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Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi Earphones review



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Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi Earphones
  • Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi Earphones
  • Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi Earphones
  • Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi Earphones
  • Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi Earphones
  • SuperFi 5vi Earset - Stereo (Earbud - Binaural - Open - Mini-phone - Liquid Silver)


Our Score:


It's that time again; once more I am here to remind you all that those bundled earphones you received with the media player you're listening to right now are, it saddens me to say, doing you no favours. Not only do they sound naff but they betray your poor taste in music; because surely no-one who has good taste in tunes would subject them to such terrible treatment?

Don't worry, though, help is at hand. There are plenty of third party earphones available and the latest set to find their way onto my desk, the Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5vi in-ear 'phones, aren't too shabby at all. Admittedly their £90-odd price tag will deter many, especially as you can get a decent player - say, the Sony E443 for that money, with change to spare.

Nonetheless, if you are in the market for a little under £100 worth of quality earphones these are worth considering. The design isn't spectacular, but it works whether you want to plug the 'phones straight into your ears, or run the cable over the top first. The latter is advisable because there's a lot of noise transmission through the cable otherwise. Better considered is the inclusion of a microphone and an in-line remote.

Logitech says that the addition of this microphone and in-line remote makes these earphones well suited for the iPhone or BlackBerry handsets. That seems to be a slightly devious way of saying: "don't blame us when these won't work with some players." Plugged into a Samsung YP-R1 exactly half of the stereo channels come through, which is hardly ideal. As such you'll want to be wary that your player of choice is compatible before buying these Ultimate Ears 'phones.

The good news is that the microphone seems pretty good. Making a couple of calls I heard no complaints about quality from the recipient - even walking through Piccadilly Circus. Ultimate Ears' placement of the remote is well thought out. While most manufacturers place the control by the microphone, up at the side of your face, the Super.Fi 5vi remote is placed just below the point when the cable 'Y' splits - where it should be, if you ask me.

As well as the earphones themselves, the Super.Fi 5vi package comes complete with a plastic carrying case, a cleaning tool and five different tips; four in varying sizes made of silicone and one of Comply foam. The latter aren't perfect as they degrade fairly quickly, but if you're happy to purchase replacements fairly often they're by far the most comfortable and likely the best fitting tips offered by Ultimate Ears - without buying a set of UE's much more expensive custom fitted 'phones at any rate.


November 10, 2009, 7:33 pm

Buy this brand with caution, quality control seems to be an issue, although customer service is good. A friend bought in the states, the left earpiece started crackling & cutting out. He emailed & was sent a new set, no quibbles. Meanwhile he upgraded to the 3 driver model & I purchased that replacement set. I've now lost the right earpiece to the same problem. The sound was excellent until then though.


November 10, 2009, 7:47 pm

Agree with gondwanaman here. Managed to get a pair of Superfi 5 pro's with the vi cable attached (the vi cable being the inline remote and mic). After about 6 months, the headphone connection became dodgy and sound would crackle in the left and right ear intermittently until it became unbearable. Ended up having to refundethem as the retailer couldn't replace the vi cable on it's own (nothing wrong with the headphones). So annoyed as they were the best pair of headphones I'd owned until that point.

Mark Booth

November 10, 2009, 7:58 pm

My wife bought a pair of these for her iPhone and we agree about the cable noise but overall she's quite happy with them. She needs the remote and the microphone is much better than the old Sony fontopias she replaced.

My point however is that most of us have to purchase these rather expensive items on the blind faith of reviews like on this site as most shops won't let you test them. For her £90 was a semi impulse purchase but for others it's a lot of money. I certainly wouldn't buy a three driver £300+ set on blind faith.

I know some shops have demo models (my closest Apple shop has 'some') but that can mean a long journey and the demo options are usually quite limited.

Has everyone else bought blind or have people tested themselves first. Just curious.


November 10, 2009, 8:48 pm

Mark - with a certain amount of fear I upgraded from Shure SE210s to a set of Shure SE530s based on numerous reviews and reading a lot of user reviews in online stores. It's definitely a scarey thing to fork out over £200 on a set of earphones, but having taken the plunge I could never go back....in fact I can't understand why so many people still use the earphones that came with their PMPs....every time I see someone on the Tube using white Apple earphones a little piece of me dies inside.....clearly these people don't actually like their music or their ears....

In fact, just had my SE530s replaced under warranty after pulling a bit of rubber off, being a bit forceful (no reflection on the build quality)...gotta love Shure's warranty, no questions asked!

Def worth checking out user reviews on eg amazon - if enough people are being positive then the chances are it's a good product, and any "random" problems are more likely to be brought to light if reviews are written by a large number of consumers.

I've always thought TR is one of the most trustworthy (heh) review sites online and the guys do a good job, but they do have a limited time with any one product, and all reviews are the opinion of an individual, after all! :-)

Tim Sutton

November 10, 2009, 9:16 pm

@ Mark

I'd never buy completely blind, but I do trust certain sites enough that a positive review from them means I don't feel as if I *am* blind.

I'll actually take it a stage further. The last time my phone upgrade came around I went to the shop and played with various handset options for a few minutes each. The one that appealed most to me then and there I searched for on TR but it was not well reviewed, so I changed my mind.

Thing is, using something for a few minutes in a shop isn't going to give you anything more than a first impression. A detailed review here will give you a much better idea of the products strengths and weaknesses over a period of time.

I don't always agree with Trusted Reviews *grumbles about TomTom iPhone review some more* but I think you can trust them to always give their honest opinion and it'll be an opinion drawn from a far more in depth look than you'll have a chance to get in a shop.

Oh, and if it turns out that what you've bought doesn't suit you you can always send it back for a refund :-)


November 10, 2009, 10:39 pm

So what about the sound quality about the earphones without the in-line remote and microphone? 'cos it's been getting some good reviews from places like anythingbutipod and others. (not that I don't trust this site (irony unintended), 'cos I do (bought the Sony S638 based on the reviews here))

Mark Booth

November 11, 2009, 12:20 pm


I've been reading TR since the day they started and found their reviews on things I already own to be pretty much spot on. They are always objectively correct and usually subjectively (well to me anyway!) too.

My problem starts and ends with personal items like in ear headphones. We all have different shaped ears and also rate sound quality subjectively. I could give the most detailed expensive set of cans to my wife and she'd say, "Yuk, I don't like the sound." When I bought some hifi cans I demoed over ten sets from £50 entry levels to £800+ electrostatics and settled on the ones we both found the most comfortable wearing for a full album of listening. We went for the Sennheiser HD600 series in case you're interested - you could wear them all day and not even feel them!

This is a problem with in ear headphones though. Most shops have sealed retail boxes and refuse to let you try them. Those that have openable boxes say it's a hygiene issue which is fair enough. My local Apple shop have demo units which they clean with a hygiene tissue before and after use, but their demo range doesn't stretch to the Shure's etc. I tried some Bose but wanted proper noise isolation.

I guess the best solution is to go to your most reputable retailer and see if you can get a demo. If not, you buy on the faith of a review site (read: this site!) and promise yourself some custom fit buds if the standard buds are uncomfortable or don't fit your ears. Sigh.

p.s. - I bought some Ultimate Ears at £120 several years ago and have no cable/quality/noise transmission issues at all... but I guess that was before they were bought out by Logitech as my wife's 5vi's "seem" lower build quality to me.


November 11, 2009, 5:10 pm

Amazon -- at least in Germany -- honors their 14-day money back option every time, no questions asked, for all electronic items including in-ear headphones.


November 11, 2009, 10:13 pm

I had some old UE Super-Fi 5s and when they were 13 months old the connector on one of the earpieces broke off, just out of warranty. Was not happy.

The replacement was a pair of SE530s, which have served me well for over a year now.


That wouldn't be the piece of rubber that sits around the cable on the earpieces would it? It came adrift on one of my earpieces, but I glued it back on with epoxy and you wouldn't notice now. I didn't consider returning them, maybe I should have...


November 11, 2009, 10:27 pm

Chris, I bet that is the piece he is talking about as it has fallen off my SE420s.


November 13, 2009, 10:40 pm

Hmm, a Shure design flaw it would seem.

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