Well I've had these for a day now and they have a solid 24 hours of burn in on them, so I figured I'd do a quick review on them. The sound really hasn't changed much over the first 24 hours so I doubt things will change much from here on out so my thoughts shouldn't change much.
These come in a nice large box with a flap that closes magnetically. It's a very nice sturdy box and you can tell that some effort went into designing it. Upon opening the box you're presented with the case with headphones enclosed and underneath a cardboard insert you'll find all the accessories and the 'manual'. I use the word manual loosely because it is very small and has very small print, you'll need reading glasses or eagle vision to read it. These are headphones though right, do you really need a manual? Well, when looking at all the adapters they include you realize the manual may be helpful, except that it's not. There are several adapters in little mini ziplock backs that are impossible to open for someone with larger hands. Luckily I didn't need any of the adapters, I just needed the one cable to connect to my source and I'm good. I don't need no stink in' manual, put the batteries in, turn the things on, push each of the four buttons to see what they do, and I was off to the races. I gotta admit though, there was a level of frustration involved with the unboxing experience, who knows maybe I just had a bad day at work. When compared with something like the B&W P5, the unboxing experience was lacking a bit, Polk may want to give their packaging a second look.
Design and build quality
OK, first impression out of the box, these things are ginormous! More to come on that. I'm not an engineer, but these appear to be very well built and seem like they'll last for a very long time. Of the materials used I can identify aluminum, stainless steel, and what appears to be carbon fiber, high quality plastic, and pleather on the headband and ear pads (I say pleather, don't know what it actually is but does not smell like real leather). You set these next to pair of Beats and it's no contest, these win hands down. They're more comparable to my higher end cans and the PSB phones that I'm basically comparing these directly with. The comfort level on these is unreal, very very comfortable. It's like you have pillows resting on both of your ears. The clamping force is decent, tight enough that they stay put but not too tight, it's basically on par with my HD600 - so less than a Grado but more than an AT or Beyer. My ears do touch the middle of the driver enclosure just slightly, it's not a problem for me at all but if you have Will Smith ears that may be an issue. I have an average size mellon and ears. The looks are more subjective and I'll let everyone else decide on that from the pictures online. Did I mention these are big? They are over ear full size headphones. The noise canceling might imply that they're portable, and they do come with a case and would travel well, but these ain't going in your pocket. In comparison, they are bigger than my HD600 but smaller than my HD800. They're not HUGE, they're just big for a portable headphone.
I'll skip all the background details, but my requirements are that i need something that runs well off a portable device, doesn't leak a lot of sound, has some isolation, and has great sound quality. Enter the UltraFocus 8000. It meets all those requirements on paper, so how does it sound?
In a word, fantastic! My reference for un-amped headphones are the Sennheiser HD25, V-Moda M80 and the PSB M24U, all of which are excellent performers (I'm not including all the IEMs out there). The 8000 beats most of them, more on that in a bit. First some observations on the sound.
I'll start with the bas because that's easy, un-freaking-believable! I don't mean like Beats thumping bloated unbelievable, I mean really really good. It has great control, excellent low extension, and great punch. In headphones like this you typically find bass that will get one or two of those right, but the Polk nails all 3 of them, and not just by a little. On the Dark Knight soundtrack the first track "Why So Serious" has some serious low end a little more than 3 minutes in that is very difficult to reproduce well. Most headphones either don't attempt to reproduce it at all and sorta wimp out there, or try to reproduce it and can't handle it and it turns into a muddy slurred mess. These headphones reproduce it effortlessly. If I had to criticize I'd almost want to see it dialed back a little bit, it can be a little much in orchestral music especially.
The mids and highs are very evenly blended and sound superb. It's almost like my ears are playing tricks on me, I'd really like to see a FR curve on this headphone. It has great resolution and detail but yet has a somewhat laid back sound to it. Putting it in speakers terms, tis definitely sounds like more like the LSi than the RT series. The soundstage is very wide for a closed headphone. I've never had the ear for soundstage depth, so can't comment there. This is the most trouble I've ever had describing the sound of a headphone because I typically zero in on their weaknesses. It just sound freaking fantastic. In criticizing, I'd say that the sound can get a little too syrupy at times, as in these are almost too laid back for my tastes. I've yet to find a headphone that's perfectly neutral that still sounds funs though, and I'll take a little too laid back over a little too bright any day of the week.
In comparison to the models I mentioned, the sound is buch bigger on the Polk than on the Senn or the V-Moda. IMO that's not a fair comparison though, as those are both portable travel phones and these are much bigger. Do I think it sounds better than both of those, yes. Is that a fair comparison, no. In comparison to the PSB it's a much closer call. PSB has a very good headphone on their hands and I've enjoyed my pair immensely. I think I'm going to need some more time to formulate a final opinion there. The PSBs are a little more forward sounding, which at times works to their advantage and at times to their detriment. So far I seem to prefer most genres of music on the Polk, but prefer the genre I listen to the most (orchestral, mostly movie scores) on the PSB as at times the bass of the Polks can get in the way of really intricate moving pieces. If I had to pick a pair to have on my head 8 hours a day without taking them off it would be the Polks, if I had to pick a pair to listen to Barbarian Horde from Gladiator it would be the PSB. Thankfully I don't have to choose.
I should also put things into perspective just a bit. My 'real' headphone setups blow these away. Even my HD600 DAC'd and AMP'd as it lists in my signature sounds better than these by a mile, and it's a cheaper headphone. But it's connected to another grand of gear and doesn't meet 3 of my 4 criteria. It's absurd to even mention the Polk in the same sentence as my home setup, but wanted to provide some frame of reference. The Polk is a great headphone for what it is and may be the best option given my criteria, but a reference headphone it is not.
A well built, extremely comfortable, superb sounding headphone.