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 resultsThis 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 cansOne 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.
More after the break
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.