An Improvement?

Being design by and for sound engineers it may not surprise you that upon first listen to this monitor you’re not going to be blown back by a new emotive connection to the music. Don’t expect to be marvelling at them like you might on the first listen to JH Audios Roxanne or 64 Audios A12 even if that very well could be superficial and not last. However, you will notice that these are very clear and tuned very mildly across the board bar a slightly forward midrange and generally close presentation. I say they come across mild because the bass is certainly not boosted in any form and the treble no longer exuberates a sometimes cutting brightness that really let it make its point that it was an analytical reference monitor. I still feel this very much justifies the reference tag, as does InEars ProPhile 8 which without the treble switch engaged has a more polite treble than the UERR. While the sound of this will never become dark it is apparent that they really did take caution to how the treble was to come across as I know it did niggle some people with the UERM, but it was also the reason that it has one of the most extraordinary fan bases of any CIEM.

I think the bass may be one of the biggest deciding factors about this product. In terms of measurements and objective data it probably looks rather impressive. I say this because I can hear that it is producing tones from the lower octaves but that’s about all it is doing with them. It is not telling the whole story, it is not providing the weight, the feel, the shake that these frequencies are capable of creating when conveyed by something like Lear’s LCM-BD4.2. Let me clear this right up and say this no negative observation or an oversight in what Ultimate Ears are doing over in the lab. It is spot on with what they are trying to achieve, an articulate straight shooting bass that doesn’t overextend. It means you won’t be getting the usual kick out of your EDM, pop or hip hop, but you will get a more neutral frequency curve. You do still get a fast and precise punch from the mid-bass and as I have already said, you are not missing a frequency range with any severe roll offs. It pleasantly managed to keep decay just enough to prevent it feeling too hollow even if the sound, in general, is lacking a bit in weight.

Beyond the bass, we probably have the least laid back frequency range. The midrange boasts clarity, presence and detail. They have done a better job of balancing the tonality than with the pitchier sounding original iteration but I did still find there to be a slight unbalance when comparing to the new InEar universal. It is actually crazy how listening to other IEMs makes you perceive an earphone. Comparing to the UERM makes this sound like it has a really controlled treble but put up next to something also pretty neutral sounding like the PP8 and this is coming across as the brighter and more analytical monitor. Madness! That’s without even trying to compare to some of the thicker, darker sounding earphones out there like Roxanne that makes this sound extremely thin and brighter still. Above all else, these can make almost anything sound a little muddy, that’s surely a nod to how precise and coherent this is. Comparing can be dizzying and while it can provide a better insight into a product it is also important to listen when your brain has truly adjusted to the sound being outputted.

Anyway, where were we? The midrange. I think as a frequency range this perhaps gets the most attention, or at least vocals do but I think this is all very subtle. The entire spectrum certainly blends together nicely but I just think it’s that when the bass is contained and the treble has no spikes the midrange gets thrown in your face a little bit. With the PP8 I was shown it was possible to make a reference quality product without it being a fatiguing and sharp listen. UE decided they would also show this is possible with its more mature high notes. Whether or not it can extend to 18kHz I don’t know, my Vibro Veritas is certainly not accurate when measuring that far and my ears are not into making those sort of claims, although they don’t hear any obvious roll off, nor do they hear the usual 7kHz spike. Not only has the peaks of UERM been smoothed over but there has been a general decibel drop from around 3kHz up. Not massive but noticeable when swapping back and forth. This still provides ample treble and as is a trend throughout this earphone it is quick and capable.

Spacious is certainly a word I could use when talking about this triple driver but not because it is overly holographic or large in its soundstage, but because it uses space well, between instruments being the most impressive way but it is actually a more average sized scale. Width is decent enough as is height but I never got a real sense of significant depth.

A Different Reference

While in terms of sonics I have thoroughly enjoyed what the new UE has had to offer, it has also left me a little sad that what came before it will no longer be able to be purchased. I remember when the RR was first announced the RM crowd were excited, many blind purchasing this remastered version on the spot. Sadly I don’t think this will cut it for those who truly adored the quirks of the original. It’s blatant treble and excessive clarity is not on show here. While from a technical standpoint you could say the improvement in bass extension and smoothing of the treble is an enhancement I don’t see this as an upgrade or better product. It’s slightly bigger shell is actually a tad less comfortable, the graphics are just as bad and the sound is different on a similar technical level. That’s a very good level mind you but this isn’t some revolutionary upgrade on what people loved. Just a monitor that has been remastered, as its name said in a slightly different style. I am guessing the guys at Capitol Studios think this suits the job description better and I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case. While it may not turn the old guard of UERM fanboys to its ways, I certainly see it creating its own cult of followers as time moves on, it really is its own product in that sense and stays away from the absurdity being done by 9 out of 10 of the other “big” names in the industry.I have a feeling this may still be a talked about products in 6 or 7 years time.

That all being said and done if you are in the market for a reference monitor this still gets my recommendation, in place of the product that stood in UE’s portfolio beforehand. I will add that if you like the sound of something flatter sounding but a bit more weight in the bass and a touch of musicality is what you desire, then InEars ProPhile 8 will probably be the one for you, but that will come at £400 or so extra. For the price, you are getting a sound that will go make almost any other product out there seem vague and muffled and that doesn’t seem like a bad offering for under a thousand bucks.

Sonny Trigg