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Headphone Sessions 10/6/2011: Polk Audio

Polk Audio, one of the classic manufacturers of high-end room speakers, is introducing their new line of sports headphones. The ‘Ultra Fit’ series is Polk’s first foray into the wonderful world of headphone-land and they currently offer four models including two earbuds, the UltraFit 500 and UltraFit 1000; a ‘neckband’ / behind-the-head style, the UltraFit 2000; and a high-performance in-ear model, the UltraFit 3000. The ergonomic fit of exercise-specific headphones can sometimes be difficult and too often we find the earpieces won’t stay correctly in the ears when actively exercising and jumping about. While the fit design of the Polk Audio line doesn’t fall too far outside of difficult, once you figure it out, all four models do fit very securely and feel like they would stay perfectly in place through one of those chain-reaction, velodrome bicycle pack wrecks we see on the Euro sports channels. Ouch. [caption id="attachment_2225" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="UltraFit 500"] UltraFit 500[/caption] The one Ultra Fit characteristic that gave us the most fits (pun intended) was likely the “Stayfit” silicone tips included with the Ultra Fit 500 & 1000 earbud models. The tips have a tab wing that helps stabilize and secure the earpieces in the outer ear for active-use, but which we found difficult to get properly seated in the ears, at least the first time around. We perhaps suggest straightening the formable piece that wraps around the ear and initially fitting the earbuds with the “Stayfit” tip only. That way you’ll get a feel for how the tips fit within your ear first; the formable shape can then be wrapped around the back of the earlobes once the ear canal fit has been established. [caption id="attachment_2226" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="UltraFit 1000"] UltraFit 1000[/caption] Headphone cords brushing against clothing can cause cable vibrations that get transferred to your ears as cord noise, known as ‘microphonics’. With the exception of the Ultra Fit 3000, there were thankfully no issues with microphonics on most Polk Audio headphones, a critical trait for exercise-oriented cans. This is primarily because -- with exception of the 3000 -- most Polk designs are either an earbud or an 'on-ear' construction which does not physically couple into the ear canal to allow vibration-to-noise transfer. The flat, heavy-duty, tangle-resistant cable on the Polk headphones is not prone to microphonics since it’s less likely to transfer vibration artifacts. However, the UltraFit 3000 seems to have issues with overly-loud microphonics unless one slides the cable cinch snugly extra-tight right to the chin, essentially halting the vibrations there so they don’t continue up to the ears. Overall, the reinforced cabllng and cord joins on the Ultra Fit headphones seem tough-built and moisture-resistant as advertised, a good thing for all-season outdoor activities. [caption id="attachment_2227" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="UltraFit 3000"] UltraFit 3000[/caption] As expected for the category, none of these sports headphones delivered mind-boggling audiophile sound. However, all Polk models had good volume levels direct from portable players or smartphones with the ‘behind-the-head’ Ultra Fit 2000 presenting the best musical clarity through the mids and highs with a nicely solid bass response that‘s not overly bloated or dark. Unfortunately, our biggest-headed reviewer -- and we’re not just talking ego -- couldn’t get the 2000’s on, but then again he’s never been able to get any behind-the-neck headphone to fit! The Ultra Fit 2000, along with 1000 & 3000 models, comes with an in-line mic + 3-button iPhone/iPod control. The Ultra Fit 2000’s mic is ingeniously built into its flat cable and player/call controls are located on the outer right earcup; Ultra Fit 1000 and Ultra Fit 3000 controls are built into the cable within the mic housing. [caption id="attachment_2228" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="UltraFit 2000"] UltraFit 2000[/caption] All Polk Audio Ultra Fit headphones have a flat, tangle-resistant cable and all models except the 2000 [neckband] come with two lengths of detachable cords, eliminating the nagging issue of too much cord when wearing mp3 players on an armband or shirt pocket. Along with excellent build quality and durability, the extremely secure ergonomics makes the Polk Ultra Fit line a good choice for anyone looking for active-use headphones that will last through an entire hard workout, all-season run or a sweaty ball game without constant need for adjustment. For more information on the Polk Audio ‘Ultra Fit’ line of headphones or any other headphone related questions, please call HeadRoom at 800-828-8184. Our expert headphone geeks are jogging in place, doing jumping jacks, and pumping heavy iron at their desks, ready to help you select great exercise or sports headphones so you can get it Right Between Your Ears!

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