Abhimanyu GhoshalManaging Editor
Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and culture. Hit him up on Twitter, or write in: [email protected].
If you’re in the market for wireless audio gear right now, you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice with options across the price spectrum. Ultrasone is hoping to win folks on a budget over with its reasonably priced Go on-ear headphones, but these actually punch far above their weight and formidably rival many pricier pairs.
Although Ultrasone isn’t exactly a household name, it’s been in the business since 1991 in Germany, and on first listen with the Go, you can tell that the company knows what it’s doing. Here’s what you can expect for $170.
The Go is perhaps the most tame looking pair of wireless headphones you’ll find in stores today, and that’s not surprising, given that it looks the same as the wired model from a few years ago.
From the industrial design to the typography, it looks positively unremarkable, and the simple matte black-and-silver colorway doesn’t help matters much. These headphones are purely utilitarian in their look and feel: there’s soft-touch rubber on the headband, and memory foam in the synthetic leather-covered earpads – but that’s about it. The rest is simply finished plastic, including the buttons. But maybe that’s what you’re looking for, and that’s fine.
The Go headphones don’t go above and beyond what’s expected of most wireless cans: you can control playback or volume (depending on your audio source), answer calls with the built-in mic, plug them in with a 3.5mm cable so you can use them without draining the battery, and fold them flat or into a W shape to stash in your backpack.
They charge via a 3.5mm-to-USB cable which is awfully short and easy to misplace, and it’s perhaps my least favorite thing about these headphones. You get close to 20 hours of use out of a three-hour charge, which is pretty good for a pair of this size.
Their wireless range allows for wandering off a few meters away from your audio source, and that’s similar to most budget gear I’ve tried in the past year.
There’s also a travel case that’s really just a basic black cloth pouch that won’t do much to protect it from impact, and a cable with a remote and mic.
Now for the good stuff: the Go sounds great regardless of what you throw at it, from string arrangements performed by Ysaÿe Quartet, to the moody lounge pop on Arctic Monkeys’ latest record, to the punishing progressive death metal stylings of Rivers of Nihil on Where Owls Know My Name.
They offer enough detail to pick out different cymbals during an energetic chorus in a metal song, and they pack a real punch – so much so that i frequently found myself wanting to turn up the volume to rock out to heavier albums. You might prefer a different pair for ambient material and anything with softer tones.
The Go benefits from 40mm transducers that are asymmetrically positioned in each earcup, so as to replicate a larger soundstage than is typically possible in this design; it also makes for a good amount of depth.
This pair comes pretty close to my favorite pair of on-ears, the MW50 from Master & Dynamic. While those are a touch warmer and better at bringing out detail, they’re also more than double the price.
I’d happily wear the Go for hours on end, if it wasn’t for the discomfort I felt after an album’s worth of listening. I wonder if this is an issue with most on-ear sets, particularly because I wear glasses and supra-aural headphones tend to pin my ears to my head, with the metal temples of my spectacles in between.
Who are these headphones for?
If you strongly value function over form and listen to a wide range of music genres, you’ll love the Ultrasone Go. They’re incredibly versatile, last long on a single charge, and work even when you’re out of power.
They’re also the most spartan set of headphones I’ve seen in this price range. The MW50 I mentioned earlier features retro styling, premium leathers and beautifully finished metals to warrant its high price – you’ll get none of that here.
If you’ve been looking for good sounding headphones to commute with, I’d recommend giving these a try – provided you’re okay with how plain they look.
Find the Ultrasone Go on Amazon in the US for $170, on the company’s site for €125, and on Headphone Zone in India for Rs. 12,999.
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