The Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors are designed for professional studio engineers and producers for use during recording, mixing and mastering original music content. Other applications include FOH venue tuning, live recording and mixing. This is also an excellent product for “audiophile” or serious music listener because of its natural and authentic sound reproduction.
The Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors are an industry first and are a combination of the Ultimate Ears pro audio sound along with a flat frequency response curve that has been developed & tuned in collaboration with the historic and widely respected Capitol Studios engineering team. The Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors allow the user to record, mix and master anywhere, anytime because they provide up to -32 dB of noise isolation. Once the product is inserted in the user’s ears, the user is always in the “sweet spot” no matter where they are. This is because the music is being reproduced and delivered directly from the source into one’s ears. Since they are noise isolating, there is no need to be concerned with environmental acoustics and noise. Lightweight and portable, they can be used as an honest base line reference source when recording and mixing in unfamiliar venues. In addition, they can be used on an airplane, in the waiting room or anywhere you can find time to work!
If you demand nothing but the best for recording mixing or mastering, the Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors provide the comfort, quality and sound that our professional artists and engineers have come to expect since 1995. They combine a new proprietary design featuring three balanced armature speakers. Other new technology includes a rugged low profile, low distortion cable, dual acoustically tuned sound channels and multiple passive crossover points creating the ultimate in separation, detail and clarity.
Our standard color and art work for this product is an opaque black faceplate, with a clear back housing. The standard art work features the Capitol Studios logo on the right monitor and the Ultimate Ears logo on the left monitor (see photo above). If you want to choose your own art work, we of course offer a variety of shell colors that can be personalized with individual artwork. Visit our custom art gallery for inspiration. Please contact one of our trained specialists at (800) 589-6531 if you are interested in personalizing your Ultimate Ears.
Mid and high frequency drivers
Low frequency driver (woofer)
Electrical tuning – Passive filtering (multiple crossovers)
Inside each custom in-ear reference monitor you'll find three proprietary balanced armature speakers featuring a flat response curve that was developed & tuned in collaboration with Capitol Studios. These in-ear monitors are specifically designed for professional recording, mixing and mastering. The Ultimate Ears In-Ears Reference Monitors are the result years of combined pro audio experience between these two industry leaders. The flat frequency response is consistent, natural and revealing creating an accurate base line of pro audio reproduction that can be trusted by the professional recording engineer & producer no matter the environment. It also allows the engineer and producer to use a single mix that is consistent across many formats.
The Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors stay true to the Ultimate Ears sound heritage and take advantage of the many years of in-ear technology advances that are unique to Ultimate Ears. Passive crossover technology electrically tunes and separates sound frequencies resulting in clarity and detail. The low mid and high frequencies are kept from masking or bleeding into each other. The results are defined and authentic highs, clean & natural vocals and instruments in the mid range and a visceral & powerful low end. In addition, two separate acoustically tuned sound channels keep frequencies separate and balanced until they are delivered to the ear where they blend naturally.
Like all our other custom in-ear monitors, they're compatible with wireless transmission systems and portable media devices.
Our Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors provide up to -32 dB* of noise isolation and passive noise cancellation (* ask about our new soft silicone material option).
Warranty: 1-year limited hardware warranty.
Tool for easy cleaning.
Engraved Carrying Case
Personally engraved black metallic carrying case that protects your Custom In-Ear Monitors.
Dimensions: Length 4.50" x Width 6.25" x Height 1.50"
Input Sensitivity: 98 dB SPL @ 1 kHz
Efficiency: 112 dB SPL @ 1 kHz, 1mW
Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 20,000 Hz
Impedance: 35 Ohms @ 1 kHz
Internal Speaker Configuration: Three balanced, precision armatures (woofer, mid driver & tweeter)
Noise Isolation: -26 dB (100% acrylic housing) and -32 dB (soft silicone material option)
Input Connector: 1/4" jack adapter gold plated; 3 pole 1/8" (3.5 mm) standard jack
|Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors|
Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors
- Average User Rating:
Recent User Reviews
"A Tribute to the Past: Revisiting Ultimate Ear's Reference Monitor (UERM)"
Pros - UE 2 Pin connectors, Neutral Signature, Glorious Midrange, Value
Cons - Cosmetic Imperfections, Potentially Harsh Treble
Edit: So UE has announced the new update to the UERM, the UE Reference Remastered... 1 day after my review. Pretty ironic but it is what it is haha. So I guess this review may be more a tribute to the past than I had initially intended it to be as the UERM is now officially discontinued.
The Story Behind the Name:Back when I first took interest in personal audio early on in high school, there were a few products that seem to have reached a legendary status amongst enthusiasts. HD800, HE6, even the original Audio-Technica M50 were just a few of those ubiquitous names. While some of those behemoths remain relevant today, some have since begun to fade into the past, as this hobby progresses at an incredibly fast pace.
Back in high school, I only had the privilege of reading everyone else’s thoughts on these products. I neither had the resources nor the connections available to allow me to give these products a listen. The only time I did have such an opportunity was when I listened to the Sennheiser HD800 at a bustling electronics market. I wasn’t very impressed. But then again, I heard more of what the dude next to me was saying than what was going on in the music.
Recently, I’ve had the privilege of spending some time with a couple of these old-school legends – well, old-school to me anyways. What I’ve found was that while the market has grown vastly even compared to just 5 or 6 years ago, and the next best “innovation” always seems to be just around the corner, these product not only remain relevant in my eyes, but very much competitive. In fact, they’re some of the best audio products I’ve yet to hear.
Even just a few years ago, the custom IEM market was very different from what it’s like today. The number of potential brands to choose from is certainly not as diverse as it is now. The names you mostly hear of were Unique Melody, Ultimate Ears, JH Audio, and maybe the surging Heir Audio. The first of these classics that I will be looking at is from one of these big custom IEM makers and is none other than the king of neutrality in the world of in-ear monitors: The Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor. No, the UERM is certainly not a forgotten product by any means. In fact, it’s still the reference for many reviewers and enthusiasts alike. However, the UERM doesn’t seem to reign supreme like it did a few years back – and for very bad reasons. Yes, it seems the UERM has fallen victim to the “more driver is better” belief that has taken everyone by storm. Far too often nowadays (grant that’s still not very often), I see someone complaining that the UERM is outdated and overpriced for a custom IEM that has “only” 3 driver. Why can’t I pay 100 dollars more for something that has at least twice the number of drivers that the UERM has? Yikes... The UERM is a testament that more is not better and it remains near the top of the list in terms of sonic capabilities and, even after 6 years, remains a very competitive product at its 1000 dollar price point.
My Right Ear is a Lot Bigger Isn't It... HahaDisclaimer:I do think I should explain my connection with Ultimate Ears a bit before I go any further. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with UE at their booth during RMAF 2015 – and I loved every minute of it. UE send me a pair of the UERM in exchange for my services to them that weekend. I also paid for my own flight to and from Denver, so you can say I paid for the UERM with my service and flight to RMAF. And that’s about as far as my connection with UE goes. They didn’t ask for a review, because why would the need a review of the UERM, and I have no incentive for writing a biased review for them in any way. My bias goes no further than the fact that I like them, and hope they like me as well.
Packaging and Accessories:My UERM came with the small square storage case, so the overall packaging of the UERM was very small. You get a small black box that opens up nicely to display the carrying case, which has my name engraved on it, lying on a nice silky looking material.
Inside the carrying case, there isn’t all that much in terms of accessories. You find the UERM themselves with a 48 inch cable, a cleaning tool, a 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm adaptor, and a device that UE calls their buffer jack. The buffer jack is awesome. The short description UE has on the buffer jack states that it “lowers audio signals on airplanes entertainment system and buffers electrical impedance mismatch,” which basically means it lowers background noise and hiss – something it does fantastically well. This little adaptor allows me to use my sensitive IEMs with my desktop amplifier with an absolutely black background. Even when I use players with very quiet background noise, like my Sony NW-ZX2, the little adaptor helps give you a cleaner and blacker background. The buffer jack add very little bulk to your audio chain and at 10 dollars, I think it’s a great investment for anyone who uses IEMs.
Packaging of My UERM
Fit, Finish, and Build:As one of the most successful custom IEM company catering towards stage musicians, it doesn’t come as a surprise that UE focuses on the function of their IEMs above all else. The simple default look of the UERM consists of black faceplates with a UE and Capitol Studios logo and a clear shell isn’t anything particularly fancy or extravagant. UE also doesn’t seem to worry all that much about the aesthetics of what’s inside as long as everything is sturdy. Drivers and circuits are stuck right onto the shell itself with a generous amount of adhesive to ensure that they’re not going anywhere. Those looking for the clean and high-end aesthetics from the likes of Noble Audio may not find the UERM all that desirable in terms of its looks. However, for someone like me who’s always been fascinated with the internal designs of a product, I certainly appreciate being able to see every detail that went into the design of the UERM.
A Closer Look Inside the UERM
Continuing on the topic of UE’s focus on their product’s functionality, it would be wrong if we didn’t mention its connectors. UE’s 2 pin system is, in my personal opinion, the best connector that I’ve come across, just beating out the connector that FitEar uses. UE’s 2 pin connection is probably the most secure connector I’ve ever encountered. In addition to the surface between the 2 pins and their female inserts, the UE’s protruding jack and cover around it means that there are way more frictional surface to keep the pins in place than any other connector that I know of. In addition, such a design also means that water, or any sort of liquid for that matter, is gonna have a real hard time getting to the electronics at the connector, so people that will be sweating a lot, perhaps stage musicians, won’t have to worry about their sweat messing with their IEM’s connection in any way.
The Incredible Well-Designed Connectors
The build and finish of the UERM are fine and nothing exceptional by today’s standards. The shell feels solid and is very nicely polished. There are no bubbles to be seen anywhere on the body of the shell, but there are a couple very tiny bubbles at the nozzles on both sides of my UERM. I guess even with 3D printing technology has adopted, the process of making the shell isn’t absolutely perfect yet.
I’ve been told that the shape of my ear canal is fantastic for making custom molded products. I did have to get a very minor adjustment done for my right ear, but the UERM fits very well in my ears with absolutely no way of breaking the seal. What surprised me most, however, is how different the shape of the UERM’s shell is from that of my custom IEM from Earwerkz (now Empire Ears). The biggest difference between the two is the nozzle. The nozzle from Earwerkz is significantly longer, and inserts quite a bit deeper. On the other hand, the nozzle on my UERM doesn’t insert all that deep, in fact it isn’t much deeper than a universal fit IEM. However, the nozzle is also a good bit thicker in diameter in comparison. I’ve seen collections of custom IEMs before, and of course every unit’s shape is a little different. But I’m fascinated by the fact that the shapes of the nozzle between my two custom monitors are quite a bit different, yet both are able to yield a perfect fit. It just goes to show that there are more than one way of achieve the same goal.
Because my UERM has a more shallow insertion, I do find it a bit more comfortable as it’s less intrusive. However, it does sacrifice a bit of isolation for comfort, as I do find my Earwerkz Supra to isolate just a tad bit better. Both are still above and beyond the level of isolation you’ll get from a universal unit though, so it’s a tradeoff I’d happily take.
UERM Nozzle Length Compared to Earwerkz Supra II
Listening Impressions:Thanks to the UE buffer jack, I was able to get some fantastically clean and noise free sound from my desktop setup despite the UERM being a moderately sensitive IEM. Because of how good of a sound I got connecting my UERM to my desktop setup, the majority of my listening was done running music of all genres and quality from Foobar on my computer to a Schiit Wyrd and then into my Asus Essence III as a DAC/Amp combo.
True to its name, the UERM has a flat response with a slight bump in the bass and a more forward lower treble that is coupled with an impressive level of resolution.
I think the bass is probably the most misunderstood part of the UERM. While there is less of a bass boost than what many would consider natural or desirable, I find the bass of the UERM to have very good impact and is far from being anemic. It doesn’t have the thump or richness that many love, but it can still demonstrate good authority when called upon to do so. Most importantly, the UERM extends fantastically well. I put on the UERM the first time not expecting too much below 50 Hz or so, as its sub bass presence seems to have been debated on quite a bit. Some have said that the UERM has almost no sub bass extension, while others have said that it is well-extended and can dig deep. After hearing it for myself, I’m certainly in the latter camp. Bass kick, while not bloated or overly thumpy in any way, are indeed able to dig quite deep. A quick tone sweep showed that the UERM is actually able to extend down to 25 Hz without any trouble at all. This is 1 dedicated bass driver in a 3 driver IEM. Needless to say, I was very impressed. I really enjoy the bass performance of the UERM.
In terms of quantity, I actually found the bass quantity quite sufficient for lots of genres of music, even the likes of pop and some hip hop or rap. I say that because so many pop songs these days have such artificially enhanced bass that pairing it with a bassy headphone or IEM results in some overly present bass. Because the UERM doesn’t do that, it actually pairs really well with these tracks. I did find myself wishing for more bass punch when listening to older tracks such as rock music from the likes of Journey. To me, a little extra thump in the bass would definitely make Journey’s sound more explosive and true to their reputation.
Bass quality from the UERM is also really good. The bass can punch hard when needed and impact and decay is always fast and clean. The bass impact also demonstrates that it can dig deep, and you don’t get the sense of “pop” or “plasticky-ness” that’s often linked with poor bass extension from BA drivers. I will say that sub bass texture is probably the weak point of the UERM though. It has long been surpassed in this regard, and there are IEMs out there that can give you a much better defined bass texture, although there aren’t many products out there that give you the sense of cleanliness that the UERM is able to demonstrate.
Maybe at some point, the midrange of the UERM had the most detailed sound out of any IEMs on the market – but that’s certainly not the case anymore. However, the midrange of the UERM is, bar none, my favorite amongst all IEMs and CIEMs I’ve ever encountered – and, to be completely honest, by a long shot. After listening to the UERM, nothing else sound quite “right,” and I find myself longing to return to the UERM. Even IEMs that surpass the UERM in terms of texture and detail don’t cut it for me. To put it simply, the UERM has a sense of naturalness and coherence that I’ve never experienced in an IEM before. The midrange is full-bodied, but not thick, and it’s resolving and clean, but not overly analytical. In short, it’s the only IEM I’ve heard with a midrange that truly walks the fine line between being musical and analytical.
The UERM’s midrange is ever-so-slightly relaxed with a presentation that puts the music slightly in front of you. The sound is clean, well-textured, and very smooth. But as I’ve said, there are IEMs that surpass it in terms of sheer detail and texture. Separation is top-notch, and the background is clean. I also find the midrange of the UERM to be very dynamic.
The treble is where people also have trouble with the UERM. The treble of the UERM is, without a doubt, somewhat emphasized, giving the UERM its more analytical nature as well as its potential harshness. As someone who appreciates a bit of extra brightness, the UERM is right up my alley. I do admit that while I love the crispness of the UERM’s upper region, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s to a point where it’ll start making those more sensitive to treble peaks wince a bit.
The treble is clean, has fast decay, and crisp. Detail is very good and will bring out faults in poor recordings. However, while there’s some treble emphasis with the UERM, its upper register is surprisingly smooth, with just some fairly minor peaks at around 6 kHz and 10 kHz. Treble extension is fantastic, giving the UERM a very natural sense of spaciousness that doesn’t give the listener a sense that it was artificially done.
Something that IEM manufacturers have worked tireless to change in the past half a decade or so since the UERM’s release is the limitations that IEMs have when it comes to soundstage. There are plenty of products out there now that can outperform the UERM in terms of the sheer distance that instruments can extend outwards to, but most of those products are also expensive and are not necessarily natural sounding in that regard. At its 1000 dollar price tag, the UERM still performs valiantly in terms of soundstage and it presents the music in a very nice way. If I have to nitpick, I would say that while the depth is good in the sense that the music is presented in front of you and not so much in-your-head (which is a huge plus to me), I do feel that, compared to a lot of TOTL IEMs, the UERM can be lacking just a bit in overall layering.
While I’ve never been one to use the description “chameleon-like,” I will say that the UERM brings out the character of its source quite a bit. I’ve loved pairing the UERM with smooth and slightly warm DAPs such as the Lotoo PAW Gold and Sony NW-ZX2 as the UERM responds by giving a richer sound. I’ve found these DAPs to complement the UERM well as it prevents the UERM’s sound from becoming overly analytical.
On the other hand, the UERM’s sound differs quite a bit when paired with my Asus Essence III, which is a good bit flatter and overall more analytical sounding in comparison to the Sony and Lotoo DAPs. With the Essence III, the UERM has a much more linear bass response, replaces the smoothness that the DAPs provide in the midrange for a slightly thinner but ultra-precise sound, and a slightly sharper treble as well. Every headphone and IEM changes with the source, but I really think that the UERM does so more than other products I’ve had experience with.
UERM With Sony NW-ZX2Ending Thoughts:Not surprisingly, the UERM has pretty much become the reference in my arsenal of audio gear. Comparing it to another product really make it obvious when something has any sort of color in the midrange, peaks in the treble, or extra bloom in the bass. It’s not ruler flat, but it is very close indeed. If I could boost the bass just a tiny bit and pull back the treble just a tad bit as well, I think this would probably be the most natural sounding product I’ve ever heard.
As for recommending the UERM, I think you’re making a mistake if this IEM is not on your list and you’re looking for a CIEM under the price of maybe $1500 or so. No, I’m not saying that you should just buy the UERM because you’ll automatically love it, or that if you don’t love the UERM then you’re a criminal, but it needs to be on your list. Once you get your list, then it comes down to researching what you’re looking for and getting that right sound for you. I don’t think I’ve yet to hear an IEM under 1000 that competes with it, and I find that the UERM can still hold its ground in many cases when competing with IEMs much more expensive than itself. Honestly, I feel a little inclined to give the UERM a 4.5/5 because I feel that its build quality is a bit mediocre when you have companies making some incredible works of art, but I honestly think that the sound of the UERM deserves some bonus points.
The UERM is not an IEM of the past. It’s a product created in the past that is still an absolutely beast today. We get so tied up in the “next best thing” that we forget why these past products were so well received and so legendary. I’ll be completely honest, if I didn’t get the opportunity to demo the UERM 2 years ago, Ultimate Ears would be a forgotten company to me. While they’ve innovated their production process and have completely changed how they interact with their customers, they haven’t released anything new in terms of products.
At the end of the day, we gotta trust our ears. This thing has 3 drivers, folks – and it sound incredible.
UERM With Norne Audio Therium Cable
"Not for "reference monitoring" !"
Pros - Everything but the bass
Cons - You can't hear a thing below 70hz ....
Received the UE RM 3 days ago, the quality is good, the customers service was perfect and it's an overall good product.
The audio is really precise, the ear 'fit' is great (you're always scared that it won't be super confortable since it's custom for you ears), and everything is nice except ...
There are absolutely no sub frequencies ! For so called "reference monitors" I was expecting a real correct 20hz - 20khz frequency range, but you can say good bye to the bass !
I guess it's not a big issue for rock lovers but if you want to listen to any other music genre (electronic, hip hop, pop, etc.) you won't have any low end ! So you can forget the mix aspect ...
Had to test with my Ultrasone pro 900 (headphone) and the difference is crazy, you just have no low end with the ultimate ears ! Bascially they're like a Beyer DT 880 pro but in-ear ...
"**Revised Update** Fantastic effortless neutral sound from UE "
Pros - Balanced sound from top to bottom, never stressed or pressurized sounding. Effortless sound, realistic imaging, adapts into different genres.
Cons - None that I can think of.
Ok so I realize the UE IERM's are kinda old news now, but I ordered a pair a few weeks ago and just got them today. All I can say so far is, the sound is exactly what I want from an IEM.
I have been a bit of a bass head in the past, and oddly enough still think of myself as one, but apparently that's not the case anymore, because these sound just perfect to my ears. The treble is nicely extended, yet seemingly neutral. I have noticed that the treble can sound just a tad and by "tad" I mean <5% harsh sometimes but I am very confident this is due to the recording and not a fault of the earphones by any means.
Mids are nice, present, not forward, not back.
Also the part I was most worried about, the Bass seems just right to me. Lately I've noticed when listening to things with my grados or UE-900s that the bass was either too light which gave emphasis to the treble or the bass seemed just a touch compressed (forced?) over pressurized in the UE-900s which led to this slight muffling of the treble extension. Possibly due to the fact that these are customs, but regardless the bass sound perfect to me in the IERM. Direct, punchy, but never getting in the way of anything else.
All in all I'm glad I went with my gut on this one and didn't follow all the reviews that suggested the JH-16s because "I like bass"
Also huge thanks to UE and their team that got the fit exactly perfect the first time.
I'll have to upload some pictures too but I find these have quite a bit more bass than I was expecting them to have, based on what everybody was been saying. This is a good thing because I was actually expecting them to be a bit bass light.
I am curious to see if UE has perhaps done some retuning of the UERMs since the first models. Based on other pictures the sound tube for bass is significantly smaller than the tube for mids and treble, whereas on mine they're almost the same size, close enough that I have to look at the drivers to tell which hole leads to which. If this is true and this is kind of a "revised" version, I'd be curious to see if anybody else has noticed this on a recent order. I will say I hear very very deep bass extension in these and by that I mean very very deep sub bass vibrations in the background of songs that I've never heard before, even compared to the HD650s on my Anedio D1.
Now I realize comparing a $1k IEM to a $500 full-size headphone is kind of apples and oranges (fresh picked apples and wal-mart oranges?) Either way, the more I listen to these and compare them to other equipment I have on hand, the more satisfied I am with them. They sound perfectly flat to me with the D1, (I don't really notice the bass roll off that everybody else mentions at all except the slight roll off as it transitions out of human hearing range approaching 5hz) Also, I feel like these are the most "real" sounding headphones I've heard in a long time. It's no longer an issue of "good bass" "good mids" "good treble" etc. etc.
The resolving power/imaging/soundstage/instrument separation all sound very realistic to me. So much so that some recordings approach that "virtual live concert" kind of feel, mostly due to the additional extraction of what I like to refer to as "micro details." By that I mean details not from the instruments and vocalists, but the kind of auxiliary sounds, tiny little reverberations off walls, resonance of drums at rest from nearby instruments, etc. I think I could tell the difference between a taylor and martin guitar, and probably the difference between light and medium gauge strings, assuming they're recorded in a similar fashion.
To sum things up, based on my impressions over the first few days, I'd say these lie exactly in the middle of everything to my ears.
Not too bright, not too warm.
Not too forward, not too distant.
Also in terms of their analytical nature, I'd say they sound right in the middle between too cohesive and too separated. You can easily hear every instrument, singer, but at the same time I don't feel like the UERM is prying apart the music to an artificially analytical level.
I realize this has been said many times before, but since the frequency response is so flat in these, they almost seem to change their character depending on the type of music you're listening to. I always play my music with no EQ on foobar using WASAPI or on my laptop with bitperfect.
Earlier I had listened to DJ Billy-E's Beats 4 My Van, as rudimentary as this song is, it does a great job of evaluating a headphone's bass characteristics, resonance/decay etc. I'll have to say that the bass was at least if not more powerful sounding in this song as it is using my Sennheisers, indicating to me that the UERMs are not bass light by any means. This song sounded very boomy, club subwoofer like, which is what I anticipate the audio engineer's intention was. I quickly transitioned into Ludovico Einaudi's Le Onde still with EQ disabled and instantly the UERMs shifted into a nice crisp piano sound, with absolutely 0 change in settings from me.
Something that has stood out to me in particular with these IEMs is their ability to replicate a piano's sound, dynamics and dimensionality. As a pianist myself, I spend a lot of time playing different pianos, and while I realize all pianos sound different depending on their type and size, I have grown quite familiar with what a piano should and shouldn't sound like in a recording. No matter how hard I try, pianos never seem to sound right from my triple.fi 10s, grados, UE-900s. The universal UEs have this slight bass compression, which makes the upper register of a piano sound like it's coming from a speaker, very flat and 2D. The grados on the other hand can never seem to capture the lower register. The individual notes sound fine in and of themselves, but on a piano you never just hear one note, the harmonics should ring through the entire instrument. So far the UERMs capture both the upper and lower registers of the piano more completely and realistically than anything else I've listened to.
I'll continue switching around source equipment and listening for any glaring flaws but so far I have yet to find any. All of the things I mentioned above seem to add up to create something greater than the sum of the parts, in that they all combine to give an added layer of realism I don't think I've ever heard before.
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