behind the head pretty well. Inexplicably, IQ’s cable lacks a neck cinch. Otherwise, it is a great cable. In fact, I’d like to see more IEM companies use robust cables like this- just sans memory wire, and with neck cinches.
Of course, IQ’s cable is removable. Generally, I have something from Linum, or PlusSound, or Charleston Cable Company attached. The IQ Pro’s cable is fixed. Part of the reason is so that it wont twist out of a musician’s ears when performing.
Audiophiles are sedentary. And impatient. IQ’s detachable cable fees the latter while respecting the former.
Sound impressions after the jump: