Most electronics aficionados know that the best earbuds in terms of sound quality come from only a handful of manufacturers. Ultimate Ears, a company that's only 13 years old, has risen from a small manufacturer to a very notable name in in-ear monitors. So notable that in fact that everybody I know has a favorite artist that uses them for their own studio buds. You may not know this, but this includes Incubus, The Killers, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, John Mayer, Maroon 5, Sheryl Crow, Aerosmith, and Linkin Park among others. That doesn't even include non-musicians that use Ultimate Ears earbuds (Carmen Electra, Jessica Alba, Senator John Kerry, John Travolta… and the list goes on). You can check for yourself here. You WILL be amazed.
That gets us to our main point: Are the consumer level products that Ultimate Ears makes as good? If you read our review of the Super.fi 4vi's, you would have seen that they can make an extremely capable product for a reasonable price (The street prices of these monitors is sometimes 40% off of the list price… Use the wonderful tool of Froogle). In my opinion, it is worthless to have an iPod with 160gb of free space if you're juts going to listen to it through the stock tinny-as-hell earbuds since you'll likely have better sound reproduction if you sing the song yourself. If you're going to buy a $300 iPod, why would you skimp on the tool that allows you to hear the loads of music you have loaded onto it? You shouldn't. If the 4vi's were good, the 5 and 5vi's are WONDERFUL!!
I listened to my usual sample list through both the 5 and 5vi monitors and noticed that the 5vi's are slightly louder (maybe 5%). With a splitter and just one earphone from each in my ear at a time, the sound quality was exactly the same. With the 4vi's and 5vi's together, the 5vi's blew the 4vi's away. I gave the Super.fi 4vi's a 9/10 because of the sound quality, value, and aesthetics… but I feel badly now because these are at least one point better, but still not quite perfect. There is only one caveat which applies to the vi model only. These in-ear monitors are said to work just as well upside down, but that makes it so the microphone isn't near your mouth and thus not quite as audible to a caller. But the price difference between the 5 and 5vi is so little that I can only recommend getting the 5vi model in case you eventually get a phone that supports it since it works in regular headphone ports too. And… the BEST PART, these come with FOAM TIPS!!!!! This allows them to reduce noise MUCH better than the 4vis and have bumped these earbuds up to the rating that they are. After going back to other earbuds, my ears yearn to listen through the 5vis again. These are keepers, and as of now, these are the best earbuds that I have ever used… surpassing the previous 4 reviewed, Bose Triport earbuds, Etymotic ER6i's… pretty much anything close to this price range. To top it off, they're still comfortable after wearing them for 4 hours.
Super.fi 5 and Super.fi 5vi – 9.5/10