Editor's note: The Ultrasone's HFI-2000 has since been discontinued and replaced by the Ultrasone HFI-780.
Ultrasone? We'd never heard of this German manufacturer, either, but its headphones are held in high regard by recording industry professionals all over the world. The HFI-2000 is the top of the line model, so sure, it's pricey, but it sounds like a set of high-end speakers. The headphone set lists for $399.
Quality of construction is good, although no match for Koss's Hummer-esque Pro 4AA Titanium headphones. The Ultrasone's 9.5-foot cable terminates in a mini stereo jack, and a 1/4-inch gold-plated adapter is included. The 'phones are big but fairly light, just 8 ounces, and the softly cushioned velveteen ear pads coddled our ears. As the hours rolled by, we actually forgot we were wearing headphones--they were that comfortable.
There's no other way to describe the HFI-2000's wide-open sound other than to say it was speakerlike--not trapped between our ears like that of most other 'phones. Intrigued, we read up on Ultrasone's patented S-Logic technology and learned that it reflects sound off the outer ear; most headphones focus their sound towards your inner ear. Other Ultrasone headphones feature S-Logic technology, but they don't sound as open or large as the HFI-2000s.
We took full advantage of the HFI-2000 when we cranked the volume to 11 and watched the Led Zeppelin concert DVD. It was pure rock-and-roll bliss for us, but since the HFI-2000 'phones are open backed, a lot of sound leaks out, so other people can hear what you're listening to, albeit at a muffled level. On The Lion King DVD, the sound was warm, and yet there was no shortage of detail and resolution.
CDs were no less engrossing; we reveled in the sounds of Miles Davis's and Gil Evans's big band recordings. Most headphones compress the spatial scale of these CDs and seem to push the sound closer, but the HFI-2000 set unleashes a bigger, deeper, and wider soundstage. Bass was powerful but no match for Ultrasone's HFI-650 headphones. The HFI-650 set's low-end muscle is state of the art, but the HFI-2000 is more refined overall.