Whereas $400 is entering the upper end of universal in-ear products where a few stand out models dominate, the over/on-the-ear headphone segment is chock full of competition, not to mention, plenty of great sounding hardware. That said, there can also be awesome sound quality had for less, too. So what exactly makes Logitech UE’s 9000 headphones worth your hard earned cash and worthy of putting out just a little extra? Is UE’s legacy still preserved now that they’re under Logitech? Let’s find out.
- Wireless Range: 50 feet
- Driver Size: 40mm
- Impedance: 32ohms @ 1 kHz
- Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL/mW
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20 kHz
- Noise Isolation: 14 dB
Design, Fit & Finish
UE’s old design cues (read: blue hues) are thankfully still here, albeit tastefully implemented. This isn’t an in-your-face headphone per say, but it isn’t bland and boring to look at either. The blue accents around the ear cups as well as the blue cable contrast nicely with the glossy (and some flat) black textures of the headband and other parts of the ear cup. Speaking of which, a nice silver “UE” sits in the center of each ear up announcing to the world UE is back! The glossy coat of paint does mean that fingerprints will show up quite regularly. A simple swipe with a soft cloth remedies the situation. In my opinion, while annoying, finger print resistance is at the bottom of my list when considering headphones. It’s about audio quality first and foremost.
As far as headphones go, the UE 9000 aren’t the lightest pair of cans. That said they’re not the heaviest either. What I did notice, however, is that while the UE 9000s generally sat comfortably on my ears (not completely surrounding), after a couple of hours of listening some slight discomfort on the top of my head started to creep up. The weight and tighter grip of the headphones is no doubt the culprit. To some, this is a deal breaker. I didn’t find it to be too detracting as a minute or two of lifting and/or readjusting slightly made the issue go away for another 30-45 minutes. Still, having to readjust several times over a multi-hour usage session is something you’ll want to consider if comfort is high on your priority list.
Head aside, the UE 9000s fit on top of your ear. And in my testing, I always got a good seal to block out surrounding noise. In terms of comfort, I didn’t notice any pain or discomfort like I did on the top of my head during long listening sessions.
The headphone cable itself is a rubbery, smooth affair with nothing much in terms of texture. For anti-tangling purposes is was just average. The grippy nature of it means any type of winding the cable for storage purposes could very well mean you’ll spend a few minutes untangling the wire when you’re ready to use the UE 9000s. Though, after using the UE 900 in-ear headphones and dealing with that cable, the UE 9000’s is a step back towards normalcy. Finally, it’s nice to see a 3-button in-line mic built into the 3.5mm cable on the 9000s as it allow quick pausing/back/forward/volume up and down control as well as the ability to take voice/video calls.
One of the great things about Logitech UE’s products is that they ship them with a nice assortment of goodies. In this instance, inside the box you’ll find a nice zip-up case with a hard outer shell. It’s hardly pocketable. But for those who want to keep their headphones safe in transit, it’s about as nice as it gets. Also included is an accessory pouch that can stow the removable 3.5mm cable and charging cable (or whatever else you want).
The UE 9000s will function as a good wired headphone as long as you want day in and day out. But Logitech UE built these as a true dual-use headphone – wired and wireless via Bluetooth. What’s unique about these compared to most other bluetooth headphones is that you don’t need to fumble with replacing batteries. There’s a built in battery that can be recharged via a microUSB cable (included). According to Logitech the battery is good for “over 10 hours” of wireless listening. In my testing I routinely got about 8-9 hours. Though it’s worth pointing out this wasn’t in a silent area so I did have to turn them up about 70-80% of the way which does detract from maximum runtime a bit. Recharging the built-in battery takes roughly 2-3 hours. You’ll know it’s done charging when the green LED stops blinking and stays lit.
Activating wireless mode is simple. Remove the 3.5mm headphone cable and push and slide forward the power/bluetooth button on the right ear cup. You’ll see a single green and a separate blue LED light up letting you know the wireless bluetooth mode is on (with noise isolation). Further down the backside of the right ear cup is an answer (for calls)/play button situated between a volume up and down button.
Perhaps the nicest feature of the wireless mode on the UE 9000s is the listen-thru feature. Located on the top of the left ear cup is a button that when pressed, mutes the audio (wireless mode only) and uses a built-in mic to amplify the surrounding environment and push it through the headphones. It’s a great feature to have when in the company of other humans as you don’t have to constantly remove your headphones to hear what’s going on.
*It’s worth noting that bluetooth mode is disabled automatically when the 3.5mm cable is inserted. Noise canceling, however, can be used in either configuration.
The only downside with the UE 9000s in the wireless department (and it’s kind of a big one) is that it is specific to a select set of newer iOS devices. Logitech UE lists supporting devices as the iPad (all generations), iPod Touch (2/3/4 generation) and iPhone (3GS/4/4S/5). Meanwhile, the in-line mic has it’s own support list – iPod Nano (4th gen or later), iPod Classic (120 GB, 160 GB), iPod Touch (2nd gen and later), iPhone (3GS and later) and iPad (all generations). The iPod Shuffle will only work with the remote (sans mic).
Logitech doesn’t outright say it won’t work with non-iOS devices. But they do say “functionality may vary”. And vary it did. No matter what I tried, the UE 9000s refused to connect to my 15″ Retina MBP via Bluetooth. Ditto for a friend’s Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Though a Galaxy S III did occasionally connect.) While I understand the focus on the newest bluetooth spec means a lot of older (and not so old) hardware will be left out, it’s disappointing to see such limited and inconsistent support for bluetooth. If the wireless mode is the biggest feature you’re after here, make sure you stick close to Logitech UE’s compatibility list, or at the very least, try your device(s) out before you by to make sure they work.
Sound Quality: Wired Mode
While the Logitech UE headphones are marketed as a hybrid wired/wireless headphone, it is usually the wired mode that the audiophiles of the world gravitate to for thus far, wireless (read: bluetooth) audio quality still isn’t what I (or others) would call “great”. (More on that below.)
In wired mode you simply connect the 3.5 mm cable into the ear cup and the other into your device. Once completed, you’re welcomed into a world of lush audio. Make note: these are not the most neutral headphones. There’s definitely an emphasis on the low end. While many types of music will benefit from this, music with a lot of layers might sound a bit chaotic. True to this realization, when listening to dub step and some rap, the low end was fantastic – powerful, apparent, deep. At the same time, it wasn’t the clearest low end either. Things got slightly muddy here and there.
Because of this low end boost, it’s given that other areas of the spectrum will take a backseat. The mid range is one such area. As I mentioned above, songs with a lot of layers and music where instrument separation means the difference between hearing 3 instruments or 7 aren’t quite as “fun” to listen to in an analytical sense. I found myself having to try harder to hear certain instruments and background parts as well as subtle nuances that more analytical headphones provide.
For example, while listening to many of Dave Matthews’ music, some of the joy I get in picking out all the subtle notes that Carter plays on the drums or whatever unique instrument is hiding in the background by a guest performer was washed away by a fatter low/mid and low range sounds. It’s not “bad” per say as in its own right this sound signature can be fun to listen to. It more-so depends on your mood and the type of sound characteristics you like.
The high-end is also slightly boosted. Cymbals sparkle but trail off a bit fast. Mid-range guitar and low end bass tend to take away some of their lingering properties that turn it from a live performance feeling more-so into a slightly muffled studio sound.
What I hear is a subtle v-shaped EQ on the UE 9000s. Not as extreme as ^v^ but more like a gentle wave that starts at the top at the low end, falls in the middle slightly and then slightly raises near the upper limits again. What’s also somewhat unique is that despite a slight dip in the mid-range, vocals more often than note cut through.
Wired mode is one thing. Cutting the wire out of the equation and going full wireless is like getting a completely separate, second pair of headphones. And while we weren’t overly impressed in wired mode, wireless mode is another story.
Sound Quality: Wireless Mode
Wow. Wireless headphones are usually criticized for being weak or having piss pour sound quality. The UE 9000s blow just about any bluetooth headphone I’ve listened to out of the water. But there’s a catch; the v-shaped EQ that was present in wired mode is more exaggerated in wireless mode. That is, the bass is more apparent, the mid-range a bit more subdued (compared to wired mode) with highs that seem to come more forward a bit more. It’s not that the low/high range is “louder” in wireless mode. The more recessed mid-range gives that effect, and in turn accentuates that v-shaped EQ more.
Many would call this heavy v-shape sound trait as “fun”. It’s not analytical at all, and you’ll miss a decent amount of quieter details in more complex music. But for rock/rap/dubstep that powerful, warmer sounding v-shaped EQ does fit well.
When comparing the UE 9000s wireless mode to its own wired mode (and other wired headphones), it falls more towards general listener as opposed to “audiophile”. At the same time, compared to most other bluetooth headphones, the gap is much larger. The UE 9000s feature a very powerful low end that I really haven’t heard on a bluetooth headphone before. Combined with the mids which are warm though slightly recessed, and slightly amplified upper end that sounds a bit sharper, those looking for an excellent sounding bluetooth headphone really need to push the UE 9000 to the top of their list.
Logitech UE 9000 – The Verdict
Purely has a wired headphone I’d say there are better options out there for less. But the Logitech UE 9000 isn’t just a standard wired headphone. It’s wired + wireless + active noise canceling. It also features an in-line mic turning them into a decent headset too. And let’s not forget, the bluetooth sound quality on these is better than most, and certainly some of the fullest sounding music we’ve heard sans wire.
When you step back and look at the complete picture, the $400 price tag doesn’t seem so crazy. The only question you have to ask yourself is if you need the wireless aspect (and if you have a device that supports it) or if you’re alright with going the usual wired route. If it’s the former, the Logitech UE 9000s are definitely something you should look at. If you’re the latter, however, you might want to shop around a bit before instantly dropping $400.