Gadget Review: Bumping up the bass with Sony's latest tech

The new Sony ULT Wear headphones offer quality and features, with its USP being a bass-heavy music reproduction that is also its Achilles heel

By Anirban Bagchi

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Published: Sun 2 Jun 2024, 2:48 PM

Last updated: Sun 2 Jun 2024, 2:49 PM

Is your idea of musical relaxation a Beethoven sonata or a Rachmaninoff concerto? Or Ravi Shankar strumming a lilting raga? Is it old Bollywood, the Beatles or the classic 1950s American crooners like Frank Sinatra? Yves Montand, Edit Piaf or even Umm Kulthum? If your musical inclinations point to the likes of genres such as these, then the Sony ULT Wear headphones - or the WH-ULT900 N, to call it by its proper name – is not the device for you.

If, however, techno, trance, metal, hip-hop, rap and pop is more your ilk of music, then these new Sony noise-cancelling headphones will delight you.


The Sony ULT Wear is a bass monster. And Sony makes no secret of that. When the company recently debuted its ULT series of audio products, it said these were “designed for power”. In the headphones, that power is provided by a combination of Sony’s Integrated Processor V1 and its 40mm driver units. These come together to provide a thumping, booming, bold, bass experience, no matter what music you play though the ULT Wear.

But let’s look at the build quality and features first before we dissect the sound any further. The ULT Wear sports the familiar Sony family looks as you may have come to expect from its elder sibling the WH-1000XM5. The headband is soft and adjustable, the earcups are snug and soft, and overall the build quality leaves no room for complaints, even though you can instantly tell it’s a notch or two down from the fit and finish of the more expensive WH-1000XM5. While every surface on the higher-priced model is soft to the touch, the ULT Wear’s plastics do have coarser finish, but only comparatively.


Features-wise, there is a large “ULT” button on the side of the left cup, that lets you tweak the bass, moving from a mid-power setting to an even higher power deep bass one. Touch and tap controls on the right cup give access to the volume, play/pause and desired noise cancellation settings.

The ULT Wear wears comfortably despite its slightly larger size than the average over-ear personal audio device, with the nicely soft and padded earpads and overall a balanced design that does not feel heavy either on the head or the ear. We experienced fatigue-free use over the entire length of Jurassic World Dominion and could easily have worn this snug fitting headphone for longer.

And wearing it longer would have been no problem for the battery, too. Sony claims around 50 hours of playback with the active noise cancelling deactivated and 30 hours with it on. In our real-world use, with start-stop play, frequent volume adjustments, toggling across the bass settings, et all, we did get close to the 30- hour figure on almost every full charge.

The noise cancelling feature, while nothing to write home about, does not really disappoint. You’d be silly to put this pair on expecting the silence that more expensive Bose products – and even the higher-priced Sony models - give you, but Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control does kick in effectively, tracking ambient noises and sound levels wherever you are and adjusting the noise cancellation accordingly.

This was a feature that came in very handy on the Dubai Metro, where I was cocooned in a sonic bubble quite comfortably even during rush hour as Jurassic World Domination played on the mobile phone screen and through the ULT Wear, transporting me to a world of dinosaurs.

The ULT Wear supports Sony’s 360 Reality spatial sound. And if you want to have a great personal sound experience complete with head tracking while watching TV, you’ll have to take some snaps of your ears and upload on the device’s app to hook up to your Sony Bravia XR TV.

There’s also support for Alexa voice control and Google Assistant, which respond very well to voice commands with capable microphone integration. This also helps with call quality, both for voice and Zoom, and you’ll love the clarity that the ULT Wear gives you.

When it comes to outright sonic performance, though, the dominance of the bass makes this a device that may not be to everyone’s liking. To say that Sony has not been subtle with the bass would be a serious understatement. There is oodles and oodles of it, especially with the toggle of the modes using the ULT switch – and to mixed results.

While expansive cinematic scenes are produced with a serious thump, dialogues can suffer within actions sequences. The music that can sound sweet on the ULT Wear falls in a limited range, too. What does sound good sounds brilliant, but most music that requires mid-range details to shine is overwhelmed by the heaviness of the sound.

For most popular music that you’d expect the under-30s to be listening to, this is a device that gets you grooving and puts you in its thrall. For anything subtler, you’d wish it went easy on the bass. My guess is that Sony has aimed this product squarely at the young brigade, and with an affordable price to match at Dh799.

While this gives it great value for money when combined with the features, quality, and youth-pleasing sound, the preponderance of bass is a flaw that cannot be ignored.

Sony WH-ULT900 N ULT Wear headphones

Hits:

- Feature rich

- Battery life

- Value for money

Misses:

- Overwhelming bass

- Not suitable for all music

Price: Dh799

Rating: 4 stars

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