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Ultimate Ears Super.fi 4 Canalphones
I first came across Ultimate Ears while researching a Christmas wish list for TrustedReviews back in 2005. I was looking for super desirable kit - the sort of thing that I'd like for Christmas if money was no object.
Two years on and I still don't own a pair of in-ear monitors, custom moulded to the individual twists and turns of my ear canals - hardly surprising given that a pair of the firm's top-end canalphones cost in excess of $1,000 a pair. But I have managed to get my grubby mitts on a pair of Ultimate Ears' latest consumer 'low-end' lug-busters.
Of course Ultimate Ears' definition of low-end is different to most people's: the Super.fi 4's cost £75, which is a lot of money for most normal folk to spend on a pair of headphones, especially when most would probably shy away from spending more than £100 on an MP3 player. What's less surprising is that they're available in an iPhone-specific version for a tenner more. The 4vi's include an inline microphone so you can take calls as well as listen to music.
For this sort of money you'd expect top quality build, sound and accessories and on most counts these headphones do not disappoint. In the box there's a hard, plastic carry case to protect the phones while they're not in your ears, plus an extensive 'fit kit' that consists of four pairs of ear inserts. You don't get the foam inserts you do with a pair of Shures, but there is a decent selection of all-silicon rubber, flange-style fittings, including a double flange pair. The latter help ensure a truly tight fit and block out even more external sound than the single flange designs - an unusual inclusion at this price level.
Also in the box is a volume attenuator, which you can use on aeroplanes to prevent the incredibly loud in-flight announcements from turning you deaf, and a tool for cleaning purposes. Both are useful and again make unusual inclusions for the money.
Build quality is also as you'd expect. Despite the fact that we've had issues before with the quality of cable and housing of Ultimate Ears' headphones - the Super.fi 5 Pros Riyad reviewed a couple of years ago had thin, unsubstantial cabling and plastic bodies that didn't feel as if they would stand up to much abuse - the firm has since brushed up its act considerably. The Triple.fi 10's we looked at last year were much more solid in design, and the Super.fi 4s are even more impressive.