Ultrasone is a 27-year-old Bavarian company with a track record for making Edition-series headphone models designed to compete with the best. Here we review its top-of-the-line Edition 15 headphone. (Edition models are built in limited-quantity production runs—in this case 999 pieces for the world market).
To get right down to it, the Edition 15 is the single most enjoyable headphone I’ve ever heard. That statement deserves some qualification, as you will see.
In basic terms, the Edition 15 delivers more bass output than is typical among high-end headphones. This sounds like a midbass bump, but low bass isn’t overhyped so the Edition 15s don’t sound leaden or slow, and upper bass is pretty normally balanced. The general lower-octave shaping here makes music sound warm, rich, and alive, but the bass at times is less than ideally defined.
Since that doesn’t sound like a particularly glowing summary of bass performance, let me provide some context. Headphones, by their nature, do not allow so-called bass “slam.” That is, since they aren’t moving air in the room, your body is never impacted physically by the sound, mainly in the bass, as it would be in a live concert or with speakers. This fact leaves room for interpretation among designers about whether and how to shape the bass to compensate for the lack of slam.
While most high-end headphones opt for something aligned with measured accuracy, the Ultrasones instead aim for psychoacoustic accuracy, meaning that on many discs they deliver a more compelling, dynamic, and musical-sounding result than most ostensibly “accurate” headphones do. For example, the pace and groove of “Will The Wolf Survive?” from Los Lobos’ Just Another Band from East L.A. [+180 Records] are really engaging. The bass characteristics of the Edition 15 form an integral part of the headphone’s overall presentation. That said, I do hope future Ultrasone Edition models can retain the spirit of this headphone, but with improved bass detail.