It's sniffed at by audio snobs, but the £20 price mark is a very important one for earphone makers - being the maximum price many are willing stump up to replace their bundled buds. The Sennheiser CX300 legacy has virtually ruled this entry level sector for the past few years, but it's not without rivals. Ultimate Ears's previous efforts were the Metro.Fi 170, but the nipper of the new UE gang is the 200. Let battle commence.
The Ultimate Ears 200 are plastic-bodied buds with a two-tone grey design. We're not entirely sure why the snazzy metallic finish of the Metro.Fi 170 is gone - perhaps to give the shiny 400 and 700 models more exclusivity - but the curvy bodies of these 'phones make them attractive enough in a conservative, unassuming way.
They're very light too, perfectly comfortable for long listening sessions. Six pairs of rubber tips are included, ensuring a good fit for all but the most picky of IEM wearers. They're not quite as high-quality as the tips included with Ultimate Ears's higher-end earphones - the tips of the 400vi are a little softer - but they do the job all the same.
The standard Ultimate Ears case is thrown-in too. It's a no-frills translucent plastic affair which is fairly practical thanks to its flip-top lid, but certainly isn't desirable. Nonetheless, it tops off what is altogether an adequate but certainly not comprehensive package. For instance, there's no aeroplane splitter, no additional foam tips and no in-line remote or hands-free functionality - although there is a 200vi version available that includes the last two.
The Ultimate Ears 200 use a right-angled jack rather than a straight model. These tend to suffer less from connectivity problems resulting from wear after months of regular use stashed in a pocket or bag.
Available in three finishes - grey, pink and blue - there's not much of an aesthetic middle ground with the Ultimate Ears 200. The grey model looks a little dull compared with the snazzier-looking Sennheiser CX300 or Skullcandy Titan, while the striking colour models may be too attention-grabbing for some. It's tough to please everyone, but we'd argue that the 200 earphones don't do quite as well here as the previous Metro.Fi 170.
The cable uses a slightly rubberised blend of plastic that we found fairly resistive to tangling in our test period. It's thicker than average at this bottom-rung price point, but feels cheaper than models higher up Ultimate Ears's new earphone range. Like all IEMs equipped with rubber tips, the Ultimate Ears 200 offer a decent level of sound isolation against the noises of the outside world, making them perfect for use within noisy environments like buses and trains.