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Ultimate Ears 600

Ultimate Ears UE 600 / 600vi Review

Ultimate Ears 600 400x300
Added July 2013

Details: Long-running staple of the UE lineup previously known as the Super.Fi 5
MSRP: $119.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $60 from amazon.com for UE 600; $50 for 600vi w/mic & 3-button remote; Latest version (Logitech UE 600) always has remote
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 13Ω | Sens: 115 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock Comply, generic bi-flange
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down

Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), Comply foam tips (2 sets), and hard plastic carrying case
Build Quality (3.5/5) – All-plastic construction, color-coded nozzles, and chromed housings are all reminiscent of the lower-end UE earphones. The cable is identical to the one used by the UE 700 – soft and flexible, but plasticky and not very well-relieved
Isolation (3.5/5) – Nozzles are long and lend themselves to deep insertion fairly well. Isolation is good but still lags behind many pricier BA-based earphones
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Quite low in the soft and flexible cable, and can be eliminated completely with over-the-ear wear
Comfort (4.5/5) – The curved shells and long nozzles of the SF5 allow them to be worn either cord-up or cord-down quite easily, though the position of the mic suggests over-the-ear wear. The housings are very light and rarely come in contact with the ear, much like those of the Phonak PFE and Future Sonics Atrio earphones

Sound (8.6/10) – Originally known as the Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5, the single-armature UE 600 took its spot in the UE lineup over from the dual-armature Super.Fi 5 Pro model. Sonically, it differs greatly from its predecessor, taking on a more balanced and accurate sound. At the low end, the UE 600 sounds like a typical single-armature earphone, lacking the enhanced bass of UE’s dynamic-driver models. The bass is very level and controlled, with impact that is on-par with the Etymotic Research HF5 and lags slightly behind the MEElec A161P.

The midrange, on the other hand, is more prominent. The UE 600 places the mids front and center. It is still more neutral than the vast majority of entry-level earphones but for me sounds slightly mid-centric, albeit very clear and refined. This could be due to an impedance interaction with my sources, but it is consistent across all of the ones I’ve tried. Tonally, the UE 600 is a touch warmer than the UE 700 and other TWFK-based sets, as well as the Etymotic HF5, but detail and overall transparency are still very good.

The top end of the UE 600 is clean and smooth, if not particularly sparkly. The UE can’t quite match the delicacy and detail of the HiFiMan RE-400 but still impresses with the slightly relaxed nature of its treble. There is absolutely no grain and the earphone tends to avoid harshness and sibilance. It is also not overly critical of lower-bitrate files. I would say this was done on purpose due to its low price point, but the flagship UE 900 model has similar tendencies. Admittedly, the UE 900 does have better treble presence, energy, and extension, sounding more natural overall, but there is also a huge price gap in play there.

The UE 600 possesses an impressively wide soundstage but doesn’t keep up too well with higher-end earphones. I found it lacking overall dynamics and the separation of higher-end sets such as the quad-driver UE 900 model. As a result, the soundstage has comparatively poor depth and layering and the overall sonic image is a bit flat, much like that of the similarly-priced Creative Aurvana In-Ear 3.

Value (9.5/10) – The UE 600 is a little plasticky in build but remains lightweight, comfortable, and fairly well-isolating courtesy of the included Comply eartips. The sound is neutral to somewhat mid-centric, with very good clarity, decent bass presence, and smooth, forgiving treble. It sounds great with music and is especially well-suited for audiobooks and phone calls with its forward, highly intelligible vocal presentation. Simply put, it’s a great fit for anyone in search of a comfortable earphone with excellent mids.

Pros: Comfortable form factor; very low cable noise; smooth, yet accurate sound
Cons: Plasticky build quality and typical UE cable; prone to impedance interactions with high-OI sources

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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58 Responses

  1. Hey there. Since I noticed these UE’s were being compared to a lot of other iems that I’ve been looking at, I was wondering what iems you think would be a good idea for me?

    At $50 I am most strongly considering Soundmagic E80C’s but am also open to the idea of other iems. Another I was looking at was the Sennheiser CX300ii’s @ $20. Do you think the extra $30 could be justified over the sennheiser?

    What I’m looking for under $80 (preferably $50 or under):
    +crisp sound
    +clear bass with slight/moderate “thump” if that’s possible to keep clean in this price range
    +durable
    …. Otherwise best sound quality I guess.
    I want something suitable for a novice audiophile that provides clear details, vocals, bass, etc that can get me started in critical listening (while still being “fun” enough to not bore me to death)

    I’m currently working with UrBeats3 earbuds, which are fun, decent buds. But I’d really like something more clear and accurate esp to hone in on my critical listening. I also have an LG Q7+ w/ a HiFi dac as well as several stereo & headphone amps, so I wouldn’t mind a higher impedance either. My main genres are: Rock/Metal (main material is from bands like Tool & Chevelle to Godsmack & Panteta to Rage Against the Machine & Prophets of Rage, etc), Reggae, Rap/Hip Hop, Acoustic/Indie/Folk Pop…
    … I really love music with powerful energy, heavy guitars, funky/heavy bass riffs, and emphasized/clear vocals. Rap Metal (and/or NuMetal-ish) is my biggest interest/influence, so anything that would bring out the best of the attributes associated with that kind of music (ex: Prophets of Rage, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Hed PE, Disturbed, Sevendust, Limp B-hole, etc).

    Sorry about the verbose detail. Just wanna make sure I am as clear as possible on what I’m trying to convey/describe as I’m a fairly new “audiophile” (connoisseur might be a better word as audiophile for some reason carries an connotation that implies and emphasizes skill rather than interest, etc).

    Thank you so much!!

  2. Hey, I was forwarded to your website by a friend and after researching the list and looking through my options I thought I settled on these headphones.

    Sadly, it looks like they went out of production in 2014? Last known pricing for the Logitech-branded variant in my country is from 2014 and even if I search in English I find them for a too steep for me $90 minimum.

    I’ll continue searching later, but in the meantime.. would you happen to have a recommendation for me? I’m looking for relatively inexpensive headphones (~60 euro sounds like a good maximum) that offer the following:
    – Low cable noise
    – Good isolation (will be used on plane trip)
    – Good sound, with rather less than more emphasis on bass
    – Don’t care for a ‘premium feel’
    – Other areas at least decent

    I will use them for music only. The only ‘genre’ I listen to is K-Pop. K-Pop of course consists of various genres, but my library excludes things like rap, hip-hop and R&B. I mostly listen up-beat music, but love my ballads when I’m in the mood for them. I consider the (female) voice to be the most beautiful instrument, in case it matters.

    I don’t intend to use my earphones much after my international trip, as I don’t normally travel much and use USB headphones at home.

  3. Thanks a ton.. Ordering ue 600 now..
    One more thing, you are a great person..wish we could have a beer or two some time

  4. They are tuned similarly, yes. The RE-400 has some small advantages here and there but soundstaging definitely isn’t one of them – it’s just not a strong point of the HiFiMan. The UE600 has always been a good value, aside from durability which isn’t great.

    The Havi has a good soundstage, probably better than the UE600, but the sound signature you are describing matches the UE600 better.

  5. One more thing if you don’t me asking, does RE-400 and UE-600 sound alike? RE-400 is available at almost twice the price of UE-600 here (India). Don’t think it’d be wise to go for RE-400 for a slight bump in quality (If there’s any). I’ve heard Havi has a pretty wide soundstage and instrument separation (which i really liked in KC06) as compared to even RE-400. You think there’s any remarkable difference soundstage wise between UE-600 and Havi B3 Pro1. Havi is pretty inexpensive too (50 USD) if that matters.

  6. The UE600 is not very durable but for $45 it’s a steal. Won’t be as bright or “exciting” as the KC06 thanks to its more smooth and neutral sound. It’s almost as “dull” as an RE-400, but a better deal at this price and very smooth. Probably wouldn’t bother with the Havi B3 unless you are placing more value on durability – it doesn’t really fit your target sound any better than the UE600.

    One more option – I often recommend the DUNU Titan 1 as a KC06 replacement for a similar type of bright (but not harsh), mid-forward sound, and someone recently mentioned that the Fiio EX1 is actually a cheaper version of that. I can’t confirm that myself, but it seems like a potentially viable $70 alternative. The Titan 1 itself is usually $100+.

    And yeah, too many earphones…

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