Usually the arrival of yet another set of earphones in our mailbox doesn't cause
much of a stir in our offices, but the super.fi 5 Pro earphones by Ultimate Ears caused a quite a sensation. I was the first to get my grubby
hands on the sleek metal case that housed the super.fi Pro's and the multitude of accessories that came along for the ride. The first thing I
noticed was that the super.fi 5 Pro's were an around the ear model like the Shure E5C's, a design that I'm certainly not a fan of. In our
Shure VS. Etymotic cage match,
I thought that the Shure's were uncomfortable and somewhat unwieldy for the $500 entry fee. However, when I strapped on the super.fi 5 Pro's, I
was pleasantly surprised. They fit snuggly into my ear canal without any drama and the around-the-ear design was very comfortable.
The low-profile Super.fi 5 Pro's come in Black, White and Clear
I immediately reached for my nano,
inserted the 1/8" gold plated mini jack, and tee'd up a medley of 320 kbps MP3s. First out of the gate was a thick and chunky Tribal House stomper.
The super.fi 5 Pro's dual drivers erupted with a creamy full sound that immediately put a smile on my face. The noise-isolating design of the silicone
earpieces, coupled with the individual high-frequency and low-frequency drivers, delivered a rich listening experience that rivaled the E5C's.
Unlike the top-of-the-line Shure model which is more nuetral, the super.fi
5 Pro's sound has a distinctive color. It tends to soften the overall spectrum, while still leaving enough detail for clarity and definition.
It works great on groove-oriented music, such as dance and hip-hop and the passive crossover was able to accurately divide the orchestra when
a John Williams soundtrack tested the classical waters. For the record, everyone agreed that the Etymotic ER-4P's are still the best for the
The Super.fi case is almost 1.5 inches thick, too bulky for true portable protection.
The build quality of the super.fi 5 Pro's is excellent. Medium gauge wiring
is used throught the 4 feet length with reinforced sleeves next to the earpieces. The wiring falls between the Etymotic (very thin) and the
Shure (very thick) and strikes what we felt was the perfect balance. A "universal fit kit" is included with every set to ensure that each
user will be able to find the quintessential flange for their optimal comfort. Each kit includes: 6 single flange silicone (2 small, 2 med,
2 large), 2 dual flange silicone and 2 standard foam. Each fit snuggly on the stalk of the earpiece and can easily be removed without fear
of damaging the sensitive internal components. The super.fi 5 Pro's come with a leather carrying case or the aforementioned bulbous metal
case. While the metal case is very tech with stealthy cutaways underneath to hold a connection adapter plus attenuator, many of our testers
opted for the leather case when going mobile, feeling the case was just too cumbersome to stick in a pocket.
Clearly a great deal of thought was invested in how the earphone "sat" in
the ear. Some may choose not to utilize the around-the-ear approach, but all of our testers found this solution to not only be very comfortable,
but also to be the superlative way to provide a lower profile which is key in athletic endeavors. The silicone flanges were just adequate enough
for basic noise isolation in consistently loud environments, such as a jet plane. Ultimate Ears rates them at 26 dB, but we felt that a rating of
18-20 dB was more accurate even with their best set of flanges.
Ultimate Ears specs the super.fi 5 Pro with a frequency range of 20 to 16,000 Hz,
21 Ohms impedance and 119dB/mW input sensitivity. The super.fi 5 Pro's don't have the treble sparkle of the ER-4Ps, nor the background detail of
the more objective E5C's, but they do offer an excellent balance of the high, mid and low range of the frequency spectrum with full bass and a
sweetened treble that will please even the most educated ears. Marry that to a robust build quality and a $249 retail price, and you have
one of the best values in the earphone market.
More information on the
Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro earphones
The Future: What should Ultimate Ears do to improve the Super.fi 5 Pro's?
Not much, but we'd like to see a more useful metal case, something with about half the girth of the current number would work much better. A
sophisticated cable management system at the mini jack end would also be welcomed, but we're just nitpicking. These earphones rock!
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