Not everything sucks: I like my new headphones a lot.

UltimateEars 500vi. I had the UE 5vi before, but they have done the musical-chairs thing with their product numbers again and this seems to be the new, comparable version, based on it being at the same price point.

So, they sound good, but the real reason I'm singing their praises is that this is the first set of headphones I can recall owning that managed to avoid all of my headphone peeves:

  • In-ear, with extremely noise-isolating foam tips;
  • The controller is up by your ear, instead of down by your chest, meaning you can still reach it even if the cable is zipped inside a jacket;
  • Controller has both command button and volume buttons on it;
  • Cable is flat, so it doesn't get as kinked up; and most importantly,
  • Right-angle plug!

So they're a complete win, physical-design wise. I think that every previous set of headphones I've owned has gotten at least two of these wrong.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

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12 Responses:

  1. mediapathic says:

    Can you speak to the general durability of the previous UEs you had? My requirements list is similar to yours, and I have yet to find a pair of headphones that can survive my lifestyle. By way of example, the ones I have now (which were recommended based on their durability) are currently developing splits in the insulation in the direction the cables run, so I now have exposed wires running straight while the cable kinks out at weird angles. And there's only so much shoe goo I'm willing to put on one par of headphones.

    I would appreciate it if the answer did not include "Do not wear headphones when crawling through ceilings".

    • jwz says:

      Well, I killed the last set by having my phone fall out of my pocket while riding a bike, which pretty much tore the earbuds in half. Every previous set of headphones I've owned in recent memory have either been lost, or died from cable-breakage due to having a straight plug instead of right-angle.

      Try heat-shrink tubing (though usually if it's large enough to fit over the plug, it won't shrink enough to seal around the cable.)

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    Do these seem better than the average in-ear phones at not falling out of your ears?

    • jwz says:

      They stay in really well for me. Generally, foam tips stay in better than the rubber tips, as well as being more isolating. If you're using rubber tips, you need to experiment until you find the right size. I push them in then rotate them 270° so that the cable is pointing backward instead of down; that seems to help too.

      • Catherine says:

        Would you say you have "typical" ears? I ask because mine are a bit of a freakshow: my tragus and antitragus don't actually point at each other, so standard earbuds fall out. I've been looking for a comfortable pair of...well, exactly all the features you just described, so I'm eager to give them a try.

  3. Do these come with foam tips, or did you order those separately? I've yet to buy a pair of noise isolating ear buds that come with anything other than utterly useless silicone tips.

  4. I just got a set myself.

    I wasn't terribly impressed with them until I got them properly fitted - with the correct eartips, the sound quality is quite good.

    I only wish the controls had better tactile feedback; my thumb can't quite distinguish the buttons accurately.

    Thanks for letting us know about these.

  5. gryazi says:

    Okay, I'm curious - do any of you audiophile hipsters have recommendations for a set of light-ish [as in could-wear-while-traveling] not-$10,000-vealhide open-ear phones that will sound good and allow for situational awareness without broadcasting tooo loudly to the next seat over?

    I used to love earbuds for listening but the loss of situational awareness [see also: the number of times I've had to slam on the brakes as courtesy for white-earbud-zombied joggers] is something I can no longer deal with as a Responsible Adult.

    • Any of the AKG's are probably a good option, I wear a pair of the studio closed phones, but their open phones are also good at leaking minimally

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