Details: Altec Lansing re-badge of UE’s discontinued SuperFi 3
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $129.95)
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 13Ω | Sens: 115 dB | Freq: 20-15k Hz | Cable: 3.8′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Sony Hybrid
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), Comply foam tips, cleaning tool, and soft zippered carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – Quite similar to the higher-end UE models – thick plastics, detachable cables with two inches of memory wire, and standard I-plug
Isolation (3.5/5) – Quite good with well-fitting tips
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Low due to over-the-ear fit but not absent completely
Comfort (3.5/5) – The shells are similar in shape to those of the TF10 and SF5Pro but slimmer towards the front and lend themselves to insertion much easier. Maintaining a seal can be difficult with stock UE tips but Hybrids work fine. Comply foams seal well also but soak up some of the SF3’s already-scarce treble intensity and make them even warmer
Sound (6.9/10) – Introduced a number of years ago as Ultimate Ears’ entry-level model, the single-armature SF3 was tuned as a do-it-all earphone to compete with Etymotic’s ER6 and Shure’s E2C. Like most single-armature earphones from that time period, the SF3 doesn’t do a great job of covering the entire frequency spectrum. The bass rolls off significantly and lacks detail near the limit. Poor sub-bass presence aside, the bass is smooth and level, flowing without bleed into the midrange.
The mids are slightly forward – not to the same degree as with the newer SuperFi 5 but definitely more so than the low end and treble. Overall balance is still very good, however, and the note thickness is neither excessive nor lacking. Resolution and detail are not quite on-par with the Etymotics of the period, partly because the SF3 at times seems to gloss over fine detail and texture to maintain its silky-smooth response, but the earphone performs no poorer than most dynamic-driver sets in its bracket. The clarity, too, is quite good but not accentuated by brightness as it is on the Ety ER6i.
Treble sparkle is completely nonexistent, resulting in a smooth, non-fatiguing curve. The top end of the SF3 is a bit laid-back in terms of emphasis and lacks some energy and a bit of extension, much like the low end. The somewhat subdued treble response means that the SF3 is not airy or open-sounding but it does provide a very decent sense of space with good depth and width. An additional consideration – the SF3 can be quite hissy with many sources as a result of its high sensitivity. I would not recommend it at all unless it was to be used with a dedicated audio player.
Value (8/10) – Introduced in 2006, the Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 3 is a single-armature earphone that still manages to impress at the sub-$60 price usually fetched by the Altec Lansing rebrand. The sound is smooth, clean, and balanced – if slightly mid-focused – and the relatively high isolation, low microphonics, and detachable cable only sweeten the deal. As an overall package, the Super.Fi 3 is very much on par with many modern designs and puts many of the entry-level models UE has produced since to shame.
Pros: High isolation; low microphonics; detachable cable; smooth and balanced sound
Cons: Extremely sensitive; not the best performer at the limits