The Bavarian headphone specialist Ultrasone expands its portfolio with the Isar wireless travel headphones. They are based on the manufacturer’s S-Logic technology and can attenuate or amplify external noise as required. In addition to multipoint connections, these foldable Bluetooth headphones support the high-quality audio codec aptX HD, while six microphones ensure clear speech intelligibility during phone calls.
This foldable over-ear model comes in a hard-shell case so that the Ultrasone Isar can be transported compactly and safely. At the same time, the low weight of 246 grams makes for a comfortable fit that is tight rather than loose, allowing these headphones to maintain their position, even during a run. While the size adjustment of the slim headband covers a wide range from petite to large heads, the pivoting and tilting suspension of the oval-shaped cups offers flexible adaptability. The ears are nicely enclosed by the padding, as the earcups are not aligned straight but at an angle. This results in extensive isolation from the outside world due to their closed design.
However, I noticed that the interior of the ear cushions, at 38 mm width and 60 mm height, does not offer much space, which could cause problems for larger ears. The padding could have been of higher quality, as the cable routing underneath can be felt with the fingers, but in my case, this did not affect the wearing comfort. Otherwise, these headphones, which are designed for mobile use, give the impression of being robust. This model is water- and sweat-resistant according to IPX5, which means that it is protected from weather-related moisture outdoors and can also be used during sporting activities.
The power supply is a long-lasting lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 900 mAh, which provides a runtime of almost 45 hours in basic mode at high volume levels. If the noise cancellation is used throughout, the listening time is slightly reduced to 39 hours and 30 minutes, which means that these headphones are well suited to travel use. The battery charges fast and allows two hours of use after ten minutes’ charging.
The Ultrasone Isar are charged via the USB-C port on the left side, for which a USB-C to USB-A charging cable is included in the package, although at 20 centimetres long, this is rather short. A complete charging cycle is completed after three hours and 15 minutes.
As an alternative to wireless use, the earphones can be wired via the 3.5 mm audio input on the right side. This can be done passively or when switched on, allowing the use of the ANC and ambient modes, although active wired mode has noticeably lower volume reserves. A corresponding mini-jack cable is also included.
The Ultrasone Isar support Bluetooth standard 5.0 as well as multipoint connections with two devices; for example, a laptop and a smartphone can be paired simultaneously, so you don’t miss any calls. In an urban environment, the wireless connection proved to be stable over a range of eleven metres, with several rooms covered without any problems.
All of the Ultrasone Isar’s controls are located on the right-hand side ear cup and comprise three buttons. The power button switches the system on and off, while pairing mode can be activated via the Bluetooth button. There is also an ANC button for switching between noise cancellation modes; this is automatically activated when the system is switched on, and it has ambient and basic modes. The device is controlled via the touch-sensitive surface. The horizontal axis is used to skip tracks forward and backward, while vertical swiping controls the volume. A double-tap controls playback, and this is also used for answering and ending phone calls. Voice assistants can be accessed by pressing down continuously on the surface. Placing the entire palm of the hand on the ear cup activates the instant awareness function, which lowers the playback volume and switches on the ambient mode to react quickly to fellow human beings when required. What these over-ears do not offer, however, is an individual sound or earpiece adjustment, as an app has not been made available.
Speech quality during phone calls
The Ultrasone Isar’s microphone technology ensures impeccable transmission of one’s voice during video conferences or phone calls, and this is also the case in a setting with a busy background, as ambient noise is attenuated. However, in a noisy environment, speech intelligibility can be restricted. The spatial representation of the caller’s voice on the other end of the line creates a pleasant, natural conversational situation.
ANC and transparency mode
When the Ultrasone Isar’s noise cancelling is active, slight background noise can be perceived, but this does not affect playback. Apart from this, the noise cancellation effectively and convincingly reduces typical sources of travel noise such as low-frequency engine noises or monotonous rattling. There is a clear attenuation in the high-frequency range, which is more moderate in the mid-frequency spectrum. In this respect, voices remain perceptible but fade into the background. Keyboard noise when typing is minimised quite effectively.
The Environmental mode provided clean amplification of external noise so that voices were perfectly intelligible and communication could take place at any time without having to remove the headphones when playback was paused. Announcements were most intelligible when in the immediate vicinity, but more intensive amplification would be necessary for those at greater distances. The headphones were responsive during playback up to a medium volume level. No background noise was noticeable in transparency mode.
The Ultrasone Isar’s S-Logic technology uses a special driver arrangement to include the entire ear in the listening process. It aims to reproduce realistic spatial perception via headphones. The virtual stage of the Ultrasone Isar does not seem particularly wide, but it provides an appealing depth for a closed over-ear system. Although the positioning of the stage in front of the head creates more of a spectator’s perspective than an immediate, direct sound impression, the reproduction was powerful and punchy and had the appropriate assertiveness for mobile use.
The Ultrasone Isar also make good sports headphones, as they provide a full-bodied, warm foundation with a fairly substantial low bass. The tuning of these headphones is geared towards listening pleasure and aims for a full, rich reproduction. Voices are reproduced in a pleasingly soft way; sibilants do not cause any problems and do not become apparent even at higher volume levels but are reproduced softly and unobtrusively. The character of the sound is good-natured, skilfully rounding off corners and edges, intent on harmonious reproduction. Consequently, the high-frequency reproduction isn’t over-emphasised and presents itself as playful and agile.
In addition to Bluetooth standard SBC, the AAC format, as well as aptX and aptX HD, are supported as audio codecs. High-resolution variants such as LDAC are not available.
The Ultrasone Isar’s fun-oriented tuning provides full-bodied, assertive reproduction for mobile use, while noise-cancelling is remarkably effective at minimising static low-frequency noise when commuting and travelling. In addition, these handy, weatherproof Bluetooth over-ears are characterised by fast charging, a long-lasting battery and high voice quality during (video) phone calls. However, personalisation of the headphones and sound is not possible, as there is no app connection.
- lightweight, foldable design
- IPX5 water and sweat resistant
- fast-charging, long-lasting battery pack
- Speech intelligibility
- Multipoint connections
- 3.5 mm audio input
- Noise cancelling with slight background noise
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance32 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)95 dB
- Weight with cable259 g
- Weight without cable246 g
- Cable length20 cm
What's in the box
- Mini jack cable
- USB-C to USB-A charging cable
- Hard case
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD
- BT version: 5.0
- BT profiles: A2DP, AURCP, HFP, HSP, SPP, DID, HOGP, PXP, FMP, BAS