The Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra earphones sit at a tricky price point. At £99.99, they’re too pricey for an impulse buy and are up against ace rivals from the big boys of high-end portable audio, including Shure, Ultimate Ears, Etymotic and Sennheiser. Can these new Altec Lansing alternatives shape up? Find out in our Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra review.
The Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra buds are powered by balanced drivers. Some earphones at a similar price point use multiple drivers in each earphone, such as the Jays Q-jays and Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5 Pro, but these babies make do with just the one.
What does using a balanced driver mean? Unless you want to get deep into the electronics involved, it’s best to think about the Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra’s drivers in terms of how they differ from the alternative – dynamic drivers.
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Dynamic drivers, used in most budget earphones, are capable of piling on the bass like ladling custard on a sonic pie, but you can’t beat a balanced driver set like the Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra for excellent detail and separation. The Muzx Ultras’ sound signature is typical of this driver type.
It rewards close listening with its superb separation and open, insightful detail. It’s mature, refined, and very balanced, giving a super stereo image. But it won’t be for everyone.
The Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra’s bass is taut, lean and digs down deeper than one of Tolkein’s gold-hungry dwarves, but it’s not all that voluminous. If you’re a certified basshead who needs their beats to pump-out with ear drum-worrying power, you’ll want to look elsewhere. There’s also a slight roll-off to the treble at the very top end, but it’s nothing you’ll notice unless you’re used to bright-sounding earphones.
What the Altec Lansing Muzx Ultras lack in bass boom and high frequency zing, they more than make up for with detail, insight and a thoroughly satisfying sound. They offer the analytical accuracy of the top Etymotic earphones, but without the clinical, cold feel that often comes with such scientific sonic precision. Their sound isn’t bombastic, but it doesn’t seem compromised in any way, which is what we’re looking for at this price.
Before you even jam these buds in your lug holes though, you’ll be struck by their unusual design. With an angled plastic arm holding the earphone cable in place, the Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra earphones have a hint of industrial design to them, but thankfully it doesn’t translate to heavyweight headphones.
They’re big for a pair of single-driver earphones, especially when compared to the tiny dual-driver Ultimate Ears 700, but with the right rubber tips applied, they’re comfy enough for hours-long sessions.
The unusual cable arm design of the Altc Lansing Muzx Ultras isn’t there to just look odd, it also reduces the strain put on the connection between the earbud and cable, which usually has to take the weight of the earphone cable – and nine times out of ten is where earphone wear and faults start.
It’s a neat addition but one that creates another problem. The loop of cable it creates behind the bud is just begging to be used to pull out the Muzx Ultras from your ears, which means we’re back to square one. Top earphone tip – pull them out by the bud itself, not the cable.
On top of being a seriously impressive pair of earphones, the Altec Lansing Muzx Ultras also feature a remote control and built-in mic that lets them double as a hands-free kit and MP3 player volume control, for an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.
With a kooky design that wouldn’t look out of place in Skullcandy‘s larger-than-life range, we started off with some worries about the Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra earphones. A focus on an eye-catching look often goes hand-in-hand with a bloated, bass-heavy sound in earphones, but the truth is anything but.
With an immaculately tasteful and balanced sound, we only have to ask why we in the UK are left paying £99.99 when our overseas cousins are paying $99.99. At a fairer translation rate of £79.99 (still a lot more than today’s exchange rate equivalent) these buds would have been nearly unbeatable.