Brief: Ultrasone’s mid-range ultraportable easily racks up the style points but falls short of excellence in other areas
MSRP: $129.99 (discontinued)
Current Price: N/A
Build Quality (6.5/10): The priciest of the “ultraportable” headphone crop, the Ultrasone Zinos fold to make a compact package not much larger than the Sennheiser PX100s. The construction is simple and elegant, made out of quality plastic and with only one hinge per side. Cabling is rubberized and relatively thick and the silky-smooth synthetic fabric-covered pads are very pleasing to the touch. Bonus points for the handy hard carrying case Ultrasone includes. What worries me is the hard strain relief on the 3.5mm plug as well as the generally delicate structure for the $130 MSRP.
Comfort (7.5/10): The Zinos are very light and barely clamp at all and as a result are extremely comfortable. However, their strong suit becomes their downfall when any physical activity is performed. Combined with the low clamping force there just isn’t enough grip from the smooth fabric-covered pads or plastic headband for them to stay on my head. This may not be an issue for those with larger heads, but for me having to think about my portable headphones falling off when hopping onto a curb or bending down to pick something up is an annoyance.
Isolation (4/10): The Zinos are advertised as “semi-closed”, but the large downward-facing vents and flat foam pads really don’t obstruct leakage much. Their relatively large size on the ear is all they have to offer in terms of isolation.
Sound (6/10): I was really hoping that the Zinos would save themselves from mediocrity and justify the price tag with sound quality. I think that the loose fit may affect my impressions of them a bit as the bass really isn’t all that deep unless I clamp the cups to my ears, hard. The sound signature is biased towards the high and low end but not so much as to make them sound unbalanced. The bass is capable of dropping below 30Hz when the drivers are prodded and the bass emphasis works well outside where bass notes tend to get drowned out by noise. Clarity is quite good all-around and high-end extension is impressive. The treble even has a bit of sparkle but may be too bright for some. The soundstage is wide and instruments are well-positioned, likely due in part to the S-Logic system, but can make the slightly thin midrange sound downright diffuse at times. The biggest problem I have with the Zinos, though, is the metallic sound of the mids and treble, especially with hard rock and metal. Indeed, I have noticed that one’s enjoyment of the Zinos is very dependent on music choice. They work far better with pop, trance, and electronica than with more instrumental genres such as metal and classical. On the upside, the Zinos are very iPod-friendly – they are quite forgiving of poor-quality sources and recordings.
Value (6/10): While the Ultrasone Zinos are certainly attractive to behold, they fall slightly short of expectations set by the $100 price tag all-around. I do like the wide, airy sound produced by the Zinos but the metallic overtones exhaust me after extended exposure. The Zino is definitely a very competent portable, offering a small, lightweight form factor and competitive sound quality. But in the world of portable headphones, ‘competent’ is no longer good enough when the bar is set by products that are, at least in some ways, downright superb.
Frequency Response:15-25,000 Hz
Sensitivity:101 dB SPL/1mW
Cord:3.94ft (1.2m); Straight Plug