Ultimate Ears provides the custom headphones used by nearly all professional musicians and bands, see list of artists who use Ultimate Ears. I used to have the Bose QuietComfort headphones which are great, but I sold them last year about 3 days after I received my custom UE-5c monitors. The UE-5c models are fantastic (2 stereo drivers per earphone) and the UE-10 monitors which I received earlier this year are even better (the UE-10 models go to 11, with 3 stereo drivers per earphone). Last May I blogged Ultimate Ears deliver on how music is meant to be heard.
Robert Scoble also received his own pair of UE-10 Ultimate Ears earlier this year and he blogged about them which resulted in the article online Ultimate Ears Headphones Are Simply Unbelievable. Scoble recently commented in another blog post:
It’s interesting the little rules society just repeats over and over and over without really thinking them through. That said, it’s going to be a sad day when they allow cell phones to be used on planes. If that ever happens getting Ultimate Ears headphones will be a must. Those things really are great. You can’t hear a baby screaming at full volume in the seat next to you.
Alex Wieder, someone who I have met a few times at conferences over past years, recently read my blog post about Ultimate Ears and then he decided to buy his own custom UE-10 monitors. Once he received them and had a chance to try them out on his recent vacation, he contacted me with the following feedback:
Can you describe it to someone who's never experienced them? I'll write Ultimate Ears saying they should rename them "sanctuaries" instead of using the totally non-descriptive UE-10 name. That's what they really are! Rod Paddock's editorial saying wonders about the Bose QuietComfort headphones in his CoDe Magazine editorial a few months back prompted me to try those, but I was able to hear the noise-canceling signal they create and that bothered me quite a bit - especially on long flights, causing me a headache. The UE's being passive as far as noise-reduction is concerned are absolutely perfect. I ended up returning my pair of Bose's. Took me a few days to get used to having them in my ears, but my experience was exactly the same you described in your blog: I spent quite some time just listening to bits and pieces of hundreds of songs just to experience the quality. "Awesome" doesn't begin to describe it. I have to thank you for a wonderful experience and the UE team have to thank you for a new customer. Have fun!
The custom Ultimate Ears are super high end and expensive, $550-$900US. But earlier this year, Ultimate Ears created a new product line called super.fi. These new portable in-ear headphones are based on the same amazing technology as their custom professional monitors and are packaged in a universal fit commercial package.
I had a chance to try out the super.fi 5 Pro models when I was in L.A. in October and I was blown away at how these far less expensive headphones sounded so much like the high end pro models. So last month I bought my own pair of super.fi 5 Pro headphones which are $249US, I actually bought the exclusive clear super.fi 5 Pro models exclusive at Guitar Center. The super.fi products can be bought at CompUSA in store or online, which I found out recently just browsing around there. The super.fi 5 Pro models are also available from the Apple store, with super high reviews. When I bought the super.fi units at Guitar Center, they sales guy said "These things have been getting GREAT reviews.".
The $99 super.fi 3 Pro models have a great review with photos by Gadgeteer Hands On Review by Judie Hughes called Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 3 Studio Earphones, including showing how to properly use them in the ears. The higher end super.fi 5 Pro models have 2 stereo drivers per ear bud, which I am listening to now as I am typing out this blog post. The review also mentions how many Apple executives use Ultimate Ears headphones with their iPods.
Wired magazine listed them at the top of their headphone reviews recently saying "Pinch in these black beauties after wallowing in muddy iPod Whites for too long, and you'll swear you're hearing Gwen's purr for the first time. Two drivers per bud make for richly detailed stereo sound, and bas is miraculously full and tight, even at low volumes.".
An additional review by PC World. Also the fall 2005 issue of Mobile Entertainment reviewed the super.fi 5 Pro models, which I just happen to pick up off the shelf while reading on some trip out of town last month, and wrote: "Ultimate Ears supplies many rock stars with the custom-fit in-ear monitors they use to hear the rest of the band on stage. Now you can get similar professional-grade accuracy in an off-the-shelf ear bud. The super.fi 5 Pro comes with a five-piece fit kit to ensure that you get a full 26 db of isolation, and you can take your pick of black or iPod-friendly white. For $50 less you can opt for the super.fi 5 EB (Extended Bass), which scarifies some noise isolation but delivers serious thump.".
I use the super.fi 5 Pro models while at work and also while being active, and use the custom fit models when traveling like in a plane or train since they block out sound a bit more (even though the super.fi 5 Pro models are in-ear and do a great job at natural sound block without the distortion of noise reduction audio modification).
I was listening to the soundtrack to Amadeus last hour (Mozart never sounded better) and right now as I type this I'm listening to Van Halen's album 1984. Ironically, see the Ultimate Ears company background: "Jerry Harvey was traveling as a sound engineer with multi-platinum rock band Van Halen in 1995 when drummer Alex Van Halen complained that the earpiece he was using to hear himself and his bandmates on stage wasn’t worth the price of one of his drumsticks. Several months later, Harvey and his then-wife Mindy went into business under the name “Ultimate Ears” with a deluxe in-ear monitor featuring special two-driver engineering for better sound reproduction plus custom fabrication from silicone impressions of the wearer’s ears to ensure a precise fit."