Ultimate Ears 6000 headphones review

4.5 out of 5
£140

For

Stupidly comfortable, bass like you're never heard, reasonable price, cool looking, remote on cable

Against

Not the most realistic sound ever, noise cancelling isn't brilliant, battery hungry

If you're electronic music fan, then we think the Ultimate Ears 6000s might be right up your street. These noise-cancelling headphones are designed to give their owner sound that's free of external interference from jet engines, trains or other sorts of noise.

Of course, the idea here is to capture a bit of that lucrative headphone market that's been kicked up a notch with the likes of Monster Audio, Beats and the other "fashion" brands. What Logitech, the company behind Ultimate Ears, is clearly hoping, is that it can appeal to one or other segment, and sell lots of headphones.

To do that though, it's going to need to show that it's capable of impressing with these headphones.

Design

We rather like the look of these headphones. Ours are white with blue hints here and there. The audio cable, and the inside bit of the earpads are both finished in blue, in contrast to the black and white elsewhere. We like it, and we also like the angular look that these headphones have been given. It's sharp, and cool, we think, and we like it.

You get a soft case included, which we really like. It will keep the headphones compact and safe if you travel with them, but it's light and can be squashed down when not in use. It's useful.

The removable cable scores for us as well. We've said it loads, but non-removable cables are a disgrace, because sooner or later your cable will break. When it does, you're going to be annoyed if you can't just replace it for £2 instead of having to buy a whole new set of headphones. It also means, if you need a longer cable for TV viewing, it's easy to switch out.

As is so often the case now, there's also an iPod-compatible microphone, volume control and multifuction button on the cable. Some functions - like the microphone - will work on Android phones too, but the volume controls will more than likely not work. 

Sound

We're honestly really sold here. But before we tell you what's great about the 6000s, let's have a little look at what we don't like.

The worst thing, is if you listen to music that has a very overblown bassline. For the most part, even electronic music tends to keep this under control, but when you find a track with an intended mass of low-frequency sound, it can become quite overwhelming. Indeed, listen to a bassy track for too long on these headphones, and it can feel a bit like a torture technique, and it's certainly quite wearing.

But with that gripe out of the way, we have to say that most tracks sound terrific. Pop sounds glorious, with sharp vocals ringing out with absolute clarity. We've had some fun with Carly Rae Jepsen, Pink and Katy Perry. You can judge us for that if you want, but the female vocals in many of these tracks sound stunning on the UE 6000s, with that little bass kick, it's like a double-whammy of pleasure being driven into your ears.

At the high-end, there's an almost incredible amount of power too. We tested our "too-bright" test track, and actually found that the UEs did a good enough job with it. Still a little too much sibilance and high-end for us, but still one of the more pleasing reproductions of a track that can be painful to listen to.

Time after time though, it's the glorious mid-range that will make you most happy. The bass is fun, although it can be a bit much. but these cans certainly seem to have got the basics right. It makes us wonder what a slightly less bass-heavy pair would sound like.

The noise cancellation switch

At the top of the right earphone is a switch. Flick it, and a light illuminates and you're now listening to a noise-cancelled and seemingly more amplified sound. It's quite a difference from the power-off mode. Volume jumps up, and to us it sounded like the bass was a lot more forceful.

The noise cancelling isn't really great though. It's a shame, because increasingly it seems you can have either really solid noise cancellation, or amazing-sounding headphones, but rarely both in the same package. Still, the noise cancelling here does help a bit, and it's probably enough to take the edge off a long flight.

It does also bear mentioning that the batteries won't last all that long - probably 24 hours of constant use - so do remember to switch them off when you're not using them. We'd usually expect headphones to detect a lack of audio, and switch off, but these don't, and it means you can flatten the batteries really easily.

Just about the loudest headphones we've ever heard

We ran our UEs through an Onkyo amp, and cranked up the volume to near maximum. To our surprise, the UEs managed not to distort noticeably, and produced a volume of sound that would beat some portable speakers we've heard in our time.

With such awesome power comes awesome responsibility though. These headphones can be driven hard, but if you do so for any length of time, you'll destroy your hearing. So despite their skill, don't be tempted to push them to their maximum, it will end in tears, and they'll be yours.

Verdict

If you're looking for audio accuracy, these won't be the headphones for you. If, on the other hand, you want skull-crushing bass without losing out on the rest of the audio, then these headphones are likely to be ideal for you.

Don't however, buy them for the noise cancellation, with which we were not impressed. The button fills out the audio though, giving a much more dynamic sound than you get from the headphones in their unpowered, pass-through mode. However, it's nice that if your batteries do run out, you'll still be able to listen to music.

The Ultimate Ears 6000s are also a bit leaky, so they're not ideal for use out and about. If the noise cancellation was better, they'd be okay on planes because the leaking would be heard to hear over the aircraft noise. As it stands, be careful how loud you listen in public, or everyone will know you secretly love that Taylor Swift track.