Ultrasone have stepped into the ring with the Signature Master, a pair of closed over-ear headphones, which in terms of accessory package and workmanship throw a few good punches and make a respectable impression. Even if details could be improved in the “design” area, the handling of these headphones is very good. But the most important thing is that the Signature Master deliver a lot of tonal detail in the mids and highs. On the negative side, I noticed that the treble reproduction sounded harsh. Last but not least, basses were restrained but differentiated. These Ultrasone headphones are also suitable as preamps for sound cards and monitor controllers as well as for smartphones and tablets. For a little less than 1,000 euros, fans of mixing and mastering get a pair of headphones that can be used in a variety of ways, are easy to handle and, last but not least, have a high-resolution but unique sound profile that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but is definitely worth audio professionals checking out.
The Ultrasone Signature Master from the Bavarian manufacturer Ultrasone are high-quality mixing and mastering headphones with very good handling. For just under 1,000 euros, you get a pair of headphones that can be used in a variety of ways, with high-resolution and a unique sound profile.
In addition to its high-end range, Ultrasone also has two headphone series dedicated specifically to media professionals. One of these series is the Signature Series, which comes with three different models and focuses on technical details that are supposed to make the difference compared to the competition. From this series, we are testing the “Master” model, a pair of circumaural, closed headphones for mastering. The elegant Ultrasone Signature Pulse, which are primarily intended for DJs, is tested here.
In the discreetly designed cardboard slip case, you will find an impressive transport case. On the top – as well as on the earcups themselves – is a genuine gold-plated plaque, which is intended to emphasise the Signature Master model’s claim to be a high-end device. The embossed company logo can also be found here, as well as a metal plate bearing the name of the headphone series. If I add to this the fact that the case is delivered in a thin black paper sleeve, which is sealed with a company seal sticker(!), it becomes clear that this is presented as a very special product.
In addition to the device itself and a pair of replacement ear pads made of vegan leather, there are three other cables included. A small card dangling from a cord tells us that we are dealing with a handmade product from Bavaria.
While all three cables are attached to the headphones by a bayonet catch, each of them serves a different purpose. The longest cable has a large jack plug and is suitable for use with professional preamps. With its length of three metres, these headphones are also suitable for hi-fi use. The second cable is 1.5 m long and has an angled plug at the end, which is designed as a mini-jack. It is suitable for connecting the headphones to smartphones, laptops or sound cards. Ultrasone have also thought about use with smartphones and tablets, because the third cable, which is also equipped with an angled plug, has a remote control for smart devices.
Look, feel & choice of materials
The look of the Signature series is noticeably more robust than that of the Pro series, and the overall design highlights that this is a professional tool. These headphones, which are almost completely black, make a solid impression. Particularly striking are the genuine gold-plated plaques on the backs of the ear cups. The idea here is to make the headphones look particularly valuable. Perhaps the manufacturer has gone a step too far? For me, at least, the sight of the two large golden “speakers” takes some getting used to, but that is, after all, a matter of taste. I also noticed that the matt black parts on the cups and the headband were quite sensitive to sweat and grease residue from contact. This means that you need to take care of the headphones during frequent use if you don’t quickly want them to look worn out.
I’m being ruthlessly honest when I say that for headphones in this price range, I would have expected different components in some places. The swivel mechanism of the ear cups is made of plastic and looks rather cheap for the budget. The inner sides of the gripping arms, which hold the ear cups, are also open, and thus the inner struts are visible, and in my opinion, this doesn’t improve the style. From my point of view, these are areas where the manufacturer could improve in order to give the headphones a more sophisticated look. The feel of the headband padding was also surprising. With its extreme width, it seems a little out of proportion and almost bulges. Nevertheless, the merino leather feels elegant.
Within the Signature Series, the Master model offers the widest frequency response. It ranges from an ultra-low 8 Hz to a dizzying high of 42 kHz. This makes the headphones excellently suited for mastering because they do not leave out anything that could be relevant for sound perception. Thanks to the low impedance of 34.05 ohms (averaged), they can also provide sufficiently loud playback on devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The technology of the 40 mm Mylar titanium diaphragms should bring the sonically in line with Ultrasone’s high-end “Edition” series (go to our reviews). The S-Logic technology developed by Ultrasone (to the manufacturer’s website) is available here in its third version. It not only takes into account the components of the headphones themselves but where the sound hits the ear. Therefore, the diaphragms are not centred but instead are slightly offset in the ear cups. Incidentally, a special shielding made of a mu-metal alloy is said to reduce the potentially harmful influence of low-frequency fields on the user by 98%.
At 338 grams without cable, the Ultrasone Signature Master are not too heavy for extended use. The size adjustment of the headband is notched, so once a good fit is found, it is immediately available again. The contact pressure of this model is comparatively high, so the fit is correspondingly secure. The ear cups can be rotated and swivelled so that the headphones can adapt to almost any head shape. They can even be rotated by 90 degrees for flat transport in the case. There is also a folding mechanism to save space when storing the headphones. It is a pity, however, that Ultrasone did not include a carrying pouch for this purpose. The bayonet lock of the single-sided cable is a reliable feature, as it prevents it from slipping out accidentally.
Even though the remote control on the short cable only has one button, it can still be used on a smartphone to answer and end phone calls, start and stop playback of media players on smart devices and skip tracks forward. In addition, on devices with Android operating systems, Google Assistant can be launched with a long press of the button.
My first listening impression of the Ultrasone Signature Master is one of detailed, yet slightly harsh highs. “Harsh” was the term that first came to mind. If you are looking for a warm sound, the Signature Master is the wrong choice. Another thing that struck me immediately was how boundless the super-high frequency range seemed. There are actually endless resources here, which is exactly what a production and headphone preamp needs. In the midrange, the Signature Master has a high level of speech intelligibility. Fine nuances of vocals become clear when listening. These differentiated mids also suit the assessment of guitar music from rock and metal. The Signature Master is unpretentious in the bass range. Here, it scores points with its restraint, which actually makes it possible to assess the bass signal in a differentiated way. At the same time, reproduction reaches effortlessly into the sub-bass range of all kinds of urban music.
These headphones have a richness of detail due not least to their dynamic reproduction. In transparent productions, such as recordings with orchestral music, they provide an impressive spatial depth. The reproduction of transients is fast and precise. The stereo impression of the Signature Master is broadly based – so there is little to complain about and much to enjoy. These headphones are definitely not among the loudest when it comes to the interplay of high volume and distortion-free reproduction. However, this will not necessarily be desired by users for signal evaluation in mixing and mastering. By the way, the acoustic shielding from external noise was so good that it allowed targeted, undisturbed work even over long periods. And the Signature Master’s acoustic isolation from the outside world was also excellent.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)8 Hz - 42.000 Hz
- Impedance34,05 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)97,16 dB
- Pressure averaged from big and small head775 g
- Weight with cable375 g
- Weight without cable338 g
- Cable length165 cm
What's in the box
- Straight cable, 3m
- Straight cable, 1.5 m
- Straight cable, 1.2 m (with remote control)
- Replacement ear pads
- Carrying case