I had the pleasure to meet the UE team at Namm 2016 and had a chance to get my custom 3D ear impressions taken.
Due to high demand at NAMM, I only received my customized UE 11 Pro model a few weeks later, but normal delivery time for monitors is not more than 5 days, which is quite impressive for a high-end custom in-ear monitor.
The monitors come in a beautiful package that truly values the product inside. everything about the product says quality and attention to detail, which is translated, as you read on, in sublime audio quality.
The unit itself feels sturdy, and far for flimsy, nothing to complain there. The cable itself is a bit short but since they are replaceable you can replace it with whatever cable you choose or order custom ones from the UE site.
Features & functionalities
Let’s have a look at how the unit feels when wearing, and of course, it’s sound quality.
My experience starts right there on the NAMM floor where a personalized impression of my inner & outer ear was made. This process took 10 minutes and generated a digital file that is in store with UE for all my future needs.
As a DJ, the use case I have for in-ear monitors is loud club environments that can cause hearing damage after continuous exposure. So they need to be comfortable enough to be worn during hours on.
Since the UE 11 Pro is molded to fit your ears exactly, they just sort of pop into place and you “forget” about them pretty quickly. I have had them in for 2 hours during a long mix session and at no point, they caused any pain or discomfort.
The build quality is more than good. The finished monitors, which ship in a rugged engraved aluminum case with your name on it, arrive with a detachable 48” braided cable with sheathed memory wire at the earpieces (for wrapping up and over the ear) and a gold-plated right-angle plug. The unit feels like it can sustain a lot of abuse and since the ear pieces don’t contain any removable parts (as they are custom-made for your ears), there is nothing to lose.
This is where the UE 11 is supposed to shine, and do they shine indeed!
This model is meant for drummers, bass players, and DJs as it accentuates the low-end of the sound spectrum.
I can say that mixing with them is a true pleasure, the low-end is indeed present but not too dominant. The whole sound spectrum is crispy clean and I must say it makes me discover my music in a whole new way.
The monitors offer -26 dB ambient noise reduction, which means that plugin them into your ears is an experience on itself. When the sounds starts to come through, the clarity is amazing.
Mixing with In-Ear Monitors
I might do a separate piece on this in the near future, but having mixed with headphones since the beginning, using in-ear monitors to mix exclusively is a whole different experience. I upload mixes regularly to Mixcloud, and when creating them at home sometimes late at night, I’m not able to turn up the volume of my speakers loud enough to hear the music well. With in-ear monitors, this problem is solved and I hear all the details of the mix clearly and can make sure the mix is as perfect as it can be.
During the buying process, you can customize most aspects of your in-ear monitor, such as the colors, the length of the cable, the engravings of the case, etc.
These in-ear monitors are not the cheapest on the market. In fact, they are probably on of the most expensive around at $1250 a piece. So if you want the have the absolute top of the line product and don’t want any compromises on sound quality of wearing comfort, go for it. If you are on a tighter budget, UE Pro has more affordable options, such as the UE 900 at $399.
Ultimate Ears delivers a top of the line product with the UE 11 Pro. In my opinion, DJs should seriously consider investing in the kind of solution to protect their ears while at the same time having the best possible fidelity and low-end output when mixing.
If you are a pro making a living out of DJing, and you DJ several times a week in loud environments, $1200 is not a high price to pay for top-notch audio quality and ear protection at the same time.