REVIEWER'S NOTE - Dec 6, 2010 - friends, when I wrote the review below, I mistakenly said I listened to the UE 10s - in reality, I was listening to the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors (the ones done in colloboration with Capitol Records) - I have left the review below untouched, but whenever I say "UE 10s" please mentally swap that out with "UERMs" - thank you all and sorry for the mixup!
I'm new here and it's great to be here!
I've trolled this site quite a bit and I'm deeply thankful for all of the available info
With that said, I wanted to write a comprehensive review of Ultimate Ears and all of their headphones, as I tested many and ultimately purchased one (consider it my way of giving back to the community here)
About me first - I am an Independent Film Director & Writer - although I'm not a musician, I DEVOUR music - I consider myself an audiophile and my listening senses are only enhanced with the sound design that goes into our films - I've used Logic, GarageBand, etc - anyways - I LOVE music and I'm always listening to tunes while writing screenplays or doing development work
Before switching to UE's, I had the Shure 530s - for what it is worth, the Shure 530s served me very well and they are great headphones - nonetheless, they don't hold a candle to what Ultimate Ears offers
I am lucky that I live very close to Irvine, where Ultimate Ears is based - I called them directly and made an appointment and I was invited to their studio, where I got to test all of their best headphones with my iPhone and my own tunes - it was 2 hours of bliss!
That said, here's a review of their best headsets - for what it is worth, I decided to go with UE 11's ----
ULTIMATE EARS 10 -
The 10's are great headphones, definitely better than the Shure 530s - powerful sound, lots of depth and fullness - that said, I'm not going to write very much, because quite frankly, the UE 11s blow the 10s out of the water and they don't cost much more - so if you're going to buy customs, just pay the difference and go with the 11s - just take my word for it
ULTIMATE EARS 11 -
This was ultimately the set I purchased - the 11s are VERY impressive - the sound is VERY powerful and VERY full - the bass does not overwhelm and the best part of the 11s is that they respond very well to your presets - so for example, if you LOVE bass, then just put that preset on your iPhone/iPod (or whatever your device is) and they'll handle it beautifully - personally, I'm not much a bass fan (I'm more of a treble guy), so on my iPhone, with either the BASS REDUCER or TREBLE BOOSTER preset, these things sound amazing!
Again though, the biggest compliment I can give to the 11s is the fullness - the music jumps out, with TONS of depth and richness - just beautiful!
ULTIMATE EARS 18 -
Quite frankly, I went to UE's with intentions to buy the 18s - after all, I had money saved up and I figured I would splurge! I listen to tunes everyday, so I figure, let's get the best!
Here's the weird thing about the 18s - they are superior to the 11s in all ways - however, MP3s and MP4s sound MUCH BETTER on the 11s than they do on the 18s
The 18s are so good, with so many drivers, that MP3/MP4s, to be honest, just aren't good enough to play on these 'phones --- when listening to an MP3/MP4 on these, you can actually hear the parts of the song that have been compressed and punched out, in order to accomodate for a smaller music file
In addition, while MP3/MP4s certainly sound better on UE 18s than they would on Shure 530s, the sound comes off VERY hollow and quite flat (on the 18s)
That said, the UE18s are a MUCH MORE SUPERIOR headphone, and for in-studio recording and/or lossless listening (no compression, little compression) then these are the perfect choice - spend the extra money - but if you're an MP3/MP4 iPhone listening, audiophile, like myself, then the 11s are the perfect choice
Again, I know its weird to rate the 11s above the 18s, but I only do this in the case of MP3/MP4s - buy the 18s if you're doing in-studio recording and/or listening to lossless music
If you're doing a little bit of everything, I suggest the 11s - while the 18s were BUILT FOR PERFECTION, the 11s were built for MP3/MP4s, as I notice that the 11s literally make my MP3/MP4s sound better and more fuller than ever before, adding depth, without exposing their compressed areas - its an impressive marvel really
IMPORTANT NOTE -
When I finally got my hands on my custom UE 11s and started listening regularly, I found them to be HORRIBLY uncomfortable and too tight
I listen while writing, so I literally have my headphones on for around 6 hours at a time - when I first got the 11s, I was getting terrible HEADACHES within 1 hour of wearing them
I called UEs and they had me come down to the studio right away - what I found out while I was there - when UE makes your customs, they purposely make them a little bigger than the molding, for the sake of creating a VERY tight plug, and for most people, this method works
However, because I'm wearing these things 6 hours at a time, I just can't handle such a tight seal --- with that, the people at UE took my phones and chopped them down, gently grinding down particular parts of the plastic that were aching me - the result?
The 11s are as COMFORTABLE as ever - even better than the soft feel of the Shure 530s - I can literally wear my 11s all day now - and the best part??
The SEAL is still excellent
Overall - the customer service at Ultimate Ears is out of this world - in my life, I have NEVER had a better customer experience - the people at UE treat you like a king
FINAL IMPORTANT NOTE -
This is going to sound very weird, but I mean this - when you make your Ultimate Ears Customs, fly out to Irvine and pick them up (if you can)
Seriously - custom headphones are around $1500 and an airplane ticket to John Wayne Airport in Orange County (on Frontier, United, or US Airways) will cost you around $400 on Expedia
Seriously 2 - take a short vacation (Orange County is great - beaches, DisneyLand, etc) and pick your 'phones up in person --- go back to your hotel, wear them the entire day, and if they feel bad, take them back the next day and have them grind them down and adjust them - believe me, it is well worth it
Also - you can fly out and try all headphones and then pay an extra $200 for overnight production, where you're customs will be ready the next day (don't forget the artwork for your headphones - have JPEGS ready of the artwork you want - and if you fly out, you can talk to the designer yourself, in making the PERFECT creation)
And lastly, for an audiophile, coming down to UE is a real treat - call them up and make an appointment - the people at UE will be more than happy to give you a tour of their entire factory, where you get to see music in motion - plus, everything on the headsets is built on site
Lastly, and very importantly, UE has their own, in-house, audiologist, who can take your ear impressions - if you wanna do it right, call UE's, make sure the 24 hour option is available and fly in - test the headphones - pick your favorite - have THEM take your impressions - and then stay awhile to make sure they feel good (go to DisneyLand, in between) - seriously, it's a process that may only take 3 or 4 days
Alright - that was long as heck - these boards have been very helpful to me and I hope my report above is helpful for everyone
Love and peace all!
Edited by HasanDaddy - 12/6/10 at 4:26am