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September 2014
Issue: February 1, 2009

REVIEW: ULTRASONE HFI-580 HEADPHONES

By: Tom Phillips
MANUFACTURER: Ultrasone

PRODUCT: HFI-580 Headphones

WEBSITE: www.ultrasone.com

PRICE: $199 MSRP

Headphones in professional studios have many different applications depending upon how one uses them. I use headphones to compose and then to record and overdub. I mix through monitors, but I want the sound in the headphones to be fairly close to what I will hear in the monitors.

The Ultrasone HFI-580 headphones have a distinctly different sound than what I am used to. Ultrasone, based in Tutzing, South Germany, calls their process "S-Logic Natural Surround Sound," and states that it gives a natural three-dimensional sound. It is indeed a full and rich, nicely-imaged stereo sound. The Ultrasones are much louder than my AKG 240s, have a punchier and more defined low-end, and are a closed ear system in terms of effectively isolating outside sound. What this means is that reference tracks won't bleed through the phones into a microphone, the full range of bass provides a strong bottom, and the amplification system doesn't need to be turned up as much, making it quieter in terms of amplifier noise.

They are very comfortable, solidly built, and the cable is long. The mid-range and high-end frequencies were not quite as well defined to me. The switch from headphones to speakers wasn't quite what I expected, although they still sounded very good.

Bass players, drummers and guitarists will love these headphones for obvious reasons. The punch and volume along with that crisp low-end that these can put out should hold up very well in loud recording applications. If you need to slip an ear out to hear your live sound with what comes through the phones, these are heavier and bulkier than what you may be used to, and perhaps not best suited for that.

I will certainly use these headphones for applications where isolation is paramount (click tracks!), and for recordings that are edgy and punchy, which have always been problematic situations…now the problem is solved.

Tom Phillips is a composer and partner at OBT Music in Boston. He can be reached at: tphillips@obtmusic.com.