Pros: Excellent sound and comfort, but…
Cons: …at a premium price.
Recently, I was contacted by Ultimate Ears to review a new pair of earphones being developed for a market segment which included iPod owners. Ultimate Ears makes custom fit in-ear monitors for many top recording artists and musicians. Their website has an extensive list of clients including, Aaron Neville, Beastie Boys, Chris Isaak, Depeche Mode, Eagles and many more. I’m always thrilled to review products for our readers, but then found out that these earphones would be extraordinary – they were custom fit earphones made for my ears only.
So you’re probably wondering how one goes about getting custom fit earphones. Ultimate Ears was gracious enough to send out an audiologist to take an impression of my ears. An audiologist is the same person that would take impressions of your ears if you needed custom ear plugs or hearing aids. Having my ears injected with silicone was an interesting experience… It felt like being underwater. After the viscous silicone hardened, it was removed, and the molds were sent to Ultimate Ears to begin the process of manufacturing my custom, hand crafted earphones. About two weeks later I received my UE5c earphones.
Ultimate Ears packages its earphones in a slick, mini flight case. Inside you’ll find your UE5cs, a wax-loop tool and User Manual. It’s recommended that you clean the earwax from the two small holes at the tip of the earphones after each use. The User Manual has instructions on cleaning and maintaining the UE5c for optimum performance.
Custom fit earphones brings the comfort level to a perfect 10. I’ve worn the UE5cs all day without any redness or discomfort. Putting the earphones in your ear requires a simple twist-in, and removal is the reverse. Don’t try to pull the earphones straight out as you would with any other earphones or you will ‘snag’ your earphones on your ear. Remember, twist-in, twist-out. And the User Manual suggests to never pull them out using the cord.
Is a $550 pair of custom fit earphones all that? The answer is yes. The sound quality is AMAZING. I listened to various music from Bach to Richie Hawtin, and every subtle instrument could be heard clear and crisp. The iPod ‘amped’ the UE5C and provided hours of concerts in my head. Each earpiece has two drivers, one for high frequencies and the other for lows (bass) and a passive crossover. I would recommend re-encoding your music collection to at least 192Kbps or higher for MP3s or AAC. Re-encode the music from its original source if at all possible, you don’t want to listen to mediocre quality MP3s or AACs with the UE5c – they deserve the highest quality.
Specs for the Ultimate Ears UE5c
The UE5C is a passive two-way design. It has two drivers and a passive crossover in each earpiece.
One driver reproduces the low frequency, and another driver reproduces the high frequency.
Frequency response is from 20hz to 16kz.
Earpiece also offers -26db of isolation from loud noise.
Input sensitivity is 118db @1mw.
Drivers are a balanced armature design.
Although I prefer my sound to be a bit on the warm side with rich low-end bass, I found the UE5cs delivered a broad range of frequencies to please any audiophile. In my opinion, I haven’t found any in-ear phones that can match a pair of high quality, full ear ‘cans’ or headphones, but the UE5c’s bass had plenty of bottom end and the highs and mids were right on. The high price vs. performance of the UE5c provide the ‘Ultimate’ in sound reproduction for your iPod. An added benefit is the fact that UE5c also isolate up to -26db of unwanted ambient noise, making listening to your tunes a more intimate experience. If you want very high quality sound from a pair of in-ear phones and can justify a premium price, your ears won’t be disappointed with a custom pair of UE5cs.
Company and Price
Company: Ultimate Ears
Model: Ultimate Ears UE5c
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo, iPod shuffle