Ultimate Ears UE-10 Pro In-Ear Monitors

I think back to my youth of 8-tracks and huge headphones and the thrill of listening to Pink Floyd' s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time and I realize that this concept started from an imagination into a reality only to be fully fulfilled at this point in time. With this grandiose statement I am here to tell you about the new in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears, the triple driver UE-10 Pros.
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(click thumbnail)Fast FactsApplications: Live sound, sound reinforcement

Key Features: Custom fit; triple drivers; swappable cables

Price: $900

Contact: Ultimate Ears at 800-589-6531, www.ultimateears.com.

Product Points

Plus:

+ Great clarity

+ Custom fit

+ Cool colors and case

Minus:

- Can be difficult to obtain correct impressions

The Score:

Overall, a dream realized! In this modern age the thought of placing an element in your ear so that you can hear and perceive music or speech is not far fetched. Actually, it is done more and more by musicians everyday. Yet as I say this, I think back to my youth of 8-tracks and huge headphones and the thrill of listening to Pink Floyd' s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time and I realize that this concept started from an imagination into a reality only to be fully fulfilled at this point in time. With this grandiose statement I am here to tell you about the new in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears, the triple driver UE-10 Pros.

Features

This is a triple loaded in-ear driver from Ultimate Ears. It encompasses two low-end drivers and a single high-end driver with a proprietary surface mount crossover network. Sensitivity is rated at 119 dB @ 1mw with a frequency response of 20 Hz to 16 kHz ±3 dB. Impedance is rated at 13.3 ohms. The impressive point is The UE-10 Pro provides –26 dB of isolation. This is done passively unlike the more common "noise canceling" headphones which use an external mic and phase cancellation.

The UE-10 Pros are professional in-ear monitors unlike the more common "off the shelf" products. You are required to get impressions made from a qualified audiologist and send them off to Ultimate Ears for a custom fit. The impressions are turned into molds so that the monitors can be made to fit your exact ears. This precise fit is what gives you the isolation and the suburb response. It is interesting to note that this is not an easy process, but more on that later.

Ultimate Ears provides you with some neat aspects such as initializing each ear piece and marking them blue for left and red for right. Each set of UE-10 Pros comes with its own set of cleaning tools and custom engraved metal carrying case. The connector is a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) mini available in 46 inches or 64 inches length cables. The cables are detachable and replaceable and available in clear, beige, brown and black. You can select the color of the ear pieces themselves from a wide variety including the most standard, clear (which I got) to the most eclectic.

In Use

Before I even get to talking about the performance of the UE-10 Pros I had to get ear impressions made. This alone was an ordeal. Unfortunately, I must have run into a slew of incompetent audiologists. It took three tries to get a proper impression made. I think that the majority of audiologists I went to only had experience with hearing aids and not in-ear impressions. What I have learned is two fold. 1) If your audiologist has never heard of in-ear monitors…run out the door and never look back. 2) Always go to an audiologist that the manufacturer recommends. Luckily, Ultimate Ears has a large base of recommended audiologists around the country on their website so you can find one close. Once those basic rules were followed the process was easy and I received the UE-10 Pros in about 14 days.

Like most people the first thing I did when I received my set of UE-10 Pros was to plug them into my iPod. It's the quickest and easiest way to test a new set of in-ears. Besides these will definitely sound better than those crappy white ear buds that you get with an iPod. The monitors slid right into my ears with a little twist (the twist is key to proper insertion). The standard Steely Dan was dialed up and… "Wow!" First off the monitors were extremely comfortable and the quality was amazing. Every nuance was detailed in great accuracy with unbelievable separation. After playing around with the iPod EQ a little to boost the bass to test the response I was thrilled. I was disappointed that the low end had to be boosted significantly to hear the low-end thump as my other headphones didn't need any boost. So a real world test was in order.

There was a show coming up where with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra would be playing the songs of The Eagles, which screamed "test these out". Since the band that was performing with the ASO was all on in-ears (mainly to keep volumes down as not to disturb the orchestra) using the UE-10 Pros as my "cue ears" would be perfect. Hearing a properly EQed kick drum for the first time through the UE-10 Pros was great. Any fears I had that the low-end response wasn't up to par were tossed out the window. Though I will say, if I was a drummer I would want a sub or shaker under my throne so that I could feel the low end as well as it can be a little deceptive to hear it, but not be moved by it.

Summary

In all, even after the hassle of the incompetent audiologists, I could not be happier with the UE-10 Pros. The precise fit and clarity are inconceivable — the custom metal carrying case is pretty cool too. I have already recommended several of my fellow engineers to get a set. A dimly lit room and Dark Side of the Moon will be a whole new experience (mind altering drugs not included).

Review Setup:

Apple iPod; Yamaha PM5D console; Shure PSM700.