From www.androidcentral.com

Android Central Verdict

Powerful bass and simple but effective EQ controls make these accessible headphones that may appeal to an audience broader than just bass lovers, but casual listeners as well. If you have the right equipment, those who enjoy Hi-Res Audio can connect via the included aux cable. Sony’s ULT Wear are big on features, have solid noise canceling, and are super comfortable. So, if you’re a bass enthusiast looking for your next pair of mid-level wireless headphones, ULT WEAR is a standout!

Pros

  • +

    Everlasting bass!

  • +

    EQ customization

  • +

    Robust companion app

  • +

    Solid 3.5mm performance

Cons

  • No USB-C audio

  • ULT2 may be fatiguing for some

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When I was 14 years old, I had an older friend, Danny, who had a Volkswagen Scirocco. He was the eldest of our friend group and the only one at the time who had a license and a car. He had something else none of us had at the time: a boomin’ system. Two 10-inch subwoofers in a beautifully crafted speaker box, complete with amps, crossover, and any other technology the late 80’s had to offer. The bass his twin tens put out was so aggressive when maxed that you could almost feel it messing with your heart rhythms when you sat in the back seat. That is not hyperbole.

When I first donned the new Sony ULT Wear wireless noise-canceling headphones and pressed Play on my “Bass Test” playlist, I immediately started smiling like the Cheshire Cat. The ridiculous (in a good way) bass response immediately evoked nostalgia for that late 80s and early 90s trunk-rattling boom bap. *If your system was high caliber, your trunk didn’t rattle btw.

Bass like this isn’t for everyone, so it’s a good thing that Sony put some thought into ULT Wear, creating a pair of noise-canceling headphones that very likely will work for most listeners. Fear not bass curmudgeons, I’ll drop bars on why you still may want to take a listen.

Sony ULT WEAR: Price and availability

Sony ULT WEAR

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

Sony’s ULT Wear headphones are widely available not only on Sony.com but also on Amazon, B&H Photo, and brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy and Walmart. They cost $200 and are available in Black, Forest Gray, and Off-White. As a lover of all things camo, the Forest Gray variant is calling my name!

According to price tracker camelcamelcamel.com, the previous-gen WH-XB910N headphones could be purchased for less than MSRP pretty frequently, so it’s a good bet that the ULT Wear (WH-ULT900N) will soon be available for less than $200.

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CategorySony ULT WEAR (WH-ULT900N)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2, wired 3.5mm
Supported codecsSBC, AAC, LDAC
Speaker type/size40mm dynamic, neodymium magnet
Speaker frequency range5Hz – 20kHz
Active noise cancellationYes, feedforward and feedback mics
BatteryUSB-C charging
Weight255g
App supportHeadphones Connect app for Android & iOS
ColorsBlack, Forest Gray, Off-White

Sony ULT Wear: What’s good

Sony ULT WEAR: ports, and button controls

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

Where do I begin? Thinkin’ of a master plan. With nothin’ but bass inside these cans. Eating fish, which is my favorite dish, I began my review with a bass playlist!

Okay, enough riffing on Rakim and “Paid in Full,” which just happened to be one of the first songs I had banging through the specially designed 40mm drivers on these closed-back over-ear headphones. What makes these headphones different from Sony’s venerable WH-1000XM5 is their focus on earth-shattering bass response, but they also share some features with the XM5, like the V1 Processor chip. The model for these headphones is WH-ULT900N, so technically, they’re the successor to and share some DNA with a product in Sony’s ExtraBass lineup, the WH-XB910N.

I’m glad Sony moved the focus away from a model number and went with ULT, which is short for “Ultimate.” That makes remembering the name much more straightforward. To help give you a memorable experience, Sony packed the $200 ULT Wear with features. They’re running Bluetooth 5.2, and along with Bluetooth audio codecs like SBC and AAC, you’ll get Sony’s LDAC codec carrying your tunes. If you want to slip into something higher resolution, you can connect via aux cable to your audio source, provided you have the proper dongle or mobile DAC. 

The ULT Wear have active noise canceling onboard, which Sony says is improved over the previous generation. Like the ULT modes, you can access and change ANC modes with a button on the left earcup. You’ll also find the power button and all ports there. The large, thick, thermo-foam earpads on the ULTs are quite comfortable and do a decent job providing passive noise cancellation. The companion app also has a feature that will choose your level of noise cancellation based on your location and activity, which I found to be spot on in its adjustments to my environment. 

Caveat emptor: You’ll need to be okay with giving Sony that level of location-based access to your life. 

Sony ULT WEAR Headphones Connect App

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

In addition to noise-canceling, you also get an adjustable ambient sound mode so that you can maintain your situational awareness while listening if necessary. I keep it all the way up as that provides a level of amplification to my surroundings. However, if you only need transparency when communicating with someone, Quick Attention makes that possible by placing your hand over the right earcup, which temporarily activates ambient sound mode on the fly until you remove your hand. 

I haven’t fully vetted the battery life claims just yet because these seem to go and go, but Sony says you’ll get up to 30 hours of playback with ANC on and 50 with it off. Rapid charging via USB-C gives you 1.5 hours of playback on a three-minute charge, while 10 minutes gives you five hours of playback.

Sony ULT WEAR

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

Ultra bassy, without being basic

With some specs out of the way, let’s talk about what makes these headphones the “ULTimate.” I was grinning ear-to-ear as I listened to LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali,” followed by N.W.A. and “Dopeman.” Masta Ace’s “Born to Roll” remix was an anthem known for being bumped from high-octane sound systems back in the day, but I also wanted some more heavily engineered sonics to sip from, so I loaded up Skrillex’s “Mumbai Power” and The Roots’ “Do You Want More?!!!??!” For serious jeep-beat nostalgia, I even nodded my head to L’Trimm’s “Cars That Go Boom.” 

What’s great about the ULT Wear is that none of these songs sounded muddy because of the hyped bass response. Allow me to qualify that statement, though. While not muddy, bass on ULT2 mode definitely upstages the other frequencies, but that’s kind of the point here. The increase in bass also had punchy mids, which helped bring forward vocals. High frequencies weren’t washed out either, as I discovered while listening to “Mumbai Power.”

Sony ULT WEAR

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

The big feature here is the ULT button on the left side of the headphones, which gives you three levels of bass amplification: ULT Off, ULT1, and ULT2, but there’s more customization to be had. You can fine-tune the bass response with the CLEAR BASS slider as you play with the various EQ presets or create your custom preset using the five-band EQ in conjunction with the ULT and CLEAR BASS settings.

Before you do all of that, I recommend hitting the Find Your Equalizer menu and tuning the overall sound to your hearing. Pick a song with a good balance of vocals and instrumentation, then play that while choosing from two screens of different EQ options. In my testing, this made a difference in how bass and mid-forward the overall sound signature was.

Sony ULT WEAR Headphones Connect App

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

With my custom EQ and ULT1 with CLEAR BASS set to +3, listening to other genres of music is enjoyable. Art Blakey’s “Moanin’” is bright and delightful, with a really solid sound separation in the stereo image. Highs are restrained as the shrill horns in this track weren’t a tad uncomfortable like they can be. Other tracks, like a remastered “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, are immersive, and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” is still airy, though a bit restrained in nuance as well. 

To my point about customization, simply changing to the Treble Boost preset, where CLEAR BASS is set to “0” and bass enhancement is set to “ULT1,” restores some nuance back to the mix. Clarity is added to your sound by activating Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) technology, and I feel it does a solid job of delivering just that.

While watching movies and videos, there is no latency with dialogue while connected via Bluetooth. The EQ feature set here makes it easy to customize sound so that those boomy bottoms don’t hinder your enjoyment of film scores and dialog. The taiko drum scene in episode two of “Blue Eye Samurai” is definitely “warmer” through the ULT Wear, but my EQ customization keeps dialog and sword sounds bright and crisp.

Last, on the sound front, know that the upgraded microphone array in the ULT Wear will also give you a solid calling, Zoom, or Google Meet experience. They do a fine job of canceling background noise for those you’re speaking to, and when you’re silent, they do a solid job of muting your environment if you’re out here on these streets.

Bass by wire

Sony ULT WEAR, Fosi D2 DAC, Pixel 7 Pro

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

The Bluetooth LDAC experience won’t leave you wanting, and the analog experience with the 3.5mm cable is also solid. Bonus points for being able to use it when you run out of juice!

I connected the ULT Wear to my Pixel 7 Pro using the included aux cable attached to one of the best small DACs under $100, Fosi Audio’s mini DS2, and was not disappointed. Listening to hi-res audio through this powerful USB-C DAC presented bright, airy, and full-bodied music for closed-back $200 headphones. I listened to Tidal tracks, as well as FLAC files, through VLC media player. Just so you know, you’ll be able to use the 3.5mm aux with the headphones powered on or off, and you’ll get two different sound signatures depending on that power state. Powered on, you get the bass-heavy profile, but the sound is more neutral when powered off.

One of the issues with bass-heavy recordings revealed by the ULT is how well producers and engineers master tracks. Listening to some hip-hop tracks, I see that there’s a bit of mud in the mix, while others have deep, resonant bass that is tight without muddying mids or highs. The Roots, Dr. Dre, Skrillex, and several other producers of heavy bass and sub-bass tracks clearly show they know how to bring the thump without dulling the vibrance of the rest of the image. Others, not so much. DSEE helps those tracks out a bit, but when actively listening, you learn the difference between quality technical engineering and rough-around-the-edges compositions from different creatives.

Speaking of quality technical engineering, I’m not a huge fan of touch controls on headphones, but the ULT WEAR’s controls are responsive and intuitive. Not only that, but the proximity sensor, responsible for controlling the ability to pause music when you remove the headphones, was equally responsive. There’s a split-second latency when removing them, but they unpause play when placed back on your head with no lag whatsoever. 

Sony ULT Wear: What could use improvement

Sony ULT WEAR

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

Sony has done a fine job engineering these heavy hitters, so there are only a couple of things I found that could use some improvement. First off, there is no USB-C audio support. You won’t get that on the pricier 1000XM5 either, so that really is a Sony technical decision I’d like to see it changed in its next generation of headphones. That said, I do prefer using a mobile DAC, so that isn’t a huge deal for me.

I tried setting up head-tracking optimization, but I couldn’t get it to work. You have to hold the phone level in front of your face as you swivel your head up and down, not side-to-side, but I think this glorious beard is throwing that technology off. Something else that gets “thrown off” is the ability to use LDAC and multipoint at the same time. I don’t know why that is, considering that the WH-1000XM5 received an update last year, which made that possible.

Sony ULT Wear: Competition

JBL Live 770NC

(Image credit: JBL)

There aren’t many options this heavy on features at $200. You can look at the JBL Live 770NC, Sennheiser Accentum Plus, or even Beats Studio Pro, which initially retailed for $350 but can frequently be found for under $200. 

You should definitely check out our Sennheiser Accentum Plus review to see if those are a better match for you. Having personally tested Beats Studio Pro, I’d say that you’ll have to take a hard look at the two products. With the ULT, you’ll get LDAC, EQ customization, and other features not found on the Studio Pro. Still, some users will find that Beats has a much more balanced, nuanced sound profile without sacrificing satisfying bass response.

Sony ULT WEAR: Should you buy it?

Sony ULT WEAR

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong)

You should buy Sony ULT Wear if…

  • Bass is life.
  • You want comfortable, long-wearing headphones
  • You want a lot of features for a decent price.

You shouldn’t buy Sony ULT WEAR if…

  • Neutral sound is life.
  • You need USB-C audio.

Though a bass lover’s guilty pleasure, Sony’s ULT Wear present a much broader value proposition at this price point, which should appeal to quite a few people. The ANC is solid, the app is feature-packed, you can listen to your music over the wire if you drain the battery, and you have support for LDAC on board. 

Sony packs a lot of punch into this booming set of headphones, making them a tough act to follow for the small pool of offerings at or around $200.

Sony ULT WEAR

ULTimate Boom Bap!

Hyper-bass isn’t for everyone, but Sony gives you the ULT button and a five-band EQ to make the sound profile more palatable for those who prefer a more balanced mix. That along with the robust feature-set make the ULT WEAR a compelling pproduct.

Tshaka Armstrong

Tshaka Armstrong is a nerd. Co-Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization, Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets, and film industry tech for Rotten Tomatoes. In addition to writing for Android Central, he’s a video contributor for Android Central and posts everything else to his own YouTube channel and socials. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

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The post Sony ULT Wear review: A love letter to the sound of the streets first appeared on www.androidcentral.com

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