Having recently been exposed to all sorts of high-end in-ear monitors from the likes of Shure and Etymotic, my ears are quite sensitive to craptacular headphones and low grade MP3s. The recently announced Super.Fi 5s from Ultimate Ears have been my weapon of choice the last two weeks in a variety of environments that include the streets of Manhattan, on multiple planes, working out and around the house. Audio quality is superb and the novice might not be able to tell the difference between these and let’s say, the Super.Fi 5 Pros, but there is one distinctive difference. Would it deter me from recommending these $170 in-ears? Not at all.
For starters, the Super.Fi 5s come with a handy plastic carrying case, cleaning tool, four sets of silicone tips and one set of Comply Foam tips. The in-ears themselves are color coded to differentiate between the right and left with the former being a dark burgundy and latter being dark grey. Unless you’re in a well-lit room you probably won’t notice the difference. My only real issue with the Super.Fi 5s is that tips don’t go deep enough into my ears as I’d like. The foam and silicone tips do an adequate job of isolating, but I much prefer the tree tips that come with Etyomotics or even Monsters.
The Super.Fi 5s are extremely lightweight and do an adequate job of producing clear notes from low to high. Compared to my Super.Fi 5 Pros these don’t exactly give a full sound though. It’s kind of shallow, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s just something I noticed when swapping between the higher priced Pros and some Etyomotics. They’re surprisingly good for most genres of music. Highs are snappy and lows thump quite hard with mids filling in nicely. They’re extremely well balanced.
To be quite honest, the Super.Fi 5s from Ultimate Ears are a great set of in-ear monitors at a somewhat reasonable price considering the sound quality compared to others in this price range. The only issue I forsee arising is the seal depending on folks’ ears. The silicone tips actually do a better job at sealing than the Comply foam tips. I’ve been using the foam tips for the last two weeks and swapped these out for the silicone tips yesterday and it’s made all the difference.
Will I replace my Super.Fi 5 Pros or Shure SCL3s? More than likely the Shure SCL3s, but certainly not my Pros until the two or three inches of protective sleeve nearest the driver pull apart completely. While I recommend these to burgeoning audiophiles looking for a pair of high-end in-ears at a not so high-end price, I know that $170 is still quite a bit to spend on headphones during this recession, but rest assure that you won’t need to upgrade anytime soon. And you won’t be sacrificing sound quality for active noise cancelling if that’s something you’re looking for. The 5s do quite well at blocking out noise.
If you want a pair to use with your phone then grab the Super.Fi 5vis.