Re(al)view: On Ear with NuForce UF-30 Headphones

Earbuds are often painful in both the way they deliver sound and the way they fit your ears. Most of us just deal because they are small and they come with the player. If they get lost or broken, we don't feel as bad because we can just replace them with another pair that we steal from a friend or small child. What happens when you want to take a step up, though? Where do you start?

Nuforce is at it again with their new UF-30 on-ear headphones. Designed for the portable market, these cans use some interesting tech to pull the music out from the center of your head and make it sound more present. The fact that they look juicy as a bowl of fruit is just the cherry on top.

Ultrasone came up with the technology which, in layman's terms, bounces the music off your earlobes, "dimensioning" it before it's allowed to gently caress your brain- similar to the way regular, ambient sound reaches you. This ultimately takes the edge off the normal, tinny, abrupt noise associated with whatever came with your player and it actually reduces the sound pressure levels at your eardrums. Believe it or not, this is something you can feel and it will prolong your listening sessions. Take a look at Ultrasone's interestingly narrated video here. It's very German (though in English).

The fit is easy and firm- most other headphones will loosen over time. The firmness can get in the way when you are dancing around because the whole thing may just slide right off your head, but in calmer conditions, you can wear these for hours... actually. There is room to grow on this big head (housing a big bwain- mommy says) so anyone should be able to fit into them.

The big question is: Do they sound like they are playing with your sound before it gets to your ears? The answer is no. There is a different feeling here which is probably more due to the fact that the drivers are not firing directly towards your eardrums, but there isn't any additional circuitry for the signal to pass through. Using Ultrasone's drivers for this application, the sound is directed on a specific path to "create" the impression of a broader soundstage. In practice the soundstage is broader and even though all the marketing makes it sound like this whole situation is manufactured, the experience will tell you otherwise.

Bass is really quite full with a tightness that was unexpected. Mids are very clean ,with a very slight tubular sound to them and the highs sharpened things up nicely. Overall the sound is really passive such that the real music comes through as it should. These are excellent headphones to use out in public where you might want to be noticed, but also want to be able to notice (hear) what is going on around you. You will miss some nuance because of ambient noise, but if you wanted to listen to high dollar, insulative cans, you would have stayed home in your too-warm recliner, now wouldn't you have?

It should be pointed out that these are $79 headphones and should be judged as such. The price appears to be noticeably lower than it should be but that has always been NuForce's model. They want to capture a more mass audience with these, hence the pricepoint and the look.

Three candy-colored flavors to choose from, all dunked in delicious automotive paint for depth and longevity. We love the simplicity of the design and especialmente in Liquid Snowflake White Chocolate Vanilla Ice Cream Pearl (official name;). We would like to see a bit more detail in the next version, but if you are into Zen, here you are.

Buy them in Pearl, Red, or Black.

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