For the best fit, I found the UE200s needed to be positioned so the cables exited upwards and then wrapped around the top and down the back of my ears. Once properly positioned with over-the-ear cable placement the earphones stayed put and delivered the full measure of their potential 26 dB of outside noise attenuation. The earphone cord was relatively non-microphonic. Using the tap test—where you tap the cable with your finger to see if it goes “boom” or remains silent, I found the cord was for the most part sonically inert (once I got more than a centimeter away from where the cable met the driver housing). The provided signal cable was probably long enough for most users, but I would have preferred another six inches to insure no pulling when my MP3 player was in my rear hip pocket.
For the past couple of months I’ve been using tracks from an album by Alexis Harte titled Spoons of Honey [CDBY] as a reference. It’s beautifully produced with scads of low-level detail and an exceedingly natural harmonic palette. Through the UE200s I could hear nearly as much inner detail as with their big brothers, the UE In-Ear Reference Monitors. The UE200’s articulate midrange illuminates Harte’s deft acoustic guitar work. Regardless of how many other instruments or vocal tracks were layered on top of each other, the underlying pulse from his fingerstyle acoustic remained. While it may be odd to talk about soundstage or imaging within the context of headphone listening, the UE200s do an exemplary job of placing each track in space with no smearing or homogenization. Even on dense tracks such as “Hadn’t Met You Yet” the various wind instruments and keening synthesizers retained their own locations in the soundstage.
On my own recordings, such as my recently made high-rez recording of The Deadly Gentlemen playing at the Salina Schoolhouse, the UE200s performance closely approached what I heard from the UE In-Ear Reference Monitor (IERM) custom-fit monitors when I made the recordings. Since I was in the same room as the performers, monitor speakers were verboten, so I used the IERMs to fine-tune my microphone placement and for monitoring throughout the session. Like the UE In-Ear Reference Monitors, it was easy to hear deep into the mix through the UE200s. And also like the Reference Monitors, each player had their own distinct spot in the soundstage with no confusion of muddiness. Amazingly, the UE200s are good enough that I could have used them to monitor the original recording session.
Consider this product if:
• You are looking for an inexpensive yet very high-quality earphone.
• Natural harmonic balance is more important to you than bass impact.
• You don’t mind taking the extra time and effort needed to make sure your earphones fit well.
• You are a budget-conscious audiophile and want ideal travel in-ear for listening on the go.
Look further if:
• Big bass and dynamic power are of primary importance to you (this is not an ideal earphone for the urban beatmeister).
• You like to play your music loud and need a very efficient earphone.
• Your ears are difficult to fit with typically shaped ear tips or ear-cushions (you may have to buy third-party ear tips for an optimal fit).
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced earphones)
• Tonal Balance: 9
• Frequency Extremes: 6 (Bass)/7(Treble)
• Clarity: 9
• Dynamics: 7
• Comfort/Fit: 7
• Sensitivity: 6
• Value: 9
For $30 you can’t expect much from a headphone, right? Wrong. For less than the cost of a two-disc Blu-Ray box the sound of your MP3 player can take a gigantic leap up the fidelity ladder when coupled to the Ultimate Ears UE200 in-ear earphones.
If you are familiar with the sound of a good pair of loudspeakers or earphones, you will be shocked by how much sonic goodness Ultimate Ears packed into their UE200 ear-buds. Although not as efficient as many earbuds, and lacking anything in the way of big bass, the UE200s possess the most neutral and articulate midrange I’ve heard from anything near its price.
If you are looking for a big, spectacular, bodacious sound, I suggest you look at the Sennheiser CX500 earphones, which have more bass and treble extension than the UE200, but suffer by comparison to the UE200’s smooth midrange and exemplary low-level definition.