Ultimate Ears continues to make a very strong push into the consumer headphone market. The company’s most aggressively priced and most compact in-ear headphones yet, the UE metro.fi 2, are a very good buy at just $79.99. If you’re looking to save a few bucks over pricier models like the UE super.fi 3 Studio or Creative Zen Aurvana, these are highly recommended, with great comfort and well-balanced sound.
The UE metro.fi 2 are much smaller than the super.fi series, which tend to make people look a bit Frankenstein-ish because they protrude so far from your ears. The soft gray silicone tips can be swapped out with different sizes (two sets each of S, M, and L). The package also includes double-flanged tips, which are more intrusive in your ear canal, but the “fit kit” doesn’t come with foam tips. There’s also the familiar anti-tangle slider, and the robust 46-inch cables — which aren’t detachable like those in the super.fi series — terminate in an L-shaped gold-plated plug.
Aside from the extra tips, the extra goodies are pretty standard fare. You get a leather travel pouch (no hard case like the super.fi line) and a quarter-inch adapter. Not a bad set of extras at this price, but I’d have liked a volume attenuator and maybe a cleaning tool.
The single-flanged tips are very soft and smooth, and there’s enough variation in the different sizes that you should be able to find a good fit. The double-flanged tips aren’t as comfortable for me, but some ears may benefit from them. The metro.fi’s lack the flexible ear loops of UE’s other headphones, but they’re compact and light enough (just .7 ounces with cable) to stay pretty securely.
The metro.fi’s passive noise blocking is very effective, knocking out plenty of the midrange hiss on planes and taking the edge off the rumble of a subway. And they’re easy to flip upside down so you can wear the cables over the tops of your ears to avoid any microphonic thumping from the cable hitting your body as you move.
These are some of the best-sounding in-ear headphones you can get in this price range. The bass is big without being boomy or overwhelming the rest of the sound, with deep extension and decent punch. The mids are clear, though to my ears there’s a bump in the upper mids that’s meant to make music sound crisp, even though the highs don’t extend as far as with, say, Ultimate Ears’ more expensive dual-driver models.
The metro.fi’s overall sound is very pleasing and full, with more than adequate detail. They are also efficient and easy for any portable player to drive beyond comfortable volumes.
There are a few things that bug me about the metro.fi’s, but none of them are even close to dealbreakers, nor will they prevent me from recommending these headphones highly. First off, I really miss the flexible ear loops of the other UE models, though, at least it means the headphones don’t tangle as easily. Another nitpick: It would be handy if the L and R for left and right headphones stood out a little more — black on black doesn’t quite cut it.
Finally, while I like UE’s leather carrying pouch just fine, I wish more headphone makers would make soft pouches that fit better in your pocket, like soft cases you get Etymotic’s headphones.
I love the metro.fi’s comfort and solid all-around sound — especially at this price. The accessory set is good, and the headphones isolate you from the din of daily life very well. If Ultimate Ears gets better consumer distribution for these, they could turn out to be a big hit, especially if retailers let them go for about $10 off list price.