What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 13 Oct 2010, 11:00am

Ultrasone HFI-580

Tested at £125

Not class-leading, but their good qualities makes them worthy of consideration

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  • Solid construction
  • comfortable fit
  • clean, clear and entertaining sound


  • Lacks the midrange realism and detail of the best

Well, here's an interesting thing. The issue of open- versus closed-backed headphone designs (open sounds better; closed doesn't inflict your music on others) offers you a pretty clear choice.

But Ultrasone is trying to confuse the issue – albeit in a positive way – by creating closed-backed headphones that are designed, the company claims, to sound as much like an open-backed design as possible.
Clever tech gives solid results
This is done using Ultrasone's patented S-Logic technology, which attempts to make the sound seem like it's coming from much further away. And it does indeed imbue the HFI-580s with an incredibly open, clean
and clear sonic presentation.

Spin some tunes, and these cans respond with an impressively airy, precise approach to rhythms, with
a powerful bass response that could win them many fans. They reduce the sense of sounds being ‘hard left'
or ‘hard right', creating a more subtle soundfield that's big, punchy and fun.

Our only criticism is that they seem to manage this impressive list of feats with a bit of sonic sleight of hand.
When closely compared to high-quality rivals, the Ultrasones give a little away in terms of the richness and realism of their midrange.

A chunky pair of cans
One gets the sense that there are some rivals that don't sound quite as clean as the HFI-580s, but that this is in some part due to their being more committed to faithfully reproducing the detail and naturalness of voices and midrange instruments.

This is a chunky pair of cans: while you could, conceivably wear them out – they aren't as heavy as they
look, and they're actually extremely comfortable to wear – they are really  a pair of home hi-fi cans, meant to be used while sitting down and doing some proper listening.

And they have a lot to recommend them. They don't attain the Grado SR80i's levels of realism and detail, but they're a good buy nonetheless.

See all our headphone Best Buys

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