The Ultrasone Performance 820 headphone is hitting stores with a cool $199 price tag in tow, making it a more-than-economical option for many. But that being said, how can I sum up this headphone? In just two words: hot damn.
Ultrasone Performance 820 Review
When you first see the Performance 820 (and especially when you first hold it), you might think “hell naw”. It’s a very plastic-ky headphone. But belying this seemingly-cheap build is an amazing sound stage, just waiting to please your ears. The build also translates into a much, much lighter headphone. If you tend to hate the bulky, weighty feel of most audiophile-grade headphones, this baby will sweep you off your feet. The cable is a removable locking type, with a simple one-button remote built into it. There’s a little leatherette carrying-pouch in the box, as well as some Ultrasone literature I didn’t read. (I’m an audiophile, not a freaking Rhodes Scholar.)
Ultrasone is marketing this particular headphone as an entry-level model for pros and audio junkies. The biggest selling point may be the 40mm drivers, which Ultrasone modestly qualifies as “decent” on their website. A close second selling point is the comfortable fit of these headphones. In both cases, it seems like Ultrasone is spot on – these are definitely comfortable, and they’re definitely an entry-level model. However, with that being said, they may be a little better than their competition in the same price bracket.
For the price, the Performance 820 competes against such models as the AKG K553 Pro ($199), the Sennheiser HD25-1 II ($249), and the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 ($249). In terms of a working headphone, the Ultrasone seemed to easily trounce the K553 Pro, and the MSR7. The Sennheisers may have been a little more clinical or precise, but the on-ear design of the HD25-1 II means you may sacrifice comfort.
In terms of a audiophile headphone, I’d say this is possibly the best of the bunch, though I think some might still prefer the Sennheisers and possibly the MSR7. This of course is simply a matter of taste, or hearing. Paired with a decent amp (for this review, the FiiO E12, $129), the 820’s sound gets even better, and you’re really approaching the territory of a pair of $400-500 pair of cans in terms of clarity and detail.
That being said, you don’t necessarily need to use an amp with these headphones to enjoy or even fall in love with them. They do have a low impedance of just 32 ohms, so plugging and playing with a cheap portable player or your computer is easy as pie.
The frequency range covers 10-22000 hertz, and the detail and clarity are stunning. And for the fashionable audiophile, these headphones come with balck, white, or red accents.
So, if you’re in the market for a lightweight beginner professional or hi-fi headset, in the ballpark of $200, definitely consider the Ultrasone Performance 820. If you’re looking for something with more of a “fun” sound, there are probably other models that would give you lower lows and higher highs, but usually at the expense of that wonderful midrange and attention to detail that you get with the 820.
Due the new-ness of this particular headphone, you may be hard-pressed to find a place where you can test it out, but if you’re in New York City, stop by our Midtown showroom and we’ll let you test the Performance 820 to your heart’s content.