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Sony Ult Wear review: My new travel go-to

Sony is a serious player in the headphone space, and I’m seriously picky when it comes to all things audio, so I’ve been eager to start listening to Taylor Swift’s new album with its new Ult Wear over-ears since they launched. Sitting in between Sony’s iconic flagship XM5 over-ears and its more budget-friendly WH-CH720N’s, the mid-range headphones promised quality and comfort, and didn’t disappoint. From the moment I put them on, I was immediately impressed — especially at a $200 price tag. I couldn’t resist messaging my editor after only a few hours listening to tell her that these are some of the best sounding headphones and most comfortable headphones I’ve had. After a week of wearing them non-stop while working, cooking, and just hanging out, I still feel the same way and can’t wait for the Ult Wear to be a travel staple.



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Overall, Sony’s new headset might just be the perfect fit for a wide swath of consumers, particularly frequent travelers and rail commuters, while perhaps leaving discerning audiophile types wishing for a more well-rounded soundstage.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones Tag Image

Sony Ult Wear Headphones

Feature packed, wireless headphones

The Sony Ult Wear Headphones are a stylish and tech-y wireless headset. While the bass may outshine the rest of the soundstage, the excellent noise-cancellation, convenient touch features, and comfort, make these a well-rounded pair of wireless headphones. In terms of pricing, they sit below the XM5 at $200 and above the $98 WH-CH720N.

Battery Life
30 Hours

Wireless?
Yes

Brand
Sony

Noise Cancellation
Yes

Connectivity
Bluetooth

Driver size
40mm

Pros

  • Oustanding noise cancellation
  • Heavy bass for those that like that
  • Ambient passthrough mode
Cons

  • Somewhat flat mids and highs

Design and comfort

Sleek right out of the boxSony ULT Wear Headphones Case

The $200 headphones come out of the box ready to rock. Inside, users will find the headset, charging cable, and aux cord for optional wired use. Since the headset charges via USB-C, you should have no shortage of cables in your home capable of charging these, meaning you won’t have to keep track too closely of the short USB-C cable included in the carrying case.

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The Ult Wear boasts smooth, soft lines and a clean-cut appearance, with something of a minimalist approach leading the design process.


This set of headphones boasts smooth, soft lines and a clean-cut appearance, with something of a minimalist approach leading the design process. The carrying case includes a helpful diagram underneath the headset to save us all the embarrassment of fumbling around trying to fit and bend the headphones correctly when putting them away.

Additionally, they’re incredibly comfortable to wear for long periods of time as they’re snug without squeezing my head and keep just the right amount of pressure thanks to what Sony calls a “thermo-foaming design.”

Sound quality

Heavy on the bass, light on the rest

Sony ULT Wear Headphones Case Open

When listening to “Easy On Me” by Adele, the music feels a little one-noted, and Adele’s once-in-a-generation voice feels sadly muted. The mids and highs struggle to stand out, doing the best they can on 40mm drivers.


Sony Ult Wear Headphones

Battery Life
30 Hours

Wireless?
Yes

Brand
Sony

Noise Cancellation
Yes

Connectivity
Bluetooth

Driver size
40mm

While those mids and highs could be slightly improved by tweaking the equalizer using the companion “Sony Headphones Connect” app, the sound profile overall yearns for more clarity. It’s only when you start playing with the headphones’ bass settings that you really begin to unlock more richness and texture in your music.

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As a frequent traveler, I was also happy to find that the sound isolation is unparalleled. I had my wife wear these while blasting some music, and I had to get my ear about an inch from the headset in order to hear anything. Even at three inches away, I heard nothing at all. Ultimately, I’m excited to wear these on my next flight.


Ult is not only the name, it even has its own button.

The “ULT” button on the side of the headset allows you to cycle through three bass settings: Ult Off, Ult 1, and Ult 2. When listening to Florida!!! by Taylor Swift and Florence Welch, streaming in high-fidelity on Tidal, the bass hits on every chorus fell a little flat when the Ult setting was completely turned off. To me, the bass sounded not too dissimilar from a pair of in-ear AirPods, reminiscent of a headset with a much smaller form factor. But once you turn on Ult to Ult 1, the headset really starts to shine. The drum beats come thick and heavy, pushing air around and delivering an impressive amount of thump from a 40mm driver.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones ULT Button

Ult 2, however, sends the bass to 11 and creates the sensation of being in a car with a standalone subwoofer, blowing out the rest of the audio completely and murdering any semblance of an even acoustic landscape.


To use the iconic Billie Eilish to explain, this headset was not made for listening to What Was I Made For? The hair-raising experience of Billie’s whisper-angelic voice is not full or clear with these headphones. Rather, this headset was made for listening to Billie’s bad guy with its bass loop dance vibes.

Noise-cancellation and noise passthrough

These headphones are my new travel must-have, bar none

Sony ULT Wear Headphones

These headphones delivered, quite simply, the best noise-cancellation I’ve ever experienced in a headset at this price point.


The Ult makes up for what it lacks in tonal vibrancy in virtually every other aspect, beginning with noise-cancellation. These headphones feature two microphones in each cup, picking up all the ambient noise in your surroundings, then passing it through an onboard dedicated processor that filters it all out. When using the headphones for a phone call, these microphones also served to provide pretty clear audio of my voice for the person on the other line. These headphones delivered, quite simply, the best noise-cancellation I’ve ever experienced in a headset at this price point. Once I put them on, the sound from my air filters and my Golden Retriever’s panting (shout out Peanut) melted away.


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As great as the ANC is, I also appreciated that when I wanted to be more aware of my surroundings, I simply activated the ambient mode by pressing the “NC/AMB” toggling button on the side of the headset. Immediately, my wife’s voice came through, clear as day, and in a stroke of genius, so did my own. The Ult Wear headphones have voice pass-through set to on by default, which helped me measure my volume to avoid pulling the usual yelling-because-I-can’t-hear-myself faux pas. The best part: I don’t have to take off my headphones or pause my music to enjoy audio and outside conversation.

Sony ULT Wear Headphones Driver

Verdict: Perfect for planes, trains, and everyday life

These headphones are not intended for you to sit in your living room listening to high-fidelity streaming and discussing harmonics. They are for life at the office, on the subway, on a plane, and on the go. The ease of use, noise-cancellation, long-lasting battery life, touch controls, and comfort were all best-in-class, and I look forward to using them the next time I need to shut out the world and enjoy my music or TV show in the process.


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