As I have been reporting and reviewing – the new headphone season is upon us. I am truly impressed by much of what I have reviewed with regards to this year’s new models. Two manufacturers that have consistently impressed me over the years are Altec Lansing and Ultimate Ears. I was very excited when I saw that these two power-houses had actually combined forces in Altec Lansing’s new ‘Upgrader’ Series – specifically the UHP 306 and the UHP 336. At $89.95 and $129.95 respectively, these two units were certainly priced right – but how was the sound? Not to give away the review, but if you want to read about how great these two models are – just read on. CORPORATE OVERVIEW
Altec Lansing Technologies, Inc. has designed and manufactured high-quality consumer and professional speaker systems for more than 75 years. A market leader in digital audio, Altec Lansing makes a wide range of audio systems for the home and office; a line of headsets and headphones for personal listening; and the popular line of inMotion speaker systems for portable digital players. The company’s Professional division manufactures speakers for the fixed installation market.
Altec Lansing always designs its speakers with the diverse needs of the listener in mind. Whether a music lover, gamer, student, parent, musician or professional, Altec Lansing owners can be sure their listening experience was designed with their lifestyle in mind.
Ultimate Ears makes some of the highest quality Earphones available – for musicians and consumers. They have lent their superior technology to these two new models from Altec Lansing.
First up is the Altec Lansing UHP 336 – which is Altec’s version of the popular Super.Fi 3 design from Ultimate Ears.
Here is the official line:
Precision armature driver for studio quality sound. Vented receiver provides optimum acoustical space for warm and exciting low frequencies. Moldable over-the-ear loops keep earphones securely in place. Comfort-fit earplug design blocks out external sounds . . . and captures detailed clarity of audio within the ear, including phenomenal bass.
Detachable cable for easy replacement. Includes Universal Fit Kit, providing choice of five different eartips for personalized user comfort. Gold plated plug increases conductivity of audio signal, assuring the purest sound.
Sound Mode Stereo
Sensitivity 115 dB/mW
Impedance 13 Ohm
Included Accessories 1 x Headphones Cable, Detachable, 4 ft 1 x Carrying Case, 4 Ear Tips
Designed to fit securely in the ear in order to improve comfort and enhance sound, UHP336 ear phones feature vented armature speakers for incredibly accurate, high-fidelity sound reproduction. These in Ear earphones are so small, light and comfortable, you might forget you’re wearing them.
On to the review…..
The UHP 336’s are Altec Lansing’s version of the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3. The Ear buds are angled to go inside the ear canal – but not nearly as deep as others (like the Shure e110’s.) The cable then goes around the back of the ear (with a guided ‘memory’ wire) and the Earphones protrude outwards from the ear canal It takes a while to master putting these in and out The build quality is fabulous – sturdy, lots of replaceable tips to the ear buds and a nicely constructed soft case is included The housing seems sturdier than the Super.Fi 3 – a nice solid black plastic – with almost a rubberized feel. The cable on the UHP 336 seems much sturdier than the one on the Super.Fi 3 that I tested some time back. My tests showed that while the cable is not nearly as ‘tough’ and thick as those on the Shures – it was plenty sturdy and more comfortable to wear.
Thankfully, there are so many possible tips to put on the end in various sizes, some with two flanges and even foam tips that can be compressed I found the foam to be a little ‘hard’ in my ear canal. The problem I had is that one of my ear canals is very small and it took a while to find the right tip that would stay in and not pop out Once the right fit was found, these were perfectly comfortable and could be worn for extended periods of time with no fatigue or discomfort. The goal with IEM designs is to get a tight seal for ultimate bass response and sound stage. Most users should be able to accomplish that with the included tips.
I did try these out while exercising and found that they were a little more prone to falling out during strenuous exercise than some other IEM’s on the market.
In the end, this is what really matters, isn’t it? We are much more apt to put up with an earphone that may not be quite as comfortable if it sounds amazing Well, these sounded amazing The Bass was not as strong as with some more expensive in-ear phones – but when a good fit was achieved the bass was plenty strong For bass nuts, you can always put your ipod on ‘Bass boost’ – but I really don’t think it is necessary.
Vocals and instruments sounded as beautiful with these Earphones as with any tested regardless of price The bass wasn’t as strong – but the highs were clear (not tinny in the least) and the midrange was just amazing I marveled how Ultimate Ears was able to achieve this kind of sound for under $130.00 – and now Altec Lansing improves on it even more. If you listen to Classic Rock, Instrumental music, Classical, jazz or Pop – look no further There is no better way (that I have found) to upgrade your ipod for under $130.00 dollars than by purchasing the Altec Lansing UHP 336.
I think I said it all in my last sentence Buy these Earphones Go to a guitar shop that carries them, listen to a friend’s or take my advice (or that of many others who have reviewed these Earphones.) In the world of after-market Earphones, Ultimate Ears is truly at the top of the heap and Altec Lansing takes their great design and improves on the build quality, fit, finish and even the sound..
Over all Grade: A
Pros: Amazing sound quality, great sound isolation, sturdy
Cons: Slightly uncomfortable for those with small ears, takes time to find the right fit
Next up:Altec Lansing UHP 306
The UHP 306 is also an Ultimate Ears/Altec Lansing collaboration. This time, it is the newest member of the Ultimate Ears family – the Metro.fi that has been adapted and branded by Altec Lansing. The UHP 306 is at a sweeter price point that the 336 and it takes a different design approach as well.
Here is the ‘Official Line’ from Altec Lansing:
SnugFit design delivers passive noise reduction and high fidelity at lower listening levels. Soft-fitting silicone ear caps rest comfortably In-ear for all-day comfort. 6-pieceFit Kit (includes S, M, and L foam tips for the perfect fit) provides the choice of personalized user comfort.
Cable-control clip Neoprene carrying case Gold plated plug increases conductivity of audio signal, assuring the purest sound.
Sensitivity 104 dB/mW
Connector Type 1 x headphones ( mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm )
Connector Type 1 x headphones ( mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm )
Included Accessories Carrying case, 3 ear tips
Featuring the same secure and comfortable fit as the UHP336 model, but with traditional, high-fidelity diaphragm speakers that let you hear every nuance and musical layer.
The UHP 306 is more of a ‘traditional’ Ear Bud design. There is no need to put these in upside down and wind the cord behind the ear – just plug them in your ears and you are good to go. The size is perhaps a drop bigger than comparable models from Sennheiser and V-Moda. The UHP 306 uses a high fidelity diaphragm instead of the armature driver used in the UHP 336. The cord comes out at an angle and the tips sit deeper in the ear canal than the 336’s.
One very nice feature is the cable. The UHP 306 uses a very durable feeling ‘fabric’ cable. I found this not only reduced on ‘cable noise’ found on other Ear Buds – but is felt great.
Ear Buds are designed to go inside the ear canal – so if you don’t like things in your ears, these take some getting used to. That being said, I found these to be very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The fabric cables were great when exercising or just walking around. The housing was very sturdy and fit nice and snug in my ears once I found the correct sized tip to put on the end.
The UHP 306 offer that unmistakable Ultimate Ears Sound Stage. Instruments just seem to be coming from inside your head – and can be placed right on the stage before you. These ear buds seem to have a definite ‘bump’ in both the low and high end. There was actually more bass on these than on the more expensive armature based UHP 336’s. The highs were also very lively and crisp. This was much more of a ‘fun’ kind of sound that was great on Pop, Rock and other Up-Beat music. Lows were pronounced and the bass was quite deep with not a lot of ‘boominess.’
Compared to the Shure SE 110’s – which were warmer and more natural sounding – these felt like they were ‘enhanced’ to sound more lively. That is certainly a matter of taste – but I really like the sound of these. The one area that was not quite as stunning as the UHP 336’s were instrumentals – these are probably not for those who like a flat, balanced sound for Classical music.
I really like these Ear buds. There was enough of the ‘Ultimate Ears’ technology to remind me that these sounded like higher end earphones. Yet, these were also fun with a definite emphasis on the lower end for a nice punch to the music.
They were comfortable to wear for long periods of time and offered really nice isolation from the outside world.
Overall Grade: A
Pros: Great price point, very nice and lively sound, good bass, comfortable, great build quality
Cons: The midrange was de-emphasized a bit
The Altec Lansing UHP 336’s and the UHP 306’s can be found at www.alteclansing.com for $129.99 and $89.99 respectively. I was able to find them for less at other on line retailers. Both offer Ultimate Ears Technology and Sound Stage. One final point to mention is that these are both very efficient earphones. That means that you will want to turn your volume down lower than your normal listening level when using these earphones – and that is a good thing for your ears!