Added Jul 2012
Details: Discontinued dynamic/BA hybrid from UE’s pre-Logitech lineup
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $199.99)
Specs: Driver: BA+dynamic | Imp: 11Ω | Sens: 119 dB | Freq: 20-16k Hz | Cable: 4′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Generic single-flange
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (5/5) -Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), Comply foam tips (2 sets), cleaning tool, inline volume attenuator, 1/4″ adapter, and crushproof metal carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – Though the shape of SF5EB is more reminiscent of custom in-ears than any universal I’ve ever tried, overall build quality is still very similar to those of the SF5Pro and TF10. The large housings are made out of thick plastics and the cable is detachable. The cable suffers from some memory character but is flexible and sturdy on the whole
Isolation (3/5) – Slightly lower than that of the other UE models from the time period due to the odd housing shape and ambient vent
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Low due to over-the-ear fit but not absent completely. A bit poorer with the older (clear) cable
Comfort (3.5/5) – The housings of the SF5EB differ in shape from the ones used by the other UE earphones and are the largest shells I’ve seen on a universal. They aren’t meant to be inserted deeply and as a result never look like they are fitted quite right but the fit bothers me less than that of the TF10
Sound (8/10) – The unique housings of the SuperFi 5 EB conceal an equally unique transducer setup – the SF5EB was, to my knowledge, the first universal BA/dynamic hybrid to be released, combining a balanced armature, a 13.5mm dynamic driver, and a two-way passive crossover in a single enclosure. The dynamic driver is responsible for the bass of the SF5EB while the armature handles mids and highs. On paper, this is a dream come true for those familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of both transducer types, but there are one or two issues aside from the resulting housing size.
As indicated by the ‘Extended Bass’ moniker, the SF5EB was tuned to appeal to those who find the bass response of UE’s other higher-end models, which are all armature-based, less than satisfactory. The huge 13.5mm dynamic transducer of the SF5EB is optimized for low end response and throws out gobs of dynamic bass when prodded. Even the Fischer Audio Eterna cannot quite keep up with the sheer impact of the SF5EB. The bass is rarely muddy or bloated but it’s not tight or accurate either – about what one would expect from a relatively pricy basshead earphone. Bass detail and texture are swallowed up by the impact on occasion and therefore appear to be diminished compared to the Eterna and FS Atrios but on the whole the quality of the EB’s bass is rather good.
The overall response of the SF5EB is slightly v-shaped, with a dip in the lower midrange and slightly hyped-up lower treble. Expectedly, the SF5EB does a very good job of separating the bass from the mids – sometimes too good, in fact, making the low end seem poorly integrated on certain tracks. It ends up sounding like a mid-range armature-based earphone with a subwoofer tacked on for good measure. The bass can obscure the lower mids and the midrange is not as transparent or detailed as that of the TF10 but for such a bass-heavy set the clarity is impressive.
There is a bit of emphasis towards on the upper mids but nothing that would cause the SF5EB to be notably harsh or sibilant. The treble is not particularly heavy on sparkle but provides a very energetic sound in conjunction with the big bass. Extension is not stellar but good for a bass-centric earphone. The sense of space is quite good as well – the width and depth of the soundstage are similar to the SF5Pro and the positioning and layering are good. One thing worth noting is that the SF5EB is very efficient and sometimes hiss-prone. The dynamic driver also likes a touch of extra juice to tighten up while the mids and treble don’t seem to benefit much from amplification.
Value (7/10) – Plain and simple, the Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5 EB is a basshead’s dream come true. It offers tons of powerful, full-bodied, dynamic bass overlaying a competent midrange and treble presentation – an effect afforded mostly by the unique internal workings of the earphone. It’s difficult to judge the technical merit of something like the SF5EB since accuracy was obviously not a priority in its tuning but the earphone does accomplish what it set out to do, delivering an uncompromisingly powerful low end. The aesthetics and ergonomics of the EB definitely won’t be to everyone’s liking and the isolation is a step below that offered by the other high-end UE IEMs but as a total package the EB is a good earphone for the bass-obsessed and a reasonable ‘guilty pleasure’ for the rest of us.
Pros: Nice carrying case, huge bass, surprisingly clear mid-range and treble
Cons: Housing size and fit