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Why not the UERM?

A Review On: Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors

Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors

Rated # 2 in Custom
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Isolation
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $999.00
kimvictor
Posted · Updated · 9587 Views · 16 Comments

Pros: Great SQ, Sound stage, Case, Customer Service, Refit, Driveablitiy... more

Cons: Some air bubbles in ciem

I wonder why UERM is often disregarded when picking from $1000 range. I'm guessing that it's due to "only" having 3 drivers, versus having 8 drivers per side. I can say with confidence that driver number does not equal sound quality(for the most part). Another reason I see why UERM might not be picked is its sound sig. It's perfectly flat. Personally, I love this. Reference sound with naturalness. Call it "the Neutrality King". 

 

 

About myself: http://www.head-fi.org/t/674373/story-of-a-new-reviewer-kimvictor

 

Gears used in this review: Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII, AK100, Modi, Magni, E7, GS3, Clip Zip.

 

Intro: UERM is a ciem that is heavily dependent on source(not amp) and recording. UERM reveals any coloration, mistakes, defects from your set up. That being said, having a good source and high quality music is highly recommended. The best I've heard is AK100+Leckerton with MQS music.

 

Amping/Source: As I mentioned, UERM is heavily dependent on source. With a bassy source, they are bassy. With a bright source, they are bright. That being said, it is good to have a neutral source. They also have to have a weird impedance curve, causing them to be hard to drive. Now, they might be loud without an amp, but the sound sig changes without a good amp. Also, UERM is sensitive to impedance, so I recommend using a source with less than 3ohms. With AK100(22ohm), the UERM looses treble. An amp may be used to negate the high impedance though.

 

Here is my break down: UERM is almost totally flat.

Sub-bass: Very very good. Great extension and presence. Bass is very deep and powerful. Speed is great as well. This is the kind of bass you would want.

Mid-bass: Flat. This is the part that people like emphasis on, but there is no emphasis. It's present and punchy imo. The bass is again, speedy. It leaves good sense of speed.

Lower-mid: I don't listen to many musics with lower mids, but they have good clarity and detail.

Upper-mid: Very clean, detailed, emotional.

Lower treble: It can be little harsh, but not as harsh as SRH940. It's not rolled off, and is clean, airy, and detailed.

Upper treble: Superb extension with sense of air and detail.

Clarity: Best I've heard yet.

Detail: Best I've heard.

Sound stage: They are the best IEM when it comes to soundstage. I recently noticed that they are actually wider than SRH940, a full sized closed back.

Naturalness: UERM is a kind of ciem that sounds "real". Some argue that colored phones sound more natural and organic, but UERM sounds very real.

Imaging: Ridiculous. In a good way of course. Very impressive. They are better than most headphones. Similar to HD800.

Sibilance: It it less sibilant than SE535 and SRH940, but it is still present. I don't mind it so much, but it's worth nothing.

 

Now, other things:

Customer Service: As soon as my impression arrived, they emailed me with all the infos. I asked them many questions, and they were all answered. They gave me a completion date, and that date was kept.

Refit: My right side didn't fit, so I sent it off for a refit. They didn't even need a new impression. I described what part didn't fit, and they fixed it. They even upgraded shipping back to 2 day air for free. Very satisfied.

Packaging: I love the case. It's so much smarter than Westone Case I bought. It'd be nice if it was air tight though. 

Cable: Cable is good. It's bit thicker than normal custom cables, but is still thin and very supple.

 

My story: UERM wasn't even on my list when I was first planning to buy a CIEM. During a short visit I had in HK, I visited Jaben and demoed many CIEMs. I tried JH13, JH16, Fitear Universals, Westone ES5, but I didn't like any of them. Fitears were too expensive and bit too bassy while JH13 didn't have mids that I was looking for. From there, I was about to purchase a Miracle, but I was unsure because people told me about recessed mids. Therefore, I looked at where I haven't. I disregarded UERM because it had 3 drivers, but still pulled a trigger on it. Now, I am very happy about it.

 

 

 

On the other hand: Are the UERM worth it over universals?

Answer to that question may vary from person to person, iem to iem, but my answer is yes. I haven't heard all the universal iems in the world, but my general thought is, for the price, no universal iem is going to beat the UERM. 

Here is my rating on some universal iems. (Don't take this personally. This is all imo.)

1. K3003: If I was to buy a universal, this would be it. This is the only iem that came close to UERM.

2. TG334

3. W4

4. IE800

5. UE900/EX1000

6. SE535/Triple fi/EX7550/H-200

7. IE80

There are more, but that gives you a sense of how highly I praise the UERM.

 

On the other hand 2: How does UERM perform against other CIEM(similarly priced, of course)

I say that it's a matter of taste. Although I've only heard demo version of other ciems, I felt like UERM, JH13, and ES5 all had similar technical capabilities. JH13 was more sub bassy, which made them great for pop, UERM was neutral and wide, making them great for classical and acoustic, and ES5 was mid centric, making them good for rock and classical. Considering that I'm an mid/treble head that hates bass(I don't enjoy having strong mid bass), UERM was a clear choice.

 

Updated again with source/amp section.8/10/13

Please ask any questions if you have any.

 

Update: 9/20/13

Still loving them! The soundstage is better than I thought. Wider than SRH940. What strikes me every time is the micro details. They are so detailed without being unnatural. They pair really well with AK100(optical out)->Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII

16 Comments:

Thanks for the review. Could you write more about the sources and amps used, as well as the type of music that you listened to? I am getting my UERM in about 2 weeks and thinking about getting an asgard 2 as well, but im just worried about the brightness of the UERM with a SS amp.
Well, source wise, nothing special. Fiio E7, Clip Zip(rockbox), Sony E series, and Cowon D3. UERM is very interesting. The sound changes as I change the source. For example, I noticed a slight bass boost on Sony E series that I thought was rather flat. I don't feel like it needs an amp, but it needs a good source or a DAC.
About the SS amp, I'll try Magni/Modi, which is supposed to sound pretty close to Asgard 2, and check back.
From what I've read, the UERM is picky about its source, but mainly the output impedance of its source. The UERM should benefit a good amount from a desktop amp and dac.
I guess so. I'm not home right now, so I'll tell you how it sounds tomorrow.
What do you think about getting a new DAP? I might buy one soon.
I'm very interested in getting the fiio x3, x5, and ibasso dx50. I currently use a sansa fuze + headstage arrow 4g right now. I think the x3 would be a decent upgrade, but I'm definitely more interested in the x5 and dx50 but there's barely any info on both of those two right now. Dx50 info should be up in a week or so hopefully!
I've been looking at x3. I might look at dx50 if the price is reasonable.
I'll probably end up getting the x3 and then selling it for the x5 or dx50 if the price and specs on them are right. I'm hoping the x3 will be a good match for the UERM.
Desktop set up indeed helps. Better dynamic and speed overall compared to portable. I might buy the Asgard 2 as it hiss less than Magni.
Sounds good! The UERM isn't too bright with the magni?
I didn't find it too bright. It's slightly brighter than Clip Zip(rockbox), and that is perfect for my taste.
I demoed the 1P2 and its clarity and accuracy was quite impressive. It also wasn't as source dependent. I'll put $$ that it will equal the UERM. Get Gavin, "speakers 01" I believe to let you demo, or contact me for Gavin's email.
1+2 is a hybrid, right? I've been digging those. I'll be in the states this October, so I'll see if I can find time to demo them. Thanks!
The owner of Tralucent is in China, not US. There was a demo going round here in the States, but you would have to contact Gavin to hear them. Lee730 knows many people who have a pair that could perhaps loan them to you to demo.
WOW... great review... GREAT!!! OK, so tell me one thing, to help me gauge the IEM... you mentioned "the best I've heard" a lot of times in the review, so if you don't mind me asking, does that mean it is better than a lot of CIEMs or just a handful of them? Thanks, anyway... :) 
 @Rookie Rooster. The only CIEMs I had a chance to demo was the JH13FP and ES5. UERM clearly had more detail and clarity(though clarity was really good on all of them). I haven't heard other fancy ciems like NT6 or Miracle, so it's just a handful of them.
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