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I predict that 2012 is the year that the Ultimate Ears brand becomes a household name. And considering the line-up for the autumn this is not a hard prediction to make. Three new on-ear/over-ear models, a couple of really cool portable speakers and a clever radio solution breathe new life for the brand. Since being acquired by Logitech there has been a couple of years of trying to redefine the platform, and find out what UE is all about again. The last couple of years UE has only had a couple of mid-priced, and one premium priced in-ear headset for the consumer market. In 2012 this has changed considerably, and UE is definitely gearing up to be a competitor to for example Beats by Dr Dre. The UE 4000 rivals the Beats by Dr Dre Solo, the UE 6000 rivals the Studio and the UE 9000 rivals the Beats Wireless.
The UE 4000 is the smallest of the new headphones from UE, and possibly the one giving most bang for the buck. I have quite small ears, and that means that the 4000 that is supposed to be an on-ear headphone actually works like over-ear. To me this difference is huge, as on-ear headphones tend to feel sweaty and cramped. The upside of on-ear is that it manages to squeeze a lot of extra bass into the ear by being applied straight onto it. With the 4000 I get both this extra connection, and a seal around the ear from the padded cushion. Compared to say the Bose On-ear, or the Beats by Dr Dre Solo the UE 4000 is much more comfortable, and I can wear it for hours without breaking a sweat.
The sound is balanced, clear and comes with a strong but not overbearing bass. When the music isn’t bass filled the headphones doesn’t try to emulate, or infuse something that isn’t there. When music is bass filled it enhances it without drowning out the mid, or high spectrum. This sound image is suitable for all kinds of sound sources, and some audiophiles might actually like the UE 4000 as their portable sound solution when out and about. There is however one drawback, and that is if you are trying to compete with the Beats by Dr Dre Solo you are kind of failing without that extra bass. I personally prefer the balanced sound instead of the muddied bass heavy sound of the Solo.
There are a number of cool, and practical features to the UE 4000. For one the cord can be removed when travelling, or if you need to replace it. It is always good to be able to exchange the cord, as it is much cheaper than buying a new set of headphones if the cord has broken. Another cool feature is the audio splitter that allows you to share your music by splitting it to another set of headphones. I do however think that Urbanears does this better on their Plattan that has the function built in instead of having an extra item to lug around.
The build quality is great, and combined with the light weight I don’t see these breaking anytime soon. The design is contemporary with shiny headband, great colours and a lot of plastic surfaces. These surfaces are shiny, and tend to get smudged, and dusty easily though.
Available in three contemporary colours I really think the UE 4000 is a great entry into the on-ear/over-ear segment giving great value for less than $100. It is definitely one of the comfiest, lightest most balanced headphones I have tried lately. Highly recommended to all.