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Ultimate Ears 10 Pro Personal Earphones  
    for Intense Active Listening  (3/2008)

    by Douglas Dixon and Brian Dixon

About Ultimate Ears
Taking Care of Your Ears
Target Market
Find Out More

See my Audio Accessories Gallery  for more on these products

The Ultimate Ears 10 Pro may look like yet another set of earphones, but we found them to be something more -- These high-end personal earphones provide a clear and intense listening experience that is closer to good headphones or even studio monitors (

What's special about the is that they actually contain three individual speakers for each ear, with an integrated passive crossover circuit board that directs specific frequencies to dedicated speakers -- low-end for bass, mid-range for vocals, and high for treble.

The result is wonderful clarity in the sound -- giving you the ability to distinguish and really hear the components of the music. When we listened to rock music on an iPod, for example, you can hear the kick drum separated out to give it more punch, instead of having it get mushed in with the other sounds because of weak bass response. 

Similarly, the high strings separated out very clearly when listening to an orchestral piece. Even the squeak of a guitar string was more distinct.

Even better, this clarity also seems to help separate the stereo field, so we really can hear a better stereo representation and interesting panning effects. With the it just feels like the sound is going on in the head -- we can be convinced that we're are in the sound.

The result is a much more "lean forward" listening experience -- You can distinctly listen to the music, and not just lean back and passively listen as background sound.

About Ultimate Ears

But who is Ultimate Ears, and what are they doing selling $399 "consumer" earphones?

The company was inspired by Jerry Harvey's experience touring with Van Halen as a monitor engineer, when drummer Alex Van Halen wanted a better solution for the old wedge monitors that blasting his ears. Harvey engineered the first custom-fit earpieces, which grew into a business designing custom molded professional ear monitors for a wide variety of professional musicians performing around the world. UE now claims an over 80% share of the professional ear monitor market (see About UE -

More recently, Ultimate Ears has developed a range of products for the broader consumer enthusiast market:

  • UE for on-the-go listening - single speaker, $79 
  • UE for music lovers - speaker plus subwoofer, $129 - $249
  • UE for discerning consumers - 3 speakers, $399 
  • UE Custom Series for touring musicians and serious audiophiles, $700 - $1150

Product info -
Product store -

Taking Care of Your Ears

Listening to great sound is wonderful, but Ultimate Ears is very careful in its documentation to stress the importance of not damaging your hearing with excessive sound pressure levels. The fun -- but serious -- manual recommends not listening for more than an hour a day. Of course, this depends on how much you assault your ears by cranking up the volume, and whether you use an attenuator to limit loud peaks.

You also need to take care of what you are doing while listening. The earphones are designed to provide significant passive noise isolation -- up to -26 dB when properly inserted with the correct size ear tips (the product includes 10 sizes and styles -- and there's a video on the site showing proper insertion, 

This means you can lower the volume when listening in a relatively quiet environment, but they really are not suitable for situations in which you need to be aware of the environment -- such as walking in a city or jogging on the road. For such use, try the UE series for music on the go, which are designed with -16 dB of isolation to let in more of the ambient environment.

Target Market

So who is the target customer for $399 earphones? These are clearly too good for casual listening -- In fact, the clarity is so good that you can hear audio compression artifacts, which can be a problem listening to casually-compressed music on a typical MP3 player -- You may want to re-rip some of your music after you hear it this way.

Ultimate Ears suggests that the earphones are best for consumers with a highly educated ear and discerning music taste (think audiophiles). UE is targeting consumers willing to pay for the detail, warmth and granularity that this technology delivers.

We'd describe the target use as "short-term intense active listening" -- intense because of the clarity, active since the quality is so good you won't be in a lean-back passive listening mode, and short-term to be careful of your ears after this kind of dynamic experience. Our ears even seemed a bit fatigued after an hour or so of this kind of intense listening experience.

They would be particularly great for a music enthusiast to listen intensely to a new recording, or to enjoy an old favorite.

And we found them helpful for musicians as an alternate way to check out a mix (in addition to studio monitors) -- since we could hear things that we did not necessarily notice on other specific speakers.

Find Out More

But don't take our word for it -- check out the Ultimate Ears site for reviews, celebrity endorsements, and the Ear Art Gallery with custom designs ( 

Read the product specs -- featuring a full audio signature with a frequency response of 10 Hz to 17 kHz.

And download the User Guide for full details 

Then believe...

         Find the Ultimate Ears Earphones on