REVIEW: Apple iPod & Ultimate Ears UE-10 PRO
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Welly Wu

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REVIEWER EQUIPMENT EXPERIENCE:
I have owned both the Sennheiser HD 600 and Grado RS-1 flagship headphones; I currently have the Etymotic ER-4P/S earphones. I owned the HeadRoom Cosmic (with Reference Module) but upgraded to the Ray Samuels Emmeline HR-2 headphone amplifier. I owned both the DiMarzio High Resolution and M-PATH but upgraded to the Cardas Neutral Reference interconnecting cables. My power conditioner is a Balanced Power Technologies BP.Jr. II Ultra and I use a PS Audio xStream Plus power cord. My source component history includes a Panasonic SL-CT570, Apple iPod, NAD C541i HDCD and a Denon DVD 2900. My current source is a Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi.

APPLE iPod TM:
•Windows PC 10 GB 2002 Model (Version 1.2.1)
•Equalizer setting = OFF
•Volume = ¼ - ¾ range

ULTIMATE EARS TM UE-10 PRO TM:
http://www.ultimateears.com/UE-10_PRO.htm

MUSIC SELECTIONS:
•Celine Dion, All the Way…A Decade of Song
•Patricia Barber, Modern Cool
•Renee Fleming & Bryn Terfel, Under the Stars
•Van Halen, 1984 (HDCD)

INTRODUCTION:
On March 15, 2004, I contacted Mindy Harvey, the President of Ultimate Ears, via e-mail with some specific questions regarding her flagship earphones, the UE-10 PROtm. She personally answered all of my questions and an order was immediately placed on March 16, 2004. She called the best audiologist in my local area and I set an appointment.

GETTING MY EAR IMPRESSIONS MADE:
The audiologist came to my home on March 17, 2004 at 1 PM EST. First, she explained the entire procedure and asked for my permission to go ahead. Next, she checked both of my ears twice, asked for a trashcan, and wiped her hands clean with a disinfectant cloth. Then, she put on rubber gloves and carefully took out four small white foam circles with strings attached. She compacted each one slightly between her fingers before she gently pushed each one into my ear canals using a special insertion tool with a light on its’ end. Fourth, she opened up two packages containing two sealed compounds that were pink and white in color. She mixed the compounds together with both hands and squeezed them into a clear large tube with a plunger on one end and a plastic syringe on the other end. She asked me to open up my mouth half way and told me not to move at all before she injected the compound into each ear. It took approximately three minutes for it to cure. Thereafter, she lightly touched the consistency of both impressions before removing them by gently tugging on the white string. She said they were excellent ear impressions. She repeated the entire process until she had four ear impressions. Finally, she put them in a cardboard box with my name and telephone number written and immediately shipped them overnight to UE. Everything was finished in twenty minutes.

DELIVERY TIME:
It only took seventy-two hours before I got a FedEx package. The aluminum case had the Ultimate EarsTM logo, toll-free phone number, the website and my name engraved in black. Inside, there were the UE-10 PROTM earphones, double-tipped cleaning tool, and four-page double-sided instruction manual along with a business card.

THE SOUND:
BASS:
Bass extension is very low – in fact, the lowest I have ever heard of any earphone including the ER-4P/S. Attack and slam of bass notes literally produce reverberations inside my brain tissue and throughout the bone of my skull! Sudden changes in beat or tempo from slow / steady to fast / furious happen at the speed of light. The timbre and texture of each bass note sounds warm in tone. Intense percussion jams sound fluid. Bottom line: each thwack, thump, and shimmer sounds like the real instrument played live.

MIDRANGE:
Everything sounds exceptionally clear, resolved, and accurate. In fact, every note lays itself bare in naked space and there are no colorations to the sound. Closing my eyes, I can reconstruct the layered depths of recorded music front to back / left to right and I can pinpoint the position of each musician on stage. Furthermore, I also hear whether musicians breathe through their nostrils or mouths during their performance.
The UE-10 PROtm reproduces vocals impeccably. Dion has a dynamic and sweet voice. Barber has a voice that is intoxicatingly sultry and throaty. Fleming has the beautiful voice of a seraph. Terfel can sing the phone book. Van Halen is sometimes edgy and peaky.

TREBLE:
I heard no brightness, sibilance, or shrillness. The top end sounds accurate, grain free, and natural. Treble extends upward smoothly without sounding peaky or rolled off. Treble energy is slightly forward, but not in your face. For example, high hat cymbals produce clashes and shimmers that sound convincingly natural during the attack, bloom, and decay. As another example, female voices sound liquid, organic, and smooth.

BALANCE & COHESION:
Both the midrange and treble sound true to the original recording. Notes flow freely with silky smoothness and music sounds natural and relaxed. However, the bass region is tonally overpowering and any excessive musical energy in that region upsets tonal balance. The bottom end sounds warm and full-bodied like the Grado RS-1 cans. “Bassheads” should love the shock ‘n awe assault on their eardrums!

DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS:
The UE-10 PROTM tells the brutal, honest truth. It does not dictate its own interpretation of the music, but frees it to communicate itself naturally. They truly are the Ultimate Earphones for extracting oodles of details due to their killer pinpoint accuracy. For example, I can hear Dion’s French Canadian accent whenever she sings words ending in vowel – consonant – vowel clusters. As another example, I noticed Terfel’s tendency to belt out his lowest registers starting from deep down in his stomach as he lifts up the sound to the middle of his chest region where it blooms into grandeur. Barber’s style is to swallow from the back of her throat, lick her lips, and let out her hot, seductive voice into the microphone.

SOUNDSTAGE & IMAGING:
Combine balance, cohesion, and oodles of details and expand it 180 degrees throughout the frontal hemisphere of the brain and you got the UE-10 PROTM nailed on the head of a pin. It reproduces the layered depth but does not sacrifice the width of soundstage. The stunning pinpoint accuracy is a boon: each musician and instrument occupies an unmistakable place in the soundstage. If the level of musicianship and recording are up to par, then the seductive illusion of music playing naturally becomes convincingly real.

SENSITIVITY:
The extremely low impedance of the UE-10 PROTM makes it very easy to drive to high SPL at low volume settings; this is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it is a blessing because it performs admirably by itself; a headphone amplifier is not necessary (but it is definitely an additional luxury). On the other hand, it is a curse to find that perfect listening volume due to its extreme sensitivity.

SOUND ISOLATION:
26dB of passive sound isolation is both a good and bad thing. It is a good thing because I no longer have to compete with external noises in my listening environment just so I can hear my music. As a result, I can listen to my music at lower listening volumes anywhere. It is also a bad thing because I can no longer hear critical spatial cues in my environment. For example, I cannot hear loud buses, trucks, or even people talking on the street. Consequently, use common sense: do not drive a vehicle or operate dangerous machines (i.e., power tools or firearms) with the UE-10 PROtm plugged in!

COMFORT:
The ear impressions fit my ears like a custom-made leather glove for my hand. In fact, I hardly notice that I am wearing earphones at all even after hours of continual use! The UE-10 PROTM earphones are a perfect fit…literally.

CONCLUSIONS:
If you can afford them, then I enthusiastically recommend the Ultimate EarsTM UE-10 PROTM earphones but with some reservations. Find the best audiologist who has work experience with UE and follow their specific instructions for getting proper ear impressions to the letter. While they will work with virtually any equipment, better equipment will reveal their true sonic capabilities. Use common sense when using them and keep the volume low to avoid hearing damage!

STRENGTHS:
•EXTREMELY ACCURATE SOUND
•Custom fit your ears
•26dB of passive sound isolation
•Extremely comfortable fit even for long listening sessions
•Easy to clean and maintain
•No hidden fees to replace filters or ear tips
•User detachable and replaceable cords of different colors & lengths
•Custom color earpieces
•Outstanding quality craftsmanship
•Outstanding customer service
•Personalized UE earphones and protective case
•Convenient and sturdy aluminum carrying case with locking mechanism

WEAKNESSES:
•$900 USD price tag
•$30 - $50 USD audiologist fee for ear impressions
•Warm, full-bodied bass
•Difficult to audition and resell
 
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toaster

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between this review and lindrone's future post of the sensaphonics, we are beginning to scrape the edge of the canalphone universe. wow.

you gotta do some comparisons with other canalphones.

ue-10's with an ipod.

britney spears uses less expensive in ear monitors when she goes on world tours.

only on headfi...

btw, didn't you talk about saving for these things for the next few months?

this couldn't be an early april fools could it???
 
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radrd

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Quote:

No hidden fees to replace filters or ear tips


I'd hardly consider thsoe "hidden fees." What happens when material get's inside the UE-10? I assume they have some sort of filters to keep them clean. You know you can get custom earmolds for Etys as well.

Anyway, nice review!


It would be really cool if you could compare them to the Sure E5 as well, but I take it you at least like them better than Etys?
 
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Canman

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congrats on the UE's Welly, I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying them.

The ear impressions sound pretty wild...I wonder if the Ety's might improve with custom ear molds and if the great bass response of the UE's is partially due to the perfect fit and seal from the custom fitting.
 
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DJGeorgeT

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Quote:

Originally posted by toaster22
between this review and lindrone's future post of the sensaphonics, we are beginning to scrape the edge of the canalphone universe. wow.

ue-10's with an ipod.

britney spears uses less expensive in ear monitors when she goes on world tours.

btw, didn't you talk about saving for these things for the next few months?

only on headfi...


britney...hum...does she make music?


I am going to start using IEM's for DJing.
 
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ServinginEcuador

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Congrats on the UE-10 Pros Welly, and job well done on the review. It sounds like you got a real set of winners on your hands their, and I hope you get many years of joyful use out of them.
 
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toaster

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Quote:

Originally posted by toaster22
if it makes you feel warm and fuzzy to know you stick the same things in your ears as britney spears than the extra $250 may be worth it. just kidding of course. (now that i think about it, she only lip synchs, why does she even need in ear monitors?)


i made a joke about that in my thread a few days ago in reference to sensaphonics...hehe.
 
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You actually got them. Wow, you're going to make a lot of wallets lose some serious weight. I'm still in shock. Congrats on getting the most expensive canalphones ever made...(until they make the UE-11).
 
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radrd

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I'll give this a quick bump for yas.
 
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loveheadphones

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great review. it really makes me think about the possibilities for ear impressions with the er-4p's though.... can anyone who has done that chime in? i would love to hear any impressions A/Bing er-4p/s with and without earmolds.
can you just remove the foamie and put an impression in place of it?
 
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TrevorNetwork

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Excellent post Welly. You're very articulate, and paint an excellent auditory "picture" of the sound. Forgive me if you mentioned this, but regading the character of the UE-10, are you able to compare them to a full size headphone?

Cheers!

Trevor
 
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Wmcmanus

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Hats off for this wonderful review! Thanks so much, Welly.

As Doug mentioned, you will undoubtedly enjoy the UE-10's for years to come. I'm also looking forward to lindrone's review of the Sensaphonics.
 
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Welly Wu

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Quote:

Originally posted by radrd
I'd hardly consider thsoe "hidden fees." What happens when material get's inside the UE-10? I assume they have some sort of filters to keep them clean. You know you can get custom earmolds for Etys as well.

Anyway, nice review!


It would be really cool if you could compare them to the Sure E5 as well, but I take it you at least like them better than Etys?


Radrd:

When earwax or debris gets encrusted inside or around the double openings, there is a double tipped tool with a loop to remove earwax and a bristle to remove debris. That is how you clean them on a daily basis.
 
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kunwar

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in terms of diminishing return for your money, do these follow the same path.i.e.
are tehy worth 5 times the priceof an ety 4S or 3 times that of the shure E5
 
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Welly Wu

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Quote:

Originally posted by kunwar
in terms of diminishing return for your money, do these follow the same path.i.e.
are tehy worth 5 times the priceof an ety 4S or 3 times that of the shure E5


I can't speak to the SHURE E5c but I can tip my hand by saying that they are worth the money compared to the ER-4P/S. Wait another week!
 
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