Though no one realized it at the time, the face of live music was forever changed nearly three decades ago when Jerry Harvey, Van Halen’s monitor engineer, created a pair of custom in-ear monitors for drummer Alex Van Halen. In that moment, Ultimate Ears (UE) was born. Since then, the company has manufactured more than 100,000 in-ear monitors (IEMs). While there are dozens of companies in the market, UE remains at the top, no doubt in part because of its continued investment in new technology.
Historically, creating a pair of custom-fit IEMs would begin with an audiologist using a mold to create an impression of the musician’s ear canal, then using that impression to create the IEM’s custom fit. A few years ago, UE developed a computerized scanning process that allows bypassing the mold process, which many people consider very uncomfortable. While the scanning process is faster and more accurate, it still requires a trained professional to carry it out.
This brings us to today. In an effort to make IEMs even more accessible, Ultimate Ears developed and released the patented Fitkit system. Fitkit is currently compatible with four CSX IEMs: UE 5 CSX, UE 7 CSX, UE 11 CSX and UE 18+ CSX. Each pair of CSX IEMs includes the UE custom-fit IEMs, sweat-proof Bluetooth and auxiliary cables (each with a built-in mic), USB charging cable, extra battery for the Bluetooth cable, and a personalized hard case. Fitkit allows users to easily and accurately create their own ear impressions from home. I had the opportunity to give the Fitkit a try and found the entire process fascinating.
I began by selecting the IEM model. Since I have had great results with the standard UE 18+ Pro model, I went with the UE 18+ CSX. Similar to the UE 18+ Pro, the UE 18+ CSX incorporates a four-way crossover, triple bore with six proprietary, finely tuned balanced armatures (essentially, tiny speakers) per monitor design, along with the proprietary UE Pro True Tone Drivers that are integrated into the UE Pro Reference Remastered IEMs. That design results in impressive separation, precision and detail, along with an extended frequency response. After using the UE website to customize my IEMs, I placed the order.
A few days later, the Fitkit arrived at my door. The package includes two sizes of patented gel-filled molding tips, a mirror, a fitting device, a power adapter and a return shipping label. Users navigate the fitting process via the free Ultimate Ears Fitkit app (iOS or Android), which walks them through the entire process.
After you’ve inserted the molding tips in your ears, the app triggers the impression procedure: the molding tips warm up, shape themselves to your ears and then harden, perfectly capturing your ears’ geometry. After 60 seconds, the app prompts you to remove the tips and voilà, the impressions are complete. The process is quick, easy and completely painless. (And quite frankly, the in-ear warming is rather soothing.) Send the impressions back to UE with the included shipping label, and custom-fitted IEMs will be delivered a couple of weeks later.
The weak link in most in-ear monitors is the point at which the cable connects to the IEM, but UE’s CSX IEMs (and its professional models) use a nearly indestructible cable connection system that provides a quick and easy transition from one cable to the other, removing the weak link.
I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about how the UE 18+ CSX would fit. I’ve owned several pairs of IEMs that fit perfectly, and this whole review would go to hell if UE’s amazingly simple fitting process yielded IEMs with a compromised fit. No surprise, but I had nothing to worry about. The fit was impeccable, and after listening to them nonstop since their arrival a couple of weeks back, I couldn’t be more pleased with their performance. The UE 18+ CSX IEMs are comfortable, extremely easy to insert and remove, and provide near-flawless sound reproduction. Anyone in the market for IEMs should give the CSX IEMs top consideration.
Ultimate Ears• https://custom.ultimateears.com/