Ultimate Ears UE Pro Reference Remastered! (UERR)

  1. jude Administrator
    NOTE:  If you can't see the embedded video above, please CLICK HERE to see the video.​
     
    Produced by Joseph Cwik and Jude Mansilla
     
    In this episode of Head-Fi TV, we take a look at the latest collaboration between Capitol Records and Ultimate Ears. It is the next evolution of Ultimate Ears' Reference Monitor, the new Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR) custom-fit in-ear monitor.
     

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    UERR.jpg
     
    Ultimate Ears UE Pro Reference Remastered
     
    For the last several years, the headphone that has served as my neutral reference is the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor (UERM). Tuned for producers and studio engineers by the recording engineers at Capitol Studios, the UERM was designed to have flat and accurate studio reference sound. While absolute neutrality isn't always what I'm in the mood for, there are times it's exactly what I'm looking for. Because I listen to so much different gear--so many different colorations and flavors--it's great to occasionally re-align myself with a neutral reference as a sort of sonic palate cleanser. It's more than that, though--the UERM has also just been a pleasure to use for general listening, too, for its clarity, crispness, and lack of coloration.
     
    My Neutral Reference...Remastered
     
    Last week in Los Angeles, Ultimate Ears and Capitol Studios held a private event at Capitol Studios to give a sneak preview of the next-generation replacement of the UERM--an entirely new custom in-ear monitor model that will replace the UERM, called the UE Pro Reference Remastered. Because I believe they're still putting the final touches on the UE Pro Reference Remastered (UEPRR?), we didn't get a chance to listen to it there. What Ultimate Ears and Capitol Studios did do was to give the handful of us there an idea of what to expect, some of the things that make it different, and, just as importantly, why they're collaborating on a second monitor together.
     
    The Motivation: Hi-Res Audio
     
    We gathered in Capitol's legendary Studio B, where some of us sat in Frank Sinatra's chair, placed under Frank Sinatra's Neumann U48 microphone, as if Ol' Blue Eyes was on his way in for a session. After some socializing, we headed into Studio B's control room, where Barak Moffitt (head of global strategic operations at Universal Music Group, who oversees Capitol Studios) talked about playback format history, limitations of the past, lossy compression, the "loudness wars," and other things that would limit the fidelity of what the customer would hear relative to what they captured in the studio. He explained that with storage costs so low today--and bandwidth so plentiful--that "We’re in a world today where we don’t need to embrace the same kind of limitations that we needed to, to service the convenience that the consumers demanded."
     
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    (Above) Barak Moffitt discussing hi-res audio in Capitol Studios' Studio B control room.
     
    Barak clearly wants to bring the sound of the original masters to the consumer, and feels now is the time. "We actually have the opportunity to introduce the listener to what the artist truly intended, in the exact same format... The decisions the artists are making, the decision the producers and engineers are making, can actually be listened to by the consumer for the very first time."
     
    At that point, Barak and Capitol Studios audio engineer Chandler Harrod put on a fascinating demonstration. This demo centered around a single track. Chandler was using ProTools to feed several versions of the same classic track through Studio B's magnificent, classic Neve 8068 console, on which Barak could switch between the different versions of that same track for us. The loudspeakers we were listening to were Studio B's spectacular PMC QB1-A flagship active monitors (with over 4800 watts of amplification per channel, for effortless dynamics, among many other breathtaking traits).
     
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    (Above) Chandler Harrod, audio engineer at Capitol Studios (left); Barak Moffitt switching between different versions of the same track on the Neve 8068 console to demonstration hi-res recording versus other formats.
     
    The versions of the track included the original vinyl master, the first consumer digital version of the track (1990), a later digital remaster (2000), a 256 kbps version for distribution via an immensely popular digital music store, and finally a 32-bit/192kHz digital that I believe was straight from the analog master. Switching between these versions as the track played was a striking thing to experience--absolutely riveting comparisons. Barak asked Chandler to cue back several times so he could do many comparisons. The early digital versions lost, well, almost everything that gave that track life. The drummer's brushwork was completely buried, the swells by the band (behind the singer) were compressed into something that sounded nothing like swells. The 256 kbps version was devoid of any air, space, soundstage.
     
    At several points in the comparison, the 32-bit/192kHz transfer from the analog master was switched in, and you could literally hear gasps and giggles from people in the control room every time it came on. Why? Because the soundstage became three-dimensional. The dynamics of the swells were awesome, rising powerfully then fading back to softness, like big sonic waves gently braking behind the singer. The singer's legendary voice had body and presence. Switching to any of the lesser digital formats sucked all the life, nuances, timbre and three-dimensionality from the track. In this demonstration, there was no question that the hi-res version was conveying far more information than any other version they had that day. When I looked around during the demo, the hi-res version was clearly conjuring emotional responses from everyone in the room, including Barak, and I know he's given demos like this countless times before (another one of which I'd heard in the past).
     
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    (Above) Switches showing different track formats Barak was switching between on the Neve 8068 console (left); a photo of part of the beautiful Neve 8068's controls.
     
    Sensing that we were getting it, Barak then talked about Capitol Studios' partnership with Ultimate Ears, their second product collaboration--their upcoming successor to their successful Reference Monitor. He said, "Part of what excites me about this collaboration, is that it allows Capitol Studios an opportunity to extend that passion for fidelity all the way to the consumer’s ear--like literally as close to the eardrum as physically possible."
     
    After that, Philippe Depallens (vice president and general manager of Ultimate Ears Pro) introduced us to the upcoming Ultimate Ears UE Pro Reference Remastered. According to Philippe, several key improvements have been made, key among them including a new carefully tuned structure that is going to be tooled and produced for the drivers, and that also securely houses them. Also, drivers have been optimized and customized for the new monitor. These proprietary True Tone Drivers (as UE is calling them) will, according to Ultimate Ears, extend the frequency range with flat response to 18kHz, which UE says will help flesh out harmonic structures and overtones that are missing from most headphones. The new Reference Remastered will still be handmade by Ultimate Ears. The default faceplate color of the Reference Remastered is now white, with a black UE logo on the left and black Capitol Studios logo on the right. (The original Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor was black with white logos.)
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    (Above) Philippe Depallens introduces the Ultimate Ears UE Pro Reference Remastered, and shows us renderings of the new tuned driver housing in the Ultimate Ears UE Pro Reference Remastered.
     
    So how does it sound? Well...we didn't get to hear them. According to Philippe, they're still working with the Capitol Studios engineers to put the final finishing touches on the new monitor. Apparently, they're very close, as they're expected to be available in December 2015 through Ultimate Ears Pro directly, and through authorized dealers, at a suggested retail price of $999. If the new monitors can get me a step closer to having the sound of the Neve 8068 console with the PMC QB1-A monitors shoved into my ears, I'll be thrilled. I'm obviously being somewhat tongue-in-cheek in saying that--but I do love that the engineers who work around that sound all day (and live sound all day) are tuning these things.
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    My longtime neutral reference is being Remastered, and I can't wait to hear it.
     
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    (Above) A shot of the Neve 8068 console in Capitol Studio's Studio B control room (left); one of the remarkable PMC QB1-A monitors in Studio B.
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    To see the Reference Remastered page on UE's website, click on the following link:​
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    2016-03-08 1140 EST: Added Head-Fi TV video to the beginning of this post.
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  2. jude Administrator
    More photos from the UE / Capitol Studios event at Capital Studio (click on any photo to see larger version):
     
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    Denny Tedesco (left), director of one of my favorite music documentaries (The Wrecking Crew) with Mike Dias of Ultimate Ears.
     

     
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    Music producer and engineer Niko Bolas (left) with Bart Saunt (Vice President, Strategic Marketing and Brand Development at Universal Music Group).
     

     
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    Some autographs on the Neve 8068 (left); Denny Tedesco in Studio B with the Neve 8068 console.
     

     
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    Barak Moffitt in Capitol Studios' Studio B control room.
     

     
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    Capitol Studios audio engineer Steve Genewick in Studio A preparing for a session for an upcoming big-time album by an immensely popular artist.
     

     
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    Capitol Studios' Diego Ruelas (left) and Nick Rives in Studio A.
     

     
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    Frank Sinatra's Neumann U48 microphone (left); Philippe Depallens of Ultimate Ears sitting on Frank Sinatra's chair, with Frank Sinatra's mic.
     

     
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    The late Adam "MCA" Yauch (of the Beastie Boys) left this spray-painted tag on this breaker box on the roof of the Capitol Records Building.
     

     
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    Recording engineer and producer Al Schmitt (left), winner of 21 Grammy Awards, with producer and engineer Niko Bolas.
     
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    On the roof of the Capitol Records Building with friends.
     

     
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    Capitol Studios' Mark Moreno.
     

     
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    Ultimate Ears UE Pro Reference Remastered in its carrying case (left); pieces of a prototype Reference Remastered. (The center piece is 3D-printed, but will not be 3D-printed in production>)
     

     
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    (Above, left to right) Greg McVeigh (PR and artist relations specialist), Denny Tedesco (director of The Wrecking Crew), and me.
     

     
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    Philippe Depallens of Ultimate Ears.
     
    warrenpchi likes this.
  3. Toom
     So they schmoozed you with killer studio sounds but there wasn't any of the actual product to test out?
     
  4. jude Administrator
     
    I get the impression (though I could be wrong) that perhaps it was intended we'd get to hear it that day. As occasionally happens with new products, though, sometimes the timing doesn't exactly work out. Again, I'm just guessing here.
     
    Philippe Depallens said that they're just putting the final, finishing touches on it with the Capitol Studios engineers.
     
  5. imackler
    I'm impressed they kept the price the same. Doesn't seem like something they had to do. Wish you heard impressions! The window is closing on the UERM classic... And i still don't have a pair!
     
  6. rawrster
    I've been regretting getting rid of my UERM since I was too lazy to get them refit however with these coming out it looks like I will need to pay my audiologist a visit soon...
     
  7. John Culter
    Haha, they say "First-come, first-served." .. couldn't resist .. Just ordered! :)
     
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    crashtest33 likes this.
  8. imackler

    I'll be in LA soon. Tempted to go to their UE store where they do laser impressions. But honestly... It would be for a UE4.
     
  9. joshuachew
    If i am not wrong. I have read before that the UERM was tuned to replicate the sound of legendary Studio A in Capitol. So the remastered version is tuned to sound like studio b? And i wonder if its possible to upgrade the current UERM to the remastered version.
     
  10. Cotnijoe
     
    I'm wondering that as well. I'd love some upgrade program though I'm not to confident that'll happen...
     
    and I've only had the UERM for like a month! haha
     
  11. rawrster
     
    I'd probably go broker if the UE store was near where I lived. The UE-4 even though it is at the bottom of their line (or at least I think it is) it is still very good or at least the demo universal version is very good. I was tempted to buy that too when I heard it next to the UERM lol..
     
  12. jude Administrator
     
    I'm not sure if that's true or not, but back when the original UERM was released, I'm pretty sure Studios A & B didn't yet have the PMC QB1-A monitors yet (which they both do now).
     
  13. miceblue
    That...doesn't sound like a compelling reason to buy the RR, at least to me. If the new RR is "flat up to 18 kHz," what was the original Reference Monitor flat up until?


    It was interesting to read about the comparison between masters though. I have to wonder how much of that sound was from the analogue to 32/192 master, and how much of that sound was due to the 32/192 format itself.

    From what I've heard, older digital masters sound more dynamic than newer remasters. AC/DC's Back In Black 2003 digital master sounded just as good as the current "Mastered for iTunes" version. Yes's Fragile 1994 digital master is more dynamic than the 2003 remaster (Roundabout has a DR12 rating for the former, DR9 for the latter). Duran Duran's Rio 1984 digital master is way more dynamic than the 2001 remaster (Rio has a whopping DR13 rating for the former, a measly DR9 for the latter).
     
  14. miceblue
    More information specifically about the True Tone technology:
    http://audio-head.com/the-new-ultimate-ears-pro-reference-remastered/
     
  15. warrenpchi Administrator

     
    Yeah, I think Jude and I were both crushed that we didn't get to hear it... though not so much for the announcement as for ourselves (we're both huge fans of the UERM).  It is what it is.
     
    Here's something to consider guys:  the UERR has been - to our knowledge - under development for quite some time now.  And as they've come this far, they probably wanted to take some time to perfect it as much as they can, not wanting to rush it at the very end.  Meanwhile, the studio (and personnel) time was probably immutable to a certain degree, since they had to essentially burn a day to let us in there for the event.  Again, it is what it is.
     
    Personally, I don't mind in the least bit.  That demo was both ear-opening and enlightening to put it mildly, and in some ways it has changed how I appreciate the recorded arts.
     
     
    I am all in favor of you grabbing a pair of UERMs, especially as a I love mine.  [​IMG]  However, I do want to point out that the UERR is not replacing the UERM.  That was one of the first questions we had for them, and we confirmed this weeks before the event.  So I guess the only downside is that you need both now?  [​IMG]
     
     
    LOL, buying blind, that takes some big huevos man!
     

     
    Hey, no need to make a decision now.  Just get scanned first.  [​IMG]  That said, the UE4 is one of the most impressive dual-BA units I've heard.  I have more than a few multi-BA units that the UE4 puts to shame without any mercy or pity.
     
     
    Lol, yeah I'm definitely with Jude on this one - I don't think the particular studio factored into it at all.
     
     
    Yes, for sure!  I'll be finishing my impressions of the event soon, but I can already tell you that my disdain for "remasters" where all they did was make it louder, has grown.
     
     
    Another benefit of the new suspension system is that it should make it far easier (and theoretically faster) for UE to both:  (a) ensure better accuracy with their target curve,and (b) maintain consistency from unit-to-unit.  That latter point is particularly important to me as I often used the UERM as a basis of comparative impressions with others.
     

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