Disclaimer: The UBSOUND Dreamer Black & Gold was sent to us a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank UBSOUND for this opportunity.
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We have covered UBSOUND gear before, most notably the Magister in-ear monitor early this year and prior to that the Orchestra and the Fighter.
UBSOUND for those that are unfamiliar is an Italian audio manufacturer who specializes in entry-level headphones and earphones for the consumer lifestyle end of the market.
Everything put out on the shelves are designed to work primarily with a smartphone and entry-level DAP users with a moderate level of power. You will not find planar or high impedance products in their portfolio, at least not yet.
The original Dreamer headphone was launched at $99 back in 2015 so the Black & Gold is an updated limited edition version based on customer feedback. It has some technical and cosmetic enhancements and is priced at ‘low-risk’ $49 which is half the original launch a few years back.
Some quick checks confirm both the original and Black & Gold are the same price in their online store.
The Black & Gold LE, much like the original Dreamer houses a 40mm single dynamic driver in a closed back portable or on-ear supraaural design. However, I am informed the actual dynamic driver has been upgraded over the original for a little more midrange clarity and emphasis to pull back a little from the more V-Shaped response of the first Dreamer.
UBSound have also done some external design upgrades to enhance comfort and durability. These include a new earpad material which is softer than the original pads for additional comfort as well as a more robust cable design with an improved OFC wire. The company is also pitching an improved inline remote control and microphone experience with the new LE edition.
Finally, the new Dreamer has been given a new lick of rubberized paint to fit in with the black and gold theme that is being promoted as being more fingerprint and handling friendly than the shinier polished black of the original version.
The Dreamer Black & Gold is an all-plastic affair save for the pleather pads and headband padding. Even the internal headband slider is stiffened plastic material. I do not see this build as being as brittle as the Skullcandy and Beats materials which are often prone to breaking but I would advise handling the Dreamer with a little care.
There is a moderate level of flexibility in the design and some cup swivel to accommodate heads of varying size. There is also a little bit of creaking when flexing around the cup pivots but nothing terribly distracting.
The Dreamer is not foldable which at this price point is understandable but it does mean the form factor makes the Dreamer on the larger side of portable circumaural headphones. Headphones such as Meze’s Classic line up are a little bigger in cup size whereas the Dreamer is more in line with Sony MDR-1R’s cup dimensions but with a slightly smaller internal opening.
The cable on the Dreamer Black & Gold is a non-detachable single-entry wire on the base of the left cup. It measures around 1.35m and built using an OFC wire and housed in a rubberized tube jacket. It is terminated with a single gold-plated 3.5mm TRS jack.
Strain relief is not great and the wire does have a little more movement than I would like so I would advise not pulling on it too much. The cable has very low memory retention so it will not tangle but there does seem to be a bit of noise on the strain relief when moving the cable around.
UBSOUND have not supplied an additional quarter jack converter as they see the Dreamer primarily as a headphone for 3.5mm output devices such as smartphones and DAPs.
The inline remote and mic module is fairly basic but does work fairly well with decent voice clarity on calls. Comparing this module with the original Dreamer module the mic port and buttons look a little bigger and better made. It does lack volume control but you can track select, pause and play as well as call up Google Assistant with a long-play for Android.
Comfort & Fit
This is a fairly lightweight headphone so there is not a lot of downwards pressure which does help. The new pads of the Black and gold do make a difference over the original version of the Dreamer in terms of comfort. They seem to settle a little bit better on the ear and have marginally better isolation. The level of adjustment on the headband is good with no sizing issues and a decent level of notch grip on the slider.
The clamp is fairly strong but not overly uncomfortable because of the new pads. The pressure is more on the sides than the top though there is a fairly small contact point on the headband to the scalp which can be distracting from time to time.
Because it is an on-ear design a lot portion of the pads will be on the ears which tend to be hit and miss for background isolation. I would class the isolation levels of the Dreamer to be slightly below par compared to the likes of the older Aiaiai TMA-1 round cups which had deeper pads and the Classics from Meze which do clear the ear and sit more on the neck.
The level of isolation is more on the level of the MDR-1R which seems to be equally porous but more comfortable and with better pressure distribution.
Accessories & Packaging
The packaging is fairly basic but to be honest, at $49 for a headphone I am not sure what more UBSOUND could offer without eating into their margins.
You get a fairly substantial and professionally printed soft cardboard black retail box and inside a soft cloth pouch with the headphones inside. The black velvet cloth pouch is the same as the original Dreamer headphone with a cloth drawstring design and white UBSOUND branding at the front. It is fairly roomy so no issues fitting the headphones inside though it offers little or no protection from bumps and knocks.
Tonality & Presentation
The Dreamer Black & Gold LE is a fairly colored presentation with a musical tilt towards a slight mid-bass emphasis, an enhanced or forward-sounding higher-pitched vocal presence, and a fairly laid-back treble presence.
The tone is nothing I would perceive as being overly dark but it is warm, a little soft and lacking in instrumental clarity. There is a bit of sub-bass roll off around 100Hz and it does seem to peak around 100-300Hz so you do get a bit of bleed into the lower mids. It is reasonably punchy but thankfully the low-end does not drown out the rest of the range. I have heard some mind-numbing basshead experiences but the Dreamer Black & Gold is a little more balanced than that.
It is the type of tuning that gravitates towards modern EDM where there is less emphasis on midrange complexity and more demand from the low-end. So with tracks from the likes of Grimes, Juno Dreams and say, Katy Perry, it is going to perform to its strengths. Slip on some complex rock or metal such as Royal Hunt or U2 where the lower midrange needs a lot of space and resolution then it starts to fall down a bit.
The best advice is to keep it simple such as stripped-down acoustics for casual listening or slower paced modern pop and EDM and the Dreamer Black & Gold will get the job done.
Staging is a little narrow with a bit more depth than height. It casts a somewhat intimate soundstage with the mid-bass more forward than anything else as well as female vocals. Male vocals are further back a little especially if there is a lot of lower-pitched instrumental activity which tends to come to the front of the stage.
Left-right separation is ok actually and you do get a reasonable level of imaging but again it depends on what you throw at it. Synth Wave seems your best bet to get any sort of 3-dimensional performance out of the Dreamer. Here, I find the listening acceptable though I do miss a bit of sub-bass depth and power with that sub-100Hz roll off.
The low-end is mid-bass orientated with a fair amount of sub-bass roll-off beyond 100Hz. The mid-bass is not hugely overcooked though so whilst it is warm sounding it is so muddy as to completely drown out instrumental presence. Rather it is a soft bass response with a slow decay and more about punch than power. Lower-pitched instrumental bass fundamental is there but a little south of neutral.
I would advise against EQ’ing this driver. We tried and beyond 1-2dB using Stellio and HiBy Music app’s we did start to get a fair amount of distortion. The driver does respond better to mids and treble EQ elevation.
The mids are not quite as dipped as the original Dreamer’s heavily V-Shaped presentation but it still plays second fiddle to its mid-bass presence. There is a definite dip from around 600-800Hz which prevents the lower mids from sounding overly muddy but not quite enough to prevent some bass bleed.
This is not a driver that has a lot of definition and control so instrumental separation is not enough for me to convince with complex arrangements. Strip the music down to something like the ambient solo vocal and soft driving synth rhythms of Deadmau5’s Let Go from their W:/2016ALBUM and it does so much better. Vocals need space to perform at their best and this is the type of music that will allow that.
The instrumental timbre is actually ok for me on the Dreamer Black & Gold. It has some decent body, a smooth response and very little in the way of sharp sounding partial overtones. Vocals are much the same in terms of timbre sounding smooth rather than harsh. They do lack a little detail and can sound veiled with not a huge amount of space afforded by its narrow soundstage.
The lower treble on the Black & Gold is quite dipped in all honesty. It may remove any nasty overtones and brash sounding percussion but it also robs the upper mids and vocals of a little air and presence. There is a bit more upper treble presence around 8-10k so that prevents the presentation from sounding dark and shelved down.
Compared to the original Dreamer it is a little more balanced and natural sounding to my ear but I would have preferred just a little less suck-out from the lower treble and some more bite in my percussion timbre.
The Dreamer Black & Gold is rated a 32Ω and 110dB so it will work just fine from a smartphone or moderately powered DAP. It does require a little more juice than your average IEM and it is marginally less efficient than Meze’s Classic and Neo range. On an LG G6, you will achieve decent volume around 60 out of 80 digital steps in its Hi-Fi mode and on a Sony WM1A around 75 digital steps in low gain mode.
The Dreamer is not that sensitive to noise so it is unlikely you will detect any high noise floors on portable gear and you certainly will not hear any background hiss. However, the driver is not that scalable both in terms of EQ is prone to heavy distortion if you try to tweak that low-end too much, even by 2-3dB.
It does scale a little better with clean and moderately more powerful external portable amps. Pairing it with an iBasso P5 Falcon and the dynamic range improved substantially with better instrumental clarity and separation. I am not suggesting you grab a $500 portable amp for a $50 headphone, something like a $50 FiiO amp such as the new K3 might just do the trick over a weaker smartphone’s output.
Vs Original Dreamer Edition
The improvements are welcome over the original Dreamer and it does look a bit classier. I presented both to my wife and she immediately picked the new black and gold version as looking the more professional of the two. The ear pads are a better-quality material and definitely more comfortable. The inner pad opening on the black and gold is also a bit bigger. The isolation is not hugely improved but the clamping force has been mitigated somewhat.
The build quality is much the same in terms of the plastic frame and sliders so there are some question marks on the durability of the Dreamer when out and about. Neither have any folding capability so they are both a little on the large side for portability.
Both are 32Ω 100dB spec’ed headphones, so the driving requirements are virtually the same. In terms of synergy, I would advise a slightly more neutral source or amp for the Black and Gold than the original Dreamer as the treble on the LE is a bit tamer and more laid back.
The Dreamer is a bit more V-shaped compared to the slightly mellower and warmer sounding Black & Gold Edition. You get a lot more treble presence on the original Dreamer which has some pros and cons. Instrumental timbre is a little more neutral sounding with more bite and odd harmonic infusion.
The new Dreamer is smoother and warmer sounding with a bit more upper bass and lower-mids presence and a thicker instrumental timbre. I do prefer the vocal performance on the newer Black & Gold but only if the music is sparse, stripped down and focused on vocal delivery. Both are not the best for vocal performance is the entire soundstage is full of busy instrumental workouts.
Percussion on the original Dreamer will sound a bit livelier than the Black & Gold edition which tends to mute the upper mids and lower treble a lot more. You also get a bit more sibilance and a slightly thinner sounding instrumental timbre from the original Dreamer.
I am perhaps not the best judge of where the Dreamer Black & Gold sits in terms of budget entry-level of headphones. I do not have that many sitting around to compare and contextualize its performance other than the original Dreamer.
On that basis, it is a definite improvement in terms of comfort and visual aesthetics. The ear pads are an improvement, the in-line remote and mic is an upgrade on the original and the matte black paint job much slicker looking. Whilst neither look terribly durable I would take my chances quicker on the new version over the old version. The older version seems to be prone to a lot of creaking and much more so than the Black & Gold.
Tonally, it is a question of preference but technically their resolution levels are much the same. The older Dreamer is V-shaped but with little or no low-end impact for my tastes. The Black & Gold is a bit more balanced though the treble sounds more laid back with a fairly muted lower treble performance. If you want something with a bit more low-end body, mids presence, and a warmer mellower sound then the Black & Gold will give you that.
I would say for $49 the Dreamer Black & Gold is par for the course with my expectation levels and generally a reasonable and forgiving sounding consumer pick for electronica and synth wave.
Dreamer Black & Gold LE Technical Specifications
- High performance 40mm independent dynamic drivers.
- Sensitivity: 110dB/mW.
- Frequency response: 18Hz – 22.000Hz.
- Maximum distortion: <0,2%.
- Impedance: 32Ω.
- Adjustable headband and ear cups. 2 years warranty