The Edition 5 Unlimited By Ultrasone
Tonality8
Build & Fit9
Matchability8
Value For Money5
7.5Our Score

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.

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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.

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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?

Sound Impressions

Tonality

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.

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Bass

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.

Mids

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

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.

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Stage

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.

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Final Thoughts

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.

Price: $2750

Links: http://ultrasone-shop.com/us/ultrasone-editionen/96-ultrasone-pro-550-.html

Technical Specifications

  • 2nd Cable4 m cable, with straight 6.3 mm NEUTRIK plug
  • CaseHigh quality transportation bag
  • Detachable cableYes
  • Drivertitanium-plated
  • 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

About The Author

Senior Reviewer

Self Proclaimed Musicality Guru, Photographer, Audiophile and part time Ninja. I started my audio journey back in 96' and haven't looked back. My ultimate goal in this life is to experience as many Hifi rigs as possible...because I am an audio addict.

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  • There must be a story behind those cable failures. Even the $20 headphone makers rarely have a cable failure right from the start.

    • 24bit

      Yea, I’ve never seen such a thing before.

  • obsidyen

    Overpriced, yes… But there’s something about Ultrasone house sound that just attracts me. I’ve got Ultrasone Edition M and despite the high price, it is absolutely amazing. I’m wondering if I should get these as well for home use.

    • 24bit

      Yep, I’m with you on that. They’ve done a wonderful job on the Ed5 and M models for overall feel and sound signature. It is very hard to go back to other smaller headphones, hell it is hard to go back to the Dharma and a few other Flagships after using the Unlimited. It is just so yummy, if it had better bass response and a bit more quantity, I’d be so much happier.

      • obsidyen

        Is the sound signature similar to Edition M? I’ve joined the 2nd drop for TH-X00 on Massdrop so I covered the basshead end (tried TH900 before, didn’t like its treble response) but I would still get the Edition 5 Unlimited for home/transportable use, if the sound signature is similar to Edition M.

        • 24bit

          My next review is the X00, hell of a headphone! Take some solace in the idea that the X00 is almost on par with the Ed5U in clarity in the mids and exceeds it in bass quantity and quality. The Ed5U treble is definitely better, but the X00 sounds larger and more spacious. ED5U bests it in realism and density factor in the mids and treble. Give and take, both sets beat the other in some ways.

          No, the edition M and the Ed5 Unlimited are not the same in setup. The M is noticeable more forward, boosted on the treble and not as solid on the low end. The M feels very closed in and lacking in depth of field and realism, noticeably less clean and much more grainy on the top and in the upper mids. The low end also feels watery by comparison. The Ed5U is more relaxed sounding with placement of mids and the impact of the ED5U is softer, where as the M is noticeably harsher on impact from top to bottom. Two completely different sound types.

          • obsidyen

            I see. Relaxed/soft sounding headphones usually make me bored (PM-2, I’m looking at you), but I don’t like harsh treble either (e.g. TH900). I find Edition M treble to be very lively but smooth at the same time.Thanks for the comparison, I should audition before getting Edition 5. I just wish Ultrasone just made a headphone with 50 mm driver, I think that’s necessary for TH900 level of bass.

          • 24bit

            No prob! Always around to answer as best I can. 🙂

            The Ed5U is very soft, as mentioned its one of the smoothest dynamic driver headphones I’ve ever heard and I just didn’t feel okay in saying this was without a doubt the most slick and soft dynamic closed back available. I would not call it lively, it is definitely a relaxing headphone. The M is certainly lively.

            The smallest portable I am aware of with awesome bass quality and quantity are both found in the Audio Technica ES10 (53mm driver I belive, but its still small and an on ear) and the ESW11LTD. Both of them are excellent headphones, but hard to obtain. If you want Fostex level bass in a portable, those are the only two that do it well and proper. But ya, the X00 is just yummy beyond belief for the price.

  • Cmky

    ”Listening to transducers like the Edition 5 is an eye opening experience and proves that headphones are capable of recreating the sound in an unusual way. The closest to what this design offers are the electrostatic headphones from Stax on the one side and magnetostatic HiFiMANs on the other. The electrostats have a similar way of handling the “tissue” of sound, equal balance of reflected and direct sounds. The Ultrasone are much more coherent and delicate. With not even a trace of brightness and sharpening. Magnetostatic planar designs, such as the HE-6 from HiFiMan, the LCD-X from Audeze or the PM-1 from Oppo driven by Oppo’s dedicated HA-1 amplifier/converter, share with the Edition 5 a smoothness and directness of sound. The Ultrasone combine several elements that do not appear in any design I know of. Here, they provide something unavailable with any other design.”

    — High Fidelity Magazine, 11 September, 2015, vol. 124Cmky

    • 24bit

      It is vividly obvious to anyone who listens to this set that this is the case for the overall sound signature. They put out a static phone substance factor and slickness uncommon in dynamic drivers. However, the different materials of the Ed5 Unlimited differ in the treble experience over the original and the Unlimited version is audibly sharper, less clear and definitely brighter.

      — Headfonics, February 3, 2016. Me.

      • Peter wilson

        Would appreciate you explaining what you are referring to by “this is the case.” Would also appreciate you explaining what you mean by “static phone substance factor and slickness.” Of course, you wrote about the Unlimited, but it may have been helpful if you noted a difference between the Limited vs. the Unlimited, to avoid confusion, since they are both Edition 5’s.

        • 24bit

          Sure. Cmky said that the Edition 5 sounds like an electrostatic headphone and I agreed. Electrostatics put out an effortless feel to their experiences, in most cases. Everything feels rounded and like the audio flows naturally and smoothly without a harshness or overly thick sound. Planars tend to ignore that and offer a sharpened, thick and weighted feel.

          The Edition 5 unlimited has a midrange that feels like a static headphone, instead of a dynamic driver which is what the headphone actually uses in its design. It is very interesting due to the fact that it is extremely rare for a dynamic headphone driver to offer an electrostatic driver type of a sound signature. It is much like the video smoothing and motion smoothing features on a tv. When you set motion smoothing to very high, the picture glides and looks like a soap opera effect, it is very slick looking and free flowing. I attribute that effect in audio for electrostatic drivers: something hyper smooth, rounded and at a high frame rate. There are no measuring equipment gears currently invented that can accurately portray a headphones substance and heft factor, or their smoothness factor. So sadly, first hand experience is the key to truly grasping the difference between planars, dynamic and electrostatic drivers.

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