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Sony ULT Wear Headphones Review: Advanced Features!

For several years, Sony’s Extra Bass series of headphones has provided listeners with an enhanced low-frequency sound, typically at a lower cost than its premium 1000X models. Despite the company’s continued interest in delivering powerful bass to those who desire it, the Extra Bass brand and its perplexing alphanumeric product names have been phased out (more details on this change will follow). Sony is unveiling ULT Power Sound today, a feature it refers to as the “ultimate progression” of its mobile audio equipment.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones
Sony ULT Wear Headphones (Image Credit: Sony)

ULT Power Sound will be accessible on Bluetooth speakers of varying sizes, but the first headphones to showcase this new audio approach are the ULT Wear ($200). The ULT Wear, a direct successor to the WH-B910, houses 40mm drivers that Sony claims are specifically engineered for intensified bass. If the default tuning doesn’t suffice, a ULT button allows for two additional levels of bass enhancement. Furthermore, the company has incorporated some of its top features from pricier headphones: the V1 audio chip, a battery life of 30 hours, Quick Attention mode, 360 Reality Audio with head tracking, and more.

Sony ULT Wear Review: Design and Build Quality

The ULT Wear’s design was the first aspect that caught my attention. These headphones don’t instantly give off a sub-premium vibe. The matte white coating on the unit I’m reviewing aids in concealing the predominantly plastic build, which appeared inexpensive on earlier products like the WH-CH720N. It certainly has a more polished look than the WH-XB910 it’s replacing. There are unmistakable references to the high-end 1000X series in certain areas, such as the ear cups and headband contours.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones
Sony ULT Wear Headphones (Image Credit: Sony)

Sony ULT Wear Review: Controls and Features

Sony opted for a combination of tactile and touch controls for the ULT Wear, further bridging the divide between its least and most costly headphones. A power/pairing button and a switch for toggling between active noise cancellation (ANC) and ambient sound modes are located on the left ear cup’s edge. A third button for ULT bass boost is located further up the bottom. This feature alternates between off, ULT 1 (deep bass), and ULT 2 (enhanced sound with deep bass). On the right, the ear cup’s exterior has a touch panel that allows for playback control, volume modification, and call handling through tapping and swiping.

Sony ULT Wear Review: Advanced Features

The ULT Wear, positioned in the middle of Sony’s headphone range, incorporates several useful features from the 1000X series that aren’t available in the company’s less expensive models. For instance, covering the right ear cup with your open hand activates the Quick Attention mode, reducing the volume so you can interact with a colleague or pick up your cortado without interrupting your music. Adaptive Sound Control is also included: this is Sony’s established feature that automatically modifies the headphone’s settings based on your activity or location. Other pleasant features like multipoint Bluetooth and wear detection are also included. However, the handy Speak-to-Chat function found in more recent 1000X headphones is absent, which is a significant omission in terms of overall usefulness.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones
Sony ULT Wear Headphones (Image Credit: Sony)

Sony ULT Wear Review: Sound Quality and Performance

The ULT Wear’s tuning is dominated by bass, and it certainly delivers a potent punch. The newly calibrated drivers produce a significant amount of low-end resonance even before you delve into the ULT enhancements. The default level was satisfactory for me for most music styles, although the overall sound can become murky with more tumultuous genres like metal and some synth-laden electronic tracks. However, the standard bass generally offers depth and range that harmonize with rich mids and sharp highs.

Sony ULT Wear Review: ULT Bass Boost Modes

In Bayside’s There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive, a booming kick drum propels the punk-infused indie rock melodies, but the grainy texture of the distorted guitars is prominent and the vocals are distinctly audible. Additionally, you can incorporate Sony’s DSEE upscaling via its app, a software technique intended to restore sonic components lost to compression. If you have access to 360 Reality Audio content, the ULT Wear supports head-tracking, ensuring that sounds remain stationary when you move. This provides a more authentic experience as the immersive audio in this format would otherwise shift with your head.

Venturing into the ULT boost modes presents a varied experience. Sony has executed the bass boost more effectively than most other brands here, as music remains enjoyable across various styles rather than just devolving into a muffled jumble. In my view, ULT 1, the setting for deeper bass, is the superior choice. It doesn’t sacrifice much detail and elements like kick drums maintain their punchiness. Hip-hop tracks serve as a more suitable backdrop, with songs like Killer Mike’s “Down By Law” delivering explosive, yet refined, enhanced bass. His album Michael is one of the more pleasing choices I tested with ULT 1 activated.

ULT 2, a mode for more potent sound coupled with even deeper bass, falls short. During my evaluations, I didn’t encounter a single track that I thought sounded good across bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and EDM. It gives the impression of standing in front of a concert’s subwoofer where bass is the dominant element and everything else is overshadowed. While I’m certain some individuals relish that degree of cerebral vibration, it’s not what I’m seeking.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones
Sony ULT Wear Headphones (Image Credit: Sony)

Sony ULT Wear Review: Noise Cancelling and Call Quality

Sony has enhanced the ANC of the ULT Wear by incorporating its V1 audio processor from the 1000X series, previously seen in the WH-XB910. This results in a noticeable improvement in noise-canceling performance for a pair of headphones priced at $200. However, don’t anticipate the level of distraction elimination that the WH-1000XM5 provides. It performs well in most situations, but in some cases, it merely muffles the noise. The ULT Wear, however, handles human voices quite well, outperforming the Sennheiser Accentum Plus that I recently evaluated.

Sony didn’t make a big deal about the call quality of the ULT Wear, but it performs slightly better than average. It’s not flawless, but it doesn’t have the distinct speakerphone sound that many headphones do. It also handles low-to-mid-volume background noise effectively. The ULT Wear’s ambient sound mode is more natural than what most headphones offer, with the exception of the AirPods Max. You can hear a significant portion of your own voice, allowing you to speak at a normal volume during calls. Any sounds from your environment are clearly audible, so you won’t miss any alerts or announcements.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones
Sony ULT Wear Headphones (Image Credit: Sony)

Sony ULT Wear Review: Battery Life and Conclusion

Sony claims that the battery life of the ULT Wear can last up to 30 hours with ANC activated, or up to 50 hours with it deactivated. The company doesn’t specify whether either of the ULT modes affects battery life, and I didn’t use them long enough to determine this. After 30 hours of use with ANC activated, except for a few instances of ambient sound for calls, Sony’s app indicated that 18 percent of the battery remained. Both audio modes were used at approximately 50-60 percent volume, which, believe me, is sufficiently loud.

If you’re yearning for a deep bass thump that most headphones fail to deliver, the ULT Wear outperforms Sony’s previous attempts at enhancing low-end tone. The out-of-the-box sound is the reason.

SUMMARY

Sony ULT Wear Sony’s ULT Wear headphones offer an enhanced bass boost experience compared to their predecessors, coupled with substantial improvements in Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), functionalities, and overall aesthetics.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Sound Quality
4
Comfort
9
Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
8.4
Durability/Build Quality
6.9
Value
7.7
Design
8
Connectivity
9.5
Portability
7.5
Battery Life
9.9
Features
9

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Sony ULT Wear Sony’s ULT Wear headphones offer an enhanced bass boost experience compared to their predecessors, coupled with substantial improvements in Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), functionalities, and overall aesthetics.Sony ULT Wear Headphones Review: Advanced Features!