The HFI-2200 headphones are predominantly brown, with dark orange cloth covering its various pads. The back of the ear cups are silver with branding. There are some slits cut around the silver part, giving these headphones a semi-open back. The cups are attached to the band at little cylindrical logs that are branded as left and right. These logs also allow for the cups to move around.
The ear cups can tilt and rotate in a full 360. They can also be folded up to make for a more condensed package if you have to move them from place to place.
The left ear cup has a port for the cable and features threading for its screw-in cable.
In the box you'll find a software CD, a pouch, a 1/4-inch adapter, and a coil of cord. You'll also find the HFI-2200 headphones. *** Here is everything that comes in the HFI-2200s' box, ***
*** plus the box itself. It's a little blown out, but that's a ***
*** 1/4-inch adapter in the bottom right corner. ***
Overall, the Ultrasone HFI-2200s don't exude durability because the plastic seems slightly on the cheap side. The cups can rotate full around the band and tilt back and forth, which have to potential to cause wear and tear damage over time (the same is true of the extendable band). The rotation and tilting movement have solid stops, however; we didn't feel we could easily break the cups off. The pads are cloth, which is generally good for durability: it will resist tears and piercing better than the faux-leather covering that's all the rage right now.
We asked around the office and the general consensus is these headphones look a bit 70s. Over-ear headphones have issues with being overly conspicuous to begin with; the orange and brown coloration doesn't particularly help. It's not that they're ugly, it's just that don't particularly fit in with the current headphone aesthetic. This aesthetic isn't over-the-top ridiculous, but it is a bit silly. If you wore these at the office, you'd probably hear your fair share of uninspired wise cracks. These are, however, more office-acceptable than the average pair of Skullcandy headphones.
About our testing:**
Our audio tests use a head and torso simulator (HATS) and an electroacoustics analysis program called SoundCheck (developed by Listen, Inc.). If you'd like to find out more info about our testing procedure, you should check out this article. For more info on a specific test you can click the orange info icon after each section's title.
First we put the headphones on HATS, then we tell SoundCheck to play a frequency sweep through the headphones from 100 and 20,000 kHz. HATS listens to the sweep and reports the decibel level of each frequency back to SoundCheck. SoundCheck is then so cordial as to provide us with the graph below and to the right. Green is the left channel (ear cup), red is the right one, and the dotted lines represent the limits both lines should fall between. We don't score the extreme low and high end, but we show the frequency response anyway to give you, the viewer, and idea of the general trend. To learn more about this test, click the orange 'i' above.
What we found:
The HFI-2200 headphones had a pretty good frequency response for the most part, but the high end is dramatically under-emphasized. Things to look out far are long, sharp slopes, either up or down. Such features indicate a large gain or drop in decibel level over a small frequency range. That means an instrument could sound muted at times and normal at others, depending on what note its playing. In this case, as a sound approaches the high end, it will quickly decrease in volume for a bit, then spring back to normal.
Aside from the odd behavior towards the right side of the graph, however, the HFI-2200 performed rather well. The bass receives a bit of a boost, which anyone would notice the second they put these headphones on. We were surprised to see the mid-tones so evenly emphasized, since the bass seemed so boomy. The fallibility of our human ears is exactly why we use HATS and its robot ears.
How the Ultrasone HFI-2200 compares:
The HFI-2200's response curve looked a lot like the Grado SR60s. In both, the bass is slightly emphasized, the mid-section is a bit choppy, and there's a bit of a drop off towards the high end. Unfortunately for the HFI-2200s, however, the drop off occurs within our scoring limits. The Pioneer SE-A1000 headphones also had a bit of a downward slope at the high end, but again, the valley came in the really high end. The Sennheiser HD 555s have a weaker bass (probably due to their open-backed design) and also have some under-emphasized frequencies towards the higher end, but they response never strays quite as far away as it does on the HFI-2200s. The same goes for the iGrados. The QC2s' graph looks like it has the flu. It's under-emphasized, erratic, and the HFI-2200 looks great in comparison.
In terms of all headphones, the HFI-2200s are just slightly below the current average score of 4.08. Not bad, but certainly not great.
We play back a frequency sweep through the headphones, have HATS listen, then have SoundCheck find any differences between the original wave form and what HATS records. SoundCheck then graphs the results as the percentage of distortion found at each frequency. Again, for more info on this test, click the orange info icon above.
What we found:
Overall, there wasn't much distortion on the HFI-2200s. Towards the lower end, there were some issues, with the right channel almost hitting 2% distortion. Once the frequency climbed out of the realm of bass, however, distortion leveled off. There was a small bump towards the high-middle frequencies, but other than that the HFI-2200s did all right.
How the Ultrasone HFI-2200 compares:
Other than the Sennheisers, which had virtually no distortion (towards the extreme low end the graph gets choppy, but we've since stopped scoring below 100 Hz), most headphones tend to score around what the HFI-2200s did. While a picky audiophile might demand better performance, the HFI-2200s should be fine for most consumers.
Like the previous two tests, this one begins by playing a frequency sweep through the headphones. Here, however, we measure the difference in decibel level between each channel/ear cup/ear bud. When the left channel is louder, the blue line rises above the zero mark; when the right is louder, the line dips below zero. What we look for on this test are big swings between the left and right channel. If something errs towards one channel or the other within a few decibels, that won't be noticeable. What will be noticeable is a sudden shift from left to right. Again, for more info on this test, click the orange badge to the right of the section's score.
What we found:
For the overwhelming majority of the graph, the HFI-2200 was just within a few decibels of even-handed playback. Once it got towards the high-end, however, the tracking gets a bit erratic. This is normal behavior, however. Really, we don't have any complaints. Unless our pair of HFI-2200s was a fluke, you should never get the sensation that your playback is weighted towards the left or right.
How the Ultrasone HFI-2200 compares:
It's easy to see why a few of the headphones performed worse than the HFI-2200 on this test: the left part of the graph curves upward or downward, indicating it isn't on an even kiel. The Pioneer SE-A1000s also have a flat line initially, but towards the end their spike is far more pronounced than anything the HFI-2200 shows.
For this test we simply perform our distortion test over and over again, increasing the volume each time. Louder playback means more distortion. We simply keep bumping up the volume until the distortion hits 3%, which is a noticeable amount. Any louder than this threshold and playback would sound like garbage. For more info, click the orange button above.
What we found:
The Ultrasone HFI-2200 headphones were capable of outputting 104.94 decibels. A good score would fall between closer to 120 decibels. Still, 104.94 decibels isn't a terrible score. Mainstream users who don't have to drown out a noisy bus commute should find this level adequate. If you are seriously hell-bent on ruining your hearing, sorry, but the HFI-2200s aren't the best option.
We set up a speaker 18 inches from a headphones-wearing HATS, and use it to bombard HATS with pink noise (like white noise, but every frequency octave has the same power). We then see how much of this noise gets through the headphones and makes it into HATS's ears. We test both types of noise cancellation: active and passive. Active cancellation refers to the headphones themselves actually blasting inverted soundwaves at incoming sounds to neutralize them before they reach your ear. Passive cancellation is simply how well the headphones act like ear plugs and physically obstruct sound from reaching your ears.
What we found:
The HFI-2200 headphones did poorly on this test. We're guessing the main reason they weren't able to block out much noise was because cloth forms a very poor seal with skin. It leaves all sorts of nooks, crannies, and passageways that air and sound can pass through. Cloth-covered headphones are notoriously bad at keeping external sound out.
How the Ultrasone HFI-2200 compares:
Compare any of the headphones' scores and graphs below to the QuietComfort 2s' score and graph. Don't even look at the active cancellation curve. See how much better the QC2s are at passive cancellation? They have a faux-leather padding, whereas the others all have cloth or foam padding. Of course, a poor seal isn't the only culprit here. The SR60s, iGrados, and HD 555s all have open or semi-open backs, so sound can just waft right through your headphones and into your ears.
Compared to other cloth-padded headphones, the HFI-2200s actually didn't do half bad. If you want isolation, however, cloth is not the way to go.
For leakage, the headphones go on HATS, and a microphone is placed 6 inches away from HATS's ear. We then play back pink noise through the headphones. If any of the pink noise leaks out, the microphone picks it up.
What we found:
The HFI-2200 headphones tended to leak more sound that we'd like. We attribute this, again, to the cloth padding, and the poor seal cloth makes against skin. A weak seal means noise can easily escape from the miniature soundstage the cups create around your ears. If you're listening to music at a moderate level, someone next to you on the bus or train will be able to make it out. Forget about taking these to a library.
We didn't think the HFI-2200 headphones were particularly comfortable. The padding on the band felt uncomfortably hard and the cup padding felt a bit itchy. While these headphones were more comfortable than, say, the iGrado headphones after six hours, they still weren't the best wear experience we've had. We tend to prefer faux-leather coverings to fuzzy cloth, since it itches less and provides a better seal.
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Here's a reminder of what the padding looks like.
Over the course of six hours, we grew slightly more accustomed to the HFI-2200s. By the end of the session we still thought they were slightly uncomfortable -- the head padding still felt somewhat hard -- but not so uncomfortable we wouldn't want to wear them again. We recommend trying these on before you buy them, because if you happen to have a more sensitive head than we do, you might not like these headphones. If your head is made out of iron and muscle, then you might like these headphones just fine.
In an interesting twist, the Ultrasone HFI-2200 box appears to be lying to us and everyone. The treacherous box claims the cord is 3 meters long, but we measured it at 4.56 meters (which is 179.5 inches, or 14.95 feet). We're not sure why the headphones' box would want to short-change them like this, but we're sure it has its reasons. Length discrepancies aside, the plug has threading so you can screw it into the headphones. There isn't any threading on the other side, however, so the cord is free to pull out from any device you may be plugged into. There's also a 1/4-inch adapter included.
***15 feet of cable and a 1/4-inch adapter should ensure
connectivity to the average home theater setup. ***
nbsp;Until we make futuristic transforming headphones, over-ears will always be a bit awkward to lug around compared to in-ears. You can't ball them up and shove them into a pocket easily and they take up a lot of head real estate. In addition to the size issue, the cords of over-ears typically aren't made to be portable: they're thicker and often twice as long as in-ear cords. In this case the cord is just about 15-feet long, which is quite a substantial amount of cord to be lugging around in your pocket. The only saving grace for thenbsp;HFI-2200s' portability is the ability to detatch the cord. Of course, this requires you to have your own audio cable, but it's better than having a giant knot of cord in your pocket.
If you really want portability, however, there are far better options out there for you. These options will probably isolate you better and leak less sound than the HFI-2200s will.
https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/images/upload/Image/Reviews/Ultrasone/HFI-2200/pouch.jpg" cannot be displayed, because it contains errors." src="https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/images/upload/Image/Reviews/Ultrasone/HFI-2200/pouch.jpg" />***As you've no doubt guessed, this pouch
doesn't do anything special.***
The only customizability options you have with the HFI-2200s right out the box are band extension and cup rotation. These are basic customizability options. There aren't any bells or whistles included in the packaging that will alter the look of your headphones, such as face plates or different cup options. Very few headphones have good options for customizability.
A graphic depiction of the band, fully extended.
While you can't outright disassemble the HFI-2200 headphones, you can get right down to the sound element in case you want to clean it, replace a part, or re-solder it. First you have to remove the cup padding. This should reveal the 'MU Metal bufferboard,' which Ultrasone says reduces field emissions.
The ear cup, sans padding.
The next step -- assuming you're not afraid of field emissions -- is to unscrew the bufferboard. The screws accept a regular phillips screwdriver, so no need for specialized equipment. Some of the screws are red herrings that don't actually hold anything in place, but we didn't know this beforehand so we foolishly unscrewed them all. There are two lengths of screws, so you should remember to mark what you're taking from where.
Is the interior of your HFI-2200 headphones
everything you thought it would be?
Once the screws are out, lo! Some wires and computer chips! The driver is actually attached to the bufferboard; unless you've got a tiny crowbar, a soldering iron, and a callous disregard for headphone privacy, you'll have to admire the driver from afar. This is actually a bit annoying, since you'll have to rely on canned air to clean it out through the holes in the bufferboard. Overall, however, we were impressed with the access we were given to the headphones' internals.
*These headphones aren't dependent on a battery. This allows them to be slightly more portable than a battery-reliant model and is also far less of a hassle.
S-Logic Natural Surround Sound
We're guessing this added feature is partially responsible for the boomy bass. The box had this to say (and yes, those typos were on the box, faithfully reproduced here): 'With normal headphones you have the impression, that the music is being played in your head. ULTRASONE headphones with the patented S-Logic (TM) Naturlal Surround Sound give you a natural 3-dimansional sound.' We certainly didn't hear anything out of the ordinary, except maybe for boomy (slightly echo-y?) bass. Maybe we were just impervious to the psychoacoustics, but we didn't think this feature added anything to our listening experience.**Value***(2.50)* We think the HFI-2200s are a bit overpriced for what they offer. They don't have the best audio quality and aren't particularly comfortable. At $299, you should expect your headphones to have at least better than average audio quality. If they don't, then they'd better be otherwise luxurious. Unfortunately, neither is the case for the HFI-2200s. You can get better for your money.
Pioneer SE-A1000 - The Pioneers have slightly better audio quality, are much more comfortable, and have a more modern (albeit very DJ-esque) aesthetic. If you have $300 to spend on a pair of home theater headphones, and are considering both the HFI-2200s and the SE-A1000s, we'd recommend you pick up the SE-A1000s. You'll even have $100 left over for popcorn and DVDs.
Grado SR60 - The Grado SR60s have better audio quality, but not by all that much, and are slightly more comfortable. If you just run down the numbers, the two headphones are quite similar. The deal-breaker? The SR60s cost a wallet-friendly $70. Though the HFI-2200 headphones certainly look and feel as though they were made out of better materials, we don't think the cost of materials makes up for a $230 deficit.
Sennheiser HD 555 - The HD 555 headphones are really just a better, cheaper version of the HFI-2200s. The HD 555s have far better audio quality (with distortion so low audiophiles swoon), are more comfortable, and cost a healthy amount less than the HFI-2200s. The HD 555 headphones win this match-up.
Bose QuietComfort 2- The QC2s are far more portable than the HFI-2200 headphones. They come with a cord and an extension cord, so you're never stuck with a cumbersome coil in your pocket. They can block out a lot of ambient noise, making them even better at a morning commute. The QC2s have better audio quality, noise cancellation, are more comfortable and portable, and cost the same. The HFI-2200s lose this one.
Grado iGrado - The iGrado headphones are meant for portability, the HFI-2200 headphones are not, and the HFI-2200 costs $250 more than the iGrado headphones. The iGrados and HFI-2200 headphones performed about the same in terms of audio quality. The HFI-2200 headphones are far more comfortable and have a better design. Strictly in terms of 'which is a better set of headphones,' the HFI-2200s win. If you're on a budget, however, the iGrado headphones offer similar quality but an inferior wear experience.
The HFI-2200 headphones would have been an ok entry-level set of headphones. They don't have the best audio quality, and they also aren't that comfortable, but they aren't, by any means, terrible. Unfortunately for them, their cost is terrible. At the $300 price point, you're towards the higher side of mid-range headphones. Unfortunately, the HFI-2200 headphones can't compete with other headphones in this category. The Bose QC2s, which are a bit overpriced to begin with, are a better value than the HFI-2200 headphones. Sadly, the Ultrasone HFI-2200 headphones seem to suffer from a price typo: if they cost 1/3 what they do, they could've duked it out with the Grado SR60s on 'Best Headphones Under $100' lists. At their current price bracket, however, they're simply outclassed by their peers.
Audiophiles will hear far too much bass distortion for their liking.
These headphones are in no way portable. Maybe if you don't mind carrying around a 15-foot coil of cord in your pocket then you can manage.
Airplane noise will cut through these headphones like they weren't there.
Home Theater Use
This is where these headphones excel. They have a long cord, the lack of leakage and isolation won't matter because you're in a controlled environment, and the bass will lend itself to meaty explosions.
Meet the tester
Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.
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