The name Ultimate Ears UE 18+ Pro conjures up images of in-ear headphones that deliver something more than the usual. Good things are anticipated right off the bat. You’ll be glad to know that these in-ears adapt brilliantly and meet professional-level demands in many areas. It’s little wonder that Ultimate Ears are keen to market these headphones beyond stage and studio applications, with audiophiles on the hunt for high-end listening solutions another key target demographic. Below, you’ll find an in-depth review of how well the American manufacturer has achieved these goals.
The Personal Touch
Many of those who’ve dreamed of that perfect in-ear sound will no doubt have also wished for a pair of headphones that have been tailor-made. That’s exactly what Ultimate Ears offer. They customise the shape of these in-ears to fit the ear canals of the individual buyer. Each customer has an ear impression taken, either directly by the manufacturer or by a hearing acoustics partner of the manufacturer, with a test hearing also carried out on site. After that, the headphone housing is produced to serve as a perfect fitting for the ear moulds.
On the visible outer sides of the small housing, so-called faceplates can be attached. Customers have a choice of 20 standard colours free of charge, which is ideal for making the transparent housing of the UE 18+ Pro a little more personal. If that’s not individual enough for you, you can treat yourself to special decors for faceplates at additional cost. You can choose from metal, wood, mother-of-pearl, rhinestone and more.
The cable length can also be picked to preference. There are two versions with 127 cm and approximately 163 cm to choose from. Customers can also choose between a round and square case for their new in-ear headphones. The case is further personalised by the manufacturer, with customers able to choose to have their name printed on it. Despite all these personalisation additions, the delivery time is a surprisingly short 3 weeks from the date of ordering. This delivery time also includes adjustment time, production and ultimate shipping.
An Ambient version is available at an extra charge of 60 euros which reduces the 26 dB strong external noise cancellation of the headphones. With this version, a special bore in the in-ear housing creates a controlled vent that, among other things, ensures slightly lower bass levels. However, worth noting is that the Ambient version promises a lower external sound reduction. As a result, the user can head out on stage with them, with the innovative sound technology still working alongside the in-ear monitoring capabilities of these headphones. This is particularly useful if stage monitor speakers are used in addition to in-ear monitoring. Even performers who love the atmosphere of live concerts or like to keep communicative with their audience can consider the impressive technology the UE 18+ Ambient offers.
Optionally, a cable with Bluetooth receiver and cable remote control can also be purchased. The receiver of the Bluetooth extension uses high-quality aptX standard to encode audio data.
The interior of the Ultimate Ears 18+ Pro convinces with an impressive 4-way system. The audio components of bass, mid-range and treble, as well as the transition range from mid to treble, are each reproduced separately. This enables the manufacturer to fine-tune the sound of the six pressure chamber drivers, which output audio signals in the transmission range of 5 Hz to 22 kHz. In contrast to the previous UE PRO 18, the UE 18+ Pro is equipped with True Tone tweeters, newly developed by the manufacturer, which reproduce harmonics perceptively and thus provide an extended tweeter range.
The third generation of the UE 18+ Pro In-Ears promises a higher efficiency than its predecessors and is, therefore, substantially louder than the second generation model. Its maximum sound pressure level of nearly 118 dB SPL is certainly impressive. With an impedance of just over 36 ohms, these in-ears are also a suitable choice for lower performance headphone preamps, such as those found in smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Not Simply a Cable
The removable cable of the UE 18+ Pro is manufactured by the Danish cable company Estron a/s, which specialises in medical equipment and hearing aids. It ensures that the feed line used is protected from moisture and perspiration thanks to a high-quality plasma coating and sealing rings. The cable is held securely within the housing of the in-ears by means of gold-plated IPX plugs that are also self-cleaning. Small kink protectors at the IPX ends and a robust rigid cable outlet at the angled plug of the other end protect the cable sufficiently against breakage. Since the four cable harnesses for the right and left channel are only loosely twisted together, the supply cable is particularly flexible. This design also reduces the transmission of material-related vibrations from the cable to the in-ears.
With its length of only 1.25 metres, there’s a smaller amount of cable to worry about underneath clothing. A small slider that’s adjustable and lockable serves as splice protection for the cable. It can be moved to the point where the leads for left and right in-ear housings separate. This again avoids the nuisance of cable clutter. Ultimate Ears use a mini-jack plug for connection. It’s not much of a gripe considering the benefits of this product, but it would have been nice to see these in-ears come with an adapter for large jack connections included along with the main product itself.
What distinguishes these in-ears from many other stage headphones is that they do not have cable ends with malleable wire, which is often used for in-ear applications. If the cable is passed over the ear without obstruction from behind, it can adapt smoothly. The ear serves as a strain relief in this case. All this does not counteract the pleasant and secure fit the UE 18+ Pro offers. Because of their low weight of just 17.5 grams, including cable, you almost forget you’re even wearing them.
The sound delivered by these in-ears is best described as balanced. With the UE 18+ Pro, basses are clearly perceptible and do not superimpose the remaining frequencies. This is also due to the fact that, unlike many other models on the market, the impressive transient imaging begins in the bass range and delivers signals with precise pressure. They also reproduce the low bass of EDM and Urban Music particularly well.
Whether due to the headband or in-ear function, many headphones have problems when it comes to differentiated playback of music with distorted guitars. This is not the case with the UE 18+ Pro. Rock, alternative and metal music genres sound neither sharp nor superficial, with even intense guitar sounds not interfering with the clarity of vocals. With these headphones, you can listen to the likes of Machine Head and Foo Fighters with satisfaction.
In the upper mids to treble range, voice signals are present and assertive in the UE 18+ Pro. I would like to describe the treble as brilliant in its silky clarity, without any tonal sharpness coming into play. In the uppermost audible frequency range, tonal clarity is also achieved.
The focus of sound reproduction with these headphones seems slightly shifted towards the upper mid-range and treble. This ensures spectacular listening pleasure, but can also prove tiring on your hearing, depending on the kind of audio you’re listening to. However, the more differentiated and balanced the sound, the more the UE 18+ Pro gets to demonstrate its strengths. These headphones can, therefore, fully exploit their sound quality in classical recordings. Here, the rich depth and detail of the original audio becomes abundantly clear.
Ultimate Ears haven’t done things by halves here. With the Ultimate Ears 18+ Pro, the music lover can look forward to premier in-ear headphones tailored by audiologists. In addition to the numerous plate and case personalisation options, they guarantee everyday and stage-compatible production values, effortless handling and, last but by no means least, a well-balanced sound experience. In addition, these in-ears are ultra-light, comfortable to wear and provide a huge amount of isolation against external noise. Therefore, not only do they make superb stage monitors, but they also serve recording and mixing sessions well. More simply, they can be utilised by any self-respecting audiophile looking to enjoy their music on the go. Most likely, classical music fans will find a new favourite pair of in-ears with these.
As high as the recommended retail price of approximately 1,785 euros might seem, reviewing the huge benefits of these in-ear headphones quickly shows how much the Ultimate Ears 18+ Pro has to offer. What’s more, as soon as you listen to the tonal abilities of these in-ears, the price-performance ratio suddenly seems very reasonable indeed. If you have the budget enough to stretch and want quality headphones with superior sound, you should not overlook the Ultimate Ears 18+ Pro.
Measurement ResultsMore measurement results
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principle6 Balanced-Armature-Treiber mit 4 passiven Weichen
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 22.000 Hz
- Impedance36,35 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)117,68 dB
- Weight with cable17,5 g
- Cable length125 cm
What's in the box
- Adaptation by hearing care professionals
- Custom face plates
- Custom metal case
- Carrying pouch
- Cleaning tool
- Optional: Bluetooth with remote (BT codec: aptX)