In the ongoing quest for the perfect earphones, I gladly accepted Ultimate Ears' offer to try their custom program recently. The resulting UE18 earphones are by far the best-fitting and sounding pair I've experienced so far.
Like any bespoke earphones, the experience starts in the office of an audiologist, who takes impressions of your ears. I visited Dr. Julie Glick from Musician Hearing Solutions and the process was fast and easy. Conveniently, Dr. Glick had samples of the different Ultimate Ears models (from those designed for acoustic gigs all the way up to multi-speaker versions better suited to stadium shows) made in generic shapes to give a sense of the differences between each of them.
Once Ultimate Ears received the impressions from Dr. Glick, it was time to spec out my pair. The customization options are endless—colors, patterns and logos are all fair game—but I decided to keep it relatively simple by using translucent Cool Hunting green, adding a little glitter for fun. A few short weeks later, the earphones arrived in a personalized protective case.
Since Ultimate Ears were developed for professional musicians, their sound capabilities are top-of-the-line. A six-speaker sound system (in each ear!) drives the UE18s, with wiring designed for durability and minimal distortion. The buds also feature three acoustically-tuned sound channels and multiple passive crossover points, "creating the ultimate in separation, detail and clarity." Even though I'm not a musician, I can attest that the sound quality is top-notch. And the custom fit not only makes them very comfortable, it also helps block out surrounding noise.
Ultimate Ears custom molded earphones range from $400-1350. For a more affordable, but still high-quality custom earphone solution, check out Etymotics Custom Fits.