Sound Impressions

Summary

The Edition 11 surprised me with its tuning. I was expecting something more like the Edition 8 only a bit more spacious sounding given its an open-back design. Whilst it still has a fairly recognizable ‘musical’ Ultrasone house sound the balance is actually really good.

This is fairly U-shaped FR but the lower-mids dip, whilst detectable is not that extreme and the bass signature, whilst elevated is not overly aggressive. That theme continues into the upper mids and treble response which is energetic but again, not overly harsh or peaky sounding.

The timbre is a little mixed with a warmish but punchy low-end with a bias to mid-bass presence over sub-bass dominance and a forward upper mids and treble that balances out that mid-bass warmth with some nice contrast.

It does have a touch of a hard-edged attack in its treble depending on the source you throw at it but overall I found the Edition 11 signature to be quite engaging and nuanced enough to work well with a wide range of genres, particularly female vocals and my old fav, synth wave.

Staging

There is some source and amping dependency for staging on the Edition 11. We found solid state amps with good power to give the low-end a bit of a lift and deliver some additional dynamic range compared to weaker sources. That is wholly consistent with its fairly inefficient 94dB rating.

Overall,  the Edition 11 will deliver a solid perception of distance from the stage. That lower-mids dip from 200Hz up to 1k will pull back instrumental presence and lower pitched vocals. The mid-bass is forward but the sub-bass less so. You get a hefty kick but it is not quite as powerful or pure sounding right down to 20Hz as a good planar driver.

Upper mids and lower treble will bring higher pitched vocals and percussion presence further forward on the Edition 11. Staging height is good up to 8k then it has a gentle roll-off beyond. I do not find the extension lacking though nor do I find it suffering from a problem with headroom.

Bass

The low-end on the Edition 11 is warm, full-bodied and punchy rather than sub-bass dominant and powerful. That is not to say it sounds lean or overly rolled-off, rather the mid-bass sees the most action from 70-100mHz.



As with most dynamic drivers, the decay is a touch on the long side so whilst the impact is good the pace is a little more languid compared to planar headphones. I still find it a lively low-end that pairs really well with old fashioned hard rock and it delivers enough even harmonic overtones into lower-pitched instrumental notes to sound quite smooth with good texture.

Mids

That smidgen of bass bloom doesn’t travel that far up the FR with Ultrasone tuning a slow dip that starts fairly early, around 200mHz, and stayed reasonably dipped to around the 1K marker.

Instrumental presence and male or lower-pitched vocals stay back a little but at the same time sound quite clear. This is not a veiled signature, not by a long shot. But neither is it a forward or intimate performance.

Instrumental timbre does have a very nice balance to it and for me, it sounds quite natural to up to around 4k. The lower-mids dip prevents too much smear and bleed from the mid-bass elevation and the more aggressive upper mids and lower-treble injects some necessary odd-harmonic overtones to prevent detail from sounding smoothed over.

From 1-2k the Edition 11 starts a slow rise, peaking around 4k in the upper mids. Higher pitched vocals get a shot in the arm so female vocals will sound more focused and a little further forward as does percussion placement and presence.

Depending on what music you listen to and your source/amp mix the more aggressive upper-mids, combined with an energetic treble might produce a slightly harder edge and a drier tone to percussion and high-pitched vocal timbre but nothing I could define as sibilant or overly splashy sounding.

Treble

The Edition 11 has a slight drop from the upper=mids (3-4k) down into the treble around 5-6k before it again gains some presence from 6-8/9k. The last bump will give it a bit of sparkle and a lively sound, but it also prevents it from sounding overly rolled-off or lacking in air.

The articulate treble tuning also delivers a nice contrast to the warmer mid-bass signature and keeps the harmonic balance to my ear fairly natural sounding.

As mentioned in our mids run-down, those instruments that pull from their harmonic balance from that 7-8k peak will sound drier and slightly hard-edged but this can be controlled somewhat with a good tube amp. Solid-state amps such as the very natural and detailed sounding Rupert Neve RHNP also produced a wonderful harmonic balance to the Edition 11’s top-end.

Ultrasone Edition 11

Matchability

We tested the Edition 11 on 4 different sources and amps. For sources, we tested it with the R3 at 55mW into a 32Ω load to the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch DAP at 0.5W into the same load.

For desktop setups, we used the new Yulong D10 DAC feeding two excellent analog amps, the Rupert Never RNHP, and the Xi Audio Formula S. The RHNP is rated at roughly around 300mW unbalanced whereas the Formula S is a huge 2-3W into a similar load.

Scaling & Synergy

The Edition 11 is rated at 32Ω and 94dB. That is not terribly efficient though the output power demand is thankfully not so high that it negates DAPs with low-powered outputs.

Whilst the Edition 11 presents no significant SPL challenges even on what I consider to be fairly weak outputs such as the HiBy R3 (55mW x 55mW) it will sound punchier and more expansive the higher up the ladder you go.

RNHP

Despite the relative lack of pure grunt, the Rupert Neve setup delivered what I considered to be the punchiest of responses from the 4 test setups though it just lacked a little bit of treble extension compared to the Formula S. Overall, the RHNP was very organic, very natural sounding and personally I thought it had the best value performance out of the sources selected.

Xi Audio Formula S

Formula S

The Formula S combination eased off on the Edition 11’s low-end just a tiny bit but offered a slightly sweeter timbre, more midrange instrumental separation and presence, and a very spacious sound. Not surprisingly this was the absolute best performance of our tested amps but at over $3000 I would expect it to be so.

Transparency

Our testing showed that the Edition 11 can scale though not to the same levels as a pure planar but neither does it sound as bad on poor sources that demanding planars can often be. It also showed a degree of transparency with our selected sources in combination with the relative output power performance.

For example, the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch pairing had the most forward treble out of the four, the cleanest sound and the most neutral timbre. I also lost a little bit of the low-end body but it still felt fairly punchy and very detailed. Its 0.5W output seems more than capable of delivering a good level of dynamic range though not quite as the same level as our desktop variants.

With the HiBy R3, the Edition 11 initially sounded a bit smoother but on a longer listening session the detail was not as good, and both ends of the extension lacked reach and presence. Overall, a more compressed and darker signature due to the lack of power and the core tuning not going for as much treble as the LPGT.

Select Comparisons

Kennerton Vali

$990

Technical

The Vali is also a woody enclosed dynamic driver open-back headphone priced almost the same but that’s about it for similarities. The Vali driver inside is a little bit bigger but aligned in central or lateral facing angle unlike the angled S-Logic®  driver inside the Edition 11.

The driver is also a bit bigger at 50mm compared to the Edition 11 40mm and uses a composite paper cone driver shielded in a laminated multi-layered film developed by Peerless® (Tymphany). The Edition 11 reverts to TruText bio-cellulose fiber compound membrane on their driver.

The Vali uses mini-XLR connectors compared to the unusual 2-pin of the Edition 11. The 2-pin keeps things very light but I like the strength of the mini-XLR connectors on the Vali.

Form Factor

The form factor is where the Edition 11 really pulls ahead of the Vali in terms of comfort. I am accepting the production run change Kennerton did recently to make a better fit, which may change things slightly. However, comparing the review sample of both, the Ultrasone is a superlative fit with bigger and comfier velour pads.

The Vali is heavier, by almost 130g heavier and you can feel it on your head compared to the Edition’s 11 better pressure displacement. I get virtually no scalp pressure balance so in the end, it is all downwards on the top of the ear. The pads are leather but smaller so they tend to sit on the edges of my ears. The Edition 11 sits as a true circumaural with softer larger pads and no pressure down on the ear.

Props to Kennerton for a beautiful finish on both the headphones and retail packaging. The Edition 11 might steal the show on the more refined finish on the headphones but even its excellent packaging pales compared to the woody display of the Vali.

Kennerton Vali

Performance

The Vali is rated at 32Ω and 100dB and whilst its power needs are the same as the Edition 11 on paper its SPL is much higher (+6dB) and will sound the more efficient of the two on moderate sources. In short, less volume or current required for the Vali but not a huge gap in our testing with solidly powered desktop amps.

Though there was a slight dip in volume for the Formula S amp I didn’t find myself urgently reach for the volume to get to a listening comfort level. Louder? Yes. Uncomfortably louder? No. On the Rupert Never RHNP, it followed a similar pattern and any adjusting is more to do with their tuning than massive SPL differences.



Tuning

The Vali is a more aggressive and slightly more intimate signature with a solid low-end and lower-mids/vocal presence. The Edition 11, by comparison, is a little more muted on the low-end with a more neutral lower-mids, instrumental timbre, and vocal positioning.

That’s a contextual statement though because I do find that the Edition 11 low-end is fairly full-bodied also. Rather the Vali has a bit more amplitude or dB gain around the 60-100Hz marker and as such is a little more aggressive and forward sounding.

The Vali also has a more pronounced lower-mids to 1k bump for vocals and instrumental presence. The Edition 11 stays relatively linear or neutral sounding until around 2-3k. You will find the Edition 11 instrumental positioning and some lower-pitched vocals are further back in the mix whereas the Vali sounds the more forceful and forward of the two. It also gives the Edition 11 a perceived midrange staging openness over the Vali.

Beyond and into the upper mids/treble, the Edition 11 is a little more forward sounding to my ear with greater elevation up to around 8k. The Vali which starts to drop off a bit earlier with only a minor bump around 6-7k to break the fall.

Higher pitched timbre has a bit more bite on the Edition 11 and perhaps a slightly steelier sound to its timbre compared to the smoother sounding Vali. The Edition 11, however, sounds the airier of the two with more headroom and generally a better sense of height to its soundstage.

MrSpeakers AEON Flow

$799

Technical

The AEON Flow is MrSpeakers open back variant of what you could technically term as their latest ‘entry-level’ planar headphone. In some ways, the engineering is similar to the Edition 11. Both are quite compact with only a 20g weight difference between them. Both have really top-notch comfort levels and fitting, however, they go about achieving this in very different ways.

The AEON Nitinol headband is pure genius and one of the lightest on the market. It had to be since dynamic drivers are almost always much lighter than planar magnetic drivers.  The teardrop cup and tall angled pad design allows for a great circumaural fit around the ear.

The fitting on the Edition 11 goes for traditional round cups but with big soft micro-velour pads. Both are spot on for pad comfort but I give the edge to the AEON Flow overall because they clamp a little less.

Connectors on the AEON Flow are a little more niche with the DUM Hirose dual-entry connector system compared to the more universal 2-pin SPC on the Edition 11. That being said, it is universal on an IEM, not a headphone, so both headphones might suffer from a lack of easy-to-get aftermarket options.

AEON Flow

Performance

The AEON Flow is rated at a very easy to drive 13Ω but is equally as inefficient as the Edition 11 at 94dB SPL. Both will scale and both require a quality level of current to sound optimal.

However, in our testing on the Formula S solid-state flagship amp, we actually found the AEON Flow to gobble up a lot more current compared to the Edition 11. 94dB feels like a conservative estimate by MrSpeakers with the Edition 11 also quite a bit louder on lesser powered but solid sounding amps like the RHNP as well as the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch (0.5W).

Tuning

Very different tunings here. The AEON Flow is much more intimate than the Edition 11. Both have a bit of sub-bass roll-off with perhaps the AEON Flow petering away a bit earlier.

However, the mid-bass bump is more elevated and the slow drop into the mids much more prolonged on the AEON Flow. The Edition 11 bottoms out around 500Hz and the AEON Flow around 1k. You get a lot more timbral warmth on the AEON Flow compared to the Edition 11 as well as a more forward instrumental presence.

The Edition 11 pulls back a bit, offering a more spacious sound, a more neutral timbre and staging that is not as intimate. Lower pitched vocals on the Edition 11 are also a little further back and not as full-bodied.

Both have a 2-3k elevation into the upper mids but unlike the Edition 11, the AEON Flow starts a fairly prolonged dip into the treble from 2-5k which I find fairly normal in a lot of planar sound signatures.

The Edition 11 only has a minor 5k dip and outside of that stays fairly energetic up to 8k. The AEON Flow does have a small 8k peak but its quite narrow and primarily to avoid it being devoid of sparkle and sounding dark.

The AEON Flow will sound a bit more roll-off in the lower treble and lacking in a little air around that region. The Edition 11’s more forward treble presence has a slightly steelier sound, not quite as smooth as the AEON Flow but percussion has more bite and presence and more of a contrast to the warmish low-end. It will sound the more ‘exciting’ of the two.

Hifiman Ananda

$999

Technical

The Ananda is one of those really nice all-rounders that Hifiman tends to put out once in a while. In a way, it sort of replaces the Edition X at a lower price point but with a better performing planar magnetic driver, their Neo “supernano” Diaphragm or NsD for short.

The Ananda is a little heavier at 399g with much bigger elongated cups than the Edition 11 traditional rounded velour padded alternatives. Both achieve the same goal though of being truly circumaural and having no issues clearing ears when in use.

Comfort on these vary but I give just a tiny edge to the Ananda due to the clamping being not as tight as the Edition 11. The cups do creep a long way down your neck so if you want something tidier then the Edition 11 is better. The Edition 11 is also simply much better built and sturdier than the Ananda. The Ananda looks and feels cheaper beside the beautiful wood and matte black aluminum design of the Edition 11.

I also prefer the Edition 11 cable’s physical finish and handling. I just find the weird hospital IV tubing on the Ananda not easily controlled though very low on microphonics.

Hifiman Ananda

Performance

The Ananda is very easy to drive for a planar and also more efficient than the Edition 11 at 25Ω and 103dB. Not that it won’t scale and sound good on a great headphone amp but in our tests, we found the Edition 11 just a little easier to drive than the Ananda, especially on desktop amps such as the RHNP and Xi Audio’s Formula S. Certainly, it got louder faster than the Ananda.

Tuning

The Ananda is a little more reference in its tuning than the Edition 11 though in its own right it is not a totally flat or neutral tuning. Rather the Edition 11 is more musical sounding, more aggressive on the low-end and more dipped in the lower-mids.

Both have a slight sub-bass roll-off though the Ananda’s feels a little more significant. The mid-bass hump on the Edition 11 is more exaggerated giving it a more pronounced level of impact whereas the Ananda rises and peaks around 300Hz and stays quite linear to 1k.

Mids

The Edition 11 drops and curves down from 300Hz to 1k so lower-mids and male vocals have less presence than the Ananda. Lower-mids instrumental presence on the Ananda is better but the timbre is also a little lighter in tone. Most likely the Ananda’s light sub-bass presence robs the presentation of a little weight and power compared to the Edition 11’s punchier tuning.

Vocals do generally have a much better focus on the Ananda sounding more forward with that bump up to 1k. Particularly so with male vocals. With female less so due to a pronounced dip from 2-4k on the Ananda.

The Edition 11 has more presence in that region though the timbre is shaded somewhat with that harder sounding treble overtone. Percussion timbre on the Ananda doesn’t have the same energy and forwardness but that’s ok, it sounds a little smoother and natural sounding for my tastes compared to the Edition 11.

Treble

The one quibble I have with the Ananda treble is a narrow bandwidth peak around 7k. It is not overly harsh but it does have a slight overtone that infuses higher pitched instrumental timbre with some leanness on neutral sources and amps. I tend to switch the Ananda to tube amps just to get a little more wetness and a nice harmonic balance in its attack as a result.

The Edition 11 has a similar peak at around 7-8k but from 3-6k it is also fairly elevated also meaning it hard-edged but not terribly lean sounding. It has a similar overtone but a little more body.

Our Verdict

The Edition 11 is clearly targeted to those who just want to relax and enjoy their music. It is also a presentation that I have not heard before on an Ultrasone headphone. There are some elements of that classic punchy and clean sound but the tuning is much more nuanced, lively but more balanced and most importantly, a treble signature that’s articulate but not overly splashy. Engaging yes, fatiguing no.

That long listening session potential of the Edition 11 is helped in no small measure by that beautiful build quality, soft comfy micro-velour pads and a steady tightish clamp that is more secure than limpet-like.

It is a beautiful headphone, one of the nicest I have seen at this price range. So often boutique beauty doesn’t quite measure up in the sound quality department, so the Edition 11 is enjoyably competitive in that regard.

Ultrasone Edition 11 Specifications

  • Principle: dynamic, open-back
  • S-Logic® Plus technology
  • ULE technology
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Driver/Driver size: TruTex bio-cellulose fiber compound, 40mm
  • Magnet: NdFeB
  • Frequency range: 6 – 42,000 Hz
  • SPL: 94 dB
  • Weight (excl. cord): 318 g
  • Solid aluminum headband
  • Solid walnut housing
  • Alcantara headband
  • Micro-velour ear cushions, black
  • Handmade in Germany
Tonality8.8
Build Quality9.2
Comfort & Fit8.9
Matchability8.6
8.9
Score
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