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Custom item created by kyo9112, Nov 24, 2010
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... Haha Disclaimer: 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-ZX2 Ending 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
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 ...
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.
Pros - Simply stellar sweet sound
Cons - Hyper revealing to bad sources / tracks
Given the date of the OP's review, seems I'm a couple years late to the UERM party. Well, let's keep it going then.
My new ears have arrived, and they sound glorious.
A few months back I made the happy mistake (happy to ears, misery to wallet) of researching a replacement for my UE10s. Back in the day, when I got 'em, I chose the 10's over the 11's specifically due to the former's neutrality.
The UE11 to me, was excessively forward and boomy, and I figured they'd be fatiguing in long listening sessions. I demo'd both models at the LA Airport CanJam, ordered on site, and have loved the UE10 ever since.
Technology has taken quite the jump since then.
Compared to the UE10s, the UERMs have more sparkle, more life, more vocal ring, more black background, more air between the notes, faster attack and decay.
I've read the criticisms of the UERMs being "bass-lite", and don't entirely agree. First, I'm powering them with Centrance's 1.5W M8, balanced dual 3-pin XLR. The UERM craves power (as did its older sibling) and has fantastic synergy with the M8.
Given this power, the UERM has no problem reaching low. But the lows hit hard and fast and withdraw equally fast. It's more of a "thoom!" vs a "thoooom..."
Other reviewers have stated that the treble can be harsh. This I will agree with, but the harshness to me seems to be very much linked to the quality of the track.
Stellar recordings like "Best Audiophile Voices" or Sarah Darling's acoustic tracks on "Angels & Devils" sound just incredible. Soaring highs, sweet sweet vocals, with no harsh edges.
Lots and lots of pop, and other poorly recorded tracks, however, sound just awful. ugh. The UERMs reward you with the good and punish you with the bad.
Many thanks and props to Mike Dias and Roy Cochran. Mike was my very patient and cool dude UE contact who answered all my product questions and ultimately connected me with Roy, for my local demo in San Diego. Mike's first description of the UERM was that "it's the 10, just better". The UERM is exactly that, and embodies my preferred sound style.
The UERM's sound just sounds... right to me. That "back of mind" sound critic, always listening for flaws, is quiet. I love this sound and listen with deep content and satisfaction.
My audiologist done good - the fit / seal is solid, a tiny bit tight, but it's a well distributed fit. I don't feel any pokey parts.
It comes in a hefty, not small metal case, much better than the flimsy, soft aluminum-like holder that came with the UE10s, so I'm pleased about this. The fit and finish, and "out of box" experience is exactly what I'd expect from a premium product.
All in all, this has been an ideal purchase experience from pre-sales questions to demos, ordering, customization, follow ups and obviously end product quality. These guys are pros.
Lastly, the custom balanced cable is from Headphone Lounge. Ted does damn fine work.
Pros - Unbeatable sound stage and clarity
Cons - for $1000? None.
Alright everyone. I feel like the UERM's deserve some cred. I never write reviews on my phones, and I know not enough people read this section, but someone has to defend these.
I've owned and listened to many of the top tier Custom's and Universal IEMS.
Sennheiser IE8 | IE80
Everything under UE
okay too many. Not even going to write it all down. But the point is, I've heard a lot. If you want neutral sound with great detail and clarity, with hands down the best sound stage out of any IEM I have ever heard (by a mile) UERM's are the way to go. 3 drivers I know. But you don't need 8 to make something amazing. One thing I have noticed was that something with more drivers do tend to perform better with better amp, etc. The UERMs are my go to. I plug straight into my iphone 5 and go. This was the earphone that made me sell everything else. (except for the SM3's and a few other uiem's I keep around for backup).
If you happen to run into UE at a meet or a tradeshow, they'll have some promotions you can capitalize on. Either way, go get them if you are serious about listening. I have bigger cans and other phones I always listen to, but I know I'll never net these go. They are just that good. Even the folks I had bought the JH 16 from, or the ES5 from, also said they kept their UERM's and are selling the rest.
I didn't believe them at first. It's exactly what I did a year later when I got my UERM's done by UE. Yes sometimes I wish I had a little more bass. Yes, sometimes I wish there was a bit more detail in the bass (stuff that JH 16 really excelled at) but still, the balance in performance here is great. Does wonders in just about every category of music.
Keep in mind that at this stage, it's all about preference and the specific sound track you are listening to. The other phones aren inferior or anything, it's just for me, the UERM's mold themselves better to what I listen to. The soundstage however, is clearly better. No Debate there.
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.
6. SE535/Triple fi/EX7550/H-200
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.
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
Pros - Great sound, ambient noise isolation, comfort and cool looking
Cons - are you kidding? wait... hm.... $$$$
this is my first set of customs, so I can't compare it to other customs. but comparing to a set of TF10, there is no comparison.
First, it's very comfortable. with TF10, my ears hurt after an hour or so of listening. but with RM, long listening is no longer an issue. I only put them down to take a break and rest my ears. of course, wearing them on/off is much more difficult, but I'm getting the hang of it.
Second, the ambient noise isolation is much better. I was surprised by the fit and the consequent isolation. it seals for good tight bass and block outside noise.
Third, it sounds awesome. the little details are brought forward. It's flat. no coloration whatsoever. I mix live music so this is perfect for me. i love flat sound: direct from the source without any coloration. if you're a bass head, then you should look elsewhere.
all in all, this is my new best earphones...
i waited six years to get a pair of customs... the wait was worth it.
Pros - Mid range and great soundstage for an in-ear.
Cons - Customs take some getting used to. Bass suffers a little.
I've recently amended this review, based on my education into the world of Head-Fi.
I've been toying around with getting a set of in-ear customs for a long time. I caught the write-ups in my audio rags about UE's new product and jumped all over them.
I'm a video editor, but I also do a lot of music and mixing, writing, directing, and anything else that has to do with entertainment production. It's like UE decided to custom build a pair of in-ear headphones just for me. Thanks guys, much appreciated.
My super-secret hope? They'd make for pretty good listening, too.
I don't have any experience with IE custom monitors prior to this. I've had about every model of universal buds Shure ever made-- and my favorite pair prior were the e4Cs. I had the e5's but they hurt the ear after an hour or so. The I owned one pair of UE's in the past, and was disappointed in their construction. They were pretty much toast within a year-- but they were low-grade consumer models.
No worries with the UERM's. These things are built well. I opted for translucent black. Something about clear and in-ear made me think of gross ear wax I never wanted to face. The black is pretty striking. I also did double Capitol logos on the ears.
The customs take some getting used to. Mine hurt at first. After a week things chilled out. There was a time I considered taking them back for a re-fit, but I stuck it out.
Sound quality-- well that's what these are all about- and they do sound fantastic. I would call the soundstage very good-- but not up to the level of a quality over-ear open headphone. Brilliant highs. That's where these really shine. I notice transients-- particularly in passages with great natural reverb. Open and extended.
The one common criticism I ran into about this model was the lack of bass. They certainly can't stand up to the LCDs or HD-650 or HD-800. And they don't go as deep as Dr. Dre Beats. But where Beats have a thumping quality suited for pop music, the bass overpowers on everything else. The IERMs bass is extremely tight. What they lack in deep low end they make up with in bass detail. A little EQ will bring the lows in, but the detail in the bass is where these shine. You can sort of hear the skins on the drums stretching and retreating. You can hear the fingers slip across the bass strings. They're just ridiculously accurate-- almost comically so. But in reference listening you don't want that deep extension there when you're trying to figure out what you're listening to.
You might get the sense that I like these by now... Indeed.
I knock the design a bit, because-- let's face it-- there's nothing sexy about the shape of your ear canal. But the box they come in is smashing-- and has my name printed on it-- but the buds have a hard time fitting inside, so I bought a Pelican case. It's waterproof anyway-- a good way to protect my thousand dollar investment.
My and my UE's are going to be married for a long time.
Pros - Great sound and isolation.
Cons - The earphones are kind of expensive.
Ultimate Ears is a very good headphone company. They have a wide variety of headphones, that range from the type you use with Ipod's and mp3 players to headphones for live performances. Big time bands that use these headphones are Anberlin, Rise Against, Switchfoot, and many more. I love the sound quality and the isolation from other sounds. The headphones range anywhere from 20 dollars to 1300 dollars, I love them. I have the 1300 dollar ones. This is a great buy.
Pros - Flat and accurate yet not too clinical
Cons - UE customer support isn't the greatest
I'm a laptop producer of electronic music and film score compositions and it just isn't practical to remain tethered to a desk with near-field monitors for tracking and mixing. I need to be mobile but need to know that what I'm hearing will translate accurately to my mixes.
The UERM's allow me to mix with confidence. Everything is clear and well-placed. The bass is exactly right, which is often the most difficult part of a mix. What I hear in my monitors is what I get when I play back on other systems. The separation of instruments and depth of field is really impressive for an IEM. Isolation is quite good - I'm often on a loud train or boat and I can mix without ambient noise distracting me.
I listen to these every day during my commute and they excel at electronic, jazz and pop but since they are engineered to have a flat response the mid and low bass can feel restrained with aggressive rock or hip hop. I may pick up a set of UE 18's for my recreational listening.
Overall I'm really happy with the UERM's and highly recommend them for audiophiles and producers who appreciate an accurate representation of the source material. The fit wasn't perfect the first time so I had to send them back for an adjustment on the right side. The left side fit like a glove from day one. The hard acrylic takes a little getting used to but now it feels just fine. I'd like to try these with a silicone option at some point, both for comfort and increased isolation.
These absolutely require a full burn-in. They sounded awful at first and after about 20 hours they opened up and the veil was lifted. I was so relieved because I didn't realize that IEM's needed as much burn-in as full sized phones.