Ultrasone proline 2500 review
Keywords: ultrasone proline 2500 review
Description: Took a while (over eight weeks to come to terms with the sound alone) but here it is.. ULTRASONE ProLine2500 review My interest having been piqued by musician...
My interest having been piqued by musician and former TAS reviewer Dan Schwartz, and accidently discovering that my local hi-fi dealer had dropped the Grado line for them, I literally bought into the Ultrasone ProLine 2500 after a couple of auditions. Walking out of the shop with them, I still was not certain that I had done the right thing, yet I knew something unique was hiding in there, a new approach that I was positive I would acquire a taste for.
My initial audition had left me rather cold, with a feeling of ambivalence towards them. I found them rather stiff and unwieldy, physically. They sounded rather cold, with a steely top end that lacked extention. They also sounded bottom heavy and slow. I tried both familiar and unfamiliar musical sources, and the unfamiliar stuff sounded better than the tracks I had known and been listening to for years. I gave up on them and left, with a sense of relief that I did not have to shell out more cash for more headphone jollies. After collecting my thoughts and audition memories over the weekend, I realized that perhaps not liking them upon first hearing might be a good thing. Far too many times I have been instantly thrilled only to be disappointed over the long haul. So I hiked back on Monday for a further examination. Listening with a whole different perspective and set of "expectations" let me get a bead on what was actually going on with the Ultrasones. I got an entirely new reading of Rosanne Cash's "Black Cadillac" through them (which, incidentally was recorded using Ultrasone 650's). I heard the compression on the title track, and the impact of the bass and kick drum on "God Is In The Roses" in a more obvious way that I did not on my other cans. I realized that the 2500's and I were going to become good friends. Sold.
Upon setting up at home, I tried out some vinyl through the 2500's and was disturbed by the manner in which they portrayed hiss and LP surface noise. The sound was quacky and boxy in the range where the bulk of these sounds lie. Disturbing because everything else that lived in this part of the frequency range would get the same treatment. And then came that sudden feeling of abandonment, where you instinctively want to throw down what's bothering you and reach for a pair of "reliable" phones to relieve your anxiety. But I stopped myself and kept focusing on the fact that I was involved in a new listening experience and had to deprogram myself from old habits and sounds.
Over the next several weeks, I let them "break in" while out of the house and at work ( I am normally not a disciple of the "burn in" congregation but it seems to help with these rather large titanium coated diaphragms). Doing this and growing accustomed to what they did was a gradual thing over the three week period after purchase. I still was not completely comfortable with what I was hearing and I contacted DS who advised me to plug into the demo CD that came with the phones and that it would help me understand what's up with them. I slowly came around to their way of thinking and realized that the 2500's were "right" and I was "correcting myself". It took me a quite a while before I could hear the top end correctly. It's a whole new sound, almost like there's no actual sound to ascribe to them. Sound that takes time to adjust to, like having to adjust to coffee with much less sugar in it because of doctors orders to a diabetic. Tastes awful at first but after you begin to enjoy that pure coffee taste that was heretofore obscured by sweetness. It takes a long, long time to come to terms with what they do and a quick audition is useless in terms of deciding whether or not you like them.
I feel that the 2500's sound rather neutral, whatever that overused word means to whomever. To me it means that no particular area of the frequency spectrum jumps out at you or is over-apparent. I'd never say accurate because I don't know what whatever's going through them is supposed to sound like. But I do believe that with a perceived "flat" response, you get into territory where voices and instruments become closer to "real" and more believable. Things sound more like they do in real life with these. Their other main merit would be how they provide a large space for whatever soundstage and imaging that a recording has built into it, but unlike other phones with big "soundstages" built into themselves, the 2500's keep everything gelled together musically, instead of disassembling everything and throwing the parts on a table for you to examine. So what we seem to have is that big AKG/Sennheiser spread with that Grado tightness, without either of their tendencies towards dullness, brightness or distant perspective. The 2500's really let you know about the differences in cables, LP pressings, cartridges and source components. I could hear straight away what the sonic differences were in the 8610 and 827 opamps used in my PPA headphone amp. You can be listening to certain things and cursing the lack of an honest top end, then move on to something else and the top is all there. One of my fave albums, "Walkabout" from The Fixx. contains lots of studio-generated sonic thrills with nary a natural sound on offer (it's one of those brightish sounding mid-80's recordings but I love it anyway for the great hooks and hi-calorie sound). I got the full effect and measure of Danny Brown's five-string bass on "Treasure It". The recording seemed less bright while providing more top end detail than I'd previously heard. A contradiction? No.
The 2500 comes across to me as an honest messenger who just delivers what's there and is not responsible for the contents of the package. It steps out of the way and lets the music by. It does not choose music that IT likes. It does not WOW you with hyped "dynamics" by boosting a section of the FR to excite everything or underexposing another to create the same situation. Obviously this is what one would want in a professional monitoring situation. So what, then, is the quibble with the ProLine phones among the members of the "headphone community"? Don't we want to hear what's really on our records the same way an engineer wants to hear what's on tape? I haven't thought about the other headphones in my collection for quite a while. I usually go back after a week to compare to my new purchase, but have no desire thus far to play the A/B game. I could probably pack them all up and sell 'em off and never regret it (well, maybe. or maybe not! Like musical instruments, sometimes you want a certain sound so you reach for it). I've been content to play music, new stuff as well as rediscovering my old favourites and just get on with listening.
On the minus side? Sometimes I think there's a slight cool grey haze and lack of solidity about the whole picture, and a warm area in the upper bass, but I don't hear this on all recordings so I can't say for sure. I know nothing is perfect and would never know anyway.
Complaints? Well, for one thing, they leak like bitches. There's almost the same level of sound coming from the back as there is from between the pads (leak. pads. bitches?) So much for private listening late at night. The coiled cord sounds terrible. Straight one sounds better, but the cord isn't straight and appears that it will never straighten itself completely from it's original packaged state unless I hang them from the ceiling for a few months. I don't like the hunk of plastic physicality but they are solidly built, solid as a rock (as "professional" things ought to be). I wish there were a built-in means of locking the headband in one's favourite position. As it is, it keeps shifting when you remove them. I stuck some thin cardboard in to keep everything locked in position.
All in all, I'm enjoying music and confident that I'm hearing pretty much what was intended in the recordings. I still enjoy my other phones and have returned to them when seeking a particular "sound". I don't pick up any particular sonic character with the 2500, which, as Martha would say, is a good thing.
The real killer? After becoming accustomed to the unspectacular, unadulterated "character" of the 2500's, going back to my other 'phones (RS-1, HD600) reveals things I don't like that I did not notice before. Such as the one-note upper bass coloration in the HD600 that won't go away, and it's much-too-distant perspective and tiny voices and instrumentation. Or the emphasis on certain things in certain frequency ranges in the (bowled) RS-1. Nothing is hyped on the 2500's, it all sounds relatively "even". It's like listening to the characteristics of different recordings instead of the effect that the headphone has on all the recordings.