Ultrasone Edition 8 Ruthenium incorporates stunning attention to detail in every aspect of headphone design, the outer ear cups are covered in Ruthenium. This precious metal is known for its brilliant metallic sheen and durable properties. The outer ear cups are emblazoned with a decorative clasp of noble metal.
The interior ear cups of Ultrasone Edition 8 Ruthenium headphones and the headband are covered in very soft genuine black Ethiopian sheepskin leather. This is the finest leather available and provides the finest isolation of any leather.
The metal headband of Edition 8 typifies latest scientific knowledge in headband design and development. This unique progression of headband design made by Ultrasone is highly developed and technical precision work; specifically engineered for the Ultrasone Edition 8 Ruthenium series. The headband is also covered with the very soft genuine black Ethiopian sheepskin leather.
The Ultrasone Edition 8 are the best headphones I’ve ever used with my iPod and iPad. When I first got these through B&H Photo Video, I couldn’t get them off my head. I listened for hours and hours every day, enjoying my music and movies more than ever.
The Ultrasone Edition 8 sound absolutely fantastic, and they can play loudly directly from an iPod or iPad without using any amplifiers. They isolate from surrounding noise, and don’t leak sound to disturb others.
Of course they sound great plugged into a Grace Design M903, but what really sets the Edition 8 apart from the crowd is how well they sound plugged directly into portable devices without extra amplifiers.
Ultrasone Edition 8 Ruthenium Performance
The Ultrasone Edition 8s are closed-back, sealed headphones, so they have a fundamentally different sound than open-back headphones from Beyerdynamic, Grado, and Sennheiser. Specifically, the Edition 8s’ bass is bigger and fatter than you’ll hear from open-backed headphone designs.
This closed-back design blocks outside noise almost as well as some of the better noise-canceling headphones without the inherent drawbacks (batteries, sound quality compromises, and noise-canceling ear pressure effects) of noise-canceling models. Ultrasone doesn’t offer a noise-canceling model; its engineers can’t bring themselves to alter the Ultrasone sound with noise-canceling circuitry. So it has instead beefed up the earcups’ sealing to limit how much outside sound “leaks” in. It’s a highly effective strategy.
The isolation also works in the other direction: people around you won’t hear much sound from the Ultrasone Edition 8 Rutheniums, which will make them a good choice if you like to use headphones in bed. Open-back headphones like the Sennheiser HD 800 and Grado PS1000 can be annoying to people around you.
At home, we mostly listened to movies over our Onkyo TX-SR805 receiver. The Edition 8s brought jazz guitarist Mike Stern’s “New Morning: The Paris Concert” DVD to life. The sound really did have a live, “this is happening now” quality. We listened at moderate and loud volumes, and while both sounded great, we preferred the louder sound. Drummer Dave Weckl’s sticks beating the drum heads and cymbals sounded very real, and when Weckl put the sticks aside and used his hands, the Edition 8s imparted the tactile feel of skin against skin.
The Edition 8s’ home theater muscles were put to good use on the “King Kong” DVD. First, because the headphones’ prodigious bass output almost made up for not having a subwoofer. When Kong chases Jack Driscoll through New York City streets, every car crash and overturned street trolley was a visceral event.
For CDs and SACDs, we switched over to our Woo Audio WA6 Special Edition headphone amplifier. Listening to the newly remastered Beatles CDs, Paul McCartney’s bass parts had a solid punch and power. The Ultrasone Edition 8s brought a new dimension to the sound when he plucked the strings on “The Word” from Rubber Soul. John Lennon sucks air into his mouth between verses on “Girl,” and the Edition 8s made it sound less like an effect and more human. Drummer Ringo Starr’s hand-slap percussive fills on “I’m Looking Through You” were newly evident. McCartney and Lennon’s vocal athleticism on the earlier Beatles CDs sounded thrillingly present.
The Edition 8s were no slouch at home, but were even more amazing with our iPod. We have never heard that level of bass power, detail, overall dynamic range, midrange, and treble clarity on an iPod as we did when listening with the Edition 8s. The sound was much more dynamic than our Etymotic, Klipsch, Monster, and Ultimate Ears in-ear headphones. The Edition 8s sounded clear, clean, and pure with all kinds of music.
Back at home, comparisons with the Sennheiser HD 800s and Grado PS1000s put the Edition 8s’ sound in perspective for home theater and music. Those two headphones delivered a significantly more open, less “in-the-head” sound than the Edition 8s’. But open-back headphones produce less bass – though we felt, from home audio sources, that the Sennheiser’s and Grado’s bass was more detailed.
The Ultrasone Edition 8 sound great. Everything is well balanced, and the stereo effect gets out of your head much better than other headphones.
Unlike lesser headphones that need dedicated amplifiers along with their own problems, just plug these in, and you’ll immediately be so enthralled with the sound that you won’t take them off for a long time.
The Ultrasone Edition 8 sound great even at soft levels. Most headphones are deficient in bass, which cause people to have to play them too loud. The Edition 8 have great bass, so even at low levels, you can hear it all.
Compared to my Beyer DT-990, I never realized how much was going on in the bass in all my recordings, and how much of it is in stereo, not just mixed to mono.
If you’re sitting around a bunch of plugged-in equipment to drive them, the Beyer DT-990 and Stax Electrostatics are cleaner and more open compared to the closed-back Edition 8. The Edition 8 sounds like recorded sound, while the open phones get much closer to the sound of the original performance space. But wait: I’m driving the Edition 8 from my iPod, not a Grace Design M903. If I used a serious amp with the Edition 8, maybe it would sound even better. I’ll let you know.
On the other hand, not only do those other headphones want or need power supplies and amplifiers, the Stax are completely unforgiving of harsh recordings, while these Ultrasone sound awesome with everything. These Ultrasones have an uncanny ability to tame bright recordings, while the Stax rub your nose in them.
Tonal balance is just right, far better than the too-bright Sennheiser HD 800. Nothing is missing or over-emphasized.
Bass is fun with these headphones. Bass finally has just the right impact and depth.
Unlike most headphones, the bass tends to get stronger as it gets deeper, emphasizing the bottom octave. This is the way I and other bass players would come over and adjust your stereo, if we could. This gives these headphones a fantastically big bottom that hits the fundamentals solidly as the bass goes down the scale. The Ultrasone Edition 8 Ruthenium lets the monster notes out of the basement – watch out.
Bass is never boomy or bloated. The center frequency of any emphasis is more likely around 32 Hz than 60 Hz.
The euphonic bass rendition reminds me of the loudness contours of integrated tube amplifiers of the late 1950s and early 1960s: they boosted the low bass just right, and left the midrange and mid bass alone. (Transistor amplifier’s loudness controls are awful by comparison, lifting the upper bass way too much.)
Bass is solid down to about A1, the A below the lowest E on a 4-string bass, or about 27 Hz. Oddly, the only music that goes below this are some of the synthesizers in some of my wife’s girly music collection by Enya, Sarah Brightman, Annie Lennox and Celine Dion, of all people. I have no idea why women are using such low notes, as their female fans rarely want the 8-cubic-foot-plus-subwoofers in their homes needed to reproduce those notes well.
To my pleasant surprise, even though bass below A1 (27 Hz) isn’t as strong (it’s still stronger than other headphones), pipe organ music, even with 32-foot ranks (C0 = 16 Hz) sounds fantastic. This is because whatever the Edition 8s are doing, they are doing it right. The lowest 32-foot pedals come through sounding great. Even if some of the fundamentals don’t pipe through, they still sound great, as their harmonics are rendered perfectly. Also for pipe organ, the Edition 8s seem to add just a little bit of light at the top, making for even better sound than the usual dullness I hear at live organ concerts. There is never any rattling, even when driven hard.
The Ultrasone Edition 8 Ruthenium’s bass is musical, meaning fun, never tiring and always thoroughly enjoyable. It’s not free from resonance and as tight and dry as it is from great open headphones. It has a perfect euphonic peak deep down in its response somewhere.
Sorry to go on so much, but having spent years performing on bass and tuba, I notice these things.
Ultrasone calls their get-the-sound-out-your-head system “S-Logic.”
Instead of putting the drivers in the usual spots, the drivers are at the very bottom of the earcups, and shoot up and back into your ear.
This patented system deliberately employs our ears’ pinna transforms to trick our brain into pushing the sound out of our heads a little.
It really works!
Yes, these are still headphones, but the sound is pulled out of my head just a little bit. It sounds great.
If you think I’m kidding, just put the Ultrasone Edition 8 Rutheniums on backwards. The sound will appear to be coming from a bit behind your head!
As closed-back headphones, they have almost the same isolation as a pair of basic hearing protectors you’d use at the shooting range.
The isolation is completely passive, needing no batteries, and doing nothing to alter the headphone’s own sound.
This is especially great for practical use, where you can enjoy your own programming on your iPad in the same room that the rest of your family is watching something else.
Unlike open-back headphones, very little sound leaks out of these, so they are perfect for use without disturbing others.
Features and Design
The industrial design is unique and we think it’s gorgeous. Ultrasone claims the Edition 8s’ mirror Ruthenium earcups are extremely scratch resistant. We didn’t go out of our way to try to mar the finish, but we didn’t baby the headphones either, and they remained blemish free. Genuine Ethiopian sheepskin leather covers adorn the Edition 8s’ ear cushions and headband.
With a list price, the Ultrasone Edition 8 Rutheniums compete with a select group of luxury full-size headphones, most of which are targeted specifically for in-home use. But unlike the 6.3-millimeter phono plugs found on equivalent Grado and Sennheiser models, the Edition 8s sport a 3.5-millimeter plug that works with portable audio players without the need for an adapter. Indeed, the Edition 8s were a perfect match for our iPod. The headphones are equipped with a thin, 4-foot “Y” cable (one that goes to both earcups), and a 13-foot headphone extension cord is also included for home use.
Which reminds us…when we first started listening to the Ultrasone Edition 8s we found the earpad pressure against our ears to be rather high. After bending the headband a bit to relax the pressure, we achieved a more comfortable fit, without any loss of the Edition 8s’ noise-hushing abilities. But the pressure was still a little higher than we would like, and since we wear glasses the pressure against the glasses’ sidepieces was annoying. Please understand: comfort issues vary for each individual so our experiences may or may not be a concern for you.
The Ultrasone Edition 8s’ mechanical design was conceived with durability in mind. Their leather-covered steel-and-plastic headband looks fairly slim, but extra care was taken with the way the earcups are mounted on specially machined metal-alloy fittings, and the cable connectors – at the earcup and male plug ends – are reinforced.
According to Ultrasone, the Edition 8s’ 40-millimeter titanium-plated drivers are individually computer-matched for each set of headphones. (The headphones are handmade in Germany, and each set gets its own serial number.) The Edition 8s’ drivers don’t fire directly into ear canals; instead, using Ultrasone’s S-Logic Plus feature, the sound first reflects off the outer ear, which is the way we hear sound in real life. S-Logic Plus is said to provide a more open, less “in-your-head” sound than more conventional headphones.