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Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered

Rating:
5/5,
  1. crashtest33
    Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered
    Written by crashtest33
    Published Dec 6, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound-stage, vocal presence, clarity, SQ, build, value
    Cons - Bass may be lacking for some
    The Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered
    By Crashtest33


    Have I finally found what I'm looking for?

    Why?

    Choice of headphone comes down to more than just sound, and the changing of life and work circumstances can perpetuate the process. For some time I've been after a headphone that not only sounds great but best suits my current home and work life. After several months of reading, testing and pondering, I pulled the plug on the 'Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered'. I feel I've made the right choice and here's why.


    Who?


    My name's Nick. I live in Cambridge, UK and I've been a music nut my entire life. The son of a music teacher and formidable pianist and singer, I've been exposed to music of all genres for as long as I can remember. I first dabbled in hifi in my late teens ending up with a Monitor Audio and Denon-based system which was featured in 'Home Cinema Choice' magazine.
    A semi-detached home purchase put an end to music listening on loudspeakers so my good friend Kevin from 'Sevenoaks', Cambridge suggested I try listening to some headphones. I owned an iPod 5.5g but required some more fidelity. I spent a modest amount and built my first rig consisting of a CF modded iPod 7G, an iBasso amp and a pair of AKG K450s. The rest is history.


    What?

    As life circumstances changed my Focal Spirit Classic and later Focal Elears became redundant to requirement and I needed some more portable IEM's. I used the incredible pound-per-buck Dunu DN-1000s for about 3 months but never really enjoyed the music as much as the Focal's. I was really after an IEM with the fidelity and soundstage that I assumed only an over-ear headphone could provide. After a few messages and posts on here, it became apparent that I would require a CIEM (custom in-ear monitor) and a formidable one at that.


    The UE Reference Remastered,...


    I remembered the superb announcement video that Jude produced on Head-Fi TV and the very premise appealed to me even at the time of it's release. A neutral Hi-fidelity studio mastering monitor, tuned to replicate the juggernaut PMC QB1-A studio active monitors newly installed at Capitol Studios?! This sounded extremely exciting. Now, off the bat I will admit, I'm not a bass-head and not a massive fan of V-shaped sound signatures so this would make me look at the RR perhaps more than others who may not even contemplate giving them a listen.


    Test Equipment:

    iBasso DX120 DAP.

    Balanced, SE & LO 3.5mm. Digital 3.5mm Coax Out. Single AKM AK4495 DAC (THD+N = 111db)

    Pro-Ject DAC Box S FL non-oversampling DAC
    TDA1543 x 4

    Vorzüge Pure II+ Headphone Amp
    3.5mm SE Output (SNR = 110db, 320mW x2 into 32 Ohm)




    Testing, Ordering and unboxing - 5/5


    Before even contemplating a CIEM, I first checked to see if I had a dealer near me. As it turns out, I'm a short blast down the A10 from 'The Custom IEM Co. Ltd.' in Ware, Hertfordshire here in the UK. I called Paul and booked myself for a listening session with as many CIEM's within my budget. These ranged from the JH Audio 3x and UE Pro 5 to the UE RR, Empire Ears Bravado and 64 Audio A3e.
    I took my portable rig and spent about two and a half hours trying out the various universal fit versions of the CIEMs.
    Once I was decided on the UE RR (I will explain why later), I booked back in with Paul (a qualified CIEM fitting technician) to have my ear canals and drums examined and ear impressions taken. We decided on a colour scheme/design I was happy with and parted with my money.
    Later that afternoon, Paul would place my ear impressions in a 3D, hi-res scanner and email the CAD files directly to Ultimate Ears in the States.
    After 12 days I received an email from Paul saying my CIEM's were in stock and he'd carried out his own personal QC checks and they were in the post to me Special Delivery. I received them the following morning.

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    The earphones were presented in a sturdy black textured cardboard box containing the round custom storage case, a care manual and serial number card. The box presented the round case and provided ample protection. To be honest, It's probably overkill but made the unboxing experience a little more classy than usual.
    As a free option, UE provide a choice of round or oblong 'Peli' style cases and 14 laser-etched characters. I copied Paul and chose a round case with my name and mobile number.
    The round case resembled a top-end moisturiser rather than earphone storage but perfectly crafted regardless.

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    Once you unscrew the lid, you are presented with a closed pull-chord pouch with a UE logo tab containing the CIEM's and silver cable. Underneath this was an aircraft adapter cable, 3.5-6mm adapter plug and a funky plastic tool with a nylon brush at one end and an earwax scraper at the other. Useful.

    Build Quality - 5/5


    The 'Y' splitter includes a self-tightening, silicone adjuster


    A good quality, if unremarkable 3.5mm right-angled jack plug terminates the silver plated, OFC cable.


    Each CIEM cable end is terminated with these insane quality IPX 'Coax style' connectors which are IP67 certified and factory tested to 3000 removals!



    The shells themselves are made using 3D printed SLA (Stereolithography) technology and the finish is close to perfect. They are nearly blemishless and the thickness of the plastic is extremely uniform.

    Fit & feel - 5/5


    A bit of a moot point when it comes to custom IEMs I feel. Do they fit? Should they fit? If not, do I return them?
    Paul nailed the fitting process first time round and UE reciprocated Paul's base impressions by creating a perfect fitting, snug and comfortable shell that causes me no discomfort whatsoever even after 8+ hrs of wear.


    Sound - 4.8/5

    The sole purpose of entering the high-level CIEM market was to finally end up with a portable earphone that could destroy any mid-level IEM for sound quality but also match my Focal's for stereo separation and soundstage.
    Compared to all the others I tested, the UE-RR's were the only earphones that did just that. Where the resolution of say the UE 5's was comparable, I still felt like I was listening to my old Dunu's or a set of headphones with a poor quality DAC. I didn't feel like I was even in the audience or at least not without a large rug between myself and the musicians. The UE 7's came closer. I was definitely in the audience but possibly had a nasty cold that removed me ever so slightly from the performance.
    The RR is a different beast. It presents the music without a veil of any kind.

    Bass

    Bass is probably the only element of the RR's reproduction that the masses could really take issue with. It's there. It's controlled and it's not lacking (for me) but there's certainly not lots of it. The polar opposite of the JH 3x, The RR's bass presents itself when required. 'Fasten your seatbelts' by 'Pendulum' enables the RR to show off it's bass control without it being overbearing. It's tight, punchy and drops extremely low without any volume change. Bass-headz and Dance music enthusiasts may want more...

    Mids/Treble

    Where to start? Creamy, heavenly, controlled, present, expansive. The RR was designed to reproduce vocals as accurately as possible. The tuning done by UE and Capitol has paid off and I'm sure PMC are as impressed as to how, like the QB1-A, UE have managed to get them to sound. During Diana Krall's 'A Case of You', you would not be surprised to feel her breath in your ear. Likewise with Greg Porter's 'No Love Dying', the smooth gravelly vibrato is so clear and real you could swear he was singing live, right next to you.
    Instrumentals are equally impressive, whether it's the complex timpani of John Williams' '
    Buckbeak's Flight' or Mark Knopfler's spacing masterpiece 'Good on You Son' , spacing and clarity is impressive. every instrument is separate and doesn't get involved in another other than the harmony they are trying to create.

    Overall

    The Reference Remastered is stunning, plain and simple. I intended to find an IEM as spacious and revealing as my Focal Elears and I succeeded. In my humble opinion (as always something that should be observed in hifi) they match them. In every regard! An £800 pair of over-ear open-backed headphones matched by a set of IEM's?! Yup, I was as surprised as you will be.
    If you're after a neutral IEM that retains musicality in abundance, demo the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered. These can do it all, not just in the studio.

    Nick.

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      zdrvr, Ra97oR, AC-12 and 1 other person like this.
    1. Deftone
      the mids and bass are excellent but did you not have any issues with the treble at all? it sounds like its lowered by 10db from neutral, the darkest iem/headphone i have ever heard.
      Deftone, Dec 13, 2018 at 1:31 PM
      davenindigo likes this.
    2. money4me247
      money4me247, Dec 13, 2018 at 6:43 PM
      crashtest33 likes this.
    3. crashtest33
      @Deftone Treble?! You must have a dodgy set pal. Sounds like one of your crossovers or BA drivers is shot. Treble is as forward as it could be without being harsh.
      crashtest33, Dec 14, 2018 at 5:57 AM