Ultrasone kind of dropped off the map during that Planar tidal wave a few years back, didn’t they? But then, all of a sudden…bam…a $5000 Edition 5 releases out of nowhere. Not too long after the community outcry of overpricing reached Chernobyl level radioactivity, Ultrasone announced the release of a roughly half priced version of the Edition 5 called the Unlimited.
The Build and Fit
As I recall, I’ve always been extremely firm and even downright mean to headphone designers for producing horrid headband designs, bad earpads or generally anything that makes me look like a satellite dish. In years past, Ultrasone had been the worst culprit with regard to flat out bad headband design, completely ignoring the fact that I could stick my entire arm through the gaps between the headband and the side of my head on numerous models such as: The Pro 900, Pro 750, Pro 2900, Pro 650, DJ1 series and similar. For years, just like Shure and Grado, Ultrasone didn’t listen to anyone and continued to produce these types of designs that nobody cared for. It wasn’t until they designed the near flawless Edition 8 that I actually felt like someone finally listened.
That collage of designers did right again with the Edition 5 models, thankfully. Copying the design of the Edition 8 and using better drivers is something literally everyone who has ever used the Edition 8 wanted. From a build standpoint, the Edition 5 Unlimited is constructed of a very solid aluminum material that encompasses the earcups to the frame of the headband. While on the subject of the headband, just like the Edition 8, this Edition 5 Unlimited remains one of the heftiest and solidly built headphones that I’ve ever used. Solid chunks of metal all around are always appreciated and you begin to wonder why so many other Flagships out there use plastic frames or just a little aluminum here or there, instead of something that doesn’t feel like a toy…yes, I am talking about the HD800 if you couldn’t grasp the obvious blatancy.
The original and hyper expensive Edition 5 came with a wooden earcup plate, a rare type of leather and numerous other expensive materials that jack up the price beyond what it normally would be when a company says something is “limited” and only a few hundred will be produced. So, I am very happy that Ultrasone had a heart and near halved the price for us and used lower quality build materials in the Unlimited version, which now has standard leather used for the pads and headband.
Design and Cable Gripes
Oh boy, they’ve gone and done it again. Edition 8 owners please leave…you’ll not want to hear this next part. Squeak! SQUEAK!
Why Ultrasone, just…why?! The Edition 5 Unlimited shares the exact same frame of the Edition 8 that squeaks and grinds on itself at the earcup junction point that meets the headband. Oh God, it is the worst sound and sometimes it only requires me to turn my head a bit to one side to get it to make that awful noise! How this is even a thing is just baffling to me, as they’ve clearly installed a small piece of felt or some material into that small gap which was likely intended to prevent this from happening in the first place. There have been times where I had been sitting quietly with family or friends around while I was listening to the Edition 5 Unlimited nearby, enjoying my tunes as I normally do and then with just a turn of the head, everyone around turns to me and stares at me like I’ve just passed gas or something. I blamed my cat for it, of course. If there is a next model due out in the future, they’ve got to fix this problem. Ultrasone has been taking the route of Audio Technica and half-caring about bad design elements and this really upsets me quite a lot. Enough already! Please, get it right in the next model.
Ultrasone also includes three cables with your purchase: a very long and medium thickness cable that is terminated in a ¼ adapter, a shorter 5ft long cable made of the same cable as the longer 1/4, but is terminated in a 3.5mm adapter and lastly a very thin cable of a portable length with a mic control and 3.5mm adapter. So far, only the thinner and portable cable survived and both of the other cables failed within hours and had to be replaced. Ultrasone quickly replaced the cables and those replacements also failed. Quality control on these included cables could be the worst I’ve ever seen in a Flagship headphone, but somehow and for unknown reasons, the portable cable works great and I’ve not had a single problem with them. It is also a plus that the Edition 5 cables can be used on the Edition M portable as well…yay?
The most mesmerizing feature this headphone has to offer is the exceptional relaxed tonality that is really nothing like the Edition 8’s harsher listening experience. This time around, Ultrasone’s new Edition 5 Unlimited reacts closer to the Dharma by EnigmaAcoustics, or even the Stax 007 by way of the type of feel the midrange offers the listener. This is an immensely rare type of sound signature, especially for a Dynamic driver closed back! Truly, I adore it and it is the type of sound that I wanted in a smaller headphone for a long time. The closest anyone has ever gotten to perfection in a closed back were both found in the rare Audio Technica ESW10JPN and the ESW11LTD models, but even both of those lacked the soft type of appeal that I enjoy as much as the Edition 5 Unlimited.
The headphone has that soothing tonality I love most, but the midrange lacks a forwardness that my ears crave as well. This is not a forward sounding headphone, so those who love that type of vividly upfront sound should exit the stage right now and seek something else. The Edition 5 Unlimited also pipes out a wonderfully natural and uncolored tone that reminds me of the type of coloration (or lack thereof) in the Stax 007 Mark 1. It you are a neutral or natural sound signature chaser, this headphone’s tonality will satisfy you. It is far less bright than the Edition 8 and lacks the bloated feel to the low end of the Edition 8 as well and it offers a more flat experience from top to bottom, along with a gently relaxed midrange placement. The end result is a yummy and relaxing sound signature that meshes with almost every genre or listening application outside of anything very bassy.
The Low end of this headphone is very good in quality for the most part, but it lacks a vivid depth and responsiveness I would expect from a Flagship. My $399 Fostex Massdrop X00 (an improved TH600) obliterates this Edition 5 Unlimited in their ability to retain control when bassy tracks come into play. The Edition 5 Unlimited loses control fast and leaves me with a sense of wanting more quantity at all times. Stock, and without any EQ, the Edition 5 Unlimited is too balanced sounding for me. However, I think the majority of the community prefers this type of a sound. Despite that, it is plenty clean and enjoyable without a harsh impact or any sense of bloat up to a certain point. Once a bass heavy track appears in your playlist, the Edition 5 Unlimited pulls out a pistol and try’s to kill itself. For this price, this is absurdly unresponsive and there are a number of $400 headphones out there than wreck the Edition 5 in raw responsiveness to bassy tracks and boosting.
The Midrange is simply breathtaking at times and I cannot stress that enough. For such a small and efficient dynamic headphone, the midrange exudes a semi Electrostatic smoothness. In fact, I think I’d rate the Edition 5 Unlimited as the smoothest Dynamic headphone I’ve ever tested or experienced in my life. My problem with it is the lack of vividness and forwardness, but that is a personal gripe. This is a headphone that offers a moderately relaxed sound signature as a whole, so don’t expect a forward-Audeze type of midrange.
Clarity is stellar, even when compared to some of the nicer Flagships out there like the Dharma and even the N90Q from AKG. Sure, the HD800 is still more clean and clear, but this is leaps and bounds better than the Edition 8 and the horrible Edition 10 from Ultrasone. Density factor, that weighted appeal so to speak, is among the best I’ve ever experienced in a closed back headphone that uses a Dynamic driver. Ultrasone has done a wonderful thing here with the midrange, if only other Dynamic produces would make a true Flagship closed back that sounds this smooth and effortless.
Treble isn’t at all a problem, thank the audio Gods. Unlike the atrocious Edition 10 of a few years ago that were almost impossible to listen to, this Edition 5 Unlimited offers just a little bite and brightness, just enough to keep things interesting and all while retaining excellent clarity. Side by side with my TH900, the Edition 5 is the clear winner in terms of raw clarity and actually compares to the N90Q…which was a headphone I regarded as offering A+ rated treble.
Beyond that and just like the low end and midrange, the treble also lacks a harsh slam that I almost expected it to have. By rights, this headphone is one of the smoothest and most enjoyable headphones on the upper end that I’ve come across in a long time. It feels great to know that someone designed and tuned a headphone with just a little brightness, but was also able to implant a less than moderate slam factor (physical impact or “the wince factor”) without ruining the entire top end. It is beautiful and reminds me of the AKG K267 top end, except taken to a higher tier of clarity and fidelity. In a closed back Dynamic headphone, this type of a sound signature is almost non-existent elsewhere.
This headphone offers a relatively average stage size, but one that feels very natural and immensely well setup. Like the Beyerdynamic T1, things feel coherent and correct at all times. There is no sense of stretched stereo imaging here, but there also is a lacking sense of vastness when you compare it to something like the X00 from Fostex, or really anything else known for an excellent sound stage. For what it is, it is fine. It really doesn’t lack or feel too small, but it also isn’t grand enough to be considered a great imaging headphone in terms of height and width. That is where the line is drawn though, as realism factor and the formation of vocals with regard to depth of field is excellent on this headphone.
By comparison, the TH600 and X00 from Fostex (I am using these as comparisons because they are among the best in imaging size prowess for closed headphones) are significantly larger sounding, but lack a realistic depth of field that the Edition 5 Unlimited has in abundance. Oddly, it still works out nicely despite the Edition 5 Unlimited sounding smaller in every way. That is directly due to the excellent density factor, very good depth of field and an imaging setup that feels similar to the Beyerdynamic T1 with regard to a coherent physical setup.
The Edition 5 Unlimited is a very good sounding headphone, so don’t let anyone tell you different. The original Edition 5 sounded marvelous as well, but both models are severely overpriced to astronomical degrees. Yes, there is a difference between the $5000 Edition 5 and the $2750 Edition 5 Unlimited, but it is very small to my ears. What exactly is causing that difference, I’ve not a clue for certain, but I can speculate. I’ve heard the Edition 5 numerous times and on the same gear that I own, so I can safely say the Unlimited version is 95% the same and the likely causes of the differences between them are caused by the lack of a wooden plate on the Unlimited version. With that in mind, the Edition 5 Unlimited is easily one of the most overpriced headphones to be released recently and fits in with the similarly overpriced units such as the AK series, the Abyss and Sennheiser’s new Orpheus $50,000 monstrosity.
Despite that, this headphone still is an absolute pleasure to listen to, sounds lovely, looks lovely and feels great in build. If this headphone had been priced at $999 like it should have been, everyone would have ignored Audeze, Hifiman and Sennheiser and flocked right back to Ultrasone to buy one of these. Ultrasone missed a hell of an opportunity to price humanely and regather a consumer base, make a ton of cash and along with newfound respect earned from the consumer base for the company producing a hell of a deal type product. Instead, they’ve went to complete reverse of that and are banking on sales of few very rich folk who don’t care what the price of the headphone is. The price to performance of this headphone is very uneven there is no getting around it. It is a $2750 headphone that is bested in some ways by a $400 Fostex with regard to bass response, but one that also holds a mid-range and treble that can compare to some of the nicer Flagships out there in the lower Summit level priced tier.
- 2nd Cable4 m cable, with straight 6.3 mm NEUTRIK plug
- CaseHigh quality transportation bag
- Detachable cableYes
- Driver size40 mm
- Frequency range5 – 46.000 Hz
- Weight (excl. cord)280 g
- Impedance32 Ohm
- Cable1,5 m cable, with angled 3.5mm NEUTRIK plug
- PrincipleDynamic, closed
- Specialties3rd cable // 1,2 m cable with microphone & remote, angled 3,5 mm plug
- SPL96 dB
- TechnologyULE-Technology (Ultra Low Emission) – MU Metal shielding