I am not typically someone who uses in-ear headphones. Since I sit at a desk most of the day, I prefer the comfort and sound of an over-ear pair. However, I do always like to have a pair of in-ear handy. They’re great for hanging out by the pool in the summer (over-ear would get way too sweaty), or to keep in my bag in case I want to listen to something for a bit. (For example, if I’m at place that’s super crowded sometimes it’s nice to sneak away and listen to music and recharge.)
I’ve had various pairs of Klipsch S3 and S4 headphones over the years to fit this use case. But as I try more and more pairs of headphones, I find them a bit lacking. When I used them this year at Spring Roll derby tournament, I realized how much I’ve kind of out-grown them. So I was excited when UBSound asked if I wanted to review their new Fighter IEM in-ear headphone. After running them through the recommended 15-25 hour burn-in period (I went with 25), I plugged them into my iPod and got to listening.
While we’re on devices. I tested these mostly with my iPod and some with my Samsung Galaxy S4. While in the past I’ve hooked headphones up to my CD player and vinyl setup, I felt like going strictly with mobile devices was the most accurate use case for in-ear headphones such as these. Neither my phone nor my iPod had any problem driving these.
UBSound describes the Fighter as having a V-Shaped sound, which in a nutshell means the high and low end sounds are more pronounced than the mid-range sounds. (If you have an iPod, the the Rock EQ setting.) For me, this is hard, since I prefer a balanced sound. And while the mids did sound a bit muddled (the snare on Money For Nothing was an instance that this really stood out), the rest of the sounds were clean and well defined. I also didn’t notice this muddiness when I was passive listening. Only when I was actively listening to music. There a few times in songs that were a bit bassier that I heard this muddy sound in the low end as well, but after repeated listening I’m pretty sure it was the songs in question (industrial music tends to sound that way anyway). I tried comparing to my Sennheisers, but without the pronounced bass it was hard to tell. Just something to keep in mind.
Flat cord. I really like the flat cord for in-ear headphones made to be mobile. They’re less susceptible to tangling which is always a good thing.
Comfortable. These are seriously the most comfortable in-ears I’ve ever worn. I can have them in all day and not have that pressure-y feeling where they rest. I had thought my S4s were comfortable, but this is just a whole nother level.
Style and colors. I know someone is going to say something about style and colors colors not being true benefits. But really, they are. These are something most of us have with us all day every day, and having something you like the look of is important.
Construction feels solid. Overall, these don’t feel like a pair of headphones you’re going to break easily. (Unless you wrap them around your phone or something. And if you do, stop that.) All the connections feel pretty solid, and overall they just don’t feel fragile.
Easy to Drive. Most in-ear headphones are easy to drive, they’re made for mobile use after all. And these are no exception. But it’s always nice to not need an external amp.
Single in-line button. This is the first pair of headphones I’ve had recently that have only had one inline button (it pauses music and answers calls). Usually there are three total, one to answer the phone, one to turn volume up, and one to turn volume down.
Microphonics. Microphonics is the sound you hear when the cord moves around. (I’m sure there will be someone out there who is going to argue whether or not cord noise is microphonics. But that’s the accepted terminology so that’s what I’m calling it) There seems to be more noise with these than other in-ear headphones I’ve had (from what I read, this is a side effect of the flat cord). It makes me hesitate on recommending them for active use.
You can reduce the cord noise if you run the cord up and around your ear, instead of running it straight down. In fact, it nearly eliminates it all together. This will be a great solution for some of you. And it even worked well with my glasses (the flat cord prevents it from being too intrusive to the earpiece). But with all my curly hair, it really became a pain and isn’t something I’d want to deal with daily.
What I mean by “wrap around your ear.”
Another tip is to wrap the cable in embroidery floss, friendship bracelet style. I only did the bottom half of mine, and it made a pretty big difference. I’m just really impatient and didn’t want to do the rest of it. I might redo it with yarn another time. Something thicker that won’t be so time consuming.
I’m also just not great at wrapping cords.
I don’t have many pairs of in-ear headphones to compare these to, as I’ve been using Kilpch S3 and S4 for years now. The one’s I had were the old model, and priced at the time at $50 and $100 respectively. That’s also what the new versions cost. The sound quality of the UBsound Fighter is better than both of them, even if the sound signature isn’t my preference.
If you’re looking for a comfortable pair of in-ear headphones to wear at your desk, and you tend to prefer your music to be a bit bassy, I’d recommend these. I’d be very tempted to pick these up for myself, because they’re so freaking comfortable. In the end though, these aren’t something I’d buy for myself. The more I listened, the more I missed a neutral sound.
You can buy the UBSound fighter for $69.90 on Amazon or from the manufacturer. They do ship from Italy, so you’ll either want to make sure you’re home to sign for the package or leave a note for the courier (if that’s an option in your area).
Note: UBSound provided me with these headphones in exchange for an honest review. Amazon links are affiliate links.