Tech Published: 17 April 2024 Update: 17 April 2024

Sony just announced its bass-heavy ULT Wear headphones: Our review

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sony over-ear headphones against a pink background

Listening to “I Fall Apart” by Post Malone on Sony’s new ULT Wear headphones made me feel like I was back in college, hotboxing a car with the music turned up to the point that the bass was shaking the car. And I mean that as the highest compliment.

Sony announced a new line of headphones and speakers on April 11 as a follow-up to its Extra Bass and XE-Series lines. For haters of Sony’s typical nomenclature (me), you’ll be pleased to learn that this line has names that would not double as a strong password suggestion. The ULT Power Sound series includes ULT Wear (over-ear headphones), ULT Field 1 (a portable speaker), ULT Field 7 (a large portable speaker), and ULT Tower 10 (a large tower speaker). This review focuses on the ULT Wear headphones, which I was able to test ahead of their launch.

Sony ULT Wear headphones price

The Sony ULT Wear headphones retail for $199.99. I’d be hard-pressed to find a better pair of over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones for that price. When I first heard the MSRP, I was shook.

For context, the WH-XB910N Extra Bass model retails for $249.99. And Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM5 headphones retail for $399.99 — a whole $200 more. Granted, the ULT headphones are not part of the 1000X Series. However, they are seriously impressive and the price is unbeatable for what you get. 

What does ULT mean?

When a Sony rep reached out to tell me that new products were dropping, I assumed it would be the next iteration of the 1000X Series, presumably the WH-1000XM6 headphones. When I arrived at the product briefing, I learned that Sony was introducing the ULT line. 

The ULT name comes from the series’ purpose as “the ultimate step into the evolution of Sony’s audio products.” Basically, ULT equals ultimate — easy enough, right? The line is meant to make the listener feel as if they were in the front row at a concert through dynamic sound pressure and deep bass.

Sony’s ULT line is really for the bass lovers out there.

According to a Sony web survey of general headphones users, 41 percent said strong bass is the most preferred sound, compared to other options such as instruments, vocal, good balance, and clear sound.

headphone ear cup with ULT button
The ULT Wear headphones have two bass settings you can access by pressing the ULT button on the left ear cup.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

Each product in the lineup has an ULT button on its design, with up to two levels of ULT power. Users can listen to the speaker or headphones with regular sound (aka without pushing the ULT button) or on the ULT power one and ULT power two settings, with each punching up the bass.

One annoying issue that isn’t a dealbreaker but is noticeable: When you hit the ULT button, the headphones play a little sound and your music volume dips before punching into the next bass setting. Obviously, it’s helpful to confirm that you just switched ULT settings, but it is a minor disruption in the listening experience.

Design, connectivity, and controls

Sony’s ULT Wear headphones come in three colors: black, off-white, and forest gray. Personally, I’m most excited about forest gray, a green-gray color that I haven’t really seen in other headphones. Each color also features accents with dichroic effects in the Sony logo and ULT button, which is a sort of metallic rainbowy effect that shifts depending on the light and angle you look at it.

sony headphones with rainbow metallic sony logo
The dichroic effect in action.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

The headphones have a similar design to the previous WH-XB910N model. They’re slightly bulkier than the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones and truthfully not as sleek looking. Unlike the XM5s, the ULTs do fold down for easier transportation and come with a nice carrying case.

sony ult wear headphones nect to sony wh-1000xm5 headphones
Sony ULT Wear headphones (left) compared to Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones (right).
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

The ear cups are upgraded with more space than the previous model. As for comfort, I found the ear cushions to be nice and soft without squeezing my head, even when I wore my glasses. The headband did create a pressure point right on the top of my head that began to feel uncomfortable after a couple hours of wearing the headphones, but they felt pretty lightweight and cushiony overall.

The ear cup controls are the same as other Sony headphones. I find Sony’s tap and swipe controls to be intuitive and convenient — I love being able to turn the volume up or down without grabbing my phone. When you take the headphones off and on, your music will automatically pause and resume. These settings are also customizable in the Sony headphones app.

Pairing Sony’s ULT Wear headphones to my iPhone legitimately took five seconds. When I turned them on for the first time, they were in pairing mode and already appeared in my phone’s Bluetooth settings. To connect them to my MacBook Pro, I just held down the power/Bluetooth button until the headphones went into pairing mode. Within the Sony app, I toggled on the setting that allows me to connect the headphones to two devices simultaneously. It took me a couple of tries to get them to pair with my phone and laptop at the same time, but once they did, I was able to switch between audio from each device with no lags.

Sony Ult Wear headphones folded up in their carrying case
The headphones fold up nicely for transportation.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

Sound quality fit for the big leagues

The Sony ULT Wear headphones are equipped with a 40-millimeter driver that’s designed for deeper bass reproduction. They also have spatial audio with head tracking for 360-degree sound. In testing these headphones, the bass and surround sound were two of the most noticeable and impressive features.

I did a sound test comparison with the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sony ULT Wear headphones because I know the XM5s have amazing sound quality. I put on “I Remember Everything” by Zach Bryan featuring Kacey Musgraves and switched between the headphones and settings. It’s not a super bass-heavy song, so it felt like an even playing field. Both headphones sounded crisp and clear, but the ULT Wear’s sound was fuller and felt more like surround sound. And even on the standard setting, the bass sounded richer on the ULTs. 

back view of a woman wearing over-ear headphones pressing a button on the ear cup
Pressing the ULT button punches up your listening experience.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

I was genuinely shocked. I adore my Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones, and it’s wild that Sony came out with a new pair that (to me) sound better for a much lower price tag. True audiophiles who are picky about sound will probably still prefer the XM5s, but to the average person, I’d say the ULT Wears are the winners — especially for those who prioritize bass and fullness in their audio.

I mentioned at the start of this review that listening to these headphones made me feel like I was in a car bumping the bass. You can actually feel the bass vibrating these headphones against your head. However, that doesn’t mean that the sound is blown out. It’s just the right amount of bass to feel the beat of the music without feeling overwhelmed by it.

I found myself listening to songs and thinking Ooh, this sounds amazing on these — I definitely need to talk about this song in the review. But, there were too many songs to individually call out, so instead I made a playlist of songs that sound incredible on these headphones. So go ahead and bookmark my Spotify playlist for when you buy yourself the Sony ULT Wear headphones.

Like other Sony headphones, the ULT Wears have a customizable equalizer in the app. I did not mess with the settings on the pair I tested, but during my demo with Sony, I got to experience custom EQs set by Sony Audio Ambassador Landen Purifoy. If you’re into DJing or mixing music, you can definitely create great sound settings with these headphones.

Microphone quality

Microphone quality is a feature that I don’t think I’ll ever love on Sony headphones. I called my mom while wearing these and she said the audio didn’t sound bad per se, but I did sound like I was far away, as if I were talking on speakerphone rather than into a headset. That’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but also not a perk. On the flip side, the call sounded perfectly fine in the headphones — I could hear my mom just as well as if I were talking directly on my phone or through my AirPods Pro.

Sony nails noise-cancelling

Sony ULT Wear headphones are equipped with a V1 chip and dual noise-cancelling microphones, plus wind noise reduction on the ear cups.

woman wearing over-ear headphones outside on NYC street
Sony ULT Power vs. the sounds of New York City.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

To illustrate the power of the noise cancellation, let me share an embarrassing story. I was sitting at my desk working, wearing these headphones, and singing along to “Too Sweet” by Hozier (my current hyperfixation song). In my mind, I knew I was singing out loud, but the headphones prevented me from really hearing myself, so I thought I was singing at a normal volume. Reader, I was not. My boyfriend came home and said, “I walked in the building and heard someone singing and thought who the hell is that? And then it kept getting louder as I got closer to the apartment. Then I realized it was you.”

Mind you, I live on the fifth floor. If I’m loud enough to be heard singing from floors away, yet I can’t even hear myself, I’m impressed by that noise cancellation.

During my demo with the Sony team, a rep also had me listen to Tiësto’s “The Business” on the while he switched between regular sound, ULT 1, and ULT 2. He had to hold up his fingers to tell me which setting he switched to because I couldn’t hear a word he said even with the headphones at half volume.

Though I haven’t had the chance to travel with these headphones yet, I have to imagine they’re great for flying. The noise cancellation paired with the ULT bass power creates a personal music bubble that outside noise would really have to fight to break through.

Sony ULT Wear headphones battery life

According to Sony, the ULT Wear headphones should last up to 30 hours with Active Noise Cancellation on and up to 50 hours with ANC off. A 10-minute charge gives you five hours of playback with ANC and a three-minute charge provides 1.5 hours with ANC.

When I received the headphones, I charged them to 100 percent. In my two-ish weeks of testing and using them throughout the day like I would any other pair of headphones, the battery has dropped to 84 percent. Once I’m able to do a full battery test and run it all the way down to zero, I will update this review with exactly how many hours I get out of them.

Are the Sony ULT Wear headphones worth it?

We try not to make sweeping claims in our reviews at Mashable, but these honestly might be my favorite pair of headphones I’ve tried — especially when you consider the price. The booming sound makes other (decidedly good) headphones sound flat, and the option to punch the bass up two levels is something I didn’t even know I needed in a pair of headphones.

The design is not as sleek as other headphones I’ve worn or seen, but that’s a fair tradeoff for amazing sound and a more affordable price.

If you already have the Sony WH-XB910N Extra Bass headphones, it might not be worth it to upgrade. And if bass isn’t what you want to hear from your headphones, certainly opt for a different pair. But for most people, the Sony ULT Wear headphones are a strong, powerful piece of audio equipment well worth the price.

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Author:
Flavius Trica Creatif Agency Flavius Trica

Web designer and Co-Founder of Creatif.Agency, with more than 8 years in the design industry and a strong passion for digital art, has successfully managed to deliver one of the most creative web design agencies in San Francisco, California. Valuing quality, creativity, and customer satisfaction, always strive to improve!

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