Innovation from Bavaria. Sustainable manufacturing processes. Hand-built precision. All of this and more from Ultrasone. But what about affordability you ask? What about $100 or less? Enter Ultrasone’s “perfect introduction into the world of professional headphones”. This is the Ultrasone PRO 480i Review.
Ultrasone PRO 480i Review
The PRO 480i is on the bottom of the totem pole within the PROi series, and indeed may be their most affordable on-ear headphone, period. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the packaging is pretty bare-bones.
They come with a very thin carrying bag made out of a nylon-type material, and one 3.5mm extension cable. The hardwired cable is pretty short, so the extension cable is appreciated. But I wonder why they didn’t just make a longer cable in the first place? Oh well. They throw in a 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter too, which is great for studio applications.
The PRO 480i is made of sturdy feeling plastic, which is probably great for durability but not for comfort. The headband especially was not very comforting to my head. The earmuffs were similarly stiff, although will perhaps soften with age. Also they do a good job of passively blocking outside noise, so it’s a bit of give and take. But despite the stiffness at the points of contact, the headphones are very light.
Let me be very clear about the sound: this thing is flat. Aggressively neutral, if you pardon the use of such a nonsensical term.
The lows are well represented in that classically analytical kind of way. The attack of bass guitars and drums comes in cleanly, with the ultra-lows getting bottled up and contained. These are not a warm pair of headphones. Even compared to other reference cans, the Ultrasone is very lean.
The midrange is also represented with a cold precision. Every strata of the frequency spectrum is laid out in front of you on an operating table. Separation is fantastic, and nothing sounds rich or energetic. It just sounds… accurate. Like cold, steely perfection. You catch my drift?
Each instrument sounds a little shrunken in its presentation, instead of larger-than-life. This allows you to discern quite a bit of details in the smaller sounds, especially with reverb. This is the sound signature you should be looking for in a pair of reference headphones.
The high-end tapers off, but in a way that feels good. However the lack of ultra-highs as well as powerful lows can make the sound feel a bit lacking. It makes for an extremely analytical listening experience, even for reference headphones.
Okay, so for $100 pair of closed-back headphones, the soundstage can only be so good. But there’s something else worth mentioning that’s pretty cool. It’s not the soundstage exactly, but there’s a certain space in these headphones. Vertical and horizontal depth is okay, but there’s something spacious that feels more like listening to external speakers than headphones.
Some further research revealed this to be Ultrasone’s S-Logic Natural Surround Sound. According to their explanatory YouTube video, the drivers in the headphone are offset so the sound bounces around your outer ear instead of driving straight into your ear canal.
And while I think it’s a stretch to call this effect ‘surround sound’, it definitely creates a different sense of space than a typical pair of cans. This wasn’t a make or break feature for me, but it sure is neat-o. And perhaps very valuable to those accustomed to the feel of external monitoring.
The PRO 480 i are pretty good reference headphones for the price. Ultrasone calls them a perfect introduction to studio quality headphones. I don’t know about perfect, but certainly a strong contender. Your alternatives would be the AKG K182 or the Audio-Technica M40x.
Pros- Accurate sound, great price, cool monitor-ish soundstage
Cons- Not very comfortable, thin sound signature, weird cable.
Grab one here: Audio46
Or on Amazon
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