Sony Created the Best Wireless Headphones Idea in Years: A Big Bass Button

Turns out a big button that boosts the bass in two levels is a simple, but great feature.

Sony's ULT Wear ANC headphones have a big ULT button that when pressed boost the bass to any song in...
Photograph by Raymond Wong

When Sony first briefed me on its new ULT lineup of wireless speakers and the ANC headphones last month, I was a little skeptical. I was all for the new ULT branding, which replaces the gobbledygook of letters and numbers like “SRS-X200E” (a real Sony wireless speaker!) and I hope it expands to other Sony products like the WF- and WH-1000XM wireless headphones series, but I wasn’t sure if the big “ULT” button on the side of the new audio devices, that when pressed, pumps up the bass in various ways.

But after spending a few weeks trying out the ULT Wear mid-range headphones with active noise-cancellation, I think the bass boost button might be the best new idea I’ve seen on wireless headphones in years.

ULT Wear ANC Wireless Headphones

Sony's ULT Wear ANC headphones cost $199, $50 less than the model it’s replacing.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

ULT, as you can probably guess, stands for ultimate — the ultimate bass. For wireless headphones, there’s the ULT Wear that’s the successor to the WH-XB910N. The ULT Wear starts at $50 less than its predecessor ($199) and packs a wide range of features for a pair of mid-range headphones. There’s active noise-cancellation powered by Sony’s V1 chip, dual noise-canceling microphones with mesh covers that reduces wind noise.

As mid-range ANC wireless headphones, the ULT Wear don’t block out as much sound as Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM5, but they’re more than sufficient for a noisy commute. Sound quality is improved with 40mm drivers, but it’s that ULT button that really stands out. Press it once (ULT 1) for bass boost, which brings up the low-end in music for a little extra oomph. Press the button again (ULT 2) and it adds bass, but also increases the sound pressure for a more balanced sound, but still with added bass. There is an audible difference between the two, with ULT 1 sounding more like you’re standing in front of a speaker at a live concert and ULT 2 as if you’re further away and in the middle of the venue.

Battery life is also solid: up to 30 hours with ANC on and 50 hours with it off. Sony says it’s the longest battery life in headphones at this price point.

Other quality-of-life features include automatic play/pause detection when you take the ULT Wear on and off your ears, spatial audio with head-tracking, and support for custom equalizers via an app. Sadly, there’s no IP rating on the ULT Wear, so it may not withstand rain or a drop in the pool.

ULT Field 1 and Field 7 Wireless Speakers

The ULT Field 1 only has one level of bass for its ULT button.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

On the wireless speaker side of things, there’s the ULT Field 1 and the ULT Field 7. The ULT Field 1 is a portable wireless Bluetooth speaker, available in four colors (deep black, off-white, forest gray, and orange) for $129. It replaces the SRS-XE200 model.

Because of its size, it only has ULT 1 mode, which boosts the bass. I had a brief listen and it sounds on par with most other Bluetooth speakers in the $100 to $150 range. I could see the ULT button being convenient at the beach, a picnic, or a home party for when, for example, a song on shuffle might come on and you want the bass, but then the next song doesn’t need it. Battery lasts up to 12 hours on a single charge.

Unlike the ULT Wear, the ULT Field 1 is IP67-rated for water and dust-resistance. It’s also rustproof and shockproof. Sony tells me it added corrosion protection because they’ve found professionals, such as chefs, use them in their kitchens.

The ULT Field 7 has both ULT 1 and ULT 2 levels of bass, works in two orientations, can charge other devices via USB, and has a built-in karaoke support.

Video by Raymond Wong

The ULT Field 7 is a bigger boy and it costs more at $499. It has ULT 1 and ULT 2 modes, the same IP67 rating, and rust/shock-proof protection as the ULT Field. It can be positioned horizontally or vertically just like the old SRS-XG500 speaker and has an adjustable lighting system, a USB port around the back for charging other devices, and a built-in karaoke feature for when you want to belt out a song.

Sony has improved battery life from the XG500: the ULT Field gets up to 30 hours on a charge versus 20 hours. And a 10-minute quick charge gets you 3 hours of listening time.

ULT Tower

Sony’s ULT Tower party speaker has the most powerful sound and built-in karaoke (with wireless mic included).

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The biggest ULT audio product is the ULT Tower, a monstrous party speaker that also supports ULT 1 and ULT 2. I listened to both modes and it’s just stupid powerful. Stand too close and the bass might make you deaf, or at least ring your ears like you’re at a live concert. All this bass doesn’t come cheap: $1,199.

The 64-pound ULT Tower is not a portable speaker (it needs an AC plug) but if you’re a DJ or maybe you have an entertainment cave, this monstrosity is unlikely to disappoint. On top of the omnidirectional sound, there are 34 areas of lighting (twice as many as the previous model), a built-in karaoke feature with an included wireless mic in the box, and a touch-sensitive UI.

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