We’ve seen Ultrasone gear before: the Edition 9 mega-headphones and the rather more affordable HFI-580s, both very good pairs of cans. If you’re looking to spend under a bill, though, there’s really only one option from the German super-lux audio guys: the 15G. They’ve been around for quite a while, but as long as we’ve got this headphone roundup going on, we thought they should be included. So are they a bargain or just cut-rate?
One thing Ultrasone has going for it is portability. Even the bulky 580s folded up into a much more convenient size, so you know that’s one of their priorities. The 15Gs aren’t foldable, but they are extremely light. So light, in fact, that when you pick them up, you immediately think “what is this cheap thing?” Upon closer inspection, you will find that the headband is padded leather (like the armor in D&D) and despite being very plastic-looking, they are well-put together.
The earpieces are soft and have an abundance of foam. You can see the depression in the middle where the sound actually comes out. Putting them on, you can barely feel them; the lightness is noticeable and instantly appreciated. They swivel slightly and adjust to put very little pressure on your ears.
So they’re light, comfortable, and well-built. How do they sound? I’d say they sound quite good for their size. They have a good, balanced sound, a little warmer than the other headphones in my stable, a little more heavy in the mid-lows. Stereo separation was good, but I felt the soundstage extended in a sort of line through my head rather than surrounding me.
They have an open design and sound goes right through them both ways, so these aren’t for use on the subway or anywhere crowded — in-ear headphones are superior in those situations. They also don’t have a microphone so I can’t recommend them for gaming.
The only issue I really had was that the cord is a bit short. It’s actually a little over three feet long, but that’s hardly going to go from your ears to the port on your computer — or if it does, you won’t be leaning back any time soon. It comes with an extender, but that cord is, I kid you not, 12 feet long. Do you want to roll up 12 feet of cable every time you sit down?
I would say that these 15Gs are great travel headphones. They’re light, compact, and seem durable enough to survive plenty of trips in backpacks and briefcases. Working late somewhere or in a hotel, I feel these are the ideal keep-with-you headphones. At $90 I’d say they’re pretty overpriced, though. If you’re not a fan of in-ear headphones (not everyone is built for it), I definitely recommend the 15Gs over any kind of earbuds, although they’re not quite as inconspicuous. They’re nothing revolutionary, but they’re light, comfortable, and have a good, balanced sound.