This review originally ran in the August 2015 issue, which is available here.
Ultimate Ears Pro UE-11 In-Ear Monitors
Using Star Trek–type scanners and 3D printing for out-of-this-world delivery and performance.
Ultimate Ears Pro, one of the world’s premier makers of custom in-ear monitors, got started when rock legend Alex Van Halen and his monitor engineer were trying to find the best way to have superior ear protection and the highest-fidelity sound while performing. After a few prototypes, Ultimate Ears Pro was born, and the pair began selling in-ear monitors out of the back of their tour bus. Several years later, the company has grown exponentially and revolutionized the in-ear-monitor industry with the use of 3D-imaging technology, a plethora of options, and an incredibly quick turnaround time. We were sent a pair of UE-11 in-ear monitors ($1,150) for review.
From Process to Product
We had the luxury of visiting the Ultimate Ears Pro booth during the 2015 Winter NAMM Show. While we were there, company representatives used a 3D-imaging scanner to map the inside of our ear canals. The process was completely painless and incredibly accurate, and it took only a few minutes. For those who aren’t close to UE Pro’s California-based facility, you can use the searchable database on the company’s website to find an audiologist in your area to get an impression of your ear canals. The audiologist will create a mold of your ear that will then be sent back to UE Pro and scanned into a computer, where the 3D model will be detailed before moving to production.
The UE-11s that we received were fine-tuned specifically for bass players and drummers. They eliminated 26 dB of stage noise and had two balanced armatures dedicated to the lower frequencies. They also had a subwoofer with its own passive crossover and an overall frequency response of 5 Hz to 22 kHz. The final result was a tight, punchy bass tone with crystal-clear middle and high frequencies. When we miked up a 24″ bass drum and ran the signal through the UE Pro monitors, the depth and punch of the kick came through so that we heard and felt it.
Everything about this product is elegant, yet the monitors display extreme durability. UE-11s come in a rugged hard-shell case with your name laser engraved on the lid. Our monitors also included a 48″ cable and a stunning cherry-wood faceplate with the UE Pro logo.
Options and Accessories
In addition to the UE-11s that we received, Ultimate Ears Pro offers several other in-ear monitors at a variety of price points. A couple of custom models worth mentioning are the UE-4 ($400) and the UE-5 ($600). UE-4s are tailored toward session musicians and home-recording enthusiasts and have an overall balanced sound, while UE-5s offer a dual driver, which can be a great option for drummers as well.
Most Ultimate Ears Pro monitors are available in several translucent and opaque colors, and some models can be made with specialty materials and custom logos. The company also offers notable accessories, including an iOS-compatible cable that adds an inline remote and microphone, and the UE Pro Sound Guard, which enhances sound quality and dynamic range and protects your hearing from microphone drops, audio feedback, and other sound hazards that can occur while you perform or record.