Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered Review
by Michael Liang
3D is here to stay
The name Ultimate Ears Pro (UE Pro) may not be a household name for the average person, but for music professionals, UE Pro’s products are essential tools for their work. UE Pro specializes in custom in-ear monitors (CIEMs) and their expertise dates back to the mid ’90s. Musicians and singers rely on these custom-fitted in-ear headphones to “monitor” their sound when performing live. In the ’80s and ’90s, you may have seen floor speakers, aka stage monitors, that face the band at concerts. They were there to blast sound at the onstage performers and enable them to monitor their sound in order to stay on key and keep in sync with the band. Well, that was prior to CIEMs. You may have seen Ariana Grande wearing customized and blinged-out UE Pros during her performance on Saturday Night Live.
Custom in-ear monitors are made to fit the user, first by making an impression of the ear canal. This is typically done by visiting an audiologist who will inject an expanding foam into the ear in order to make a mold which is then used to cast the housing for the audio components. But being the leader in CIEMs, Ultimate Ears Pro has a better way. They call it 3D ear scanning. It is a combination of advanced 3D imaging software and hardware developed by United Sciences called “eFit Station.” The eFit Station allows a trained technician (not an audiologist) to scan the user’s ear canal using a handheld scanner to map and create a 3D image. This process is far less invasive than traditional ear canal casting. The scanned images are then electronically sent to UE Pro for 3D printing of the housing that holds the multi-driver’s balanced armature. In addition to having a custom fit, the customer can choose the performance model that suits their usage (for the studio, for the stage, for the audiophile), custom graphics, housing material, housing color, and the cable to further personalize their CIEM. There are so many options: if you can dream it UE Pro can likely build it.
Pick your poison
As a self-proclaimed audiophile I chose the UE Pro Reference Remastered (UERR) which is developed in collaboration with Capitol Studios. This model is the successor to the longtime resident Reference Monitor (UERM) – hence the name “Remastered.” When it comes to customizing the look of my UERR, my taste is rather vanilla. I like the non-flashy simple look: clear with white outer covers. For the cable, I chose the 64” black cable without the inline remote and mic – no extra charge if you opt for the 48” iOS remote cable with mic. Down the road I will upgrade the cable to Double Helix Symbiote SE. The whole process from scanning my ear canal to receiving the UERR took only two weeks. By the time of this writing, UE Pro is committed to 5–7 business days turnaround time. Now that's fast!
The experience of unboxing the UERR is very nice. Everything looks and feels premium. Did I mention UE Pro builds every CIEM at their own facility in Irvine, California? This is my first UE Pro CIEM. To be honest, I was a little skeptical about the accuracy of the new 3D scanning method. It seems too easy. Rejoice! They fit perfectly. The scan was spot on – I could barely hear the TV and the air purifier running in my living room. Overwhelmed with joy and excitement, I gave the UERR a quick listen even though I know they should be broken in to achieve the best results. Right out of the box, the UERR did not disappoint. The word “reference” in the name holds true in the sound department – balanced and uncolored through my SPL (Sound Professional Lab) Phonitor 2 headphone amplifier, also a pro-audio studio product.
A straight shooter
Audiophiles seeking an unmolested sound in their music will find the UERR’s flat sound signature a godsend in the world of products that claim to be “hear what the artist intended.” The spellbinding voice of early David Bowie captured in his Live Santa Monica ’72 album had me planted in the listening chair throughout the entire album. The expanded soundstage and non-fatiguing sound make me quickly forget that I’m listening to reproduced sound. I feel transported to 1972 in the audience at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The UERR is so comfortable, it leaves me immersed in the sound. With every use, my ears become accustomed to its flat and balanced sound signature.
For taking the UERR on the go, I choose the new Questyle QP-1R Hi-Res Audio player. The sound quality I get with this pairing is toe-to-toe with my desktop system. Because of the high level of ambient sound isolation with these custom-fitted IEMs, listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here give me the feeling that the world is standing still and I’m surrounded by the mix. The sound quality I get from this portable Hi-Fi system is nothing short of astonishing. I feel that Ultimate Ear Pro and Capital Studios has produced a listening experience that mimics what the mastering engineer hears in the studio. This is one remastered that your collection of music deserves.
Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered retails for $999–$1099.
Ultimate Ears Pro
3 Jenner Street, Suite 180
Irvine, CA 92618