Logitech's Ultimate Ears-branded products carry UE's legacy of lively sound with strong bass and modern design. The $199 UE 6000 is no exception, and it represents a solid first effort at full-size noise canceling headphones under the Ultimate Ears brand.
Click to EnlargeThe glossy black ear cups and matte black headband of the UE 6000 look very classy, and the blue accents and cabling manages not to look gaudy. The headband has hinges that let the ear cups fold up to fit in the included zippered neoprene carrying pouch, and the removable cable that comes out of the right ear cup has an iPhone-friendly mic/controller for handling playback, voice commands and phone calls. (Sorry, it doesn't work with Android).
The outer shell of the left ear cup comes off to reveal a battery compartment; unlike Bose's QuietComfort 15, which uses one AAA battery, the UE 6000s require two AAA batteries, making the cans a bit heavier--9.7 ounces, as opposed to 6.8 ounces for the QC15. A switch on the top of the right ear cup activates the noise cancellation. The package includes a handy headphone splitter that lets you share your music with a friend, as well as a pair of AAA batteries.
Click to EnlargeDespite their weight compared with the Bose QC15, the UE 6000s are very comfortable, with lush ear cups and ample headband padding. The ear pads easily encircle average-size ears with a little room to breathe. The headband tension seems secure enough, though the headphones will jiggle around a bit with vigorous head shaking.
We tested the UE 6000 headphones using a variety of Apple Lossless files on an iPhone 4S, and overall the sound was very satisfying with noise cancellation activated. The sound signature is along the lines of a "smile" curve in terms of overall tonal balance, with boosted lows and highs and a recessed midrange. Bass on rock and pop tracks such as Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and Tower of Power's "You're Still A Young Man" is powerful with lots of thump, but it's just short of overwhelming and doesn't distort at high volume.
Detail is very good on such complex tracks as The Beatles' "Penny Lane," with the horns and vocals falling in a sweet spot in the mix, and cymbals and percussion have plenty of sparkle. On acoustic tracks like Dave Holland's "Conference of the Birds" and Yo-Yo Ma's unaccompanied Bach cello suites, the instruments all sounded exciting with lots of detail, though the sound may come across as too colored for audiophiles.
Click to EnlargeWe're thrilled that the sound quality isn't drastically affected by turning off the noise cancellation, though the volume does drop. The bass loses just a bit of power and highs aren't quite as lively, but the sound remains fairly well-balanced. As a side note, at higher volumes there's some sound leakage to the outside world, so hopefully you're not too shy about what you listen to.
The UE 6000's active noise cancellation is significantly more subtle than that of the Bose cans, and there's a slight hiss that's easily washed out by music. The circuitry blocks the low-frequency din of air conditioners, engines and the general din of voices, but it does little to block out higher-frequency parts of voices and PA announcements--which can be a good thing if you're not into total isolation.
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When the batteries run low, the little light next to the switch turns red and the audio skips. Logitech estimates average battery life of around 40 hours (only 5 more than Bose's estimate despite the extra battery). Unlike the QC15s, though, you can still listen to music on the UE 6000s if the batteries die.
For $199, the Logitech UE 6000 headphones represent a very good value with solid features and extras. If you've got modern tastes when it comes to audio, you'll love the sound. Denon's AH-NC800 provide more accurate sound, and Bose's QC15 reign supreme when it comes to noise cancellation, but those headphones are $50 and $100 more, respectively. For the price, the UE 6000 offer a strong combination of noise cancellation and audio performance.