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Ultimate Ears 700 Noise-Isolating Earphones review



  • Recommended by TR
Ultimate Ears 700 Noise-Isolating Earphones


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It's almost scary thinking back two years. Two years ago, I was trying to convince anyone who would listen that I hadn't wasted my money buying a PlayStation 3 - despite quite a lot of evidence to the contrary at that point - and I had coughed up close to £250 for a set of Shure SE420 dual-driver earphones. Luckily things have changed in the last 24-odd months. Sony's console is now pretty awesome and has seen a significant revision and pricing of earphones has dropped so much that a dual driver set, such as the Ultimate Ears 700 earphones I'm currently using can be had for around £130 - if that's not progress I don't know what is!

The price isn't the only good thing about the 700s, though. Not long ago we were praising the Klipsch Image X10s and Image X5s for sounding great, despite being incredibly small and light. But, amazingly, Ultimate Ears has managed to craft an even smaller set of earphones and cram not one, but two drivers into them. It's a remarkable feat of engineering and makes that price all the more impressive.

Their diminutive size makes the Ultimate Ears 700s a pleasure to wear, even for extended periods or - perish the thought - while active. The 90 degree angle at which the cable meets each earphone means they can be worn either 'normally' with the cable dropping straight down, or 'over the ear' Shure-style, giving a more secure fit and helping eliminate cable noise. It would be nice of there was an in-line remote as I find having to reach into my pocket and remove my iPod touch to skip tracks extremely annoying, but I guess that's my fault for having a player with no physical controls.

The earphones are finished in shiny silver plastic, but luckily it's not the cheap-looking kind. Instead the finish has a slightly smoky, blue quality to it. It's a step down in quality from the metal Image X5 and X10s, but if it's the choice between (presumably) better audio quality or a metal casing then I'm going to pick the better sounding option every time.

One annoyance comes from the red and blue inner colouring of the right and left earphones respectively. It's galling because it shows that someone clearly thought about making the difference identifiable without squinting for the L and R labels but neglected to consider what happens when it's dark. Just about every rival set of 'phones has some kind of physical identification, which is a great help when wearing them in bed - as I am.

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September 29, 2009, 2:08 pm

It's good to have comparisons made with other products in a review but the Shure 420's seem to be mentioned in every other paragraph as the product these UE700's should have been.

That said, I'm tempted to get another pair of ear phones and these could be the ones for me. I use Sennheiser MX560's at work (noise isolation isn't suited for an office environment), Sennheiser CX95's at the gym and Etymotic Research hf2 iPhone Stereo Headset with my iPhone on the way to work.

The problem I find is that while the hf2's are great for the iPhone to I can make and take calls, they have no bass. It's a problem as I mainly listen to dance music. The CX95's sound much better but their annoying two-part cable is a nuisance.

I much prefer having earphones that can hang over the back of your neck, so if you can do that with these and they have a standard length cable and sound great (with bass) then I'll consider them.


September 29, 2009, 3:05 pm

I mention the SE420s five times by my count. Given they are the best dual-driver 'phones I've ever listened to, comparison is only to be expected. Like I said, these are smaller, lighter and arguably more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time while still sounding almost as good so the Shure's aren't necessarily better. You could wear these down the back of your neck if you wanted, weirdo ;)


September 29, 2009, 5:04 pm

A word of caution to anyone in the UK purchasing Ultimate Ears products. I own a pair of UE SuperFi 5 Pros, and after 18 months of ownership the cables had oxidised heavily and one of the 'phones has lost most of its bass output. Ultimate Ears did not even reply to my emails and as it is not a UK registered company I have no recourse. I will buy Shure in future as the aftersales for these products is non-existent in this country.


September 29, 2009, 8:08 pm

@Hugo, Thanks for your response. I used to think it was weird having one earphone looping around the back of my neck but I found it so useful for when I needed to remove one earphone to listen to someone. It doesn't fall down and get tangled up as the cable rests on your shoulder. It also stops both earphone cables from clinging or touching your face and around your collar when you're walking. This in turn reduced cable 'click' noises spoiling your music as mentioned in your review (though you were refering to over the ear, which is indeed weird).

Can you clarify whether one earphone has a longer cable than the other so it can loop around the back on your neck?

Mark 16

September 30, 2009, 12:02 am

Jim, I'd might say the same about UE, but they were bought by Logitech recently, and their customer service has been excellent to the point of making me sound like a shill. I had UE SF5 Pros too, and in my case the socket for the removable cables broke (ironic!). The shop I bought them from refused to do anything, citing 'physical damage', and said that UE's US arm agreed. However, I contacted Logitech, who replaced them with no quibbles with the UE700s reviewed here. This is not the first example of excellent service I've had from them, and I suggest you contact Logitech directly and see if they're willing to help.

Hugo, how did you find they compare to the others in terms of maximum output without distortion (esp. with heavy bass)? They seem to fall a little short of the UE 5 Pros in this regard (although the fit is miles ahead).

Mark 16

September 30, 2009, 12:07 am

Orinj, the cabling is symmetrical (and a little short for me - 1.2m overall).


October 1, 2009, 5:38 pm

Mark, do you have contact details of the department within Logitech that you dealt with? Thanks.


October 1, 2009, 5:56 pm

Mark, I just called Logitech and they won't do anything about it, so my advice would be if you want to spend £149 on junk then buy Ultimate Ears.


October 9, 2009, 5:41 pm

the best earphones I have used are the shure se310s... would these show much of a difference?


October 9, 2009, 6:06 pm

..and is there anywhere in the UK that even sells them?

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