Being a music gear “journalist” can be pretty cool sometimes. I get to meet cool people all the time, talk about nerdy crap that I love, and try out neat gear. This was an extreme case of the latter.
Summer NAMM 2014 Best in Show winners Ultimate Ears boasts an unreal roster of artists who use their products, from every genre and every corner of the globe. From Deftones, to the Foo Fighters, to Dream Theater, to Fiona Apple, to Every Time I Die, they’ve got it all covered. So when I saw they were doing fittings with a (very attractive) audiologist on the premises, I said “Why not?”. Not out loud.
As you’ll see in the video below, getting fitted is fun. This is something every rock/metal musician should do, if not for in-ears, then for fitted earplugs (which UE also makes) to protect your hearing when you’re playing loud (which should be always). Especially because fitted pro ear plugs are NOT like your run-of-the-mill foamies you get at CVS that just obliterate the high end content. They just lower the volume of the music, but retain the characteristics of the audio and keep you from getting a permanent ringing in your ears (tinnitus, look it up. From what I’ve been told, it’s terrible.)
In-ears are becoming more and more popular in part due to the increased usage of modeling amps onstage, especially when there are no cabs involved and the reinforcement is coming entirely from the venue’s PA system. Having the sound of your rig directly injected into your ears can make a big difference, and they’re a hell of a lot lighter than a 4×12. Having hauled bigass cabs up flights of stairs all across Europe, I can tell you, I really wish I’d had these instead.
Ultimate Ears offers several different models, which vary in the number of drivers per ear, EQ curve, and frequency response for different applications. They have a Reference Monitor model for engineers, a Vocal Reference model especially designed for singers, ones with enhanced bass for DJs and bass players, and ones with fewer drivers for musicians who need less power or are on a budget.
These guys also work crazy quick. I got mine a week after I was fitted. Now, yours might not be so quick because you’d have to have the molds mailed from your local (probably not as attractive) audiologist to Ultimate Ears, but still, that’s an absurd turnaround.
I’m going to spend some time with these things and get back to you in Part 2 with a review, but until then, enjoy this clip of me, my ears, and Jenny the audiologist.