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Let’s face it, headphones were always a mystery to me. I always wondered why anyone would choose those big, bulky contraptions that seemed to devour people’s heads. Hence, I tend to prefer earbuds for their minimalistic design and convenience. 

But recently, I took the plunge and snagged a pair of the new Sony ULT Wear (WH-ULT900N) headphones. 

The ULT Wear is the latest in the brand’s lineup of wireless headphones, fitting between the premium Sony WH-1000XM5 and the budget Sony WH-720N.

As someone who has never worn headphones before, the experience was both intriguing and transformative.

Here’s what a complete headphones newbie like me thinks after testing it for nearly two weeks.

First impressions

The ULT Wear isn’t exactly head-turning, but it’s clean and functional. The Sony logo and ULT button also have a shiny ‘rainbow-esque’ appearance in the light.

They come in black, off-white, and forest grey, and feel surprisingly light for their size, weighing in at 255g. Despite this, the headphones feel solid when being carried around. 

A closer look reveals some similarities to the pricier Sony WH-1000XM5, especially in the earcups.

The adjustable, cushioned headband and comfortable earcups make for a pleasant wearing experience even during extended use.

While some of us might only use headphones at our desks for work or gaming, many take them along throughout their day. Fortunately, the ULT Wear’s ear cups can turn flat and fold in, making them compact enough to fit into their hard clamshell fabric carry case.

Sony ULT Wear is compact enough to fit into its hard clamshell fabric carry case / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

The case comes with a 3.5mm cable for analogue wired listening and a short USB-C cable for charging (the USB cable cannot be used for audio).

Active noise cancellation (ANC)Yes
Battery life30 hours / 50 hours (with ANC on / off)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2

Big on comfort 

The first thing that struck me after wearing it was how comfortable it was. 

They’re super lightweight, and the earcups are plush and soft. Unlike the behemoths I imagined, these felt more like cosy earmuffs. 

The 40mm wide ear pads accommodate various ear shapes. The ear cups are matte plastic on the outside, with faux leather padding that’s soft but tends to trap heat. So, maybe skip wearing these on a run.

I wore them for hours while listening to music and watching movies at my desk, and my ears never felt sore. 

However, it’s crucial to wear them correctly to avoid them sliding around, which affects the ANC and sound quality.

Sony ULT Wear has an adjustable headband / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

The adjustable headband makes finding a good fit easy. It has a fair bit of clamping force but remains comfortable thanks to the well-padded area where it meets your skull.

Plus, these headphones boast impressive battery life: up to 30 hours with ANC on and 50 hours with it off. A quick charge feature provides 90 minutes of playback from a three-minute charge or five hours from a 10-minute charge.

Sound? It’s a whole new world!

The audio quality is top-notch. I mainly used the default setting, which didn’t need much tweaking, but there are a couple of bass-enhancing modes available via the ULT button.

Activating the ULT 1 setting which is the moderate bass boost adds an extra layer to most genres, while pairing it with a brighter equalisation creates a neutral sound profile that works well with most tracks. 

However, the ULT 2 setting which is the highest bass boost often overpowers the sound, leading to muddied and distorted bass when listening to music even after experimenting with the equalisation settings within the app.

I found that it’s more geared towards hip-hop, electronic, and other bass-heavy music, but it’s also great for action movies, providing that cinema-like sound effect.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

On the other hand, ULT Wear’s noise cancelling feature was pretty good when I tested these headphones in a range of environments and found it nicely silenced external noise.

There is an option to turn off noise cancelling but be warned that external noise will soak through, higher-pitched voices and sounds in particular. 

Besides, an ambient sound option lets you adjust how much outside noise you want to hear on a scale of 1-20. However, at higher levels, it can be hard to hear music in busy environments.

The Sony Headphones app also offers plenty of customisation. As a newbie, finding the right settings combo required some experimentation, so be prepared.

The ULT Wear also supports Alexa and Google Assistant, which respond well to queries thanks to their seamless integration. 

It also supports 360 Reality spatial audio on platforms like Tidal, Artist Connection, nugs.net, and 360 Reality Audio Live. For personalised head tracking, you’ll need to take ear snaps and hook up to Sony’s Bravia XR TVs.

The touch controls

The ULT Wear features touch controls on the right ear cup and a few buttons on the left ear cup. 

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

The power and ANC or ambient mode buttons work as expected. Based on my research, the touch controls are similar to those on other Sony headphone layouts. 

Swipe up or downVolume up or down
Swipe forward or backwardsTrack forward or backwards
Double tapPause or play
Cup with handPassthrough
Long press Voice assistant

The catch

There are some aspects that I wasn’t thrilled with. The physical controls could be better placed, as a button always seemed to be under my thumb as I raised and removed the headphones, switching modes without my consent.

The touchpad on the right ear cup also took some getting used to. Swiping between tracks worked well, but convincing it to pause or play on command was a bit tricky.

Sony ULT Wear’s power management is a little iffy too. They turn off if you put them down for a while, which is great, but you have to physically turn them on again to resume listening.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Finally, the Sony app has many settings that require time and exploration to fully unlock ULT Wear’s potential. You’ll likely need to mess around with a combo of the ULT and equalisation features to get an optimum sound profile. As a newbie, it was a lot to take in.

The verdict

After using it for two weeks, the audio quality definitely caught my attention. But did it change my mind about headphones?

Unfortunately, no, because I still find them bulky and heavy to carry around. Maybe I just need to get used to them.

But if you don’t mind that, or if you prefer bass-forward headphones for music or gaming, the ULT Wear should definitely be on your radar.

Priced at RM899, these headphones offer solid ANC performance, full-bodied sound, and a comfortable fit, making them a good buy for those looking to enter the Sony brand at a midrange price.

Good overall sound qualityBass feature can be too overwhelming
Packed with featuresSome setup is required to find the best sound
Lightweight and comfortable
  • Learn more about Sony ULT Wear here
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Sony here.

VP Verdict is a series where we personally try and test out products, services, fads, and apps. Want to suggest something else for us to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion to our Facebook page.

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)