This review covers the new studio reference, custom in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears Pro in collaboration with Capitol Studios.
Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered Custom In-Ear Monitors
- Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered in-ear monitors are designed to let you hear down, all the way down, into the recorded program.
- A naturally dynamic presentation that not only differentiates the sounds within the mix, but also gives the impression of an accurately rendered recording space.
- Personalized, 3D-printed design ensures a comfortable, locked-in fit that significantly reduces environmental noise.
The Reference Remastered is the second generation product from Ultimate Ear Pro’s collaboration with Capitol Studios where Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, and the Beastie Boys recorded. The Reference Remastered replaces the highly-regarded, five-year-old Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Monitor. The new model features a revised driver and chamber arrangement, which are said to result in smoother, more realistic overall sound and better suited to high resolution audio.
100 dB @ 1 kHz, 1mW
5 Hz – 25 kHz
-26 Db Of Ambient Stage Noise
35 Ohms@ 1kHz
INTERNAL SPEAKER CONFIGURATION:
3 Proprietary Balanced Armatures With Multiple Passive Crossover Points And Triple Bore Sound Channels
1/8" Headphone Jack: Compatible With All Systems
CIEM, UE, UERR, Headphones, Ultimate Ears, In-Ear, Capitol
The technical specifications reflect a 3kHz increase in high frequency extension over the previous model. Unusually, there is no price increase—it remains $999. Included in the box is a very cool painted aluminum carrying case (personalized with your name), a 1/4” stereo adapter, a cleaning tool, and a buffer jack designed to lower signal output on airplanes and buffer electrical impedance mismatches.
Like the original, each of the Reference Remastered monitors feature three discrete drivers, newly named “true tone” drivers.
The three bundled drivers feature corresponding tubes which extend through the transparent shell, stopping just short of the ear canal tip. Peer inside the ear canal tip to see what looks like a surprise emoji (:O). The two smaller tubes are for the midrange and low frequencies, while the larger tube handles high frequencies. According to Ultimate Ears Pro, all other aspects of the design are essentially unchanged from the Ultimate Ears Pro Reference, which was released in late 2010.
I’ve never used custom-fitted in-ear monitors before, so maybe it’s just me, but since I don’t know what a 3D model of the inside of either of my ears look like, seeing the shells for the first time puzzled me. The right shell is marked with red print and the left blue, so that saved some time, but getting them in did take a bit of effort the first, second, and third time. The braided cable features a stiff jacket at the monitor end that rides above your ear to elevate and route the cable backwards. It works perfectly at getting the cable out of your way. It’s one of those things you didn’t think you needed or that even mattered until you see it in use. After you figure out which is which, you just rotate the shell backward until it feels locked into place. Don’t over-torque! The sensation is much like a quarter turn of a screw. Wow. While the whole custom-fitted thing is new to me, I can’t imagine a better fit. Once you put the monitor in, the Reference Remastered quickly feels like it’s part of you. I found the fit especially impressive considering it took Ultimate Ears only about five minutes to perform the 3D laser scanning of my ear canals during the Reference Remastered media event held last winter at Capitol Studios.
The scanning process itself was simple. I sat down on a chair, swabbed my ears with a bit of alcohol, put the alignment headset on (which is basically two flat Os that surround the ear area of your skull), bit down on a small piece of foam (similar to what you bite at the dentist), and sat still while a nice woman holding what looked like a price scanner created a 3D image of the inside of my ear.
Listening tests utilized both a MacBook Pro and an iPhone 6. I didn’t start listening, however, until the UEs broke in over the span of a week or so. I just plugged them into my laptop, turned the volume to around half and left for work. I would estimate they had approximately 70 hours on the clock before I began listening. To my surprise, one of the first tracks I listened pretty much told me everything I needed to know about the Reference Remastered.
In 1969, Atlantic Records released Roberta Flack’s debut album, First Take [HDtracks 192kHz/24bit FLAC]. The first track, “Compared to What,” written by Gene Daniels, is a social commentary on various societal hypocrisies, and is certainly no less relevant today (“The president, he’s got his war / Folks don’t know just what it’s for / Nobody gives us rhyme or reason / Have one doubt, they call it treason”).
Musically, Roberta’s vibrant piano complements her determined soprano, and a five-piece horn section, featuring saxophones, trumpets, and a trombone, waits to pounce. What makes the first impression is the bass—the instrument not the frequency. Roberta’s fingers don’t touch the piano until two seconds into the song. And while the piano comes and goes throughout the rest of the song, the bass is always there, providing variation after variation of that first few seconds. The impression is not only of the attack on the strings of the bass, but the vibration from within the instrument and the fluid fade of those sounds in the surrounding air. Then, Just as you start focusing on the bass, Roberta’s vocals crescendo: “Looks like we always end up in a rut / Tryin’ to make it real.” And it’s here the horns make their first appearance, mimicking the swell of Roberta’s vocal. Roberta then finishes the line, but in a noticeably softer tone: “but compared to what?” The horns flood in, but instead of matching the vocal, they blast away with the same force as before.
It was here, as I silently mouthed the word “wow” to myself, that it occurred to me that the resolving power of the Reference Remastered is very special. While the ultra-detailed, neutral presentation is exactly the kind demanded by sound engineers, the Reference Remastered is a great fit (see what I did there) for anyone who prizes a fantastically nuanced sound that cracks with life. This impression was not confined to high resolution source material either. One day, I sat down and went through song after song on my iPhone. Listening to Sam Cooke’s “Little Red Rooster” (Night Beat) and T.Rex’s “Cadillac” (The Slider) became reality-distorting experiences. And not that I needed the reminder, but when I got to “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” by Run The Jewels, it seemed like a public service announcement to note that the Reference Remastered is not for someone who wants to chill. You want excitement? You want assault? “I make the trip, you better pay, done worse for less, don’t make my day / I’m not from Earth, from far away, I bust through chests, like baby greys.” Yeah. Listen to that album through these. By the time Kendrick Lamar urged me to contemplate “How Much A Dollar Cost,” I agreed—much more than you think! Movies and TV were similarly eye-opening. While catching up on episodes of Billions and Daredevil, I was amazed at how crisp and clear the dialogue sounded and the sheer amount of detail in the ambient sounds. Because they speak so clearly and the design itself seals out so much environmental noise, I can easily imagine the Reference Remastered being ideal for watching videos or listening to music on an airplane.
The Reference Remastered strikes me as nothing so much as a tool, perhaps THE tool, to help you find and sort all the sounds you were meant to discover in both music and video. It is easily one of the most dynamic, natural-sounding components I’ve ever heard and for anyone craving neutrality, resolution, and involvement; it is highly, highly recommended.
Even At Its Just-under Four-figure Price Tag, THE ULTIMATE EARS PRO REFERENCE REMASTERED Is Money Well Spent.
- Dynamic ability seems limitless
- Beautiful execution – fit and finish are beyond reproach
- Value – feels and performs like an ultra-premium product
- Because fit is so good, removing them from your ears can sometimes be challenging